When I told people I was traveling internationally you would not believe the amount of Liam Neeson Taken references I heard. It is an excellent movie, but inaccurate to what going abroad is really like.SPOILER ALERT. If you haven’t seen the movie it is about a young woman who goes abroad only to be abducted. Thankfully her father (actor Liam Neeson) rescues her.
The phrase ‘female solo travel’ sounds taboo. Many of my friends, family, and co-workers fretted about my safety, warned me to be careful at night, and inevitably thought of the worst case scenarios.
As an experienced traveler, I know it isn’t as dangerous as people believe (depending on where you go). When I traveled abroad I lived in a tiny Italian town called Certaldo Alto. The villa consisted of a one hundred and fifty people and virtually no crime. I was not worried.
There are several reasons why traveling as a female has become safer and there are also some precautions every woman should take.
The future is female
More females are taking the leap and traveling solo. According to the latest data in the travel statistics in the last year solo travel has increased by 7% in 2019, and solo female travel has increased by 52% from 2016 to 2017 alone. While on your trek you will likely find other females who are doing the same thing as you. The times have changed. Fifty-years ago there was no chance of this happening. Heck fifty years ago women couldn’t even get a credit card without a man to cosign.
When I traveled to Charleston, S.C. to stay at NotSohostel and see the city, I met another traveler, Carly, staying at NotSo Hostel. We connected immediately and had the best time seeing sights together. Additionally, when I slept in a hostel in Barcelona I met some incredible women I still keep up on social media today.
More people are traveling in hostels
Several years ago hostels were considered the sketchy way to travel. While some still speculate about their reputation the crowds hanging out at hostels are often hipster backpackers rather than dangerous criminals. The foot traffic through hostels has grown tremendously, mainly thanks to millennials desiring a cheaper way to travel. Now hostels are often a travelers hub where you can meet incredible people who are doing the same thing as you. A Forbes report ‘found that hostel travelers are particularly social. The majority of U.S. hostel users (72 percent) are solo travelers – seeking social connections’. If staying in a dorm room still doesn’t sound appealing to you most hostels also offer private rooms for a higher price, but these rooms are typically still less expensive than a hotel stay.
Listen to your gut
That gut feeling telling you to not cross the street is correct. Avoid dangerous areas as much as possible. Listen to that sinking pit in your stomach. It should be taken seriously. It is better to just not put yourself in the situation that can later be described as ‘wrong place wrong time’.
I made this mistake in Germany. Before the sun was awake I begin walking to the East Side Gallery in Berlin. After walking for around thirty minutes I realized I entered a different part of town, one that I was not familiar with. Although it was early in the morning I passed by a club where people were trickling in and out from the night before. I crossed the road to avoid an encounter of any of the drunk stragglers. There was no way I could have known that was a bad part of town, so I just reacted the best way I could one I had that gut feeling I needed to get out. I arrived at the East Side Gallery and I was fine.
Traveling has made me a skeptic
I grew up in a small town in North Carolina that doesn’t even have a bar unless you count the one at the Mexican restaurant. In a southern community, everyone knows everyone and most everyone can be trusted. After expanding my traveling experience and global understanding my small town southern perspective changed.
Don’t trust a guy you randomly meet. You would be surprised how many people fall under this trap. You are traveling, lonely, and seeking companionship. It is easy to be tricked into trusting someone you don’t know 8( you are used to trusting people. I am not kidding, but I know people who do online dating while in a foreign country and it terrifies me. Odds are you don’t know the language, customs, or your way around enough to navigate this safely.
In my opinion, dating while traveling is never really a good idea. If you do decide to meet up with someone you find online have a friend go with you and sit at a different table in a public restaurant. Protect yourself don’t ever go home with a guy you don’t know. This isn’t always easy if you are staying in a hostel together which is why I recommend staying in an all-female dorm room when in a hostel.
Bottom line- stranger danger is real. Be alert.
Alcohol increases your risk
Unfortunately, a lot of women are taken advantage of when under the influence. I am not encouraging the thought patterns of victim blaming but if you do decide to go out be sure to go with friends and monitor how much you drink. Go out and have a drink with friends but be aware that intoxication increases the risk of being assaulted dramatically. Additionally, Americans have a reputation of getting wildly drunk while in other countries and it perpetuates negative stereotypes people have about Americans.
Learn to be rude
There are people who make a living out of manipulating tourists. American’s are especially prone to this because we don’t know how to say no or be impolite.
When I was in Barcelona I was offered drugs by a street vendor. When I was on Bourbon Street in New Orleans I was grabbed by the arm and dragged into a bar and ordered to take a shot. In both situations I aggressively said no with some profanity filtered in there and fled the situation.
As much as it goes against my roots of southern hospitality I learned growing up I understand that when I am traveling everyone is potentially a threat until proven otherwise.
There are some countries you should not visit
While I wish I could make the argument that people are people everywhere, unfortunately, some countries have cultures built around the oppression and disrespect of women. When you enter these countries you won’t be treated the same as a man, so be prepared.
In Morocco, for example, women are treated differently. Morocco has been on my bucket list destination for years. Just look in any magazine. The prettiest architecture, rich-warmed head to floor rug shops, and markets can be found in Morocco. However, when I chatted with my friend Carly, (a well-traveled individual) she said that Morocco was her least favorite place to visit because while walking along the street people would yell out wildly inappropriate slurs towards the women. This doesn’t mean everyone in Morocco is like this, but it is not a country I would go to alone.
Not ever culture supports respect and equality towards women.Before visiting any country along read posts about what other female travelers have experienced in that area.
My parents taught me to respect authority and be kind. I was always overly polite. Since traveling that has changed. I have learned to stand up for myself when necessary and know when I am being taken advantage of.
For example, I was on a flight coming home from Aruba, and y’all I had to go to the bathroom. I if I didn’t make my way to the restroom within the next two minutes the airline was about to have a mess to clean up. In attempts to stay extra hydrated while basically in desert of Aruba I also managed to fill my bladder. Once we landed I unbuckled and rushed to the bathroom even though the seatbelt sign was still lit.The flight attendant yelled at me, but I knew what needed to be done. I felt terrible for the flight attendant but there wasn’t too much of a risk since we were already landed and sometimes you do what you have to do.
While I don’t always recommend standing up with the seatbelt sign on, I do recommend standing up for yourself even when it angers other people. I knew the risks and I was willing to take it. This notion has certainly translated into my personal life. If you let people walk all over you while traveling you will end up spending money, going through hassles, or ending up with a bladder infection.
Danger is everywhere for women
As a female living in America, I am always on alert. You think I don’t have my keys ready to strike even when I am in my hometown? Whether I am going to Publix at 10 pm in North Carolina or train traveling in Rome my guards are always up.
Unfortunately, females are more likely to face and attacker than a male. Not to mention, human trafficking is happening all over the world, even in small ‘safe’ towns of my home state.
Your guard should never be down. Traveling in Europe isn’t any more dangerous than going to your local mall.
Just do it
Female solo travel is so rewarding. You will gain an undeinable confidence that seeps its way into the rest of your life. Quick worrying and just go. There are always a million reasons to put off traveling. Money. Work. School. Whatever it may be, don’t let it stop you from incorporating adventures into your life.
The world can be a scary place, but traveling abroad isn’t any more dangerous than walking to your car in a parking lot. Take precautions, make smart decisions, and experience everything you can when you get the opportunity.
Other articles you might enjoy: