I’ve traveled with girlfriends, my sister, and my mom. I even travel a lot by myself. Over the years of travel with other women and by myself, I have learned ways to ensure my safety. But being safe doesn’t mean not having fun. In other words, don’t let fear rule your travels. In most circumstances something you may initially be fearful of will turn into something wonderful (i.e. zip-lining and snorkeling).
Most important is to be smart when you travel. Don’t do something dangerous when traveling that you definitely wouldn’t do at home. Of course you should do things you don’t do at home. That’s kind of the point of travel…just don’t do something that is obviously dangerous.
Don’t carry a huge purse or bag around. Instead use a small bag with a strap that can be crossed across your body. Better yet put your valuables in a pocket that zips. I recently bought an excellent travel skirt with three zipper pockets. It looks great and has safe storage.
There is no better way to stay safe than to befriend some of the locals that work for the hotel you are staying at or the tour company you are using. They are a wealth of information, but they can give you advice on what is safe and what is not as well. Let’s face it; they want you to stay safe. It makes no business sense for them to give you advice that will make your stay unpleasant.
When you are out after dark stay alert. Walk with your head held high and look like you know exactly where you are going (even if you don’t).
And being alert does not just pertain to evening hours. Keep your stuff within reach or at least sight at all times. Even your food and drink. If you are at a beach and want to swim take your valuables with you. Better yet, do what I do. Don’t take valuables to places like beaches. If I take a camera, I take my underwater camera so it can go in the water with me. Otherwise, if there is a chance my stuff will be out of reach or sight then I don’t take anything that I’m unwilling to lose.
Panicking after you are already in a bad situation just makes things worse. You must remain calm and try to stay ahead of the unraveling situation. Always be on the lookout for a means to escape.
Once a friend and I were traveling in Mexico. We took a bus to the grocery store, but since we had perishables we opted to take a golf-cart style cab back. After leaving the grocery store the driver went in a totally different direction than we had come. Neither of us spoke Spanish, so asking where we were going was out of the question. My friend was petrified especially when suddenly there were washed out bridges and we were driving in a dry river bed. I held her hand and calmed her. At this point there was absolutely no use in panicking. I began thinking of scenarios that might happen and what I would do. Luckily nothing bad happened and it turned out he was taking a short cut. The lesson here is once in an unknown situation, panic will do you no good. Remain calm, think of an escape plan, and ultimately hope that everything will work out.
Learn the Language
I’m not advocating that you learn the language of every country you visit, but I am advocating that you learn the basics. Since the above trip to Mexico, I’ve learned more Spanish and can now at least understand a lot of what is being said and can read it well enough to get by. Another option we have in this technological world are apps that translate. I have iTranslate on my iPad. I’ve only used it a little for Spanish, but it seems to work pretty well. I’m sure there are a ton of other apps that will do the same thing…maybe even better.
Always Have Fun
The most important piece of advice I can give to women traveling with other women or alone is…always have fun. Listen to your inner voice, but don’t let fear rule what you do and don’t do while traveling. If a situation is screaming ‘red flags’ get out. But if the flags are only slightly yellow think of ways to make them green (invite others you’ve met to go with you, learn more about the place you are going or thing you are doing, etc).
These are just a few of the things that I do to ensure the safety of myself and my friends and family, while still allowing myself to be led by FUN instead of FEAR. If you have other travel advice for women or for that matter anyone, please leave me a comment.