Staying Safe as a Solo Female Traveller
One of the main things people (namely my mother) is concerned about is my safety while I travel. My response is always I’ll be fine. It never really goes through my mind as a topic to be considered. But only because I feel I naturally put up defences to help protect myself and ensure my safety. It takes less so the use of physical protection in the form of a body guard or armour and 100% more so the use of your built-in protection; Common sense and Natural Instincts. So to ease those travel worried minds – here are a few things I do to Stay Safe On the Road.
On Presenting Myself
I am often described as independent. Which I am – which means I have to present myself accordingly since I independently travel. In both physical stature and attitude I provide myself with natural protection. I am not a petite doll sized female nor am I shy, timid, or have a quiet voice. This all works to my advantage while travelling alone. I certainly wouldn’t be the easiest female in the room to pick up and carry away, nor the timid one being coerced into an unfamiliar, potentially unsafe situation. I am loud, I am present, and I stand my ground. And above all I am stubborn. These natural personality traits do help considerably when it comes to safety on the road. If I don’t want to, I won’t. If I said no, there is almost no chance of changing my mind. My ability to stand up for myself, and present myself in such a manner, helps to deter a lot of unwelcome attention (maybe even welcome attention at times – I do talk A LOT). But in the end, my safety remains intact because I will always present myself in a manner which shows strength – not physical, but mental.
Modesty is key ladies. No matter what our home cultures encourage – typically the skimpier then better. This won’t fly in most other countries. Or well – you can dress it – but you’ll be attracting unwanted attention like moths to a light. I am typically more modest than most. If I wear a shorter dress, I’m constantly pulling at the back to make sure my butt isn’t hanging out. And I’m pulling up my straps if I’m wearing a low cut top. So to prevent these irritating gestures from occurring, I simply cover up. I wear tshirts more often than not that show almost no chest and are easy to wash. I wear capris or crop pants for comfort and convenience. Hiking in short shorts is never a good day and pants are too hot to survive in. So capris it is. They cover my legs, are great for hiking, and are modest enough to enter churches and monasteries without having to resort to the dreaded polka dot 1000-sweating-people-before-me-have-worn.
But dressing with shoulders and knees covered also drastically lowers the staring, catcalls, and in some countries, the highly unwelcome groping that may occur. Views on woman abroad are so different than Western Views, and you have to respect the fact that you probably won’t change that during your travels, nor will wearing skimpy clothes help. Most Muslim and Buddhist countries have strict modesty laws – So you cover up for religious accommodation. But in other countries – it is Western media that has influenced a cultures views on the attire of Women. Western Media promotes the idea that woman dressed provocatively are “sluts” or “whores” and are making visual statements that they want to be approached, groped, and or solicited. I certainly do not share this view at all – but I understand it is a reality of travel. So to keep myself safe from leering or peering eyes, I keep it modest, I cover up, and help lessen the likelihood of unwanted attention.
This is the biggest safety concern I hear about while travelling. And rightly so. It is the most dangerous situation to be in at home – drunk and alone at a bar. So I won’t do that abroad. Even though I am travelling, or on vacation, or celebrating, I don’t let drinking interfere with my safety. I took a precaution most wouldn’t – I limited my drinking to 2 cups of wine a month. I was never a huge drinker to start; I don’t drink with dinner and I don’t enjoy the effects as much as others. I haven’t stopped drinking in my life, and I will have that glass of wine if I am touring a winery, but I specifically don’t drink at clubs or bars which promote excessive drinking. So by staying sober on the road, it does not prevent me from going to the bars and having fun, but it does prevent others from taking advantage of the vulnerable state that alcohol puts you in. I stay sober and I stay safe. Even at the Full Moon Party in Thailand, I drank half of this bucket and gave the rest away – I still had an incredible time, but I didn’t let alcohol interfere with that fun in exchange for my safety. But also – not drinking alcohol a few more positives for me: It saves me significant amounts of money which go back towards travelling meaning I stay on the road longer PLUS I never suffer from hangovers and miss full days recuperating from one night.
On Political Situations
Research is key. If you open any news paper (lets get real – internet search engine) and search for your destination, it will bring up the latest political situation, elections, coup d’etat, and other happenings in that country. You can never predict a political situation of a country, but you can help save yourself some trouble by not being in a country that has an election coming up, or exit a country when rallies begin to take place. Some countries are safe election or no election, but most elections bring about traffic jams at the least. So safety is still easier if you just exit a country.
Moving to Thailand in 2010 was one of the most exciting things. During that time I also checked off Living through Civil War. That was never on my bucket list, but it happened anyways. No one could of predicted the events that overtook Thailand in 2010, but there were enough warning signs and the slow progression of events, that it gave me and most other tourists enough time to depart Bangkok and head to other cities, or straight of the country. I stayed during the rallies, but when the blood thrown on houses started, I high-tailed it to Cambodia. I watched the television just as everybody else did for news about the situation. It’s surprising how living in a city during such a tumultuous period doesn’t give you any more information than the television did.
On Weather and Natural Disasters
I hate rain. I’m sorry London – we’ll never be together. And thusly, I pay attention to weather patterns. As much as I don’t like rain, I don’t like monsoons, stagnant heat, tornado’s, or hurricanes. So I do my best to avoid said situations. How though? Well, contrary to Global warming, weather patterns still remain on a decently steady stream. Enough so to let you know when is Rainy Season or Tornado Season most likely to occur. I check the weather in the country I am going and avoid the season plagued by unwelcome weather. Nobody wants to plan a beach vacation only to have torrential rains all week.
I avoid Cold weather by staying out of the Northern Hemisphere from November to April and I avoid Southern Asia during from June to September to miss Monsoon season. If I plan on visiting the Middle East – I certainly won’t head there in August in the dead of Summer. Every country has its weather patterns, do a little research and save yourself the a headache of unexpected weather. It also can help save your live by not increasing your odds through proximity to a natural disaster. There are flux natural disasters, but there is no way of knowing, there will always be weather related risk, but avoiding the most common off season in each country, you will decrease that risk.
On Travelling Alone – Walk/Bus/Train/Plane
Just as I wouldn’t do at home – I don’t walk by myself, in a sketchy neighbourhood, after dark. It is common sense. When I go away, all the lessons my parents taught me growing up about being safe don’t dissipate. They come rushing to my frontal lobe pounding to be paid attention too. And I heed all those warnings. I look both ways before walking the streets (even in Vietnam, where you’re better off closing your eyes to cross). I wear a helmet when I get on a bike – motorized or not. I don’t bust out a map on a street corner, but instead enter the closest store and ask the clerk for directions. All of those lessons have proven extremely helpful while travelling. If I can’t find any place to ask, I keep my head high, and walk with a purpose to give the impression I know exactly where I am going. Confidence is always key folks!
What about my possessions? How do I sleep on a moving vehicle without being robbed. Well, I keep all of my highly valued goods, such as my passport, money, camera, and kindle in my backpack, wrapped under a piece of clothing so it is not as easy to reach in and grab something. And then I wrapped my pack around my arms across my chest and I snuggle with it. Not only is it a safety precaution, it doubles as a great pillow for long rides (A lumpy one, but a pillow none the less).