So I didn’t want ruin womens day yesterday but here is the reality check for women travelling solo. There will always be creeps. Hardest thing for me was to stop blaming myself: I should have plan better route, maybe I should wear thicker clothes and all black, shave my head, get a hiking buddy 24/7. NO! We just need to educate men from a very young age to respect women. And leave us alone.
On Tuesday I decided to venture on a long walk to familiarise myself with the are I’m staying at. Started at the beach and ended up on some country roads with few locals about. All of them said hello to me and just smiled. Of course they were curious as there aren’t many travellers around in this area. On my way back I decided to use different path and stay closer to the beach again. My GPS didn’t show any routes there but there was a visible path I followed.
Just when I was about to enter the beach I notice a motorbike and a guy standing near by.
Something about him annoyed me from the start and he didn’t appear to be happy to see me either. We exchanged greetings as I passed and I didn’t think anything of it. That’s a tactic girls by the way. Always look them in the eyes and say hello. Try to remember as many details as possible about their appearance. He was riding a motorbike on a very narrow path close to water instead on the dirt road which I found odd. There were some fishing nets so fair enough, maybe he was checking those. Except he wasn’t. After a while the path connected with a wild beach and I decided to walk there.
That’s when I heard the motorbike again. When I looked back I saw him jumping off it and pretending to look at something on the bank side (river and sea are connected here). That’s when my gut went into an alarm mode and I decided to walk as close to the water as possible. I knew he won’t leave his bike and he can’t ride it on the wet sand. I occupied myself with looking for shells and glass and what not just so I can casually keep glancing in his direction. He was following along on the other path. At some point when I looked he called me and motion to come closer. I pretended I didn’t understand and just waved back. I checked if my phone has a coverage (it did) and had a police number ready. Luckily, unlike in Montenegro, the tourist SIM card here comes with unlimited calls. I was really nervous at this point as I was still at least 6km away from the nearest neighbourhood and the noise from the sea would muffle many screams. I have a whistle and I carry a small knife. Now this is one of those situations where size doesn’t matter, you just need to hit the strategic place which with men is insanely easy and obvious.Don’t come at me in the comments that is illegal: stalking women also doesn’t fall under obedient citizen law.
Anyway, i continued walking at faster pace on the beach whilst he drove into a small area with palm trees and bushes which made him very difficult to see. Luckily that’s where the path was also the furthest from the beach, unluckily that’s also where the beach was suddenly separated by another small river causing me to return to the main path. I couldn’t hear the motorbike nor see the guy anywhere at this point. Cursing under my breath I followed the path constantly scanning the horizon for his presence. My peace was lost completely and any benefits of relaxation from the hike were replaced by anxiety and anger. After about 3 minutes I saw a light green building and two abandoned houses.
I decided to take advantage of the empty road and explore the buildings and it was only when I got closer I noticed the motorbike parked by the green building. And then I saw the guy chatting to a fisherman. I ignored both and turn right towards the abandoned houses. Minute later the guy on a motorbike drives pass me. I ignore him completely but wait till he is out of sight before I enter the houses. It was maybe 5 minutes I spent there taking pics etc when I get back on the path and hear the motorbike again. He is coming back in my direction and I am mentally prepared for confrontation. Walking on a dirt road with dips and puddles in it I try to avoid , I still try to be respectful and leave enough room for him to pass by without getting too close to me. When he catches up to me he slows down and asks “Italian?”. I say “no” and continue my walk. He drives off towards the green building when he talks to the fisherman again. There is no other way to get back to the town so I look for the bridge by the green building. Completely ignore the guy on the motorbike and just exchanged greetings with the fisherman who waves and smiles at me. Just few more minutes alongside river and I will be in the safety of some occupied houses. That is when I hear the motorbike behind me again. This time I decided to take a video just so I have an evidence if he tries to do something not to mention police will have something to identify him with.
Luckily he doesn’t say a word and drives off and I get back to town safely.
For the amount of solo travel I do situations like this are quite rare but the always knock my confidence out. I try to treat those men the same way I would treat an aggressive dog: stay clam and assertive, give plenty of space and use rock or something if they won’t leave me alone.
Had a similar encounter in Corfu last September when I was hiking the Pantokrator. I just finished visiting the peak and decided to hike all the way to Kassiopi as I knew I could easily get a taxi from there. Was beautiful sunny day, not many tourists around so I decided to find a nice spot for a little siesta. I scanned all the paths and hills for any signs of life and when I didn’t see anyone I just chose a flat rock to lie on. Within 10 mins I heard footsteps approaching which unsettled me. Clearly I must have missed a path, it’s probably another hiker or maybe a local. I started applying sun cream when the person came into my view and says hello. We changed greetings but he seem to be keen to chat. Apparently he was at the peak as well which is weird for two reasons: he must have been there at the same time as me and yet I don’t recall seeing him there. It’s a closed off area with a monastery and a small cafe so easy to keep track. It also meant he either run to catch up with me or there is a short cut as I would have seen him on the path otherwise.
Whatever. I just want to nap and enjoy the sun at this point so I wish him a good day. He is a bit annoyed by that but leaves and I get about 45 mins of pure bliss before I need to resume my hike if I want to get to the town before sunset.
As I start walking slowly I hear footsteps coming from opposite direction and I’m surprised to see the same guy. He told me earlier he was going for a swim so I say: “that was a quick swim. Did you find a pool or something?” (The sea side was at least 2 hours walk away). What he replied will forever stuck with me as the craziest thing I’ve ever heard man say to me. Quote: “I wanted to go swimming but the wind told me to come and find you”. At first I thought I misheard him or maybe I’m having a sun stroke or something. He then asks if I mind he will walk with me. What do you even respond to that? I get like 5 seconds to asses if he’s :drunk, under the influence of drugs or simply crazy. In either of those instances I can’t make him angry so I decide to be as boring and uninteresting as I possibly can (it helps that I am borderline boring anyway) and luckily he decides to go back to the beach when we come to a fork in the road. However I was not able to enjoy my hike anymore. The feeling of being watched just didn’t go away. It took me 3 months to be able to go on hikes unsupervised after this incident.
Could any of those situations be avoided? No. Creeps will find a way to bother you regardless of your surroundings, your appearance, location.
ALWAYS trust your gut. SAFETY before kindness and being polite. Carry hair spray, small knife, whistle, keys, hiking poles and pay attention to your surroundings.
Make sure your phone is charged and has data on. If a route doesn’t feel good, pick another.
But Anna, you know when you go hiking there may be bears/cougars/wolves and that’s dangerous too. Yes but the difference is I have a better chance of winning the lottery than being attacked by any of those. Wild animals will avoid humans at any cost but if I happen to cross a path with angry mamma bear protecting her cubs, I knew I made a mistake. Bad luck. That’s on me. Bears/cougars/wolves live in the wilderness. I accept that when hiking I enter into their territory. Animals will also give you a warning before striking you. A guy who decides to follow a woman with the intention of hurting her it’s not an accident.
I am also very aware than danger doesn’t only come from men but so far I’ve never had a scary encounter with a woman.
Travelling solo it’s not dangerous. It’s the people you met, the decisions you make,the situations you enter that can make it so.
To put it into perspective I think this comment made by K. Bron Johnson, who also has a blog : http://www.solowomantraveler.ca summarises it best:
So please travel, follow your dreams and be bold about it. Just do it prepared:)
Do you have any scary encounters or know some smart tricks on how to stay safe? Share them in the comments.