Two things keep women from traveling solo. Fear for their safety and fear they won’t have a good time alone. Take a gutsy-pill and a deep breath and you’ll thank yourself for the rest of your life. Above all remember, danger does not lurk behind every corner. But some really good pasta might.
Imagine you’re a petty thief who preys on tourists and you’re looking for your next victim. Who catches your eye?
Middle-Aged Woman Number One. She has a map in her hand, is wearing shorts and sandals, has a camera on one shoulder and a bulging tote on the other.
Middle-Aged Woman Number Two. She’s wearing slacks and a plain shirt, no jewelry and her purse rides bandoleer-style across her chest. She’s standing tall, walking briskly and appears to know where she’s going.
It’s obvious that the first woman is a tourist. The second? Maybe she’s a visitor, however, that stride will make a thief turn away from her and head toward easier prey. Here are some tips on how to travel like the second woman and take yourself out of a thief’s line-of-sight.
Pare Down and Pack Up
Women are notorious for packing more than they need into multiple suitcases. Believe me, nobody cares if you wear the same pair of slacks several days in a row. I do and believe me, I am no frump. Traveling solo means traveling smart and the pointers in What’s in Your Suitcase can turn you into a savvy traveler.
Walk Like a Flight Attendant
Flight attendants have a “look” that has nothing to do with appearance. Their self-assured demeanor is underscored by a subtle friendliness and a “you wouldn’t dare mess with me” attitude. Practice the flight attendant walk – shoulders back, straight spine, composed but alert gaze, purposeful steps – and you’ll give off strong, competent vibes that will deter assailants looking for an easy mark.
Ditch the Giant Tote Bag
You do not need a tote bag the size of a VW bug when you’re tooling the ruins of Pompeii or the souk in Istanbul. You need a mini-purse that will hold cash, passport, cell phone, glasses, one credit card, a tiny hairbrush and some lipstick or gloss. Wow, don’t you feel lighter already?
Before you go, buy a small, lightweight bag with a strap you can wear across your body.
Lots of possibilities on line at Baggallini, PacSafe, Magellans or check your local REI or AAA travel gear sections.
Table for One
Sitting alone in a restaurant for breakfast and lunch isn’t nearly as intimidating as having dinner by yourself. Some women solve the problem with a big lunch and have a snack for dinner in their room. Others take a book. Seasoned solo travelers just do it. What’s the worst thing that can happen if you dine alone? People will stare? Doubtful. You’ll get a lousy table and worse service? Probably not. Somebody will flirt with you. Maybe. (Hey, wouldn’t that be fun?)
Talking to Strangers
If you mind your mother’s advice (and for that matter, the mantra of security personnel the world over), you won’t talk to strangers. This will deprive you of some of the most memorable experiences of your life. The elderly couple sharing your compartment on the train is unlikely to mug you. The old man in the market might prove to be delightful. Just use your head and you’ll be rewarded with a glimpse of the world and its people that no guidebook, museum tour or city stroll will ever reveal.
If you do find yourself in a sticky situation – an overly aggressive would-be suitor or nasty street vendor, for instance – enlist the help of a local woman. Preferably an elderly one. There’s an international language of gestures and expressions that women share, and all you need to do is hurry to a mama-san, ask for help and point at the pest. She’ll give the guy what-for and he’ll leave with his ego dragging.