Traveling solo is a fantastic way to get to know the world, yourself, and the people around you.
But sometimes, you just want to be able to go on one bus ride without being hit on by a creeper.
The ironic thing about traveling solo is that you're rarely ever actually alone. There's always an open seat next to you, whether you're on a plane, train, or bus, and sometimes that can lead to unwanted advances.
I've had more than my fair share of uncomfortable experiences with men while traveling South America by bus. I've been spied on in a bus bathroom, have had to sleep with a sweater on my chest to keep the weirdo next to me from snapping pictures of my breasts, and have been pressed up against a window while a bus employee whispered "te amo, te amo," in my ear.
Did any of these experiences ruin my time abroad? No, but I could've certainly done without them.
We at Go! Girl Guides want women to feel empowered to take on the world, and sometimes that means making your boundaries known very clearly.
Here's our handy guide to keeping unwanted advances at bay, so that you can focus exclusively on enjoying your travels.
- Say No: Say it loudly, and say it often. Be rude if you have to be. When I first started traveling, I didn't want anyone to perceive me as a "rude American," and so I would engage in conversation as best I could, for as long as I could. This didn't always work out so well. I can't tell you how many conversations I've had abroad that have started innocent and quickly turned sexual. Avoiding this comes down to listening to your instinct. The second you feel uncomfortable, end the conversation however you need to.
- Shift Your Body Language: Make it clear in the way that you're sitting that you are not into talking. I usually take the window seat on buses, and if I get a creepy vibe from the person next to me, I completely face my body towards the scenery.
- Cover Up: The inner feminist in me hates that women have to monitor their clothing choices while traveling, but you just have better experiences when you do. Covering up can help you avoid problems, and in some countries, is a sign of respect. Plus, the less they can see, the less they can drool.
- Look Busy: Listen to music. Read a book. Start writing. If you're not into having or continuing a conversation, make it clear that you're doing something else.
- Lie, If You Have to: I'm not a big fan of lying to get out of situations, but sometimes you may have to lie to get someone off of your back. I don't ever wear a fake wedding ring, but I do sometimes have a boyfriend named George, who has tattoos and big muscles and is meeting me at the next stop.
- Get Some Help: If someone is really bothering you and won't stop, solicit some help, either from employees or from other passengers. Remember that bus employee that was whispering to me? It ended only when another male passenger got up and sat in the empty seat next to me, blocking his access.
Which brings me to my final point: most people in the world are good and most experiences abroad are beautiful. There is a clear difference between harmless curiosity and something else--listen to your instincts!
If all else fails, you could always whip out a pair of hairy leg stockings. End. Of. Conversation.