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Fear Stalks Men as Well as Women

July 22, 2001

A few comments regarding Susan Spano's column ("Somewhere Between Analyzing and Instinct Lies the Answer to Risk Taking," July 8):

Fear knows no gender. I also travel solo at times, mostly across Europe, and I've found myself in situations that still make me shake my head in disbelief: Being chased by police in Milan, Italy, because I was hanging out too close to a student meeting that went wrong. Witnessing a fatal stabbing at an underground club in London. Stumbling about on the late-night streets of Amsterdam, lost.

All that, along with such innocuous situations as buying a ticket to a concert, getting on the correct train or even deciding which passerby you want to ask to take your picture, are meshed with some sort of fear for man or woman.

Being a man has many advantages on the road, but it also has disadvantages: Walk into a pub alone, and every glare is suddenly sizing you up to see if you're a danger. Tour a museum as a single man, and a guard will probably tail you all the way to the end, just to make sure you don't cause trouble. Street hustlers and scam artists of all kinds approach you simply because you're a man, alone, and offer up every vice possible.

But traveling alone also lets you meet and experience so much more. In the end, the good outweighs the bad. Buy the ticket, take the ride. That fear will always be in your day pack; it's just a matter of how much you're going to loosen the straps. Or how tight you're going to rein them in. Whether it's a man or woman carrying it makes no difference.

JIM MARQUEZ

Los Angeles

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