Traveling solo as a woman isn’t always a walk in the park. There are times when it’s downright hard. Despite that, I’ve never let my lust for traveling the world dwindle. Some say I’m crazy, my dad often worries, but that still hasn’t stopped me. Why? Because I’ve always maintained the sense of safety that enables me to keep going.
In the (hopefully) near future, I envision a world where I’m not automatically a target just because I’m a woman. I envision a world where I can feel safe walking home at night, just like most men do. Unfortunately that’s not the case as of yet. But that isn’t going to stop me from living a life of travel. Here is exactly why I feel safe traveling solo as a woman:
1. I’m confident in my street smarts.
This is number one on the list because it is hands-down the biggest factor that allows me to stay safe. Without my complete trust in my street smarts, I would not be traveling today.
Street smarts is a hard concept to verbalize in such a way that all of its benefits and qualities are explained. It’s such an expansive topic that deserves nothing more than a complete explanation.
In this context of solo traveling as a female, street smarts involves knowing when you are safe, how to become safe if you aren’t already, and what circumstances cause you to be in unsafe situations. Being constantly and consciously aware of your surroundings is the key to maintaining your safety.
There are many benefits to street smarts, but perhaps in this situation exuding that confidence is most vital to personal safety. People will notice when you exude confidence, especially perpetrators. They would much rather go for someone that looks confused, lost, and unsure as these are the people that are easiest to target. Exude confidence in your street smarts and it is more likely that your personal safety will prosper.
2. There are more people out there that want to help me than hurt me.
This one took me awhile to learn, as it is often something that can only be learned through personal experience. In my short 21 years of life, I’ve had the privilege to meet many, many people that have gone out of their way to help me for reasons I never understood before now.
Now I’m finally starting to get it. People help people because it’s the right thing to do. They help people because just going out of their way in what seems to be the smallest way can add endless positivity to someone’s life.
This past May I went to Ghent, Belgium for a little solo vacation. I generally prefer traveling alone, so I made sure to jam pack my trip with fun things to do so I could get the most out of it. It was this trip that I had just that much more of my faith in humanity restored.
On my second day, I decided to rent a bike so I could see more of the city. Not only had I not ridden a bike in years, but there were also tram lines throughout all the roads; something I was completely ignorant to. I figured it would be just as easy as any other road. Within 20 minutes of renting the bike, I crashed in front of thousands of people, on the main street, right next to the main square.
People rushed over to help me as I got up. I told them I was fine (a little blood never hurt anyone, right?) and pulled myself and my bike to the side of the road. It was then that I noticed the rental bike was bent. Being a frugal person, I was quite upset knowing I’d have to pay hundreds to this bike rental shop since I had broken this bike just 20 minutes into the ride.
My frustration must have been obvious because it was then that two gentleman walked up to me, asked me if I was okay, and then proceeded to fix my bike and send me on my merry way. These men took time out of their day to help a flustered tourist with nothing to gain except maybe some good karma. It’s times like these that I am reminded that there are more good people out there than there are bad.
3. I’m safer in most first world countries than where I lived in the US.
Before I moved to Italy, I lived in Baltimore, Maryland. While I think Baltimore has a deep complexity to explain its violence, there’s no way to deny how high its crime rates are.
The first year I lived there, I remember seeing on the news that Baltimore had broken its record for most murders in one weekend. There were 16 people that were killed that weekend. This is a horrific problem that many cities in America face, and yet people tell me it’s unsafe to go abroad alone?
I can tell you for damn sure that Ghent doesn’t have 16 murders in one weekend, so where is it really safer to be?
4. I make decisions that reflect my desire to stay safe.
Unfortunately we live in a world where we cannot do whatever we want whenever we want. There are certain situations that require more attention and consideration, and this is when your desire to stay safe should reign supreme. Taking precautions is the biggest way I reflect my desire to stay safe. I do not put myself in situations that could potentially put me in danger, and I do this in a few different ways.
When traveling solo, I usually don’t drink. If I do, I do so in a very secure setting (like a wine tasting!) I do this for two big reasons: the first and biggest reason is that if I don’t drink, I avoid the possibility of having a date rape drug being put into my drink. While this could certainly happen anywhere and with any drink, it’s easier to not notice it when you’re relaxing and enjoying your vacation. Another reason I don’t drink while traveling solo is simply for my own mental clarity. I want to make sure I’m at my height of mental cognition so I can be on alert. It’s essential to be completely aware of your surroundings at all times, and this is how I choose to maintain that mental clarity.
It’s quite sad that these kind of precautions have to be taken, but unfortunately not everyone cares about our safety and well being.
5. I trust my instinct.
Many people call this “gut” instinct, and it’s relevance while solo traveling is undeniable. This plays in heavily with street smarts. It’s about more than having a good “gut instinct”, it’s about being able to trust your instinct and do what it is telling you.
Feel uncomfortable in a certain place? Leave. Feel like someone is watching you in an ill-intentioned way? Go somewhere else where you’ll be safe ASAP. Trust your instinct and trust what it is telling you. Following this rule of solo travel can keep you out of many dangerous situations. Always keep this in mind while traveling solo as a female!
6. I go to places where I don’t feel my personal safety is at risk.
Simply put, there are some places that aren’t safe for anyone at the moment. While I’m sure that these places are all beautiful in their own way, and as much as I would love to see each and every place that the world has to offer, some are just not as safe as others. I’ve always had a huge desire to see North Korea. But is it safe as an American to go there at this point in time? Probably not.
All the places I travel to are places where I know my personal safety will be secure. Knowing you are in a place where you have the ability to be safe is a huge necessity to traveling solo, especially as a woman.
7. I keep people back home updated regularly.
While traveling, I start my days with letting both my parents and my boyfriend know where I am and what I plan on doing. I end my days with another message letting them know that I got back to my lodging safe and how my day was.
This is extremely essential to maintaining a sense of personal safety. If someone knows where you are and when to expect you next, they will also know what to tell authorities should something go wrong. Knowing that someone will come looking for you in a timely manner should something happen is beyond reassuring. It helps you feel safer while also being safer.
If I know I won’t have wifi for a few days, I be sure to tell my family that, as well. They always know when to expect my next call.
8. I’ve learned basic self-defense.
Even if you’re just walking around in your hometown, it’s essential to learn basic self-defense. It can be as simple as watching a YouTube video and using a friend to practice. If you have the means and want to take it a step further, enroll in an actual self defense class where an instructor can help you understand the principles on a deeper level.
However you decide to learn self-defense, just do it. Do it for yourself and do it for the people around you that love you. This is especially true if you’re traveling and are out of your comfort zone!
When I was in the 8th grade, my fellow students and I were lucky enough to be able to take a free self-defense class through our Physical Education program. To this day, I take what I learned in that class with me. I know how to get out of an unwanted embrace, I know how to alert other drivers if I’m put in a trunk, and I know how where and how to strike to make it the most debilitating. Learn these things and you will feel forever safer.Click To Tweet