I'll admit something: though I enjoy traveling and have spent money I really shouldn't have going to foreign countries in order to Have Adventures, I almost never go alone. As a young woman, I've had my fair share of run-ins with strangers who are insistent on talking to me, dancing with me, or getting me to pay attention in some way. But there are plenty of women out there who don't feel that same kind of trepidation, and if you, my friend, fall into this category, then keep reading. Paula Froelich of A Broad Abroad is sharing her top safety tips for traveling alone.
Froelich has gone all over the world by herself, and she's written reams about her experiences. Some of her travel activities have included skiing in Afghanistan, having her shoes stolen in India, and reporting in Casablanca, among many others, so you can rest assured that she knows what she's talking about.
Recently, she put together a list of top tips for women traveling on their own — and I love it. Even if you're not hopping on a plane by yourself to head to another continent any time soon, there will almost always be times during group travel when you split up from your friends or family. Here are some of my favorite tidbits of advice for the smart, safe traveler.
1. "Always carry a door jamb for cheaper hotel room doors."
I bet you anything that when you're trying to mash your possessions into a suitcase, you don't think to yourself, "A door jamb! Can't forget my trusty door jamb!" I sure didn't before, but it'll be on my mind now. As an American, I'm used to hotels that have pretty good door security. Even motels have multiple locks. But that won't always be the case if you are traveling abroad, and if you're staying in a cheaper hotel without much in the way of room safety, you can put that door jamb to good use. If you want something a little more high-tech, you can buy a portable alarm guaranteed to scare the pants off any intruders.
2. "It's okay to be aloof."
First impressions are difficult when you're traveling in an unfamiliar place. For example, when I studied abroad in Spain, I kept forgetting that it was customary to greet new acquaintances with a kiss on both cheeks and got branded as cold on account of it. But in other places, your interactions can come off as too friendly. Be careful who you shake hands with, hug, touch on the arm, or even smile at. In some countries, this can be interpreted as a come-on. "I once sat down next to a guy in Karbala and that apparently meant I wanted to be his side piece (I, in fact, did not)," Froelich writes.
3. "Try not to walk anywhere alone at night."
I know, this one seems obvious. But maybe it's 10 p.m., and you're just leaving dinner, and you think, "It's so much cheaper to just walk back to my hotel from here."
Please, please, think again. Just spend the money on a taxi. Or a bus, at least. Nighttime sidewalk loiterers are the worst, so make sure you've budgeted some dough for emergency Uber rides. Froelich says that, if you're forced to walk alone after dark and you're feeling uncomfortable, just walk in the street. Weirdly, that's probably safer than dealing with anyone on foot.
4. "Take other people’s religion as seriously as they do."
Many places of worship (not to mention entire countries) have strict rules regarding attire. For example, most Catholic churches in Italy will require you to cover your shoulders and wear skirts or shorts that reach the knees. You can try to protest those rules in the name of your own beliefs, but the best outcome is a bunch of side-eye for disrespecting someone's religion. At worst, you could be barred from entering. Froelich advises that it is best to dress accordingly, even if that's not your usual style.
5. "Crazy people are scared of crazier people."
So you've somehow gotten into a conversation with someone who makes you feel uncomfortable while you're traveling. It happens. But how to extract yourself with minimal fuss? If the person is a normal amount of pissed or creepy, Froelich recommends just staying calm and staring him down, preferably while saying nothing. Who knew that what works on lions and bears and tigers also works with crooked taxi drivers or creepy bodega owners?
If the person is an above-average level of weird, use Froelich's mother's rule: "crazy people are scared of crazier people." I recommend making the Jenna Marbles face while screeching and flailing your arms, like you are a creature from Welcome to Night Vale.
Froelich has plenty more tips where these came from, though. Check out her article for the full set. Savvy travels, my fellow women adventurers!