One of the biggest reasons people, and women especially, don’t travel solo, or in many cases don’t travel at all is that they are worried about how to stay safe.
When I was planning to travel after university one of my friends kept on trying to be positive and talk about all the good things she’d heard about Beijing.
Then the fear would get the better of her and she’d go back to saying “please please be careful Zoe.”
It is a huge mental block for many people.
I think the main drivers behind this are our universal fear of the unknown and media bias.
It is such a common category 1 excuse not to travel.
“It’s not safe. I may get robbed/raped/killed/taken hostage”
Yes. This might happen. It’s true.
It also might happen at home.
All those children in the latest school shooting in America were in their home area too.
That changed nothing for them.
Unless you walk directly into a war zone, you are probably not any more likely to be harmed while traveling than you are at home.
The media is biased. Dramatic stories sell newspapers, scary stories keep people tuned in, and sensational stories catch people’s attention.
Stories about everyday life in other countries simply aren’t news worthy.
I honestly think that this presents a completely skewered view of the world.
From a New Zealand news perspective for example, America seems like a crazy scary place.
They had some retard driving by and shooting people at petrol stations a while back.
Boston was bombed a few years ago.
Planes have been known to fly into buildings on occasion.
The murder stats for the cities are crazy.
We never hear about the several million perfectly normal petrol station stops that make the other like a drop in the bucket.
We never hear about the thousands of schools having perfectly ordinary school days.
Horrible incidents such as high-jacked planes or bombs, as horrible as they are, do not represent the country.
Likewise, murder stats do not show the full picture.
Regardless of media bias and fear of the unknown inflating the dangers out of proportion there are some dangers, and there are things that you can do to help stay safe.
1. Stay Aware
Your best defence, your best way to stay safe, is to stay aware.
Don’t get lost in the spirit of the holiday. Creeps are everywhere and if you wouldn’t go down that tiny dark alley at home – chances are you shouldn’t wherever you have travelled to either.
It is great to be adventurous while travelling, to get out of your box and be open to new experiences, but don’t toss common sense out the window.
Backpackers in Laos for example have made a fine tradition of sitting in rubber circles, and ‘tubing’ down a river while drunk, while all the people around them are drunk, in an area with no close medical facilities. I mean really?
– Research bad areas of the city.
You know where those places are at home. You know where not to go at night and where the dodgy area of town is. In brand new areas you don’t. So do a little research so that you know you are in a good area of the city and you know where not to walk. Even if you would never have gone near that area to begin with, you will at least have more confidence that wherever you are going won’t accidentally end up being the wrong sort of place. Knowledge is power, so empower yourself.
– Don’t wander around a brand new city alone at 2am.
Although this may be a bit of the pot calling the kettle black as I’ve certainly done this in newish cities if not completely brand new ones.
– Don’t walk down poorly lit streets (I’ve done this too, if it is a quite street, walk down the centre of the road. Less places for creeps to hide in)
– Watch your drink in bars.
– Don’t get smash drunk/stoned. It will leave you too vulnerable.
– Listen to your gut instinct. It is usually right and it is better to be safe than sorry.
In other words use common sense.
Overall keep all the safety habits you use/probably should use at home. They will help keep you out of problems everywhere.
If you are feeling unsafe then carry your keys in your hand, so if someone does come at you – you can swing round and key them. The police can hardly fault you for holding your keys can they?
I sometimes do this if I’m walking home at 1:30am or something. I’ve never had to use them, and you are also unlikely to. It will make you feel more secure if nothing else.
Stay aware, stay sensible, stay informed.
Don’t hide at home.
2. Don’t Act like a Victim
The next thing you can do is to not act like a victim.
I’m serious. Predators look for the weakest link. Lions will go for the injured antelope and weirdoes will go for the scared girl with frightened body language.
You may want to blend in, and think ducking your head down and hunching over will help.
You may simply have never given your body language much thought before.
But if you act timid, if you show that you are nervous and scared. You will paint yourself as a target.
You might not be noticed by a lot of people. Such body language might help you slip under the radar of most normal people.
But creeps aren’t normal people.
They will look for that.
They don’t look for the confident looking girls, the stroppy ones that might make a scene if they are groped.
They look for the quiet ones. The ones that will freeze in fear or quietly shuffle away.
The ones who are victims.
Stay confident and be sure of your place in the world.
You have a right to be here.
A big part of not acting like victim is not thinking like a victim.
I’m often surprised at how many women talk about how they are solo female travellers and so they have to take all these steps in order to be safe. Such steps include
– not wearing headphones while walking at night
– not going down abandoned alleys at night/ dark alleyways with creepy guys
– not taking a taxi if the guy seems creepy
Good grief this is common sense!
Guys shouldn’t be doing this stuff either.
I don’t do these things because I think I’m ultra vulnerable. I do them because I think it is the most standard basic common sense imaginable.
(Well maybe not the most. Not stabbing a fork in your eye probably rates above this)
Stop thinking in terms of ‘I’m so vulnerable and weak; I must do these things to keep myself safe’.
Because if something does happen, that attitude is more likely to lead to:
“Oh shit what do I do now? I’m weak and vulnerable and now something has happened”
If you think of yourself constantly as at risk, vulnerable, weaker, lesser; then you will much more likely to give off the “I’m a victim vibe” that creeps so love.
You will also be in the wrong frame of mind to overcome your fear and step up to protect yourself if something does happen.
Start thinking in terms of:
“I’ll do this because I think it is common sense in this situation and I’m not devoid of functioning brain cells”
That is a much more positive fame of mind.
It won’t make you bullet-proof. It won’t guarantee that nothing will happen.
But it will help you avoid giving off the unintentional “I’m a scared victim, so you may as well come and have a go at me” vibe.
And it will put you in a better frame of mind to deal with anything if it does happen.
What are your thoughts? Do you have any useful tips for staying safe while traveling?