I’m sure other females, or even other males out there, can relate by being told nearly everyday by various family, friends, even strangers on the bus, to “be careful out there”. As a fairly small (I’m 5’2″ on a good day, 5’2.5″ on my tippy toes in the shallow end of the pool), and fairly independent woman, I’ve always taken these warnings in stride. After all, I know exactly all of the terrible things that could happen to me while I’m out on my own, or even in a crowded place. My whole life I’ve heard horror stories about what could happen as a lone female, hell even females in a pack. I’ve been taught invisible codes to give other women in public places if I feel like I’m in danger, taught to protect at all costs if I see a female in a harmful situation, to be on the defense long before I’ve even considered if I will need an offense.
In lots of ways all of the warnings and ‘what-ifs’ have certainly affected my everyday life. Of course I understand the need for caution, but when I decided that I was not only going to move abroad by myself, but then additionally have the nerve to TRAVEL alone, I will admit to being slightly annoyed when someone’s first reaction to my news was, “You’re going alone? But what if something happens to you?”
To this I almost always responded with, “I’ve got it, I promise”, when instead I should have said, “Anything could happen, but I’m always wary of just what “anything” could be and that’s the best I can do.”
Lots of women will think that just because their women their not able to travel anywhere, internationally or otherwise. But as someone who has both lived, worked and traveled to other countries abroad, all by lonesome I can tell you what my experiences have been and how they’ve not only made me a better traveler, but a stronger person as well.
1. Always be cautious…
Obviously you’re going wherever you’re going because you want to have a good time. You don’t want to be limited by anything other than possibly your bank account and physical capabilities (how long you can dance in the club before your legs just say no and give out). I get that, I totally do, but if you read any part of the first few paragraphs you’ll know that you should always be careful.
Be wary of guys AND girls that look a little…off. No matter how hot that guy/girl is, we’ve ALL seen Taken (if you haven’t, a hot guy asks to share a taxi with the main home girls then saves this location to later kidnap said home girls) and we know that pretty faces can still kidnap you. Keep any and all possessions on your person limited to the bare essentials and NEVER carry anything super expensive unless you plan on it being literally connected to your hand at all times. My typical rule is if it can’t fit in my pockets I need to re-think what I’m taking with me. The less you carry the more it looks like you’re from around that area and don’t need those things anyway. You could just be going down the street to a friend’s house, those people don’t know your life!
There’s obviously so much more, but the last thing I’ve got for you is if you feel like you’re in a situation where a guy/girl is bothering you, do the fake phone call. This seems so obvious, but so many of my friends have said, “I just didn’t think of it at the time”, or, “They would have totally known it was fake”. The latter might put your acting skills to the test, but I absolutely believe you can do it for the few minutes it will take you to get to a public area.
2. …but don’t limit yourself because of fear!
I know I’m probably contradicting myself here, but just because you know that craziness could happen doesn’t mean that you should only do what’s “safe”. When I first decided to finally go to Japan, I will admit to being a little terrified of the subway of all things. Originally, I was going to absolutely avoid using the subway at all costs. I found out pretty quickly that this was a crappy plan since that meant I would have to a) stay in the small area I was in for 5 days, or b) Take an expensive taxi ride to anywhere I wanted to go for 5 days. Neither of those options quite appealed. Then I decided I wasn’t going to go out past a certain time of night, but half of the fun things in the world don’t get going until after 10 PM! In the end, I went way past my comfort zone and was so grateful I did in the long run. It was absolutely worth it to make memories and friends I wouldn’t have if I’d stayed in my room.
3. Make friends!
Here’s where I unashamedly put in a travel plug for staying hostels. Before I moved to Korea I was all about super cheap hotels/motels, mostly because I had never even seen a hostel, let alone stayed in one. Hostels in Europe especially get kind of a bad rap, but it’s honestly here that you’ll meet other people who are just like you. This is where all the travelers are going to be staying, and trust me when I say they’ve probably got at least one plan that’s cooler than your original one. Not to mention this is where you’ll most likely find someone to hang out with so you don’t have to wander around a strange place on your own. Also, new people are super fun. I find that they’re the best part of my trip, especially since travelling in packs is always safer than wandering alone.
Before you go anywhere, make sure you actually know where you’re going. When I say know where you’re going, I don’t just mean checking out what you’re going to be doing. Your schedule won’t necessarily be important until you actually arrive. Knowing what kind of area you’re going to be staying in, though, is something you should be a little more aware of. Especially in larger cities or more popular destinations you should know things in terms of: amount of people, places to avoid, areas where most of the young crowd likes to go, etc. Though looking into the area doesn’t guarantee any kind of safety, it’s good to feel like you know what you’re expecting and what you’re walking into.
5. Stay in the thick of things!
Which leads me to you staying as close to as many people as you can. Now, there’s a huge asterisk next to this one because sometimes you just want to be in nature and the complete opposite of near people which is also totally fine. However, if you’re trying to stay in a city or a huge touristy area it’s best to stay close to where other people can help you if you need it, or if you need to make a quick get away you’ve got an area where taxis or public transportation are plentiful. Of course here you’re going to need to be more cautious than if you were outside of the big city, but in my experience I’ve found that being around more people has actually made me feel a little safer. Contradictory in some people’s cases, I know, but trust me that the best way to go unnoticed is by being in a huge crowd.