Let´s not skirt the issue, traveling can be dangerous. Traveling as a girl, slightly more dangerous. Traveling ALONE as a girl, you must be down-right out of your mind.
We take on these risks knowing full well we´re up against, but knowing also the immense joy, satisfaction, and liberation that can result from setting out on your own with nothing but your imagination and spunk guiding you on your dimly defined path.
So off you venture, pepper spray in one hand, guidebook in the other, 45 pound backpack strapped to your back, and you think whatever´s gonna happen is gonna happen, come what may, cest la vie. I´m sure your friends and family are quite smitten by this defiance, they may also be a bit terrified.
To curb their fears and also maybe, secretly, yours, here are a few tips to keeping yourself safe and sound until you return home from your adventures. After all, it´s better to delight people with colorful stories and pictures alike than terrify them with your near-death experiences (for the most part at least).
1. Pepper spray? It may make you feel more safe than it’s actual practical usage, but having a little bottle on you while lugging around a big backpack and looking at maps and finding your way may prove beneficial in the long run, especially if you have it handy and within reach. Just be sure to check the laws in each country before traveling with it!
2. Have a plan and stick (relatively) to it: If you have an itinerary let someone at home know about it, and try to check in as often as possible. Traveling these days is different from the past, when our only correspondence was done via snail mail and pictures were only seen months after arriving back home. If you’re keeping in contact with friends or family on a semi-regular basis, see that they know at least which way you’re headed and try to fill them in once you arrive.
3. Where’s your Embassy? As an added method of protection, you can always let your embassy know your travel plans, and most have a traveler check-in system that send you updates on travel advisories. If anything were to happen, your name is in their file and they’ll be able to help you quicker if they know you´re around. Give a copy of your passport to someone back home you trust and let them know Embassy contact numbers in case they need it.
4. Travel dirty. Oddly enough, traveling dirty, and maybe even a bit smelly, can work to your advantage. When jumping on a bus in Central America I always made a point to not shower, to have my hair up and not wear a stitch of make-up, to wear a pair of old jeans and a t-shirt and never pull out an ipod or cell phone. The idea was to look as unappealing as possible, both physically and financially, and hope that any fellow passengers or even the bus driver didn’t give me a second look.
General common sense is indeed your best friend, use it and keep yourself relatively in check. You want this trip to go well so you’re ready for the next one!