10 Tips Female Travelers Need to Know About Safety

10 Tips Female Travelers Need to Know About Safety

Maaaaaaaaan, do we have some sketchy stories to tell about being females traveling abroad! Like most female travelers, we have found ourselves in some very uncomfortable situations. After all, in a country where not only is the language completely different but so are the culture and customs, we are bound to say the wrong thing or piss someone off.

But hey, isn’t the strangeness and unfamiliarity all part of the attraction to travel? So we’re not going to stop traveling. Although some situations can somewhat be avoided, how can you be safe while traveling?

You can’t entirely guarantee that you will be safe and this applies whether you’re in your own backyard or someone else’s on the other side of the world – and I don’t mean that literally.

We’re trying to avoid actually being IN someone’s backyard, as in 6 feet under…

Pompei, Italy - Girls Gone Abroad
Pompei, Italy – Girls Gone Abroad

See how my my mind automatically goes straight to the morbid ending? I blame my mother for this. She refuses to keep a shovel in her trunk for fear it might be used to knock her out AND to dig the hole (true story).

However, the fact that my mind does acknowledge the possibility that something bad could happen is probably what has potentially saved me from some bad situations.

Here is me sharing some of my wisdom. Some of which I stole from Oprah.

1. Never let your guard down.

Just because you are blissfully frolicking through the fields of “somewhere city, somewhere country” doesn’t mean you won’t be a target for a sniper. Maybe this is drastic, but there is no such thing as a “I’m a tourist and therefore untouchable” cloak of safety that magically shroads you when traveling. You don’t have to walk around with your face smeared with Vaseline and earrings taken out ready for a fight just don’t let your guard down.

You are a tourist and will be a target for something. This is the mindset you need to have.

2. Pretend to be married.

This means either wear a fake wedding ring or be ready to slip one onto the appropriate finger if you run into an awkward situation.

While walking on a very busy Istanbul street, I was followed by a man who suddenly appeared by my side and a little too close. Michelle was with me so I wasn’t even alone so sometimes it just doesn’t matter if someone is with you.

As he asked me a series of questions, I could feel his hand slide up to the back of my arm. Quickly, I put my hands behind my back and moved a finger from my right hand over to my left ring finger. He was too busy talking and looking at my (covered) breasts to notice…

I quickly flashed my (newly) married hand in his face and I told him we were meeting my Turkish husband who was waiting at the corner and to please go away before he got me into trouble. Worked instantly and he actually panicked a bit.

Wedding Ring - Girls Gone Abroad
Wedding Ring – Girls Gone Abroad

Side note: He actually did walk up to a man on the corner and started talking, but Michelle and I picked up our pace and got lost in the crowd. Also know as “stealth mode”.

3. Don’t be afraid to be rude.  

I learned this from Oprah.

Back in my teen days, my mom would always be watching Oprah around the time I got home from school. I would watch the show with her as this was our way of “bonding” and her way of “parenting”. See…back in those days, Oprah covered some informative and controversial topics and many times, those topics would trigger the start of many conversations.

On one particular show, Oprah was interviewing a woman who had been brutally beaten and raped. The victim talked about how something felt “off” about this person who showed up at her door asking to use her phone, but she didn’t want to be rude so he let him in against her “gut” feeling. Does this surprise you?

Think about how many times you just smiled and were polite as possible in an uncomfortable situation because you didn’t want to be viewed as rude or bitchy.

Side note: Back in my younger years, before cell phones, it was common for someone to knock at your door asking to use the phone.

Oprah talked about how women are conditioned to be nice and how we need to learn that being rude is okay.

Do NOT be afraid to be rude – it could save your life.

4. Trust your intuition. 

Women have it. It’s a gift. If you feel like something is off, then it is. Don’t try to find an explanation for how you feel, just trust it. And see # 3 – don’t worry about being rude or feeling like you are crazy – just go with your intuition.

Check out this YouTube video by Gavin de Becker – The Gift of Fear.

5. Walk and stand like you have confidence. 

Walking straight, head up and with shoulders slightly back which not only helps to make your boobs look bigger, but also makes you appear like you have confidence.

Hey, I know you have confidence, but make sure it shows in your body language. Walk and stand like you own that place and that you will f&%# someone up if you need to.

Walk like a boss - Girls Gone Abroad
Walk like a boss – Girls Gone Abroad

*This also means you don’t walk while fidgeting with your smart phone. Especially because your eyes diverted down makes you a target and someone will stab you for that phone (not kidding).

Side note: If you are lost, find a safe location to check your phone or ask for directions preferably from a store owner or other employee. Not the dude on the street who could be a Ted Bundy copy cat killer. He’s either going to want money for helping you or he’s throwing you in his nearby vehicle.

Here’s some cool stuff about Victim Selection posted on Protective Strategies, but before you click on that, read on.

6. Do not accept drinks from anyone, including women

One night, while at a popular club in London, I was approached by a few women who were super friendly. They poured on the compliments and asked where I was from and all those other standard questions. One girl tried to tell me she was from Kansas – yet she had a British accent. Go figure. They proceeded to escort me to the bar to “buy me a shot”.

Something definitely didn’t feel right and before I could even say “no,” my friend came up and very bluntly told them to “fuck off.” Suddenly, these women changed their demeanor and scurried off.

Bizarre. But my friend, a London local, explained that these “friendly” women are part of a sex trafficking ring who are paid to deliver drunk, preferably lesbian women to men. I’ll cover more of this in a future blog.

So please, do not accept drinks from anyone and be mindful of the quantity of booze you are drinking.

Drinking - London - Girls Gone Abroad
Mind the Drink – London – Girls Gone Abroad

7. Learn Krav Maga

My girlfriend introduced me to Krav Maga and out of all the self defense techniques I have studied, this is the best – by far. Krav Maga is the official hand to hand combat system of the Israeli Defense Forces. You are not taught just a series of moves that will help you win a tournament, you are taught usable moves and techniques for real life situations. It seriously is life (and body) changing.

Warning – this class is not for the dainty types. Only those serious about protecting themselves should join.

8. Know the culture and customs of the country you are visiting.

Come on ladies…do I even need to elaborate on this one? No brainer.

Blue Mosque - Istanbul - Girls Gone Abroad
Know the Culture – Istanbul – Girls Gone Abroad

9. Act.

One time, in Morocco, Michelle and I found ourselves in the back of a van. A tour van. See where your mind went?? Good, you’re learning.

So while in this van things got awkward. Intuition vibes were going and being rude was not going to work so plan C went into action. Which was me “answering” a phone call from a friend who was waiting for us. A future blog will go more into this – but the gist is, if you need to: act. Act like you have people waiting for you, like you’re a nut, act confident, act like you will slice a throat, if necessary. Throws them off, every time.

10. Share your plans. 

Just because you have wanderlust doesn’t mean you just up, leave and fully disconnect. Even if you are going on a solo – “find your mind” trip, share your plans and check in every so often even if it’s just on social media. Your family and friends should know where you are at all times.

Last but not least, don’t let your loved one read this because then they freak out and worry about you when you are traveling. Then you will be lectured about how you should not go to <insert country>.

But hey, you can’t blame them. They watched a LOT of Oprah.

Be safe and enjoy the world.

14 Signs That Traveling the World is Your Destiny

14 Signs That Traveling the World is Your Destiny

Travel. Nomadic Life. Wanderer. For some of us, these words spike our endorphin levels to a super, happy high. A sign that traveling the world is your destiny, perhaps an addiction.

Check these 14 signs to see if traveling the world is your destiny.

  1. Home always feel temporary.

Your home is more of a storage unit and while it may be nice to return to it every so often, the big, wide open world just feels well…more comfortable that those old pair of slippers tucked under your bed. When you’re home, you spend time planning the next trip and one day you swear you’ll just sell everything you own and travel for as long as you possibly can.

  2. You’re a little obsessive over your Passport Book.

If someone were to ask you what your prized possession was, you would quickly answer that it was your passport. It’s beautiful.  Every so often you open its precious pages and trace your fingers over the intricate lines of your various passport stamps remembering each customs agent who stamped it. The thought of having to send it off for a Brazilian visa or for renewal causes heart palpitations. If it’s still blank, you dream of filling it up! When you use Passport Book -in a sentence, you capitilize the “P” and “B”. It’s just that significant.

  3. You have a very large stash of travel sized items. 

Tiny tubes of toothpaste (and what you think is toothpaste), hand sanitizer, cute little shampoos, shoe shiners, sunscreen, towelettes – from all different countries in various languages. You buy them. You collect them. You love them.

You own such a large stash of travel sized items, you would convince a hoarder to have a yard sale. When www.alltravelsizes.com runs out of something, they call you first.

They are like religious icons and sometimes you even make a gift basket out of them for a special friend. But even then, you secretly hope they are regifted back to you.

  4. If your significant other doesn’t like to travel, it’s a deal breaker.

If your significant other doesn’t like to travel, they won’t be your significant other for long. It’s true. Having wanderlust is the only disease you want them to have and their desire to travel is more important than if your zodiac signs are compatible. The world is your first spouse, but you’re willing to share it with the right person – which might make you a polygamist.

  5. Travel rewards mean the world to you. 

Travel rewards such as points and frequent flyer miles are so important to you that if the  The Points Guy told you to drink the Kool-Aid, you would. You apply for credit cards just to get the bonus points and you ask for points instead of birthday money.

  6. You have Facebook friends from all over the world. 

Even Berber friends from Morocco who send you pictures of the Sahara every so often like it’s porn. These aren’t random Facebook pen pals, but people you have met (but never touched) while on your many travels whether it was on the train to Paris or sitting in a coffee shop bar in Amsterdam. You can never have enough global friends.

  7. You have spent Thanksgiving or some other holiday in another country. 

You have spent <insert holiday> in another country. Not just Labor Day, but you live on the edge and when Mom expects you home for Christmas meatloaf, you book travel instead. That means more time to add to your vacation days! You rebel. Thankfully, your Mom loves you unconditionally and understands. Besides, you’re pretty sure that being destined (and addicted) to travel is a hereditary gene that perhaps skipped a generation? Either way, you can’t help it. You were born this way and your parents will accept you no matter what.

   8. You quit your corporate job to travel more. 

Going into an office 5 days a week from 9am – 5pm then having to ask permission to take time-off that you earned just doesn’t fly anymore. So, you quit. You do freelance so you can travel more and start a travel blog. This is a definite sign that you are destined to travel the world.

  9. You refuse to pay full price for anything, but you happily pay for Global Entry.

You’re cheap and all your friends make fun of you for only using Groupon or ScoutMob when you go out, but you will happily fork over the money for Global Entry and TSA Precheck. By being a TSA Precheck member you breeze through security lines faster and by enrolling in Global Entry, when you return home to the USA, you whip through customs instead of long re-entry lines. The faster you get home, the faster you can plan your next trip so the extra bucks are worth the time savings even for cheapskates like your friends, Alicia and Michelle.

  10. You reference the past by countries, not years.

You don’t reference the past by a year, but by the country you visited.  If someone asks you which year your daughter was born, you answer, “Oh, that was the year I fell and got attacked by a bunch of geese in Greece….Dang that hurt.” It’s just how your brain is wired.

  11. You can pack “all that” into a carry-on. 

You mastered the art of origami at the age of 9 months when your Grandmother found your diapers folded into a swan. Now, you are a master of the KonMari Method and you can pack 3 weeks’ worth of stuff into a carry-on. Even the European blow dryer and flat iron you bought.

  12. You won’t spend 2 minutes trying to figure out anything, but you can operate any washing machine in the world.

Forget trying to learn the latest Windows or a MAC or solve a Sudoku puzzle. You don’t have time or patience for any of that, but you will figure out how to use that washing machine meant for those fluent in hieroglyphics. Like. A. Boss.

And if you are nowhere near a washing machine? No worries because you know how to wash them using the Aloksak Bag Method.

  13. As a child, you preferred National Geographic over Dr. Seuss. 

The pictures of the people and the world enclosed between two mustard yellow magazine covers lured you like a snow cone on a sweltering summer day. Dr. Seuss was probably more appropriate for your age, but even then, you knew that those NatGeo pictures were just a keyhole view of your future life.

“It’s opener, out there, in the wide, open air.”
Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

  14. You invest your money into memory banks. 

Money isn’t everything to you. You just need enough for the necessities and to get you from Australia to Zimbabwe and then to Iceland. And just maybe a few coins for a laundromat, just in case. It’s not just the destination but the amazing memories that you create by immersing yourself in the unfamiliar. The more you have, the richer you feel. And any extra money you can spare, you donate to help find a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease because it would be shame for this disease to rob you of your wealth.

If you can relate to any of these 14 signs, there is no doubt that you are destined to travel the world.

~ Yours in Travel,

Girls Gone Abroad

 

 

 

 

 

Planning to a Fault

I was born a planner.

It’s just how my mind works. So it was natural for me to plan out my first international trip six years ago with Casandra in detail.

Months before departure, we had worked out our flights to Greece, hotel in Athens, transportation and key sites of interests to visit together. But similar to someone who was in the closet, I hid my real plan from her. This included ridiculously detailed lists of every place we would be – addresses and phone numbers, maps to and from these various destinations, directions by car and/or by foot, how long it would take to get to each destination, the best days to do each based on weather and location, cost and hours of operation if applicable…and in some cases even a picture or two to ensure we knew what to look for.

And maybe I compiled all of this in a 3-ring binder.

Now, this was before the rise of the smartphone. That’s my excuse. But even then, I knew my OCD had gotten the better of me and it would surely frighten Casandra to see this side of me.  So I hid these print outs in my backpack and read through them like porn while she was in the shower or away. Once we had done something for the day, I had to check it off my list and start thinking about how we were going to get to the next thing. I just couldn’t help myself.

During our trip to Greece, the only part of our plan that seemed to work out was our hotel. Everything from the flight, to our cabs, to the places we visited all had varying ways of unraveling which we will write about later. And you know what? I loved every single minute of it. When I finally stopped worrying about the how and whens, I was able to just absorb the plethora of moments right in front of me. We still saw everything we wanted to and many things we never imagined because we stumbled upon them after getting lost roaming around. Our best experiences time and time again were the ones we never expected. And isn’t that what life is about? To live it as it comes.

Fast forward to the present and 25+ countries under my belt, and I can’t help but smile when I think of that trip to Greece and how it helped confirm my career choice in life – hint: it lets me plan the hell out of some plans – but more importantly how to leave room in my trip to just travel. So how do I plan a trip today?

Things I always do:

  • Book flights with reasonable departure times and secure a window seat
  • Book lodging prior to landing
  • List out key things I want to see or devour (I love cocktails and a good meal.)
  • Check visa entry requirements
  • Check electrical outlet type/voltage
  • Confirm native language and learn the basic phrases.
  • Confirm currency
  • And yes, I still have a ‘quick list’ printed out just in case wifi doesn’t work that has key addresses and such. But it’s never longer than a page so I don’t have to be ashamed of it.

That 3-ring binder from Greece has been retired to the shelf and serves as a reminder to not suffocate a trip by planning it down to the t – let it breathe…you’ll be amazed at everything you can take in.