Solo Female Travelers, I’m Afraid The Nonsense Never Stops:
I love backpacking. Traveling as a solo female backpacker has been an amazing and rewarding experience. I’ve learned a lot while traveling and that is why this blog exists. To share all that I have learned with other women and women of color so that when you get out on the road you are prepared for everything that it can throw at you, and while I was in Barcelona, whew Lawd! The road was really testing me.
So this post will be a cautionary tale to all solo female travelers on some of the things you might face while you’re traveling but honestly, I don’t think anything in this post will surprise a woman or woman of color who has lived on this planet for more than a second. These are things we face constantly and sadly changing locations doesn’t shield us from it. But anyway, here is the tale of my three days in Barcelona:
Predator Versus Prey
I joined a pub crawl on my second night in Barcelona and while we were wandering the streets I overhear an (American) guy behind me say “Don’t worry. American girls are easy.” Now, this was quite disturbing. Why? First, because I was the only American woman in the group so I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to assume they were speaking about me. Second, because how all-out creepy is it to have a bunch of strangers standing behind me and discussing how they don’t have to be concerned because there is some kind of ‘Open For Business’ sign hanging off my pants. Third, because I was alone, in a strange city and now accompanied by people that have marked me as their sexual prey. Ick.
Why Am I Such A Good Person?
It soon became clear the pub crawl was a wash so I parked myself on a couch, pulled up Google Maps and started looking up how to get back to my bed. Suddenly I’m joined by a very pleasant, very drunk, seventeen-year-old. He tells me he is from the States and is traveling in Europe to fully take advantage of the lower drinking age. I ask if he’s out by himself. He says yes. I ask if he knows how to get back to our (we were staying at the same place) hostel. He says no. I tell him to pack it up. We are leaving now and I’ll help him get back. He says cool in that agreeable inebriated way and follows me.
As we are walking and chatting we are overheard by a group of people who recognize our American accents. They rush over and introduce themselves and it’s all good until they say they gotta run and get in line for a club they were going to that night. They literally run off and my drunken teenage charge literally runs after them saying we should join them.
The same part of me that had to show the kid the way back to the hostel was now telling me I had to run after him and bring his drunk self back. With a great sigh, I did and we both made it back safely but just because someone as wonderful as I was there to make sure he was okay, doesn’t mean someone will be there for you. Enjoy yourself but don’t end up lost in a strange place in the middle of the night.
Now We’ve Graduated To Stalking
So I’m walking through the park, minding my own business when a guy sitting on a park bench sees me, pops off his bench and makes a beeline for me. He’s yelling nonsense that he has deluded himself into thinking will entice me. “Baby, let’s go somewhere!” “I love you!” You know, that kind of thing. I don’t respond and change directions to get away from him and instead of taking the hint the stalker follows me! So I head over to a more crowded area of the park and the loon finally evaporates in the face of all those witnesses.
The Plague Sweeping The Continent
Tragically, a bad case of temporary blindness was going around in Europe during the time I was there. While visiting La Sagrada Familia I went up to one of the staff outside to ask where the line was for the people who pre-purchased tickets. She pretends not to see me or hear my “excuse me”. She refuses to look at me and steps away to speak other visitors but I’m nothing if not persistent. I follow, still saying “excuse me” and she still pretends not to hear and instead helps the visitors who approached her after me.
But because I’ve played this game before I just keep getting back into her line of sight and repeating my “excuse me.” Eventually, she looks in my general direction, avoids direct eye contact with me, and holds up a hand to signal she is no longer pretending to be blind. She once again speaks to someone who approached her after me and then finally turns to ask how she can help me.
Just Three Days?
Hard to believe so much can happen in such a short time but that’s the name of game when you travel as a solo black woman. You deal with all kinds, any and everywhere. I don’t want to discourage women from traveling, total opposite; I want to see more solo female travelers out on the road. It would just be dishonest of me to paint this rosy picture and pretend like we don’t have things we need to take into consideration when we travel. So here are a few tips to keep you safe on the road.
- If creepy stalkers start harassing you on the street make sure to stay among witnesses or get near some witnesses.
- When you are out, only accept drinks from the bartender and keep an eye on them the whole time. If you start feeling unsafe, take action or seek out help. Trust your instincts, they usually aren’t wrong.
- Go any and everywhere you want but just be sure you know the way back to your accommodations. Know the address or write it down so that you can give it to a taxi driver. Remember the bus route. Mark your hostel or hotel on Google Maps. Just get back safely.
- If you run into staff suffering from temporary blindness then you can either wait for them to make a full recovery, call them out on their nonsense or refuse to put up with it at all. Whatever you decide is cool, and let us pray the cure (courtesy and decency) spread throughout the planet.
- For more safety tips, check out this post about how solo female travelers can safe on the road.
- For more safety items, read this post on what to pack to protect yourself and your things.
So I hope my Barcelona cautionary tale was helpful to you in some way. Stay safe out there and happy travels!