The major issue most cite upon learning of my solo travels is safety. But you’re a woman. Traveling solo. Yes and yes, these two facts are irrefutable. There are undeniable safety issues when women travel versus a man. It is a consequence and sad truth of the patriarchal paternalistic world we live in. My goal is to not make you paranoid but rather to instill some safety paranoia-like sensibilities in your travels. Simply by listening to your gut, intuition, good sense and of course me, being a worldly woman will be a bit happier and safer.
1. If it feels shady, it is
Trust and listen to yourself. A lot of bad situations can be avoided if you don’t ignore that sinking feeling in your stomach or those bells going off in your brain. If walking down that street makes you uneasy, turn the corner and go another way! If that bar or club looks sketchy, good sense would tell you don’t go there.
2. Don’t divulge too much information
It’s wise not to go around telling everyone that asks where your hotel/hostel is or that you have your passport in your back pocket. Be smart about how much you tell new friends abroad. If I met a seemingly friendly man and he asked if I was traveling along, I asked what was it to him. You don’t have to oblige every question and you certainly don’t want to put yourself in jeopardy for being too chatty.
3. We come together, we leave together
If you are traveling with others don’t up and leave the bar you all went into because this casa nova wants to show you the view on his rooftop in the suburb he lives in about 45 minutes from there. Yes, I know the accent is appealing but don’t go insane. Always let someone in the group any intentions of wandering off and if his view is so appealing why can’t you show the other eight people in your traveling group too. I’m sure they’ll be delighted to see it as well.
4. Don’t be in the wrong place at ANY time
When planning my trip to Oktoberfest I came across information for an Oktoberfest camping ground. WOW! That would be ridiculous fun. BUT, probably a bit dangerous for a solo gal. I passed and my friend agreed if our group of girlfriends were going it could be an option to consider but not for me by myself. It’s unfair we have to forego these kinds of adventurous gems for fear of fun going awry but it is the reality we live and we need to make smart choices to stay safe.
5. Cover up
This seems very sexist right? It is, but considering the aforementioned world we live in coupled with unfamiliar locales, the reality is, it can save you a lot of grief. 99.99% of the time it doesn’t matter what a woman wears as she can easily become a target for robbery, violence, rape, sexual assault, harassment and the like. It’s more of a personal choice that gives me peace of mind that if I am ever in that situation, my clothing choices can make the crime a bit harder to achieve. Long jeans tightly tucked inside long boots versus heels and a miniskirt. I believe women should wear whatever they feel but in the name of safety I recommend wearing something fight or flight worthy.
6. Sometimes being a loud American works
I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve been followed at home and abroad. It happens all the time. My most memorable experience came in Florence. This man wanted to sell me lanyard. “No thanks” I said as I walked past. He caught up to me trying to convince me this lanyard would change my life and I once again said ‘No thanks,” very loudly. He continued following me now trying to convince me that he would change m life. I yelled “STOP FOLLOWING ME, I told you NO! He immediately got red, said sorry and ran off. Anytime a man gets that persistent, I immediately stop where I am and talk extremely loudly to alert those around me of a possible situation. Thankfully this method has allowed me to avoid a lot of them.
7. Be alert and aware
of your surroundings and the people in it. Don’t get so engrossed in the cool stickers on the Parisian train that you don’t see that man has been following your group for the past 20 minutes. As it were, we all noticed and finally dodged the man by switching train cars and making it known that we knew he had been following us. Always keep your wits about you and survey our area frequently.
8. Don’t be afraid to protect yourself
As aforementioned don’t divulge too much information, speak loudly when need be and being aware, this all falls under protecting yourself. Even if you are a shy or non-confrontational person, it is important to remember it is your life and livelihood that you are trying to preserve and should do so unapologetically. Don’t willingly put yourself at stake because you don’t want to be “rude.” Whether you have to cause a commotion in public or look a perp in the eye, just know that you will never see those people you’re afraid of embarrassing yourself in front of again in your life and your goal is to keep your travels as perp and danger free as you have control over.
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