Common sense safety tips for wherever you may go...
09.04.2012 - 13.04.2012
Common sense ain’t common. Supposedly you can learn it through life experiences, but sometimes even that isn’t enough to get it through a thick head. Accepting drinks from that dark, handsome stranger, taking lots of pictures with your I-phone, pulling out all of your money while you search for the right coins for the bus – we’ve all done it at one point or another. But traveling as a woman, alone or even in a group, requires paying a lot more attention to the rules, your situation and your gut feelings.
My theory is that there are many stages to learning how to spend an extended period of time in a foreign country. Typically, at least with American students (and in my case), they spend a month or a semester abroad, usually studying little and drinking a lot. The hope is, though, that from that initial experience abroad, you learn how to act and interact in a new culture and you begin to mature.
And I’m saying this as a very thick-headed, sometimes very distracted blonde person. For me it took a few more trips and several more years to reach that maturity level, but I’m proud to say that I’m basically there. I kept my guardian angels (plural) veeery busy while I drank too much, went out with people I didn’t know, and wandered around lost for more than a few hours. The only common sense rule I followed was not showing off too much skin ie: cleavage, that being an easy rule since I don’t have anything to show off anyway. But beyond that, I’m just plain lucky I didn’t get anything but a few stomach viruses on my countless trips to Mexico.
And really, even though I was told many of the following rules time and time again, sometimes they don’t stick until you have a bad experience. Then you gain some common sense. This list of rules is one that put together based on personal experience and other participants’ experiences. Read them, read them again, and apply them someday.
P.S. – if you have your own travel tips for women, let us know!
• Get to know your surroundings. Be alert. Don’t act lost. Ask another woman, a couple, or a shop owner for directions. Study maps before you go out and write down key buildings/places. Avoid bad neighborhoods. Carry a list of emergency contact info, as well as a reliable taxi service phone number. If you go out alone, always let at least one person know where you’re going and if plans or times change. That way someone can follow your bar-hopping trail in case you get sidetracked and end up having to sleep at the bus station.
• Do not accept drinks from strangers. Even if they kind of look like Johnny Depp and you’re really thirsty. No. You can treat them to a drink if you want to get to know them better. Drink in moderation. You know your limits – usually 2-4 drinks will keep you happy and get you dancing. No drugs. Do not even consider buying drugs, do not ask anyone about getting drugs. You will go to jail and everyone will laugh at you for being so stupid.
• Do not go off on your own with strangers. Part of rule number one- you need to know your surroundings and that means being on your own “turf” as much as possible. If you leave the downtown area, or even the street you’re on, you might be completely and utterly lost. Mr. Depp can give you his phone number and you can see him tomorrow.
• Follow your instincts. Most women have a pretty good creepy radar. Is someone standing too close? Asking too many questions? Walk away, or call over a waiter or employee to ask mundane questions about food preparation/city history.
• Limit your possessions: carry only money for the day and a copy of your passport. Keep gadgets, cell phones, cameras in backpack or bag. Only pull them out when you’re going to use them. You don’t need to be Facebook photo-ing all over the whole dang city. Who cares if you’re on a bus with no seat. Nothing we haven’t seen before.
• Don’t be so wherever-the-heck you’re from. Limit your Starbucks lattés, don’t wear your university hoodie, and start practicing the local language. Keep your voice down. Speaking louder does not help people understand you and it’s obnoxious. Even other foreigners will avoid you.
• Finally, the simplest but most widely offended rule. Choose clothing carefully. Cleavage, tank tops, bare midriff, shorts, miniskirts, and tight clothing will all draw more attention to yourself than you may be prepared to deal with. Consider adopting some of the clothing styles of local women. People will probably be whistling and staring at you anyway.
Check out this website, the organization I used for my study abroad experience, for more travel safety tips: http://www.gowithcea.com/students/safety/student-tips.html