I am a Solo Female Traveler, and I am Safe

“That’s so brave of you to travel by yourself! It’s so dangerous for a girl!”

I’ve heard many iterations of this exclamation from people I’ve met on the road. I almost expect people to be amazed or worried when I tell them I’m traveling on my own. But I also wonder how those same people would react if I were a guy. Would they be just as worried, just as shocked?

My guess is no, because truthfully, it is more dangerous for women to travel by themselves in many parts of the world. But not prohibitively so. I have travelled to many countries and continents and though I have been in unsafe situations, I’ve always escaped them with my mental and physical health intact.

I'm even safe while these ostriches plot to kill me....but I did steal their eggs, so fair enough!

I’m even safe while these ostriches plot to kill me….but I did steal their eggs, so fair enough!

The scariest situation I’ve ever been in occurred when I was living in Boston. A few blocks away from the finish line when the bomb went off on April 15, 2013, I will never forget feeling utterly helpless as hordes of people started running towards me and my friends.

Horrible things can happen in your hometown, but I refuse to live in fear of life. Even locking your doors and staying inside 24/7 won’t keep you safe in the long run. So why not go outside, far outside, to a different culture, eat unfathomable foods, and meet people who challenge your worldview? The world is unsafe for everyone at times; I think traveling can improve it.

To those who are still shocked by and doubtful of my decision to travel alone as a woman, I have one thing to say: So what?

So there’s a war in Ukraine. I don’t plan on going anywhere near the fighting. So Russians don’t like Americans, especially right now. I don’t plan on wearing an American flag bikini in the Red Square. So I have a vagina. So what?

in the bathroom, but outside you can pee standing up!

in the bathroom, but outside you can pee standing up!

I can carry my backpack for hours without a break, though I do get disgustingly sweaty. I can speak a couple languages, including English, which is a huge advantage when traveling. I can read situations (and a map!), and I trust my instincts. If I feel unsafe, I try to find a safe place, or seek help from other women.

There are thousands of women throughout history, and right now, who have traveled and do travel solo. They are safe, savvy, women, and have written so much about how to be safe as a female traveler (Try Adventurous Kate for inspiring stories of solo female travel and It’s One World…Travel for helpful information about birth control, peeing standing up, and more). I merely add my voice to theirs.

It always seems appropriate to end in song, so to everyone who doesn’t think women can travel solo safely:
Anywhere you can go, I can go, men folk.
I can go anywhere you can go too.

Advertisements

Summer Sauna Sweat

When you find a property at €10 a night with a pool, espresso machine, and sauna, you take it, for these are the unicorns of the travel world.

The Hammock at La Despani

The Hammock at La Despani

After staying at La Despani in Brașov, Romania for one night with a good friend from university, I decided to return and enjoy some good ol’ fashion R&R. BONUS: The owners said they would be running the smoke-run sauna on Sunday if I came back.

As I peeled off my backpacks at 6 pm when I arrived at La Despani for the second time, one of the owners told me the sauna would be ready around 8. So would I!

TSZZZZZZZZZZ

TSZZZZZZZZZZ

Going into the 100 °C sauna, (that’s 212 °F, folks) I immediately began to sweat. My pores opened up, drinking in the mint and sage steam that rose from the rocks; that sizzling “TSZZZZZZZZ” sound gushed forth as the owner splashed water on them. After about ten minutes, I started to feel like a turkey basting on Thanksgiving, so I exited the sauna and jumped in the pool. Dead skin cells practically jumped off my body and my legs felt like dolphin skin.

This seemed to me a good circuit: sweat it out in the sauna, then shock your body with a splash in the pool. Only one thing was missing. I needed hydration for my throat as well as my skin. My newly revised circuit became: sauna, pool, beer (Repeat).

Fuel

Fuel

Needless to say, I felt every sort of wonderful after completing this circuit a few times. Once I figured there were no more dead skin cells on my body, the owner invited us into his man cave/bar to try some homemade cognac. I obliged, and was joined by an Estonian (remember the lovely Estonian couple from last week?) and a French couple, in addition to the Romanian owner.

As often happens when you travel, and 100% of the time with people from various countries, we attempted to solve the world’s problems with spirited discussion. A couple of glasses of cognac in, we defended and decried French laicism. “Would that work in other countries?” Only more cognac would tell.

Anytime you’re wondering how to pass a relaxing evening followed by world changing revelations, just follow this recipe:
1. Sweat in a sauna.
2. Jump in a pool.
3. Drink some ____ (beer for me).
4. Discuss critical world issues with a posse of peeps from across the world.
5. Add homemade liquor for maximum effectiveness.
6. The world most definitely becomes a better place.

Soft & Lumpy: A Song of Wind and Walking

BRASOV SIGN

I Saw the Sign….in Brașov

After a week spent catching up (watching Kit Harington interviews, reading excerpts from Winds of Winter, refreshing my knowledge of the R+L=J theory), my soft, lumpy flesh was ready to move. Or rather, my mind told my soft, lumpy flesh it was ready to move.

Having lain in bed a few too many days reading and watching Game of Thrones, I decided the city I was staying in was indeed Braavos, not Brașov, Romania. Though nothing alike (one exists, one doesn’t), large monuments watch over both cities. In the case of Braavos, it’s a titan through whose legs you enter the city by ship (picture the Colossus of Rhodes). In Brașov –the real city– a Hollywoodesque sign of ten meter white block letters stands in the Carpathian Mountains above. After meeting some lovely Estonians who climbed up to the sign, I decided I would do it too.

The Hollywood Sign of Romania

The Hollywood Sign of Romania

Again, I had been lazing away the last six days in bed, fantasizing about dragons and snow-zombies. So my last day in Romania seemed a good time to finally get off my butt and let it feel some air.

My directions made sense (walk towards the sign, then up, towards the sign). For the day-trip, I wore a backpack with a few things inside: water, scarf, jacket, tablet computer. But as I started walking, I realized how heavy my backpack felt. The straps tugging at my shoulders, I strained my lungs trudging up the hill. When I took off my backpack to catch my breath, a dark sweat stain spread across the back of its forest green canvas. The Estonians said it took about forty-five minutes to get to the sign. Fat chance, I thought.

Though your body be soft and lumpy, finishing something physical often requires more mental mettle than brute strength. Each time I stopped to sip some water, I didn’t think of quitting, but instead how useless my body had been the preceding week. And that I would make sure to improve its usefulness during the following six months.

Cursing and wiping my sweat-salted eyes on my sweat-wicking dress, I wondered how much longer than the Estonians’ forty-five minutes it would take me to get to the top. But as I stepped from a forest-shaded trail to an expanse of sunny glade, I no longer cared. A friendly wind cooled my neck and brow as I shut my eyes and smiled. Even in Westeros, such a view would be precious.

The City Behind the B

The City Behind the B

When I finally reached the Brașov sign, I sat for a bit. Then I took some pictures, no small feat since I was forced to take them with no viewfinder or screen. As I turned off my tablet, the computer’s clock showed the time. How long had it taken my soft, lumpy flesh to reach the top? About forty-five minutes 🙂

The Six Senses

The View from Green Bird Farm, Konstantinovo, Bulgaria

The View from Green Bird Farm, Konstantinovo, Bulgaria

I hear the soft clanking of the cow (sheep?) bells as the shepherds herd their flock down the neighboring hill. The sun’s rays dissipate through a weakening cloud. I can smell the after-sun cream Jan gave me on my nose and feel its icy power at work. The taste of my mint lip balm reminds me our earlier tea. And I feel the snuggly-scratchy warmth of my Fair Isle wool sweater as I rock myself in the hammock. Oscar keeps pushing his bally forward with his nose, then leans his muzzle down as he raises his light caramel eyes to me. Gail and Stel set the table as the rain patters on the roof and an owl hoo-hoos nearby. Dinner is ready. Another day at the farm closes.

Touch
Baby ostrich feathers look spiky, like a porcupine’s. But don’t be fooled. If you touch one, it feels like the stalk of a quill. If you pet the feathers together, it feels like petting soft grass. The down on their neck, however, feels just like that.

Spiky Soft

Spiky Soft

Taste
Wild rosemary has a bitter tang that its potato-worthy counterpart lacks.

Sight
Ostriches have long necks, so naturally they can become a bit tangled with their neighbors. Sometimes, this makes a heart shape.

Ostrich Heart...Awwww!

Ostrich Heart…Awwww!

Baby ostriches sleep together, curled up almost one atop the other. Cute cuddly critters!

Smell
Lucerne smells the sweetest when it’s ready to bail…something about the scent of freshly shorn grass arouses in me a lazy happiness. My eyes shut and I find it impossible to think of anything but that heady aroma.

Sound
Baby ostrich farts are unexpectedly cute. Picture a baby ostrich. Now imagine the face of a human baby after s/he farts. The sound is a bit like that.

When male ostriches are trying to be impressive, they make a sound like a motorcycle revving, or a male crocodile mating: BRM, BRM, BUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURM. As they BRM, their throat bellows out like pelicans scooping fish into their beaks.Feathery Ostrich

A rather weird and unforgettable sound at the farm occurs when the ostriches copulate. The male sounds like the fowl* version of a person with no opposable thumbs grunting because he can’t squeeze the last of the ketchup out…in other words, pretty much the same as human males.

You’ve made it to the end! If you’re wondering why this post is entitled “The Six Senses”, you’ve paid attention. We use our five senses to absorb the world around us, but every person interprets that differently. My emotions and thoughts are here represented, and make up what I’m calling a sixth sense.

*Technically, ostriches are not fowl (or foul), but in this case, poultry. However, I like puns, even when they are….foul. For more information, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fowl.