Now I generally pride myself on being a relatively good judger of character, which I base off of the fact that I am 28 and still kickin’ it. But that doesn’t mean that I invite everyone to walk into my trusting arms. Now I am no expert on solo-travel and am also still learning as I am going but after my solo trip to Florence made me think a little bit more about safety, I thought it would be a good time to share a few of my solo-traveling tips that extend beyond the blatantly obvious that I have picked up through my solo-travels.
Lie your face off
Lie like your life depended on it. Cos it might. Just kidding. Now I’m not saying that you are going to end up like Natalie Holloway (despite how many mothers – most notably mine – think all young women will when traveling alone), but a little lie can go a loooong way when it is the difference between getting stuck in a 20 minute long discussion with an Italian man who wants to take you out that evening or being left in peace (true story). Even if your persistent suitor is clearly harmless, if he is interrupting your solo-travel time by trying to get his mack on, you have every right to tell a lie to get him to move on. Tell him you are meeting up with your boyfriend. The boyfriend trick (whether you actually have one or not) will usually get men to back off as they don’t like to step on other men’s territories. It’s incredibly sexist, because just saying you’re not interested should be enough to deter a thirsty man. But sadly since it oftentimes isn’t, you should definitely let your boyfriend (invisible or not) come to your rescue. Telling a stranger you are meeting friends is also a great lie and a wonderful way to not let on that you, yes little ole you, is traveling all alone in a giant unknown city.
Be choosy about what you post
Save the tweets and photos of your hotel for AFTER you return. So on my last trip, I realized that I am all over the fucking place. Just a simple google search turns up about every goddamned social media account I have – and trust me – I have a lot of them. So if you do actually end up meeting someone who you have judged trustworthy enough to be privy to your phone number or add you on facebook, just be sure that in the off chance that they are serial killers they cannot check your twitter feed, find out where you are staying, ask for you by name at the front desk, and chop you up into tiny little convenient pieces. In general, just be careful about what kind of information you choose to post publicly online, because it doesn’t take a mastermind hacker to find that shit out.
Tuck away identifying factors that give away where you are staying
Okay, so you might not have told that extremely sexy guy at the bar which hotel you are staying at, but if your key card is peaking out of your wallet when you go to pay for your bill, you’ve already said enough. Keep that shit on lockdown just in case.
Zig-zag the fuck home
If you read about my last night in Florence, you will have already heard about my hilarious encounter with a 40-something-year-old pediatrician from Russia. He turned out to be a super jolly dude who was just trying to enjoy life as a newly single man, but I still made sure to take the most random route home back to my B&B in well-lit, populated areas and hug the sides of the wall looking both left and right like a shit-rate spy to make sure that I was not being followed before dashing into the building, up the elevator, and locking the door behind me. If you are in a situation in the evening where you have been out after dark and then remember that small tiny logistical detail of still needing to get your ass into your hotel room and are feeling just a bit nervous, walk a random way home (obviously not in dimly lit back streets). This should make it harder for anyone you were last with to follow you home. Or if you feel too nervous to go back to your dwellings, go to a well-lit area with lots of people (in giant touristy cities, there will ALWAYS be a lot of people around in well-lit touristy spots pretty late into the evening) and hang out there. From there, you can definitely call the cops if you really thinking something is amiss, because hey, better safe then dead, but oftentimes we just get really spooked and just need a hot second to chill, assess the situation, and then decide if calling 911 is necessary. You can also always take a cab home if you do not feel safe walking.
Know the number for the local police
Okay, so this one seems like a no brainer, but when I was in Florence, I realized that I wasn’t quite sure which number I should call should I really be in a hairy situation. (If any one is curious, it is the same as Germany and all of the EU, 112)
Have the address of where you are staying on you
Whenever I arrive at a B&B or hotel, I always make sure to take a business card with me and tuck it safely away in my purse. That way, in case my phone is dead and I forget the exact address of where I am staying, I can always look at the address on the business card and find my way home. If you are staying at an airbnb, make sure to write the address on a piece of paper and tuck it into your wallet.
Don’t be a tourist
Certain streets are better for pulling out the giant map that screams “Hey, look at me, I’m lost in a city where I don’t speak the language” than others. Plan your routes in your hotel or B&B before you head out for the day, and only pull out your map to double check in places where it is safe to do so. I personally feel like it’s okay to pull out a map in places with lots of other tourists equally as preoccupied with not wasting the entire trip being lost and walking in circles as long as you have a good grip on your belongings. I also don’t know if it’s just me, but I felt a bit safer carrying my phone in my hand. Not only did I know where it was at all times, by looking as if I was texting or about to make a call it allowed me to appear more “local” (at least according to my logic). *of course use your own discretion. If you are in an area notorious for theft or targeting tourists with expensive things, DON’T pull out that shiny new iphone.
If you end up staying in a smaller B&B or airBnb, make sure the windows and doors of your residence are locked up. Hell, even if you are staying in a hotel, if you have a balcony, LOCK THAT SHIT UP. The best robbery is no robbery.
Let technology walk you home
So I came across this awesome advert in my facebook feed for an app called “Companion,” which allows someone to virtually walk you home. You simply ask a buddy if they don’t mind virtually walking you home, and when they agree, they will be able to track your movements and will alerted when you arrive safely at your destination. If, god forbid, you are pushed or drop your phone due to some scuffle, the app will then ask you if you are okay… or just clumsy. If you do not respond, they will alert your buddy. Unfortunately this app isn’t working for me in Germany so I am not sure if it is only open to the US, but alternatively you can call someone and stay on the line with them if you are walking home alone. Most phone plans have some kind of data plan for when you are out of the country, but be sure to look into this before traveling because the only thing worse than being kidnapped is paying a 200 dollar phone bill for a 5 minute phone call.
Do you have any other tips to add to the list? Be sure to leave them in the comments below.