Danika's Safety Tips for the Solo Female Traveler
Hi! I'm Danika, and I work behind the scenes on the Stand Your Ground and Girls Who Fight team. Becoming a part of this company is truly a dream come true, and I am so excited to be a part of the team.
Fun fact about me: I LOVE travelling and exploring new places, and I like to go solo. Last year I traveled around Asia and Europe, and my bucket list keeps growing. Anything that provides a healthy dose of culture shock is what I look for.
I believe we have a lot to gain from putting ourselves through these experiences, especially in developing into a more tolerant and adaptable global citizen. The problem is, it can be hard to find the perfect travel partner who wants to go to all the same places you do. My solution: go solo!
Having traveled to most places by myself, I get asked a lot about how safe I felt travelling solo as a female. I understand their concern of course, there are many horror stories out there of awful things happening to girls overseas. The reality is though, there are many things you can control to keep yourself out of trouble, giving you a better shot at staying safe.
Improving women's safety is one of our main goals at Stand Your Ground, so I thought it would be helpful to share some tips that I think are good to keep in mind. I hope you find them interesting and helpful. Here are my basic dos and don'ts for travelling solo as a female!
1. Do trust your gut.
This may sound silly, simple and cliche, but it can be easy to dismiss your gut. The few times that I've gone against my gut feeling and convinced myself that “I'm just overthinking it”, are the times when things have not gone so smoothly for me.
Some people call it a vibe, an energy, an aura. Whatever it is you want to call it, often we can sense the intentions of someone before it is revealed. It is crucial not to ignore your intuition, and if you are feeling unsure, veer on the safe side. Removing yourself from situations before they potentially escalate is an important thing to keep in mind at all times.
We all get a sense of people within a few minutes of meeting them. We notice their tone, body language, and energy. Watch closely, learn how to read these signs, and take them seriously.
2. Don't arrive at night.
When you're coordinating flights, buses, or trains, try to arrange your arrival during the day, or at least not after the sun has gone down.
Regardless of where you are, the environment during the day is always less intimidating than it is at night. More people are out and about, shops and businesses are open, public transport runs more frequently, and you can easily read street signs. So naturally, getting to your accommodation will always be less stressful if done during the day.
Sometimes, options of bus and flight times can be limited, depending on where you are going. But, do your best to coordinate your travelling to arrive during the day, and you will feel more comfortable, calm and safe.
3. Do write down directions on paper.
Ah, the logistical struggles of travelling...Though I do not do this ritually, I really should. We rely heavily on our phones, and when they fail on us, we can find ourselves in a bit of a pickle.
Writing down important information, and having a note pad with you in general is pretty handy. Important phone numbers, address of a guesthouse, or simple directions is a crucial back up for when your map app fails on you, or you lose internet connection.
Another reason I suggest this is that sometimes, I may not be comfortable having my phone out in the open. In a lot of places, I prefer to keep all my electronic devices hidden away, if it's rare for the locals of the area to have these types of possessions (I'll talk more about this later).
4. Don't tell everyone where you're going or staying.
This is a continuation to trusting to your gut. It's seems somewhat strange when I consider who I've shared my information with, who I've chosen not to, and who I've blatantly lied to. Lying is not always a bad thing, in this case I consider it a simple safety measure. There have been times when asked about my next destination, I've responded, “I'm not sure yet”, or simply given false information. My motive for this? My instincts.
Within seconds of meeting someone, you can get an idea of what type of person they are, or how they may act. So generally, do not share your travels plans with every person you pass by or meet.
Of course, you might make friends along the way who would make a great travel buddy, but be cautious with whom you choose to do that with. Think twice before you reveal where you are staying, what you plan on doing, or where you plan on going next.
5. Do tell someone back home where you are.
Contrary to the above tip, it's always good to share your whereabouts with people back home. This of course, has the added benefit of giving your friends and family back home peace of mind.
If you're the type of person who likes to venture into isolated locations, make sure you let someone know the address or location (even a town name is helpful) of where you'll be staying. A few times, I've simply shared my location using either Facebook or Whats-app, that way they can literally pin point my exact location on a map. It's also good to keep in mind when you will have reception/internet available. If you're going to be off the grid, let your people know ahead of time.
God forbid, if something horrible was to happen to me, they would be able to note the last place I was staying and search from there. This can help ease your mind, and equally as important, the minds of your family and friends.
6. Don't stand out.
Blend in as much as possible. How you dress, how you act, what you say, and however else you can think of. Of course I don't suggest that you go out in disguise, but this is a helpful tip to keep yourself a little under the radar in terms of being singled out as a possible target.
For example, if it is odd for women to be wearing shorts or short skirts out in public, avoid it. If everyone smiles to each other when passing in the street, do the same. Like I mentioned in one of the above tips, if no one has a mobile device out in their hands, keep yours out of sight also.
Not only does this keep you from standing out like an obvious clueless tourist, it also helps you internalize a lot of the cultural differences. I would say this is an added bonus really. And chances are, the locals will be more pleased with you trying to fit in. It gives the impression you respect their culture (hopefully you do anyway). Also, do your best to learn a few phrases in the local language. Making friends with the locals is always interesting. Guaranteed fun.
7. Do walk purposefully and confidently.
Part of what I love about Girls Who Fight, and Camp Hero is that we help teach girls how to present themselves confidently. It can seem very arbitrary, but our body language has such a huge influence on how we are perceived. When travelling alone this can leave you either looking like an easy target, or a force to be reckoned with.
Even if you're actually lost, never panic. Spot a good place to stop (coffee shop, library, bus stop, park bench, anywhere people are waiting around will do), and walk towards it...with purpose of course! Once you're stopped now is the time to fiddle with your phone or notes, or ask someone for directions.
What to take from this: keep your head up, look where you're going, and don't look like you're lost, even when you have no idea where you are!
8. Don't go out at night alone.
If you've just arrived somewhere, learn from the locals or guesthouse staff about the area first before going about wandering on your own. Or at the very least, don't go to places you're unsure about if you are alone.
My standard procedure is pretty much this: don't go out at night alone, instead find some friends to go with. If I have become more familiar with the area, and I know my way around, and the locals or guesthouse staff insist it is fine, I'll be more flexible with this rule. But for the most part, I believe that this is a great rule to go by no matter where you are.
Making friends while travelling is super easy. No doubt you will be able to find some awesome people to go out with at night, if that's what you feel like doing. Just because you are a solo-traveler, doesn't mean you have to be alone all the time.
There you have it! My basic safety rule book for exploring foreign places solo!
I hope that you find these tips useful and that it helps you feel confident when travelling alone. I know a lot of women who don't feel comfortable going out to explore the world because they feel afraid to do it on their own. In my opinion, this is a shame, because for me travelling solo is such a great experience. Sometimes, I prefer to go alone than have a buddy with me anyway. With that being said, I want to finish on this note:
Don't let fear hold you back, forcing your thirst for adventure to dry up. We can never 100% prevent bad things from happening to us, even in the comfort of our own city. You can however take some preventive measures to keep you safer, and make you feel more comfortable in foreign places. If you dream of exploring exotic jungles and scaling mountains, don't let fear hold you back from materializing those dreams. Gear up, prepare yourself, and travel smart. Follow your thirst, and drink up every moment of your adventure. Don't worry about thanking me, you can do that later once you're back home.
Thanks for reading, and as always, I am happy to chat, or answer any questions! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bye for now!