When I am traveling by myself in an unknown city there are the many thoughts and feelings simultaneously going through my head. Traveling is not only strenuous for the body, but also for the mind. Below I listed some of the things going around in my head while I travel.
1. Does this person standing next to me look suspicious?
Do I think they might try to rob me? Is that guy following me? As a woman traveling by herself, I always have to be aware of what is going on around me. When you are with another person, you tend to let your guard down because you feel safer than when you are alone. It’s not uncommon for me to change sides of the street or go through a different doorway if there is somebody suspicious around. My safety is always my first priority.
2. Am I going in the right direction?
Am I lost? I’m going to be honest, map reading is not my specialty. I do not have an innate sense of direction. In fact, I never know the exact direction I’m going in. My directions are limited to “right” and “left”. This isn’t to say that I cannot navigate around a big city, but there are always some challenges. Since I always have to be aware of my surroundings, I can’t have my head constantly buried in a map. When I use my map, I generally have to make a complete stop so I can open my bag and dig around. I typically don’t like to walk around with my bag unzipped, so I have to put the map away before I start walking again.
3. What time is it?
When do I need to leave so I don’t have to walk alone in the dark? When was the last time I ate? There are time pressures when traveling alone. As a woman, I know it is not safe to walk around in a big city at night. Being perpetually aware of the time is a must so I can make it back to my hotel before it gets dark. Additionally, I have to sometimes remind myself to eat since my mind is filled with so many different things. Eating is important because I don’t want to run out of gas when I am still 5 miles from my hotel with not enough money for a taxi.
4. Do I have my passport?
This is constantly running through my head. The fear of losing it or it being stolen is always on my mind. I can’t tell you how many times during a single day I check that I still have my passport.
5. Should I be taking a picture of this?
My camera only has half a battery left, should I risk it? This runs through my mind because of a recent experience when my camera ran out of battery power and I was only halfway through my day. I think that everything deserves a picture because it is new to me, but I also have to keep in mind that I still have 6 hours left in the day. Remembering to charge the batteries every evening is crucial.
6. What should I eat for my next meal?
Does this café look safe to eat in? Is it going to make me sick? When I traveled, I had the extra challenge of being gluten intolerant. But this isn’t the only problem a woman has when choosing where to eat. You don’t want to go into a restaurant that looks like it may be unclean. The idea of getting violently sick while in another country by yourself is not a pleasant thought.
7. How am I going to get back to my hotel/hostel?
Which is the safest? Do I have enough money left on my metro card? How do I identify a gypsy cab? Every country is different about the modes of transportation you should/shouldn’t use. When I went to Rome, I remember reading that you should avoid gypsy cabs because they often don’t use meters and can overcharge you. I learned that I can identify a gypsy cab by paying attention to the color of the car.
8.[In Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, or French] How are you? Thank you. Where is the bathroom? How do I get to ______ street?
I was frequently practicing common words and phrases of the native language. There are a lot of phrases I learned that I never had to use, but I was glad that I knew them. You shouldn’t expect that everybody knows how to speak English, because they don’t. When I took a taxi from the airport in Rome to my hotel, the taxi driver did not know English. Luckily, I had written down the address of my hotel in Italian.
9. Am I walking through this museum too fast?
Yes, I really did think about this. I always ponder if I take the right amount of time to appreciate art. Sometimes I get through a large museum in an hour and I wonder if I should go through it again. While all of these previously mentioned thoughts are going through my head, I worry that I don’t take enough time to enjoy the scenery.
10. Did I remember to put on sunscreen?
The sun is really bright today. What latitude am I at? Are the sun’s rays stronger here? This may not go through every woman’s head, but I am fair-skinned, so I burn really easily. Sunscreen is a must.
11. Where is the bathroom?
Bathrooms are not always available like they are in America. Some places you cannot use the bathroom unless you are a patron. At other places you have to pay. Running into these types of obstacles is not fun, so I try to plan in advance.
12. How many Euros/local currency do I have?
Do I need to get more? Where can I exchange my money? Finding a bank machine is sometimes challenging. I do often worry about not having enough of the local currency, but at the same time I worry about carrying too much money. It’s not easy finding a balance. I usually kept 40-60 Euros on me, then had another 40-60 locked up in my suitcase at the hotel. You never know when you might need it.
What about you? Are you a woman that has traveled alone before? What thoughts go through your head when you travel?