How To Avoid Unwanted Attention When Travelling
By Shannon Ullman
Attention traveling ladies, you are killing it out there. You have managed to push the negative societal stigmas aside and venture out into the world on your own. Despite the warnings of danger urging women not to step foot abroad alone, you headed out into the great unknown. For this, I applaud you and give you a big thumbs up for ignoring the advice of the negative nancys. However, I want you to keep in mind that those warnings stem from some truth and it is important to watch your back while traveling abroad as a women, especially alone. Your beautiful self is bound to attract some admirers so here are a few tips on how to avoid unwanted attention on your travels.
Don’t Dress to Impress (Well, Not all of The Time)
OK, I am just as big a feminist as you are, but often and unfortunately, our outward appearances determine the amount of attention we get. I mean, even us girls stop to stare at the well put together fashionistas we see walking down the street. This isn’t to say that you should walk around in a plastic trash bag or potato sack, but rather that you should dress strategically. By all means, wear what you want, but be mindful of the type of attention you may attract in different situations. If you are wandering around a city alone or especially at night, tone down the flash and stick to more neutral attire that won’t garner as much attention.
When It’s Late, Stick With a Mate
Most of you are probably fiercely independent ladies but it’s important to know when you should travel as a pair or within a group. If you’re planning on visiting a rough part of town or going out to a bar or nightclub in the evening, take a friend or acquaintance along with you. Don’t leave bars alone and consider taking a taxi instead of walking. If you are planning a trip somewhere secluded like into a park or nature reserve, it may be a good idea to bring a friend along as well. In many cultures, a woman traveling alone in places like these or late at night, give some locals the wrong idea about her intentions. I once was hiking alone on a secluded forest trail while living in China and was followed by a local man who kept asking me if I usually came hiking alone. After hearing that I did, he acted surprised, intrigued and proceeded to pull out a condom, asking if I was interested in a sexual break from my hike. Alone at the top of a mountain with a strange man propositioning me for sex is when I really wished I had invited along a friend.
Be Careful Who You Get in The Car With
In many situations, taking a taxi is often safer than walking but even so the drivers can make you pretty uncomfortable. I have had taxi drivers touch my leg, ask for my number and blatantly stare at me every time we stopped at a traffic light. Make sure to always sit in the backseat and look for reputable taxi companies in whichever city you are in. You can ask your hostel, hotel or bar to call a well-known company to pick you up if you aren’t sure.
Wear a Ring
A girl shouldn’t need to be claimed by a man in order to be left alone, but what works, works. If you are wearing a ring on your wedding finger or simply state that you are married or have a husband, it tends to be a lot easier to ward off pursuers. After spending five or more straight minutes explaining to persistent admirers that I wasn’t interested in giving out my number or going on a date, I eventually resorted to saying that I was married, which is something that seemed worthy enough for them to back down. Simply saying that I have a boyfriend has not work well for me in the past.
Sometimes it’s OK Not to Be Friendly
Most of us were taught from a young age to be friendly. If someone smiles at you, smile back and if someone says hello, you should at least acknowledge the gesture. Sometimes, when traveling alone, it is OK not to do this. In different cultures, a simple smile, wave or hello can be interpreted differently by a local when coming from a woman. Be confident and stern when dealing with people while traveling. You do not need to be completely cold when someone gives you a smile but don’t welcome further interaction with your response. Give a quick nod or wave, divert eye contact and swiftly get on your way.
Understand the Culture
Gestures, body language and clothing can all mean very different things when traveling in a country that is not yours. Make sure to read up on the appropriate ways to act and dress before you travel to a new destination. A simple movement or look could invite a whole lot of unwanted attention your way. The way you dress is also important, for example, bare shoulders, stomach or knees can be considered revealing and promiscuous in various places. When living in China I learned that while wearing skirts and shorts that barely covered your butt was OK, wearing a shirt that showed even the smallest amount of cleavage was considered to be extremely sexy. You do not want to send out the wrong signals by mistake.
Traveling alone as a woman is brave, commendable and encouraged. It is important to keep yourself safe out there and avoiding unwanted attention is part of that. As long as you are enjoying yourself, feeling comfortable and are not giving up your rights as a woman and as a person, you should do what’s necessary to un-invite attention that may put a damper on your beautiful, glorious and adventurous journey.