I just spent the last week or two reading Rachel Friedman’s book, “Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost” and I am amazed at her travels. She roughed it in a big way in South America that I don’t think I could ever do. She experienced being robbed and groped (and then chased) in a matter of seconds and her first thought wasn’t, “well, this has been fun, but I’m going home.”
On a cliff in the Golan Heights, Israel, 2019
She talks a lot about her own fears as a traveler – which are much more numerous than her adventurous Australian traveling partner – and it made me think about my fears that I travel with me when I travel, especially when I travel alone.
And then I thought: fuck those fears. Fuck ’em right to hell.
If Rachel could survive Death Road in Bolivia (Google it – it sounded fucking terrifying), and I’ve survived Eastern Europe on my own, then I’m pretty fucking awesome and self-sufficient and any fears I have are probably made up.
When I first started traveling by myself regularly in 2015, I had a couple of basic fears:
- Fear of getting my wallet stolen
- Fear of my stuff getting stolen in a hostel
- Fear of getting ‘taken’ a la the Liam Neeson movie by any people who seemed too nice.
This last one was so fierce that as I stood anxiously with my too-large bag on the LIRR to the AirTrain, I didn’t want to make conversation with anyone who asked where I was going. I assumed they were probably all planted there to find out my plans and intervene somewhere along my route, kidnapping me and I’d be gone forever.
Alone in Estonia, 2015.
Totally realistic and plausible but did those girls in Taken see it coming that a cute French stranger would be helping steal them by asking them to share a cab? NOPE. I was also traveling to a part of the world where I’d not known many people to travel to before and where I didn’t a word of the language.
Those fears ended up being unfounded (obviously). Though YouTuber Melanie Murphy and her sister recently had a very, very scary experience in Venice where they almost could’ve not come home. You can hear about it here and if you’re a solo female traveler, I’d suggest you do. Fast forward to about 28 minutes in. TL;DR: Italian men are gross and sex traffickers are everywhere.
That has probably stopped me from making more friends along the way, something that Rachel Friedman does quite well in her travels. I’ve met people here and there but no one that I’ve really kept in touch with. I do have a friend named Phil that I met while he was traveling in New York City on his way to Israel and England, but he was also gay and clearly not going to abduct me (**fears the backlash that I’m going to receive from that assumption**). We went to see not one, but TWO Broadway shows together while he was here and then I crashed with him at his flat for probably too many days in London the following summer. It was, as they say in England, grand.
Alone in Budapest.
But other than that, I’ve not made too many friends from travel. Is it because I’m alone or because I’m a loner when I travel? Is either of those even different? I’m not sure.
I digress. I’ve also eliminated – as much as one can – being robbed with my super secret pocket scarf and my tiny wallet. And now I stay in private rooms in hostels, so as much as I’m still a little nervous that some fellow backpacker might break into my room to steal my super awesome bar of soap or, you know, my used towel, or a souvenir magnet, my stuff is usually pretty secure.
But the things Friedman was afraid of on her travels were much more legitimate fears (qualifying your fears is bullshit, but really): being on a rickety bus on the aforementioned Death Road, staying in a shack in some South American country (so, no front desk for security?), traversing the Outback in Australia where I’m pretty sure every other animal you encounter will 100% kill you if you get close enough, to name a few. The closest I’ve gotten to anything legitimately scary is waiting a long time for the metro late at night on a mostly deserted platform, thinking I was missing the last train back to Vienna from Salzburg, and maybe that time I happened to be out past dark in the Old Town in Krakow and I just thought someone was behind me (they weren’t).
Alone in Old Town, Krakow.
My fears, while they’ve kept me safe over the past 5 years, have probably also kept me from making real connections while traveling. So, fuck those fears. When I travel alone from now on, I may not ride on Death Road (which, luckily, has had a safer road built next to it since Friedman wrote her book), or stay in accommodations that lack proper restrooms, but I’ll talk to more people. I’ll ask them why they’re traveling and go from there.
Do you have any fears while traveling? Let me know below.
And are you following me on Instagram? If not, you totally should.