As I announced during the blogathon a few weeks back, I'm going to be backpacking through Europe for a couple of weeks this fall. I've been planning with my youngest sister primarily, and we're trying to make this trip as affordable as possible. At any rate, we've been reading tons of resources as a result, and today I started skimming through a copy of Let's Go: London and came to a section about women travelers.

I should say that I've never actually read a travel book before. I've heard of these special sections for women travelers, but I had no idea what they said or how they were framed or if they're in all travel books or just some or what. And I had actually forgotten about this separation of traveler types until I read this section.

But anyway, here's what it said (taking out large chunks):

"Women exploring on their own inevitably face some additional safety concerns, but it's easy to be adventurous without taking undue risks. [...] Look as if you know where you're going and approach older women or couples for directions if you're lost or uncomfortable [emphasis mine].
[...] Dress conservatively, especially in rural areas. Wearing a conspicuous wedding band [emphasis theirs] sometimes helps to prevent unwanted advances.
Your best answer to verbal harassment is no answer at all; feigning deafness, sitting motionless, and staring straight ahead at nothing in particular will usually do the trick [emphasis mine]. [...]"

Two thoughts ran through my head after I finished reading this:
1) WOWSERS! Maybe I shouldn't be going here...
2) Shit... this is exactly how I deal with this stuff when it happens in NY.

I don't wear any rings, but I know people who use fake wedding or engagement rings to get guys to leave them alone. As for the getting lost thing... well, I was taught to mostly just figure it out for myself rather than ask anybody, but that had more to do with the language barrier than anything else.

I regularly try to ignore people if they start talking to me. Pretend they don't exist -- that's how they leave you alone. In the past year, I've started to talk back more (mostly random curses), but ignoring them was basically what I was taught. The way it's described rather disturbed me though, probably because it finally made me realize just how ridiculous it is. They're basically saying "play dead, the way animals do to stop predators from killing them." Pretend you can't hear, speak, see or move. Might as well also try to hold your breath and stop all eye movement to really give them the idea that you don't have a pulse and will never respond to them. I mean, wow, that really drives it home, doesn't it?

What also strikes me is my initial reaction of not wanting to go there. I deal with street harassment in NY in a way I never experience it anywhere else. You would think I'd be used to this, rather than thinking to myself "maybe I shouldn't be going here."

What do you all think about these travel tips for women?

1 comments:

At Sun Aug 16, 05:50:00 PM Lauren O said...

On the one hand, it's annoying that there's that sort of segregation in these travel books, but on the other hand, it's good that they address these sorts of things because they do happen, and depending on where you're from, you might not be used to dealing with street harassment. I think I literally got catcalled more during my three months in England than during 21 years in Northern California.

Definitely don't let it put you off going to places you want to go. From what I gather, if you're from NY, you can handle it basically anywhere else. It's awful that we have to endure harassment like that, but we can't just roll over and let the jerkasses win by hiding away inside.

 

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