I recently came across a HARO inquiry from a dubiously named publication focused on air travel. It was from a blogger writing about “the struggles of air travel for female travelers” and read as follows:
Looking for stories about the struggles of air travel for female travelers (not feeling clean or fresh, not looking your best, limited carry on space for health, beauty, and comfort products, etc).
I don’t know about you all, but as a female air traveler, I don’t think my struggles are any different than those of men. There’s the stress of navigating the airport, dealing with long security lines, fitting a heavy carry-on bag into the overhead, cramped seats, having to pay for literally everything that involves a choice (i.e. picking your seat, checking a bag, watching a movie, eating something other than peanuts). I travel light and keep health and beauty products to whatever fits into an amenity-kit sized bag. Unless you’re Elle Woods or Lady Gaga on a world tour, you probably don’t have any special travel needs and are limiting the number of items you bring with you.
The one thing I do worry about, vaguely, is safety. Will I be seated next to a pervert? What object can I attack him with that I’m allowed to bring on a plane these days? Is that scene in Redeye (SPOILER ALERT) where Rachel McAdams punctures the guy’s vocal chords with a pen, realistic? And do I have it in me to stab some creep in the throat if thousands of lives are at stake? Really just normal stuff like that.
My real “struggle” involves hotels. When I travel alone, I have a thing against being on the first floor – it just freaks me out, even if the window takes up the entire wall and is reinforced with metal bars. I don’t like the idea of being on the first floor, ever since this one night in college when I was home alone, studying in my room and I heard a knock on the window. It was probably 11 PM and the most terrifying thing to sit there in an empty apartment and have someone outside looking in and knocking on my window. It also didn’t help that the campus security guards were incompetent morons who were no doubt finishing a poker game before deigning to show up 30 minutes later.
Then there was an incident at the Ibis Calais Hotel this past summer. The walls were made of paper, but I didn’t know that when I went to shower shortly after arriving. That night I learned a very valuable lesson: Always take your cellphone with you to the bathroom. Not so you can take classy Kim K.-style mirror selfies but in case you happen to be in the shower and think a stranger has walked into the room. This way, you can call for backup.
That’s exactly what it sounded like when I very clearly heard my door open and close, followed by a series of footsteps. Now if you think it’s crazy that someone could just walk into your hotel room, it does happen and did I mention this hotel gave out metal keys that didn’t seem to be kept in a secure place? There I was in the bathroom, with a couple of extra towels that were too flimsy to try and strangle someone with and no sharp objects in sight. Should I break the mirror, wrap it with a towel and come out of the bathroom ready to attack whoever was so bold as to walk into a room and then not make another sound? It sounds like an overreaction, but I was that sure that someone had really walked into my room.
I looked around and when it became clear that there was nothing nearby that I could turn into a shank or strangulation device, I took the giant shampoo bottle that was hanging on the wall and decide if I couldn’t beat someone senseless with it, surely the contents would blind them. After giving the presumed intruder a chance to leave the room without consequence (something that would have been fruitless anyway, since no one in this town seemed to speak English), I pushed open the door, walked two steps towards the bed and…no one was there.
What I’d heard was most likely the neighbor, walking into the room next door. With the doors being inches apart and the walls paper thin, it just sounded like they entered my room. I’m not super paranoid when I travel alone, so it wasn’t like I was on high alert – I really heard what sounded like my door opening and began to prepare a plan of attack. Take my word for it, you never want to be in that position. Always take your phone with you everywhere, along with something you can fashion into a weapon. Or better yet, bring an actual weapon that is unassuming but can do some damage.
Anyway, not talking to strangers, staying away from creeps, requesting a room on a floor higher then the first, and bringing my cell phone and pepper spray with me everywhere is how I stay safe as a solo traveler. And in my opinion, these are tips you should all be following, male or female.
After all, if someone living in a super exclusive building with a security team can get tied up and held at gunpoint, what hope is there for the rest of us? There are terrible people everywhere, scamming and scheming to take advantage of unassuming travelers, male or female. It’s a small part of the population, but it’s always good to be aware of possible dangers while traveling alone.
What are some of your struggles as a solo traveler (male or female)? Have you ever experienced a scary moment while traveling alone and what are some of the precautions you take to make sure you’re always safe?
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