20 year old woman planing to travel all over. Is this a bad idea to do alone? I personally have no fear and believe I can handle myself, But I again do not have any experience in traveling to foreign countries. I am from the West Coast in the States and am looking to travel most of Europe, Asia, and Australia/New Zealand. Places I should avoid? Places that would better suit my travels? Any input is greatly appreciated. I've been reading up as much as I possibly can. Book references is helpful also! I want to travel and live for a while (few months) in each country if possible and live cheap/local for the cultural experience and lifestyle change. Thank you !
Megan, It's not a "bad idea to do alone", as young women do this all the time (I've met quite a few during my travels in Europe). However, I believe you've started in the right way by getting information and preparing properly. One point regarding travel in Europe. You'll have to ensure that you don't stay in the Schengen area for longer than 90-days in any 180-day period. SEVERE fines and penalties can result! Could you provide a bit more information? How long are you planning to travel? When will this trip be taking place? Which area are you planning to start in? Have you purchased a Backpack yet, or will you be using another type of luggage? For planning the Europe portion of your trip, you're in a very fortunate position because of your location. You might consider taking a drive up to Edmonds and using the FREE Library at ETBD (during business hours). They have LOTS of different types of Guidebooks there (including of course current editions of Rick's books). You'd also be able to obtain information on Railpasses from the experts and also check out the travel gear. For travel in Australia, New Zealand and Asia, the Lonely Planet books are excellent. Note that Lonely Planet also has a Message Board called the ThornTree, should you want to post questions on those areas. You could also try www.bootsnall.com for information. As you'll be travelling in Asia, I'd also suggest visiting a Travel Medicine Clinic to determine what vaccinations you might need (your family Physician may also provide that). It would be good to check on these anyway, in case you need any "boosters"). Good luck with your planning!
You also say you want to "live for a while" in each country. Can you clarify if you're seeking employment in those countries while you travel?
PART ONE: I've traveled solo in Europe as a very young woman (like you). I had few problems, but the ones I did have are worth noting. Plus a coupla observations. 1) I hope there isn't a censor on this site, because I have to say the word "penis." I got shown a LOT of them. Sitting on a bench in a park in Tours, France, at noon, eating my lunch. Heard a weird snuffling behind me, and there was a guy, in the bushes... well, you fill in the blanks. Again in Azay-le-Rideau, as I was picnicking by the river. A guy who was fishing - FISHING - caught my eye, grinned, and pulled it out. And again in Marseille... and Rome... and Strasbourg... and Florence... etc. I have no advice to give except to say - well, it happens. 2) It might not be a bad idea to take a quick class in self-defense. Not for the super cool karate moves - but for the advice you'll get on body language and taking charge of your physical space. Both in NYC and in Europe I have wandered all over at all hours of the day and night, and have never been mugged or attacked. Several friends pointed out to me that I walk tall, keep my chin out and my shoulders back, and OWN my space. While not typical for most women, it is a skill you can learn. Look and act confident. It will help keep you safe.
PART TWO: 3) "No" is a complete sentence. Women tend to be too polite, which can read as vulnerability to an aggressor. If you are approached by anyone for any reason and it doesn't feel right, you can answer "No" to any query, and then walk away. 4) If you get into any trouble, do NOT blame yourself. You can get self-defense training, walk tall, play it safe, and still get into a pickle. It happens. But also remember, statistically speaking, it happens rarely. (I think you can check the web - the US State Dep't site?) for stats. 5) If you do get into a situation that feels weird or skeevy, I recommend asking any middle-aged woman in the vicinity for help. We generally come to another woman's rescue with no questions asked. 6) Network. Once you're in town, head to a place where locals hang, and get to know people. In NYC, we had bunches of Irish and Aussie friends who came over, hit the pubs, talked to the bartenders, and through that avenue found work and lodging. 7) Revel in your strength! You will have so many wonderful experiences by opening yourself up to life like this! Have a wonderful time.
I am not so sure if self defense is all that important for rape prevention nor being aware of surrounding etc Granted they are good ideas for preventing pickpocketer. While not in Europe so not complete on point other than it was the same age group. In college I was on a SGA subcommittee (I was the token male) looking into rape on campus, we got a copy of all the police reports of reported rapes on campus for the prior 10 years with the names redacted. Of the 73 case all 73 occurred in either his or her dorm room in which the victim either went willing to his or invited him into hers. In 71 out of the 73 cases one or both were intoxicated. Not a single one was someone being jumped in the hallway or on the paths. In almost all cases the victim had consent to some sexual contact (kissing, fondling, etc) just not intercourse. Despite the past history the end result was the college installed more lighting in the pathways even though not a single rape had occurred there. Single best advice for avoid being raped: Do not enter the apartment or hotel room of a male or invite a male into yours unless you want to have sex with him. The number of males who would jump a female and force himself on her is extremely small. The number who believe that once a women consents to be alone with him in a location with a bed is consent for sex is, however, a significantly large percentage of the male population particularly in your age range. The second most important piece of advice is: don't get drunk. Follow those two rules and you will prevent well over 99% of all possible rape situations.
Kira's advice is solid. Very good. Keep all those in mind. The "ask middle aged women for help" is a good idea, especially because I've heard a variation, "ask women with children" - not that they necessarily have their children with them, but they have that instinct to help. I also wanted to note though that many people will come to help you. Standing outside a bar in a small city in Italy, a middle eastern man came up to me and started saying "F America" and "I want to have sex with an American girl" (and you know he didn't mean consensual). A group of 5 or so Italian guys near me ushered me over to them. They didn't speak English, but knew what was going on, were glad to help. Depending on where you are going, I would learn the word for help in that language, along with hello, please, thank you, etc. It will be useful to shout "help" and "leave me alone" in the local language, that will definitely get you help God forbid you do come across any problems. Like Kira said, walk tall and confidently, you will do fine.
Be aware of your surroundings. Avoid deserted side streets, even in the day time. Try not be out at night on your own. Walk tall, be confident - have the 'Don't Even Think About It' attitude. Be aware of your alcohol consumption, if that applies to you. Just be aware, but not paranoid.
When you are in Oz, don't hitch a ride, especially on your own. Preferably not at all.
"The second most important piece of advice is: don't get drunk." The third most important advice is: don't accept a free drink from anyone. What Ed said. The image of a rapist as a shady pervert in a trenchcoat who suddenly jumps out of the shadows is completely inaccurate. Almost all rape victims know their attacker.
I wanted to emphasize the be careful with your drinks! Same logic at any party in the US, get your drinks from the bartender, hold onto yours (make sure no one is slipping anything into yours). And watch the amount of intoxication. The American consulate in Florence estimates that about 95% of incidents, especially crime (passports and money stolen, etc), that happen to students studying in Italy, occur when alcohol is involved. Living cheaply - you can live and eat cheaply by realizing you are living in a country, not traveling for fun. With a different attitude, you won't be tempted to treat yourself to expensive meals or restaurants. Hostels of course can be a good, cheap option. They also allow you to meet other travelers of your own age, people to go out with at night.
IMHO, Tom and Devon advice is a bit paranoid. Incidents of guys slipping a mickey on an unsuspecting female is pretty rare, just like the lurking pervert in the trench coat. OTOH, guys getting a girl drunk with uned drinks and then taking advantage of her inebriated state to coax her into bed is very regular occurrence. And something that a considerable number of males view as perfectly acceptable behavior and not rape. If a guys is offering to buy you a drink odds are he doesn't just want to get to know you better he wants carnal knowledge of you. But it is extremely unlikely that he will be adding anything to your drink, just letting alcohol take its natural effect. I don't know of a single first hand incident of someone getting a mickey slipped into her drink. Much like this thread. http://www.ricksteves.com/graffiti/helpline/index.cfm/rurl/topic/71339/cutting-of-purse-straps-myth-or-has-it-happened-to-you.html However, I have lost count of the number of times I have heard men brag about getting a girl drunk to take advantage of her. And the all of women whom I have discussed this with have told me that they have each had multiple men attempt this and the vast majority have woke up next to a guy at least once they would never have consented to have sex with if they were sober.
"Incidents of guys slipping a mickey on an unsuspecting female is pretty rare, just like the lurking pervert in the trench coat." Actually, according to a conference I was at earlier this year, about 1 in 25 rapes in Germany involve some kind of involuntary ingestion of a sedating drug. That admittedly isn't a huge percentage, but neither is it negligible.
Dito everything Kira said. I tend to give off an alpha female/aggressive vibe but every little incident I have had while alone in Europe was when I got caught up in the moment and let my guard down. I too saw so many men pulling out their John Thomas I was beginning to think it was a form of greeting. Be more aware in the off the beaten path areas. While the big city and tourist areas have pickpockets, the non touristy areas have the criminal of opportunity. These have all been where I have had some issues. I got into a wrangle with a crack head on a train and I was glad I had some hand to hand combat skills. If you don't already know self defense, I'd take a class. Most impotantly, practice your confidence. If everyone notices you when you walk into an area, you are less likely to be the victim. All that said, have a blast! Some of my favorite experiences have been the solo ones.
@ Tom I love that shirt. @ James Wow, that is a lot higher than I thought it was maybe you are not being paranoid. I wonder if the US has similar numbers. I remember in college having discussion on this topic and the majority of men did not consider it rape to get a girl so drunk she consented. Even a few of the girls felt it wasn't rape. The RA made it clear that the law and college consider it rape. But even the most supportive of this dating practice felt that slipping a mickey or telling a girl that a drink was non-alcoholic when it was spiked with vodka crossed the line into rape and ought land someone in jail for a very long time.
@ ed, "Incidents of guys slipping a mickey on an unsuspecting female is pretty rare, just like the lurking pervert in the trench coat" The use of "date rape drugs" seems to happen in this area from time-to-time, so can happen anywhere. www.news1130.com/news/local/article/103478--date-rape-drugs-can-pose-a-serious-risk-to-one-s-health communities.canada.com/vancouversun/blogs/realscoop/archive/2011/01/26/record-seizure-of-date-rape-drug-ketamine.aspx www.ctvbc.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20100917/bc_date-rape_drugs_100917?hub=BritishColumbiaHome This Thread is a good reminder that it's a prudent to be careful whether going out socially at home, or while travelling in Europe.
@ Ken. Yes it happens from time to time. None of the articles you posted had stats on frequency. Terrorism happens in the US from time to time. But I don't live my life in fear of terrorism. Like the purse cutting thread or the fear that hotel managers are going to use a master key to steal the contents of a hotel safe. I think this may fall into the category of yes it can happen, but not something worth worrying about. I try to balance my security cautions with the odds and consequences. I use a money belt. But I don't worry if someone might open up my backpack on a train and steal my water bottle, guide book and sweater. I feel safe using a hotel safe. I would not feel safe leaving my belongs unlocked in a hostel room. I won't print my pin number on my atm card. But I don't worry that every waiter is going to steal my credit card number. Likewise, I think it is prudent to remain sober and not invite a guy back to your room unless you want to have sex. But I think it might be a bit paranoid to worry that if you go to the ladies room someone is going to spike your drink unless there is something sleazy about him that makes you feel uncomfortable and in that case get rid of him.
Megan: You never posted again & I'm wondering if all the talk about rapists and guys flashing their junk lurking around every corner freaked you out to the point where you decided against a trip. If you do read this, I think you will find going solo to be a rewarding experience. I took a trip very similar to what you intend to do & although there were 1 or 2 bumps along the way, nothing horrible happened & I met some great people along the way. If you are still hesitant to go about the trip completely alone, look into the Hop-On/Hop-Off backpacker bus networks. In Europe, try Busabout. For New Zealand, Stray Bus. For Australia, Wayward Bus or Groovy Grape. There is also Oz Experience and Kiwi Experience, but I tend to find they are more geared towards people interested in a giant pub crawl around the country who party all night, sleep all day. The beauty of the hop-on/hop-off bus system is the large majority of people using the system are solo travelers from around the world. Many of them are women. The average age range is about 18-35, most being in their 20s. The bus network also helps you arrange for lodging along the way in their preferred hostels, campgrounds or budget hotels. Most networks offer many different passes you can purchase depending on where you want to go & how many days you plan to travel. Another great thing about the networks is that you have the flexibility to hop off at any overnight stop and stay for as long or short as you want. For example, maybe you orginally planned on 3 nights in Paris but you love it so much you want to stay for 8 nights, you can do that. If you hate it, you can leave after 1 night - just use your pass to get back on the bus whenever you are ready. You also aren't stuck travelling w/ the same group of people like a regular tour. New people are always getting on the bus.
@ ed, I agree, it all needs to be put in perspective. It doesn't happen often, but it's something to be aware of. Although stat's weren't provided, this issue seems to appear at regular intervals here in B.C. It's not only the larger population centres in the Vancouver area that are affected, but also many medium and smaller cities in the interior as well. Perhaps that's why this occurred to me. For example: www.kelownadailycourier.ca/includes/datafiles/print.php?id=250964&title=Assault case hinges on date-rape drug GHB www.castanet.net/news/Kelowna/27153/Date-Rape-Dangers
Ed, Being a current university student may give me a different perspective than someone who is much older (no offense, you have more experience with life of course, but I think I am more in touch with the current problems facing younger students). Unfortunately on my large campus, GHB is not all too rare. I'm not going to overestimate it in statistics, but it is more common than you may think. Also, rapes and attacks are often not reported. So the incidence is likely even higher than statistics estimate. Not something to be scared to death of, but simply be aware. I think you can go out and have plenty of fun even as a single woman traveler in Europe. I know I sure did last summer (was with one friend, but it was just the two of us for a while). You just want to be careful. The risks and consequences are more severe as a woman. However, do want to assure Megan that it is perfectly fine to travel alone, it will be a life-changing and wonderful experience for you! Just be smart about it and you will be fine!
Unfortunately Devon is right. I have personally been drugged twice with the stuff: Once in New Orleans where I got rolled and they stole my cash and camera before my friends got to me and another at a frat party, where oddly it was another girl who spiked the punch bowl. Lucky me, I have a high tolerance for it. It was GHB as I went to the hospital both times. I have a friend who got it in southern Spain last summer, again a punch scenario. Just use your head like you would any other destination. I got wise before I went to Europe so no issues there for me. I think some people believe Europe is this utopic place where you can just be. It's got a lot of the same problems we have, maybe not to the degree, maybe so. My experience has been it's pretty close but the EU has been safer. I have a friend over in NZ right now who is thinking about not returning it's that incredible. Have fun and don't be scared just cautious!
To ed-about the self defense classes-those classes are not designed to teach a woman how to win a karate match with an attacker. The reason we middle aged women suggest them so much is because they help give a young woman the confidence to trust her instincts. They have discussions about how to read situations, how to avoid date rape, how to scream, etc. All the same things we've been discussing here. (Poor ed's been taking it on the chin here! And really, he's had good points himself.) And back to Kira's post-WHY do they feel they need to take it out?? And now we have high tech ways that football players and congressmen have discovered. Just like little boys-look what I've got. Whoopee.