Hello and welcome back!
I wanted to talk to you today a little bit about solo travel for women. The big question,
“Is it safe?”
The short answer is – yes. But, there are some things you can do to make yourself safer if you are woman traveling alone. And this applies whether this is your first trip in your early twenties or whether you are a veteran solo woman traveler in your golden years and you just still enjoy getting out on the trails.
This isn’t specifically just woods and it isn’t specifically just cities. I’m speaking from experience, just my own personal experience being a solo woman traveler in a lot of areas that are also very remote and in some countries and cultures that isn’t even considered culturally appropriate to be a woman traveling without a male escort.
So I just want to pass along a few tips that can help make you a little safer when you travel, if you are a woman traveling alone.
It really comes down to three key points.
#1: Situational Awareness
I cannot stress this enough i come from a family with a lot of active and retired military and the one thing that my own father has impressed on me multiple times is that the key to getting out of a conflict is to avoiding it in the first place.
Most conflict in criminal activity and people preying on women
when they travel it really only becomes a problem,
A lot of it could have been avoided had you just been more closely aware of your surroundings.
I hate to say this but women traveling alone are considered fairly easy target and we don’t take offense to that or we can treat it as as what it is because it is true in a lot of cases not although a lot and just be ready for it.
So perfect example of situational awareness. Let’s you’re a woman
traveling alone and you get into a situation, say you’re either in a restaurant or bar, and guys are trying to chat you up and befriend you.
This could be a person is genuinely trying to be your friend. But be smart and don’t volunteer Information, especially if they don’t already know critical information like where you’re staying.
And a lot of situations where women get abducted or taken, or, I hate to use the big ‘R’ word here, raped. Or anything like that. More often than not these people had tracked the woman and identified them as a potential mark and started following them somewhere in the city.
They usually have conversations with you, they can seem very innocent. I mean, obviously we all know the advice of not leaving your drink unattended and stuff like that. But information you never want to volunteer is that you’re by yourself.
And there’s a lot of arguments about wearing a fake wedding ring and saying you have a husband or a boyfriend.
First of all, guys have gotten really wise to that. That’s a bunch of crap, don’t even say that.
A good example. Let’s say someone approaches you while at a restaurant or bar while having a drink and says,
“Hey, are you alone, are you new to town?”
Be prepared with an answer. Tell them,
“Nope, just coming back into the area. I wanted to enjoy some time with my friends from…”
…and pick an area. Pick an area of the city. Or somewhere else. Say,
“My friends from Kyoto are coming in tomorrow and picking me up in the morning and we’re gonna hang out.”
Ya know, we’re going to do stuff. Don’t ever tell them where you’re actually going. Never tell strangers where you’re actually going. I mean I know it seems pretty obvious. Most of us are social creatures by nature and we want to make connections with people.
But when you think about, a guy approaching you alone, in place where you’re already very obviously a foreigner, you’re target!
Just those few simple words can derail, derail you as a potential target. I mean, just think like from the other person’s perspective.
“Oh hey, this girl has friends coming in from this town. It sounds like she’s been here before.”
Not as easy as a target as, you know, maybe Jane Doe down the bar who’s having a lot of drinks and looks like she’s having a good time chatting up anyone.
And that brings me to my 2nd point.
#2 Avoiding a confrontation
Avoiding a confrontation with a criminal, or anybody. Whether it be a mugger, someone looking to attack you, or maybe abduct you. It often comes down to one thing:
You want to make yourself less accessible, not just yourself. But your gear and your belongings. You just don’t want to be as accessible as they would like you to be because petty theft and petty criminals are looking for a quick grab and go.
A mugger is a really good example.
I’ve been tailed by people in foreign cities and turned around and looking at someone you think might be following you. Not being hostile, just being friendly, saying “Good morning” and stop wait for them to pass you.
If that person was looking to grab your purse and run, you’ve probably already derailed this person. Because otherwise, well, it’s gotta turn into a confrontation. Now they have to face you dead on. People that just want to run up and grab your stuff and go, they don’t want to get into a confrontation.
Something that’s common in some South American and Central American countries is the concept of what is call “Bag Slashing.” These people are ninjas. They are people that want to take your stuff out of your bag, and they’re so slick about it. I mean, they’ll come up and cut and grab stuff out of your pack. It can happen on buses. It can happen at airports, markets. It’s incredibly common and by the time you realize your GoPro is missing or your wallet or anything else it’s like,
“Well crap! Now what?”
So accessibility is really important.
I have my rain fly on my pack when I travel, even if it doesn’t look like it’s gonna
rain because it makes it harder for someone to visually target.
“Oh, that pocket looks like it’s got a lot of stuff in the bag.”
They do this really quick so you don’t want to make it really accessible, you want to make it harder for criminals. If you’re standing in a market with a whole bunch of backpackers and your stuff is covered and you’re turning around and you’re watching your surroundings, there’s a nine out of ten chance that you’re not going to have anything go missing.
It’s all about derailing a potential encounter and these two things:
- knowing that you’re a woman
- knowing that you will be flagged as a potentially easy target
but those two will can help a lot against being targeted as a mark.
Another good piece of advice I would give you is carrying zip ties with you. If you’re camping, I like zip ties because you can zip tie your things together. Like when you go to the bathroom.
Maybe somebody is looking to just kind of sneak into your tent and open up and grab your stuff because they saw you go to the bathroom or something. And you don’t want to drag all of your kit with ya.
Well great, because now they can’t just grab your stuff. Now they need a knife, now they need something else to get into your bag. And it takes them more time. Again, the snatch-and-grab robbery kind of stuff, they don’t want a confrontation with you. So these are easy tips to avoid that.
Now for my 3rd point for women traveling safely.
#3 What to do if a situation gets physical
Every now and then it does come down to you what to do when you come to blows with someone. You’ve done all the right stuff. You’ve been aware of your surroundings. You try to make yourself and your gear least accessible as possible, but you’re still confronted with a guy or girl who’s got the drop on you with a knife, or a gun, or whatever and they say,
“Gimme your stuff!”
Ok, for one, you don’t fight them!
I don’t care if you’re Bruce Lee or not. Every person I know who’s ex-military, who has training to handle confrontations, says that you try to avoid the confrontation and get away from the fight. I mean, if it comes down to the point where they’re just wanting your stuff, like “Gimme your stuff!”
You take your stuff off and you throw it away from you.
Because, they don’t want you.
If it’s a robbery like that. They want your stuff. So throw away from you and you’ve got a better chance that they’re going to go for your stuff than for you. And when that happens you get away!
You get away from the situation. Obviously I recommend women taking self-defense classes, there’s nothing wrong with that, but taking those in a physical confrontation are super key.
There’s a 99% chance you’re not going to have any problems no matter where you go.
I’ve lived in rural Africa, I’ve traveled all over rural South America, Central America and most of the time everything’s just fine. Most people that talk to you are nice and you and have no intention of hurting you.
#4 Listen to the locals
Something else you want to pay attention is when you’re in new area is that women want to help, like the locals. A lot of locals will want to help you. Women and elderly
people especially. So if you hear local people telling you,
“You don’t want to go that way. Things happen.”
They’re not challenging you to be a bad ass! They’re telling you that there’s a reason we don’t walk this way because people get robbed.
So it’s really up to you.
Just remember, most confrontations can be avoided and it doesn’t make you a weak or less of a person. It makes you a smarter person. For trying not put you or your gear in those situations to begin with.
So you’re not at the Embassy like,
“Well, some guy got all my stuff!”
So, these are just some things to think about. And like I said, these tips worked for me. I encourage everyone to do your own research and do what works for you.
Yes, it is safe to travel as a woman alone. Regardless of your age. Regardless of your experience. It’s all about being smarter.
So, until the next time.
Traveling Amazon out.
(a.k.a. The Traveling Amazon)