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Being a Female Solo-Traveller

How to Master Travelling All by Your Lonesome

The first time I travelled by myself (other than to my grandparents an hour away from home) I was 16, naive and ready to take on the world head-on. Of course I decided to choose the beautiful country of Thailand to travel to by myself, but I didn't take into account how much of a culture shock I was getting myself into. Of course I knew the food was going to be different, and the language was going to be foreign, but I never estimated how differently I would be treated in Thailand compared to my home country of Canada. Luckily, my travels were a part of a Rotary Youth exchange program so I had a local family that I lived with and my host-mom would travel with me absolutely everywhere. But, despite having a great inside to the world of Thai people, I was still hit with an extreme force of what I had gotten myself into. Constantly being stared at, men and women coming up to me and saying that I was "S̄wy" (meaning "beautiful" in Thai), swimming in the ocean and being swarmed with groups of people asking for a photo with me, and many other incidents that left me shaken and worried for what was to come next. Although all of these strange occurrences happened to me, I was surprised, but still felt a sense of security knowing that I had someone to travel with, and thought that it was great that I had these stories to bring back to Canada.

But, when I decided to travel completely by myself for two weeks in Vietnam this year, I didn't think that I was going to be hit as hard with the same things that shocked me last year. First reason being that I had become somewhat accustomed to it, second reason being that in Vietnam I was sticking to areas full of tourists, so I didn't think that anybody would be particularly drawn to me. And I was right in a sense; I wasn't a total attraction, but during my mere two weeks of travelling in Vietnam I experienced more incidents than I would've liked: being asked forcibly several times to get into a man's car/motorbike with him, mistakenly getting onto the wrong person's motorbike and almost being robbed, and being asked out quite creepily to go on dates with various men. Now, all of these incidents that happened in Vietnam all have one thing in common: they all revolve around Vietnamese men. Now I'm not trying to point fingers or blame, just stating a clear fact. I was easily able to talk myself out of the situation, walk away, or seek help from someone who speaks both English and Vietnamese, but it got me thinking. If I look at the situations that I went through as "easy to get out of," what type of situations do other solo women find themselves in, and how do they get out of them? 

Most situations that solo female travellers find themselves getting into are just escalated versions of the situations that I was in. These escalations almost always include violence, and a good way to prevent this is just staying smart. The scariest incident that happened to me in Vietnam was when I got onto a taxi driver's motorbike instead of a Grab (like Uber) driver's motorbike. The man was clearly intoxicated, swerving in and out of the lane, and when we arrived at my destination he demanded almost 5 times more than I was going to have to pay the grab driver! Obviously I refused, and then he started yelling and grabbing at me and my wallet—I quickly found myself in a situation that could easily escalate and I knew it. So, I calmly walked/jogged over to the owner of my hostel and had him help me, it was an easy fix to what could of been a difficult situation. I use this as an example because I wasn't being smart, I didn't check the license plate to see if it matched up with that of my Grab driver, and when I saw the taxi driver wave away the Grab driver (in full Grab attire), I didn't do anything about it. Always stay aware and alert, no matter what. 

If you are going out drinking, even with people that you just met five minutes ago, make sure that you all stick together—you arrive together, you leave together. If you put your drink down and walk away, it's not yours anymore. If you have Grab and you feel unsafe, use the "Emergency" button to alert your chosen contacts that you are seeking help, or if you are in a taxi and you are going to be stopping at a stop sign/red light, never be ashamed to jump and roll! All of this may sound drastic, but these situations happen way more often than they should, and you'll wish that instead of just saying "it'll never happen to me," that you at least accepted that it could and decided to come up with solutions to these problems. 

As a female traveller, you have to face a lot of trials and tribulations, such as but not limited to: constantly having to wash sweat-covered bras, being stared at constantly when you go out, having locals grab your hair as you walk by, and having to constantly be on look out during what's supposed to be your vacation. It sucks, but I would never want this article to discourage a female or male traveller from deciding to pursue travelling solo. Just remember to stay alert, stay smart, and jump + roll!

Photo I Took by Myself at the Unicorn Cafe, Bangkok

Photo I Took by Myself at Toronto Pearson International Airport

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