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How do you travel alone?
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I remember the first time I felt unsafe while traveling. I was 18 and on a school trip to Saint Petersburg in Russia. There were about 10 other girls on the trip, and one evening, my friend and I decided to take advantage of our newly legal drinking age and invite everyone to our room for shots of Russian vodka before dinner (as you do). An hour later, when we were leaving the room to go to dinner, we saw two men leaning against the wall opposite our door, waiting for us.
As my friend and I tried to close the door behind us, they came closer and got handsy, trying to peer past us to see what was in our room. In retrospect, they were looking at what they might want to steal. One friend in our group spoke a bit of Russian and was able to distract them while we managed to shut the door and get in the elevator. They followed us in. As part of a larger group, none of us were particularly scared at that moment, but we were unnerved when the men took out their wallets and started flicking through dozens of fake IDs with their faces on them. When we arrived in the lobby, we ran off to dinner and tried to forget the interaction.
Later, when we were back in our hotel room, we heard a knock on the door, which was followed by the sound of someone trying to jam open our door. My (brave) friend looked through the peephole on the door and saw the men outside. They were trying to break in, covering the peephole to disguise themselves to us. After what felt like an eternity, hotel security came to the rescue (even though the men had run off by then) and continued to patrol the corridor for the rest of the night.
Frankly, I don’t want to think about what would have happened if we’d opened the door to the knock without looking in the peephole first. And I still think about this incident every time I travel alone. As a result, I’ve done slightly insane things—like wedging suitcases against the door, watching comedy shows to fall asleep, and I’ve never opened the door to room service without triple checking who it is.
If you’ve followed me on Instagram since I was 19, you’ll know that I used to run a travel blog. Feeling safe while traveling is a topic I’ve engaged in a lot over the last 10 years, but it’s always relevant. I even saw a tweet this past week from someone attending the crypto conference, Devcon:
It made me think about how many opportunities we often miss out on because of the lingering burden of our physical safety. In other words, we’re forced to think about our physical safety in seemingly innocuous settings, such as a conference, in a hotel, or walking around our own neighborhood at night. A quick Google of “traveling alone as a woman” will deliver you hundreds of articles and tips on how to say safe, but if you query “traveling alone as a man,” the only articles that surface will be about whether it’s “weird” to travel alone as a man. This is hardly surprising given we know the stats on violence against women in public places.
But there’s so much power in traveling alone. Some of my favourite travel experiences have been trips I’ve made by myself because there’s nothing more freeing than exploring somewhere totally alone, on your own schedule. Of course, even in those instances, I can’t help but feel a little bit scared, even when I’m otherwise having a great time. I wonder how different the world would be if we could free up that tiny part of our brain that is always just slightly in fight or flight mode. For me, becoming a more savvy traveler feels like one way to reclaim space and opportunity.
This week, I thought it would be fun to create a “Solo Travel Guide for Women,” a Diem Doc to collect your pre-vetted destinations, tips, favourite stories from traveling alone and to share anything this topic invokes for you. Why do you travel alone? Tell us about it. Do you have tips on feeling safe/savvy while traveling alone? Share them. Did traveling alone give you more confidence in your life back home? I’d love to know. Please share with your friends too!
What burning question is keeping you up at night?
Reply to this email with your request and we might just curate the Diem Doc for you!
What We’re Reading…
👀 An epic Twitter thread on marriage (Twitter)
👀 Is hybrid work widening tech’s gender gap? (The Information)
👀 Why don’t doctors study the clitoris? (The NYTimes)
👀 Netflix’s sad girl’s club (Dirt)
From last week’s Diem Doc on How to Stop People Pleasing…
Learn your authentic code
Learn how you made decisions. Some people feel a hell yes or hell no, others, like myself, need time and space to process invites, offers, make decisions etc. Knowing this about myself has allowed me to catch my people-pleasing tendencies before they turn into resentment or guilt. I’m making a decision from a place of authenticity vs pleasing others.
— 35, NYC
You can read the rest (or contribute), here.
Till next time,