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The overlooked threat of being a solo female traveller


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While solo travel is on the rise, travelling alone as a woman still has its dangers. On a backpacking trip in Eastern Europe, I discovered first-hand the unique difficulties faced by women travelling solo.

On a hungover morning in an overcrowded hostel room, my phone lights up with text messages from the previous night: “You are a dickhead,” sent at 3:05 am. “Bitch,” sent at 4:09 am. “Nah you’re not. I guess you’re just not into me,” sent at 7:30 am.

The cause of this rampage and half-apology? Yet another man had latched onto me as a solo female traveller and he felt that my rejection was rude or undeserved.

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The same scenario unfolds every few months into my trip.

On this particular occasion, I found a cheap hostel for only £10 per night on the outskirts of Prague. Here, I befriended some other travellers including with a man named Jake (not his real name).

Upon meeting Jake in the communal breakfast area one morning, he encouraged me to join him almost every day. When I began to receive texts daily asking me what I was doing, I retreated to my dorm room in case the quick coffee I agreed to would turn, yet again, into a three-hour hang in the suburbs of Prague.

I travel solo to meet new people, visit new places and, most importantly, to decide on my own what it is I want to do or where I want to explore at any given moment.

My new friend had derailed this plan.

However, he seemed polite, so I decided not to refuse.

The hostel organised a night of beer tasting for guests to try the Czech Republic’s variety of craft beers and ales. As a Brit and a beer lover, I knew I had to attend. The atmosphere was great. I made friends with a whole host of characters hailing from the Netherlands, France and Spain, as well as two Christian newlyweds from California and a programmer from Denmark.

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When the beer tasting finished, we continued drinking our own beer purchased from nearby convenience stores. We talked about God and abstract ideas late into the night.

However, as the alcohol kept flowing, I noticed several men beginning to look my way more.

A Russian man wanted to buy me a drink, which I refused since the hostel bar had been long closed. The man insisted until Jake stepped in to stop his advances. While I was grateful at first, I quickly realised that he had his own interests at heart. He placed his arm around me, moving it to my waist and later scratched at the waistline of my jeans. I threw his hand away several times before moving altogether.

The remainder of the night was somewhat of a blur, but the text messages I receive in the morning reveal that Jake's frustrated messages are down to my wish that he would stop touching me without my permission.

When I speak to my male friends about these experiences, which have become all too frequent, they unsurprisingly reveal that they have never shared similar experiences. In fact, many of them side with my pursuers, saying, "I would feel flattered if a woman did that to me."

As a solo traveller and a woman, I feel the need to protect myself, not just on the streets but also within the hostel walls where I am sleeping, a place where I should feel comfortable and safe.

As a bisexual woman, I am attracted to women, but I would never talk to, hassle, or make unwanted advances on someone the way that men have acted towards me. 

Travelling is about trading stories and sharing experiences with the people you meet. Yet, there seems to be a disconnect between men and women, where a large portion of male travellers, especially those in large groups, perceive their female counterparts to be food and not friends. As a solo female traveller, it is draining it is to have to constantly assuage and reject sexual advances.

Just please do not force me to call myself gay to keep the men away.

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