International traveler, Nadia Cho, speaks on her solo traveling experiences.
It’s not uncommon I find myself under pale moonlight or golden rays, drifting away in thought and down narrow alleyways. Wherever I am, whether it’s the beautiful blue city of Chefchaouen, Morocco, or NYC’s lively streets; having some alone time to explore has always brought me comfort.
Even if it’s not a solo trip, I always take a few moments to myself and get lost. No plan in mind, no one else to cater to. It’s in these moments that I really get to “see” where I am and become more attune with my surroundings and sense. There is no one else to distract from the small details that take an extra eye to make out. I believe these details are the heart of any place, the hidden gems waiting to be discovered and appreciated.
Yet, these peaceful moments come from a place of privilege. As a man, I can whisk myself away, even wander the shadows in search of its hidden secrets without the same concerns for my safety that plague women.
This is not to say that men shouldn’t be cautious while traveling, but their gender gives them more freedom to worry less about their surroundings. Women, however, do not have this luxury. Sexual assault and harassment are real and prevalent issues for female solo travelers and cannot be ignored.
Nadia Cho, international solo traveler, and creator of the blog International Women of Mystery, spoke of an experience she had on a train in Italy with her sister.
“We were alone in one of the carriages. This man came on and sat down diagonal from us, stared right at us, and started masturbating,” she says. “We felt extremely unsafe and had to get off the train and take the next train.”
The painful reality is that many female solo travelers have had a similar experience to Cho, however, as an avid traveler, she has accumulated an arsenal of ways to make sure she is as safe as possible while visiting new places.
Cho believes that sharing an itinerary with a friend or family member is essential. “My mom always makes me send her the address and phone number of wherever I’m staying,” she says.
Relaying one’s location to someone else while traveling is an extra layer of security. If something were to happen, there is a record of where a person last was or what he/she was doing. That information can be lifesaving.
Through her travels, Cho has found that common sense is the best tool to stay safe when in a new place.
“Stick to well-lit streets with a lot of people. Don’t go anywhere with dark alleys,” she says. “It’s totally fine to remove yourself from a situation where you are uncomfortable.”
But before the itineraries and conscious common sense, travelers must do research and learn about whatever place they are going to. “I do my homework. I will do my research,” Cho says. She reads about cities and countries, but her main form of research is talking to other travelers who have been there. Cho uses their experiences and anecdotes to gauge what the environment is like and if she feels comfortable traveling there alone or not.
Before this can end, I must mention that in no way is this article meant to make sexual assault and harassment a woman’s issue. It is not even a gendered issue. Sexual assault can only be blamed on the predator.
This article focuses on female solo traveling and tips for them to stay safe because women experience harassment far more often. Women should have every opportunity to discover the beauty and diversity the world offers, but it would be naive not to consider how to be safe while doing that.
Additionally, this article is not meant to scare off women or anyone from solo traveling. Cho has been in unsafe and uncomfortable moments, but that has never discouraged her from traveling. “I am a huge believer that most people you meet out in the world have good intentions and are nice people,” she says.
Cho has been blessed to meet many incredible yet different people throughout her journeys, many of whom have been female. “We’re all united by this huge desire to see the world and experience things,” she says.
Traveling alone is an empowering and impactful experience. There is something unique and beautiful about the mental vulnerability of talking in a new place without the distractions of others. Everyone should experience the glory of solo traveling while taking the right precautions.