Two places I wasn’t initially scared of but where other
people’s reactions kind of gave me pause were Iran and
Ukraine. With Iran, it was the worst. I booked a cookie
cutter 1-week group tour through the most touristy cities in
the central part of the country, exactly the kind of tour
thousands of people do each month without major incidents and
then I had to listen for 4 months as everyone I told about
the upcoming trip went “OMG, isn’t there a war there?!?”. No,
kids, you’re confusing it with Iraq. It was actually
kind of depressing and embarrassing to realize how many of my
friends and colleagues are completely clueless about that
part of the world. My parents were the worst, they spent the
entire time googling up cases of Western tourists getting
raped anywhere in the Middle East and sending me links. I did
my best to reassure them that, yes, the fact that I’m legally
required to wear a headscarf tipped me off to the fact that
Iran might be challenging to travel solo for a woman which is
why I booked a group tour, thank you.

The trip itself went great, apart from the fact that the tour
was so packed with activities it was almost more stressful
than work. But I saw a lot of interesting stuff, everybody I
met was really nice and welcoming, the food was great and it
was fascinating to get a peak at a country that is often so
misrepresented in my country’s media.

Same with Ukraine. I mostly solo’d there with short guided
tours in between and didn’t get raped, stolen from, scammed,
irradiated or dragged into the armed conflict 300 miles away.
Neither did I get bored to death by ugly, grey communist
architecture, as some people had prophesied. It was a lovely
trip full of cultural highlights, good food, and nice people
I met in hostels.

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