With movies like Cheryl Strayed’s WILD out in theaters, (which by the way is fantastic if you haven’t seen it), many women have been inspired to take the plunge and travel on their lonesome. This portrayal of an independent woman’s quest to conquer the Pacific Crest Trail solo after a long string of detrimental hardships, is riveting in every sense of the word, and reminds us of the potential dangers women face when traveling alone. The fact is, we have to be much more observant and careful than if we were a man, particularly in today’s society. BUT, it doesn’t mean we need to be afraid! It just means we need to be aware. Of all the people who asked me how I had the courage to travel alone, I’d say 70% of them were women. Let’s change that! I’m going to tell you why female solo travel CAN BE risky, but also give you ways to avoid getting yourself in a sticky situation.
If I were to tell you that I didn’t have any scary instances when traveling abroad I’d be lying. I remember on an occasion in Italy when I had been riding the train. Some man, who spoken very little English kept trying to talk to me in Italian. I had no idea what he was saying so I just kept smiling, and eventually ignoring him when he began asking too many questions. The next thing I know, he was trying to get the people next to me to translate his Italian into English. He just had the creep vibe. I immediately informed him, when he asked if I was traveling alone, that I was meeting up with my friends. He followed me off the train. I ducked into a Mcdonalds bathroom and decided to wait 10 minutes. I came out and he was still there. I jumped into a taxi, and he followed me into the taxi. The taxi driver went to the location he said rather than where I said, probably assuming that we were together. All along, my heart is racing. I knew I needed to find the nearest public place, and FAST. I finally spotted an internet café, and jumped in there. He waited outside the door while I proceeded to tell these young Australian guys my story. “Save me from this creeper,” I said. He finally went away after standing outside 15 minutes. Of course, this was the only thing that happened to me on all of my travels so I would not say it happens regularly. And honestly, I’ve had worse things happen in cities I have lived! Just use your street smarts in case.
1. When in doubt, tell people you are meeting someone
No, this didn’t work for me in this instance, but many times it has, even when I wasn’t getting a bad vibe and just felt like being alone. Yes, that even happens to me sometimes. Ever have a cling-on friend? Yep, works on them too! Suckers!
2. Trust your instinct
You can never go wrong with your gut feeling! If something or someone seems fishy, don’t do it. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
3. Utilize your cellphone
This is one I wish I could have done but I did not bring cellphone with me. If you get a bad vibe from someone, put that phone to you ear and create a fake conversation, especially if it’s with your muscular hubby. “Oh, you just got back from the gym honey? I’ll see you in a few minutes!”
4. Know your culture
In Europe, particularly in places like Italy and Spain, some men are accustomed to thinking that something as simple as a smile and a look mean you want more than friendship. If you don’t want that attention, try to blend in with the crowd as much as possible. Trust me, I’m the first person to root for female empowerment and the right to bare skin, but this is not a time to be whipping out the feminist card. This of course doesn’t apply to all men there, but TRUST YOUR INSTINCT! If your instinct sucks, then lean on the safe side.
5. Plan ahead and be prepared
Take your guidebook, map, and more than enough money so you can handle any situation. If you’re getting into a country late at night, make friends with a girl or other travel buddy so you aren’t wandering around alone in the dark. If you want to wander, (we all get that itch!) try to do so in a public place.
6. Use your accommodations as a resource.
Grab one of the hotel or hostel cards and keep it handy. Ask around whether it is a safe area. If you feel the need, tell them where you are going and when you might return. It always helps to have people looking out for you!
7. Take a self-defense class ahead of time
Of course, this is if you want to be extra cautious. I only used half of these methods and have only encountered one hairy situation. And to be honest, I ran into more sticky situations just living in LA! Just do me a favor and use the self-defense tactics seen in the picture below. (No don’t do that.)
Above all, don’t forget to be cautious, but HAVE FUN! Female solo travel doesn’t have to be scary if you keep your wits about you. If you are debating whether it’s not right for you, talk to other female travelers who have done this. Hopefully, it’ll encourage you to JUST GO!
I want to hear from other female adventurers! Do you have any tips you’d add to this list? Did you have any scary moments on the road? How did you get out of that situation? Stay safe ladies, and TRAVEL OUT LOUD!