Most people only talk about all the good things that happened during their travels; the beautiful places, the amazing cuisines, the captivating culture and the people. It’s all rainbows and butterflies, which for the most part it is.
I’ve been travelling (predominantly) solo for 3 years now and have since visited 17 countries. As a solo female traveller, we do face our fair share of challenges – here’s not to disregard any that men face but I can only speak for my own gender. When I started this site, I wanted to give tips and advice of places I’ve been to, with a hint of anecdote. I aim to make my articles reflect the truth, so being candid about the “ugly side” of travelling and addressing about taboo subjects is part of this truth journey, if I may. While I don’t want this topic to deter anyone from fulfilling their dreams and travelling solo, I think it is important to address it.
Sexual harassment and assault.
According to UN Women, sexual harassment is experienced by 40 – 50 % of women in the EU and a statistic provided by another page states that a staggering 1 in 3 female has experienced sexual violence. Shocking, right?
Throughout our everyday lives, women receive unwanted sexual attention. As a result, a lot of women are unfortunately hesitate to solo travel but it doesn’t deter me. In all honestly, I too have been a victim of sexual harassment and almost a victim of sexual assault. It is not common for women to come forward when it does happen because of the ‘shame’ that’s commonly associated with it, being judged and told that they were “asking for it” or some other bullshit. Although this topic impacts a lot people, it is not stressed enough and it is swept under the rug, more often than not.
The following is a re-account of two incidents that has happened during my travels that I’m comfortable sharing. Towards the end, I will provide some tips to actively help yourself if you’re caught in such a situation, to which I hope doesn’t happen. Here goes nothing.
1. Gili Islands, Indonesia
I came to the Islands to enjoy a last hurrah before I started my internship. There was a massive party and everyone I knew from my hostel (and around the island) gathered on the beach, celebrating the Full Moon night.
I had a little bit too much to drink, it was getting late and I decided to make my way back to the hostel. One of the hostel employees saw me and stopped me in my tracks asking how the party was and where I was headed to. Thinking nothing of it, I mentioned I had a bit too much and was calling it a night. He made a suggestion to come back to my bed before grabbing my arms tightly and pulling me in for a kiss. Apparently to him I had been flirty and made advances (throughout my stay at the hostel), giving the impression that I wanted to sleep with him. Just because I am nice, it does NOT mean I want to sleep with you. I would like to think I’m an open and friendly person so do NOT assume that friendliness = sex.
All 5’2 of me managed to break free from his grip and push him off, shouting like an insane woman. Head down and pissed right off, I ignored everyone who tried saying hi to me, giving them the death stare. A lady who had spoken to me a couple of days back stopped me – noticed I was frazzled and asked me what was wrong. I told her what had happened, broke down and she consoled me before accompanying me to my hostel. Bless her.
The following day, I moved out of the hostel and into my own private bungalow because I really needed to get away from it and him.
2. Koh Phangan, Thailand
A common assumption that people make is that sexual harassment or assault occurs when people are intoxicated.
This time however, I was sober as a whistle. I was walking with my female friend back to our accommodation to grab some stuff before heading out to the Jungle Party. We had two ways to walk; one being a dangerous Indiana Jones-styled path across a dodgy wooden, non-lit bridge or the other was a dark, poorly lit road which barely anyone drives on.
We took the latter since we weren’t carrying any torches on ourselves. We came across 3 kids on a motorbike (couldn’t have been more than 14 years old). Cautious, we turned to place our backs towards the road and clutched onto our bags, mainly worried that they might snatch our bags because we’ve heard stories of it happening. They slowed down and then two of them stretched their arms towards us and groped our breasts before speeding off. Treat people with respect, do NOT violate them. Your mom taught you better.
There was nothing we could do because it all happened so quickly and by the time it sunk in, all I could fathom was a string of vulgarities and anger.
Solo travel is and can be a very beautiful thing so I do encourage everyone to go out and discover the world we live in. Regardless of my negative experiences, I still continue to set out on solo adventures and I urge you to do the same. Just because one bad egg ruins things, it does not imply that everyone else is the same. For the most part, I’ve met the most amazing people and locals who have helped me out of my pickled situations. I’ve grown to be a more cautious (and a less naive) traveller over the years and while I still do enjoy a couple of beers on a night out, I try to be as aware of my surroundings as possible.
Here are a couple of things you can do if you find yourself in a pickle of a situation:
- Trust your gut – if something doesn’t feel right, excuse yourself and leave.
- Know your exit points.
- Get yourself to a safe place.
- Try to avoid walking along dark roads.
- Watch your drinks. Never leave your drink unattended – I either finish my drink before I go to the toilet or bring it with me. Something dad taught me when I started drinking.
- Don’t be afraid to fight back – I took up Muay Thai, just in case I may need it (also, it is an extremely fun sport).
- Use your voice – it’s your first defence mechanism.
- Be affirmative. NO means no. You don’t owe anyone anything.
- Report it if you have been a victim of sexual assault/harassment. It’s okay, there’s no shame if it does happen. Never feel like you’re alone or you’re the one to be blamed!
- Contact family and friends. They can provide much needed emotional support.
If you have experienced sexual assault, please contact someone or head to the nearest police station and file a report. Nobody should get away with violating you. If by chance, you happen to stumble across someone who has recently experienced sexual assault, show this person that the world isn’t that bad and there are good hearted people out there who do care. Be my Gili Island lady towards them.
You are strong and independent. Don’t let horror stories deter you from experiencing the world. Acknowledge that this does occur to people and take your own measures to keep yourself safe. You’ve gotten this far, so don’t let the sh!ts of the world ruin it for you.
You got this x
Peace, love and good vibes.