Strong, Independent Woman…. and Abroad?

So I’m finally writing this after being back in my Kentucky home for almost a month. Why did I wait so long? Well how am I supposed to describe the most incredible experience of my life in a short blog? I don’t know either but here’s my best shot at it and I decided the best approach to take was studying abroad as a female, one who always travels alone.IMG_4894

If you knew me before I went to Europe, you would know that I often travel independently all across the nation with my marketing job but it’s not quite the same when you’re gallivanting around Europe and even Africa. So here’s a few tips and stories of my experience as a woman who is too stubborn to travel with anyone else.

  1. DO NOT EVER let anyone tell you to not travel alone because you’re a woman; you just have to take a few more extra precautions to stay safe.
  2. Check out the area of the hostel/Airbnb before you pay to stay there. Even though it’s closer to more attractions, it does not always mean it’s a safe neighborhood. I made that mistake when I traveled to Athens. According to my taxi driver, I was in an area overran with “prostitutes and drug addicts”; he even warned me to not walk alone at night because men would stab me with heroin and then steal all my stuff. Yeah, talk about a warm welcome to Greece. So learn from my experience because even though I didn’t die, I was terrified every time I left my apartment and would run from wherever I was so that I could get back before nightfall.
  3. Get used to guys catcalling you (in multiple different ways). You may think it’s bad in the US but it’s absolutely annoying overseas. Just ignore them and keep walking. They might be bothersome, but they’re harmless.
  4. No matter where you are, try to be back to wherever you’re staying before it gets dark. I don’t know why, but I swear all the real creeps hide during the day. If you do stay out late, just try your best to stay on well-lit streets, even if that dark alley way will cut 15 minutes off of your travel time. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
  5. When you’re walking around, act like you know what you’re doing even if you’re completely lost. I promise they will smell your fear and confusion. But as I say that, know it’s always okay to ask for help. For me though, I always ask someone who I feel like can’t easily overpower me (but I’m probably just paranoid).
  6. Watch for pickpocketers– they’re smarter than you think. For most of them, this is their only job and they are very good at it. Keep your eyes peeled 24/7, especially since you’ll most likely be carrying a purse. Children are a concern too, and I speak from experience. While I was in Rome, I caught a 9-year-old girl with her hand down my purse and I even had my hand on the front of my purse. They’re incredibly sneaky. Also watch for planned schemes because they have tons of them. They’ll have kids or a “family” asking for directions and while you’re distracted another person will be pick pocketing you. Also watch for fights in large areas. They’re usually staged to get you focused on something else. Be super careful!! Because you may think that’ll never happen to you but it could; I even got mugged in Venice (which by the way is not even worth the trip, I hated that city, it was disgusting).
  7. Please oh please do not dress like an American tourist. Try to blend in because if not, then you are a bullseye for anyone who wants to rob you.
  8. IF you do go to Africa be EXTRA careful. I went to Morocco and the culture is very different. You are not seen as a human, you are seen as an item and you are especially vulnerable if you do not have a man with you. Do not show any part of your skin. Everywhere you go, keep your head down and do not make eye contact with any male. Do not smile at them, they take that as an invitation to come and talk to you. I even wore a hijab to try and fit in to keep attention off of me. I always came to my hostel at dark, always. If you want to be extra careful, wear a ring to make it seem like you’re married. The men there are very abrasive, so just be careful. I was proposed to five times and I even had a guy ask me how many camels it would take for him to marry me. Just be polite and walk away. Also, always bargain– the price they give you is way above what they’ll take, even bargain with the taxi drivers.
  9. Do not let a man buy you a drink. Yes it may be a custom in the US, but overseas if a man buys you a drink, they expect something in return. To just avoid all confusion, buy your own drinks.
  10. Just relax and enjoy the experience you’re creating. I loved traveling alone and overall I felt pretty safe. Don’t fret; statistically speaking you’re more likely to get assaulted in the US than you are in Europe. Just be smart.

Honestly, I could go on and on about my experience abroad but I’ll keep it short. Just don’t take even a second for granted. Barcelona has my heart and I definitely plan on returning. Hopefully you’ll find a city that you love just as much. Just remember safety so that you make it back in one piece and to not be afraid to go on adventures because that’s what you’re going to cherish in the long run.

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