The #TravelNoire explosion is a very recent phenomenon. In previous generations, black travel was extremely limited and very dangerous. It was necessary to subscribe to the Green Book, a mid 20th century printed travel guide, to navigate places that aided black travelers. Thanks to many of our ancestors’ sacrifices and advancements in recent decades, this is no longer the case. Yet, precautions must still be taken, especially for black women traveling alone.
Two years ago, when Curls & Carryons was started, I’d been to 2 countries solo. Now I’ve spent a least 24 hours alone in 6 countries and have never been attacked. However, in the U.S. city where I came of age, my friends and I hold many horror stories of being attacked or raped. It was usually by men that we knew. It was with these men, placed on pedestals because of a shared history, that we ignored red flags and found ourselves later questioning our self worth. Naturally, people tend to be far more mistrusting of strangers and can be completely blindsighted when the danger comes from someone they’ve known.
Regardless, women must still navigate the aggressive and unpredictable sea of unfamiliar men’s advances, especially when we travel to foreign places. Most of us know the basics:
Avoid walking alone at night.
Leave a copy of your itinerary with the hotel.
If possible, share your location with a friend and ask them to contact you or the hotel at an arranged time.
Ensure that you carry something that can help you get away or draw attention to an ally, i.e. metal keys, whistles, and even pocket/ hotel knives.
Keep your drink within your sight at all times.
Seek out other nearby women as allies.
If approached in the dark, do not engage at all. Keep moving.
- Use plural pronouns like “we” instead of “i.” Whether you say you’re meeting someone or not, this small word will lead a person to believe you are not alone or better yet, with a lover.
Wear a simple wedding band. Most countries are patriarchal societies and have a deep respect, not for the sanctity of marriage, but of the vengefulness of a raging husband.
- Do not make eye contact, do not smile, not even politely. In some countries, darker woman are considered the help, prostitutes, and can have very little status or power. Being too flirtatious can be considered an open invitation to unwanted attention. Crossing your arms, or conveying aggression by balling your fists and clenching your jaw can communicate a firm HELL NO.
- Never get drunk. Have a drink maximum that will keep you in tune with your surroundings. Again, your drink should never leave you direct eye sight. Even turning you head for a moment gives a predator the opportunity to slip something in your drink.
- Trust your intuition. Your brain is your biggest asset to staying safe. If you do not feel good about any situation, then leave. Read here about the questionable times, I really had to trust my gut.
- If uber is not an option, arrange your travel home prior to going out. Some taxi drivers are happy to have a guaranteed patron for later on and will even give you a discount for the roundtrip.
- A great trick if you ever find yourself walking alone and feeling afraid is to look as menacing as possible. Yes, you are a woman and a man can overpower you. However, even lions go for the injured prey first. Looking as though you wont go down without a fight could make someone think twice before approaching you. Walk hard and fast with a purpose. Hiding your hands is great way to keep anyone guessing as to whether or not you possess a weapon. The point is to look as though you are literally en route to kick someone’s ass and if anyone tries to stop you, they can get some too.
- Above all, always be aware of your surroundings, any suspicious persons, and the nearest exit.
The metals keys and pocket knife mentioned earlier should already be in your dominant hand. Be ready to use it on the attacker’s neck, ears, groin or stomach. These are all soft, vulnerable areas that are easy to puncture, will slow him down and allow you ample time to get away.
If you are for some reason without a weapon, these soft, vulnerable areas are still fair game. The ears are relatively easy to rip off and are accessible even if you are being choked from behind. If approached from the front, forcing your thumbs through their eyes, chopping at the trachea or kneeing the groin can temporarily subdue an attacker.
Wear shoes you can run in. Closed toe boots can be another layer of protection. Seriously, they’re like brass knuckles for your feet. Kick them at whatever you can reach.
Wearing a ton of rings on your fingers while traveling can actually give the impression of wealth and garner unwanted attention. However, if you are confident in your boxing abilities, stick your keys between your fingers when you punch.
Men, ultimately, should be held to a higher standard of how they treat women. A person should not have to live on constant high alert when they simply want to enjoy a vacation. Men should be seeking ways to be allies and not enemies.
For any woman traveling alone, be as proactive as you can. You are not responsible for the actions of anyone who decides to hurt you. Learning how to be cautious can be helpful in avoiding powerlessness in compromising situations. It’s commonly reported that women of color feel safer abroad than they have ever felt in the U.S. This guide is meant to arm you with information, not to steer you away from the freedom of solo travel.
For #VANLIFE specific suggestions of how to stay safe on the road and more information on how to be an ally to women, find additional posts this Thursday!
Thank you for joining me 💪🏽❤️