Safety crosses everyone’s mind when out in the world alone, at least for a moment, even if just in a new area in your own town. This is especially true for women. In a different country where you know no one and may not even speak the language it can be even more disconcerting.
Personally, sexual assault was not one of my concerns (I’m in my sixties and close to 300 pounds, so hardly a prime target). But I was very concerned about theft and/or getting roughed up or injured from being pushed to the ground. For that matter, I was also worried about taking a fall and hurting myself.
I already knew the obvious things like don’t walk down dark alleys while drunk and wearing expensive jewelry. Don’t get in a stranger’s car. Don’t flash large quantities of cash. Duh stuff. But I created my own additional safety rules, too.
Carrying Your Stuff
Your wallet, purse, and daypack are prime targets. I’m sure you already know not to keep a wallet in your back pocket unless it is on purpose as a decoy. Pickpockets are less likely to risk digging something out of your front pants pocket for obvious reasons.
But your best bet is to carry a minimum of ‘stuff with you. I would rather not carry a daypack but just a fabric bag for my purchases and keep personal items I absolutely need in my pockets where I can’t leave things behind and am more in control of them. Here’s how I make my pockets even safer.
Pockets with a flap and button or a zipper are preferable. You can also add secret pockets to the travel clothing you already own.
- Add a button and buttonhole to pockets with or without flaps.
- Add a pouch pocket with a small button to the inside of your shirt, under the existing pocket. You can also add a small buttoned one inside the front pocket itself
- Add a pocket on your sleeves at the upper arm. Close it with Velcro. Not likely you will miss that sound when it’s so close to your ear!
- Add a pouch pocket inside your waistband.
- On pants or skirts, one the bottom of the pockets and add an additional zippered pocket to the bottom of existing front pockets. (especially effective with loose-fitting clothing). Keep items of little value in the top of the pockets (tissue, wet wipes, small bills & coins, business cards, etc.
- If you like to carry a tablet, a 2-button outside pocket on the outer thigh of your pants or the front thigh of a full skirt is also secure.
If you are going to carry a bag, prep it before you travel. The favorite tricks of thieves is to cut the strap or slice open the bottom of the bag. They are going for speed. Foil that by threading braided wire through your strap and under the purse. To make it even more secure, open the bottom lining of the purse on one side & insert wire mesh before basting back in place. Invisible security.
While traveling to a country, I set up a couple index cards with emergency phrases I can just point to. Yes, a translation program on your phone works great, but not if it is stolen! If you feel you are in danger or distressed, you don’t want to be fumbling with your phone, either. My index cards contain phrases and information in the local language such as:
- When approaching police, “I think I am being followed and I am uncomfortable about it. Would you talk to them/him?”
- “Someone is bothering me. May I please join you for a bit?”, which is especially effective when approaching a family or group of women. Safety in numbers.
- “My phone was stolen. Would you please call the police for me?”
- “I am not feeling well. Would you please tell me where the closest clinic is?”
- “I have been hurt. Would you please call paramedics or an ambulance for me?”
- “Where is the closest toilet?”
- “How do I get to _______?” and then say the name of a place or show where you are staying.
- Exact address and phone number of where you are staying.
- Your name and emergency contacts, both local (hotel or landlord) and back home.
These index cards are kept on my person in a separate pocket than anything thieves would want – not in my purse or with my money!
If you think you are being followed
Obviously, the first choice is to find the police, but they’re not always where you are. Alternatively, find a family or a group of women, use your index card and point a lot at the person following so he knows you are talking about him.
Or, grab a taxi. Have them turn the next corner & then tell them to either take you to the nearest main street where you can wander some more or have them take you ‘home’. Wait until you are around the corner to give your destination so your ‘follower’ can’t hear.
What are your tips for staying safe?
NEXT : Safe Solo Travel, Part 2
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