READER QUESTION: Hi ate Alaizza! I really admire how brave you are! I’m going to Thailand and meeting new people/guys kinda excites and scares me (so much) at once!!! And you seem to do that effortlessly. Any tips please? First time solo backpacker here! Is it safe?
– Nica, Philippines
Dearest Nica, I’m so happy for you! Keep the dream alive! 💕
Is it safe? I’D SAY YES AND NO AT THE SAME TIME.
Solo traveling is highly subjective and personal. No matter how many solo female travel blogs you read or solo female travelers you ask, it all boils down to: NO ONE IS THE SAME, AND WE ALL HAVE DIFFERENT JOURNEYS.
Remember that everyone is different and we interpret different actions based on our own gut and each of us see things differently, so one can never question when you feel harassed or not — this, I’m sure of.
Meeting guys while traveling is inevitable, even more so when you’re on your own. You can’t really avoid them, unless you’re planning on flying miles away from home just to stay in your cozy hotel room and watch Netflix all day.
Evidently, MALE TRAVELERS. ARE. FREAKIN. EVERYWHERE — in all shapes, sizes, nationalities and whatnots! They dominate the travel sphere and to be honest, they are the polar opposite of the Average Joe you usually encounter back home. Or perhaps, when we’re on the road, we’re often our best—or at least our most exciting—selves.
There’s that hostel mate who secretly buys you food and beer just because he’s bored out of his mind, bunches of European gents — with six-pack abs to top off their gorgeousness — taking a gap year around Southeast Asia, digital nomad revolutionaries running their lives from a laptop, a sprinkling of those who don’t give a damn at all, and so on.
I personally prefer to hang out with guys as they are more fun to be around, much more flexible, easier to approach, and… NO DRAMA.
In a nutshell: I’ve always been one of the boys through and through ever since, which kinda makes it a bit effortless. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t take certain precautions. First and foremost, ask yourself, “Am I willing to take the risk, especially in a place I essentially know nothing about?”
Here are some very important methods I’ve learned over the years:
Nowadays, meeting people online is somewhat common. I solely use Couchsurfing, while some of my friends and fellow solo travelers prefer dating apps like Tinder. Frankly, whatever floats your boat A.K.A. whatever your intentions are, you do you, as long as you bear your safety in mind.
- NEVER REVEAL TOO MUCH PERSONAL INFORMATION. You don’t want strangers to know too much about you. Keep your location as general as possible; never indicate your full address.
- DO A BACKGROUND CHECK. Even if you don’t have a lot of personal information about them, there are still ways you can determine if they are deceiving you. Look at how they interact with their friends or followers.
- This is why I highly recommend Couchsurfing. Basically, you can view each person’s References (or lack thereof) so you can choose who to meet up with & your hosts based on other people’s testimonials.
- TAKE IT SLOWLY BUT SURELY. Even if you talk to the person all the time, keep your emotions in check.
- TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. Do keep in mind that this person is a stranger, and avoid giving them the benefit of the doubt. In case he starts to flirt with you and your only intention is to gain a new friend and nothing beyond the friendship status, you have the right to cut the cord.
- BE HONEST. When shit goes down, don’t allow them to think you’re okay with something when you’re not.
- BEWARE OF THE CATFISH. Before you meet, have a phone call or video chat with them. They shouldn’t have any problems doing this — if they refuse or make excuses, it could be a red flag.
- WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN. Everything. Never rely on your cellphone. Write down your own contact numbers, your hostel’s address & contact info, your emergency contact numbers, the local police station’s details, etc. on a piece of paper. I keep mine in my wallet — sometimes, I put it in my bra.
MEET IN PUBLIC
Young fella, trust me, you’ll become a magnet for free spirits just like you. It’s okay to be adventurous, but being irresponsible is not cool. At all. Never.
- DON’T LET YOUR GUARD DOWN. He may seem *totally* nice and harmless on WhatsApp, but never agree to meet up in his hotel room, nor in an unfamiliar part of town, nor at a bar. And try to meet during the day.
- BE MINDFUL OF YOUR ALCOHOL INTAKE. Or avoid it. Or sip slowly, alternating between the alcoholic beverage and the water. Don’t leave it unattended, and don’t turn your back.
- ASK LOTS OF QUESTIONS. You’ll be able to link the person in front of you to the conversations you had before.
- KEEP YOUR FRIENDS/FAMILY ON THE LOOP. Even if they’re far away. Make sure several people know exactly where you’re going and when.
- YOU HAVE THE FREEDOM TO SAY NO. If they try to invite you somewhere else, pay attention to where. There’s Google for a reason. A predatory person might try to lure you to a more private or out-of-the-way location.
HOW TO HANDLE STICKY SITUATIONS
So, even though things are going well and outwardly the person seems great, you may have a nagging feeling that something isn’t right. Don’t ignore it — if you feel like you’re not safe, get out of there as quickly as possible.
- DON’T BE ASHAMED TO ASK FOR HELP. Talk to someone who works at the place where you met. Explain the situation to them because chances are, they will try to help you.
- HAVE AN ESCAPE ROUTE. Research information about the country you’re going to and please, know how to use the public transportation. Make sure you have the necessary ridesharing apps like Uber, Didi, and local taxi contact numbers.
- REPORT THREATENING/DANGEROUS BEHAVIOR. I know a few who chose to let bad situations go instead of actually reporting it to the local police because of the “hassle,” but please do, the “hassle” would save another person’s life.
- BLOCK THEM.
NOW FOR SOME, HOW TO AVOID GUYS WHO HAVE THE HABIT OF PICKING UP WOMEN?
- KNOW YOUR LIMITS
- TRUST YOUR SIXTH SENSE
- AVOID EYE CONTACT
- PRETEND TO BE BUSY
- LEARN THE LANGUAGE
- MEET FELLOW FEMALE TRAVELERS
- DON’T STAY OUT LATE ALONE
- BEFRIEND THE HOSTEL STAFF
- WEAR A FAKE WEDDING RING
At this point, yes, there’s not much of a difference between meeting guys back home and abroad, but you’ll have to be waaaaay more alert, accountable, and sensible of your own actions & well-being. For the most part, it’s just a matter of using common sense, relying on your sixth sense, and reading information about the country you’re going to.
Bottom line: Girl, you always have a choice.
Also, ‘wag masyado malandi. Or better yet, landi wisely.
I want to know: Have you ever encountered any bad situations as a solo female traveler? Share your experiences and advice in the comments below!