One of the ironies of solo travel is how much easier it can be to meet people because you’re solo, instead of traveling with your significant other or a posse. But if the upside of solo travel is that you’re approachable, then the downside of solo travel is that you’re. . . approachable. That’s right: Being approachable is a double-edged sword. Especially for solo female travelers.
Don’t get me wrong: 90% of the time, the people you meet will be fun, interesting, and excellent temporary companions. But every once in awhile, you find yourself becoming a freak magnet. What makes someone a freak, you ask? Take the persistent old drunk dude that kept wanting me to dance with him in New Orleans and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Or the crazy guy who sat down next to me on a shuttle bus in Vegas who thought he was an angel sent to judge the people of Las Vegas. Or the French flight attendant I sat next to in a Paris restaurant who, in the process of hitting on me, asked me if I had ever killed anyone–and proceeded to describe his (probably fictional) career as a mercenary in a jungle somewhere.
These encounters always leave me wondering what the hell vibe I’m sending out that attracts these people. I suppose it could just be the odds. The more we are out in public, the greater the odds we’ll find ourselves in this situation eventually. The more important question is: How do you shake these freaks?
Here are a few of my best tips:
Avoid them in the first place. Most of the time, I am very good at avoiding undesirable situations and people. I pay attention to who is around me, and if they seem sketchy, I steer clear. Yet sometimes, the freaks find you anyway. That’s when these other tips come in handy.
Ignore them. If it’s at all possible, just ignore them and hope they take the hint.
Be rude if you need to be. Women are often raised to be “nice” and “polite” to everyone, and this can really work against us when someone decides to take advantage of that. If you’re in an uncomfortable situation with someone, feel free to be rude or downright bitchy. Some people just don’t get the message otherwise. Besides, you’ll never see them again.
Walk Away (quickly). When I was in New Orleans, I was sitting at a bar on Bourbon Street, enjoying an Abita beer and a great Cajun band. People were dancing, but all I wanted to do was listen to the music and enjoy my beer. An older man came over to try to get me to dance with him, exhaling the fumes of a few too many alcoholic beverages into my face and swaying like an extension bridge in a high wind. I politely declined. He became more persistent. I declined more firmly. The next time he approached me, I was rude. Being drunk, he still didn’t get the message. I tried to catch the bartender’s eye for an assist, but he was too busy making drinks to notice. Finally, when the guy had his back turned, I got up and slipped out of the bar. I hated having to leave, because I was enjoying the music, but I didn’t see any other way to ditch him.
Lie like a rug. Tell them something, anything that will get them off your back. You might say you’re late for an appointment and have to leave. Lots of women lie about being married or that they’re just waiting for their boyfriend. This may not work if you’re a lousy liar. When the French flight attendant/playboy/mercenary started hitting on me, I tried to lie about a boyfriend back home, but I’m sure he didn’t believe me. I really need to learn to be a better liar.
Enlist the help of others. In the case of the French guy, I was prepared to solicit some help from my waiter when it was time to leave the restaurant (I didn’t want this guy following me back to my hotel), but found some unexpected assistance before that became necessary. A black miniature Schnauzer was sniffing around the tables in the restaurant, when he walked between us and stood up with his front paws on me, peering up into my face. As I patted him, a woman sitting on the other side of me exclaimed in a Southern accent, “Look! He’s begging!”
I whipped my head around so fast I almost got whiplash. “You’re American!” I blurted out. The woman and her husband smiled at me. Yes, they were. They were Rhonda and Larry from Houston, Texas, and they became my salvation. I turned toward them and gave them my full attention and we had a nice long chat over our dinners. Mr. Mercenary got the hint and left.
Cause a Scene. I’ve been really, really lucky that I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve had to do this. It can be embarrassing. But which is worse? Being cornered by a freak or making a scene in front of people you’ll never see again? And who knows–maybe it’ll freak them out if they think you’re crazier than they are.
What’s your fool-proof way of getting out of awkward situations with sketchy people?