What I am about to say may shock you: I quite often don’t practice what I preach when it comes to solo travel safety. There is a lot of sound advice about safety for solo women that is commonly-held and repeated among travelers (including me!). Most of it, I adhere to. For instance, I make sure I pick a hotel in a safe neighborhood. I stick to well-traveled tourist areas (especially at night) and do not go to private places with strangers. I keep my valuables locked up in my room safe or tucked out of sight. I stay sober and am constantly vigilant about what’s going on around me. I am super paranoid about anyone invading my personal space.
But there are some things that I have not yet found it necessary to do. This may be because of the destinations I choose. So far, I haven’t gone anywhere that has felt particularly unsafe to me. So what are those solo female safety tips I don’t follow?
I don’t wear a fake wedding band to discourage men from hitting on me when I travel. I keep seeing this bit of advice being doled out on the Internet like it’s something you absolutely have to do to stay safe when you travel. I’m not spending a couple of hundred bucks on a fake wedding band, when I can just as easily discourage men with my best “fuck off” facial expression, which happens to be free. But then, I haven’t traveled to regions where men are particular aggressive about that sort of thing, and I’m not a cute young twenty-something any more.
I’ve never lied about my bodybuilder boyfriend being “back in the hotel room” to make people think I’m not traveling alone. Why? Because I’m a lousy liar and they’d see right through me anyway! So why bother? I don’t want people’s first impression of me to be that I’m a liar.
Which is why I also sometimes commit the cardinal sin of solo travelers: I tell people I’m traveling alone. I’ve never gotten into a conversation with someone I can’t trust with that information, because I steer clear of anyone who feels “wrong” to me. It’s not like I’m running around screaming in the streets “I’m traveling alone! Mug me!” I just don’t see any reason to keep it a secret that I’m traveling alone if someone asks.
If someone I’ve struck up a friendly conversation with asks me, I tell them where I’m staying. Why not? It’s not like I’m camping out in the woods alone. There are always plenty of staff around, if not security. So what the hell is a stranger going to do about it if they know where I’m staying? I’m not giving them the key to my room and an open invitation to visit me there. The only people who usually ask me where I’m staying are other tourists, and it’s because they want to compare hotels. I’ve never had a stalker when I traveled, and if I did, I’d call the authorities.
When I go to a bar by myself, I don’t feel the need to latch onto a group to make it look like I’m not alone. But I also choose my nightspots carefully. I wouldn’t hang out at a dive bar by myself. I know if anyone in the bar pays undue attention to me, I can always turn to the staff for backup. And I’m not walking home from that bar at night in the dark by myself, I’m taking a cab.
I don’t call home every day or tell my family my itinerary beyond my flight and hotel information. Okay, this is the one I probably ought to start doing, since accidents can happen to anyone at any time. I could be hit by a car and lying in a ditch and they wouldn’t know until they realized I never came home from vacation, by which time, I’d be dead. (Then again, I could also die at the beginning of a weekend when I have no social plans and no one would know until I didn’t show up for work on Monday morning. Such is the life of a single woman who lives alone.)
So there, those are my confessions. Do you respect me less now? Do you think I’m being too cavalier about these things? Are there any commonly-held travel safety practices that you don’t adhere to? Come on, ‘fess up. It’s good for the soul.
Disclaimer: I am not recommending that anyone follow my example regarding the behaviors above. Everyone has to decide for herself what to do and not do to ensure safety.