As you already know, I am a female single traveler. A middle-aged female single traveler, traveling the way most young travelers do. Backpacking. I try to interact with locals as much as possible, having conversations and asking questions. Asking questions is the only way to get answers and with that get knowledge you can’t get from reading books or magazines. The consequence of that is that I also get a lot of questions back. The first and most common one is of course ‘which is your country’. Where am I from. Second next common is
Where is your husband.
There are a lot of surprised faces when I tell them I don’t have a husband. Then I get the safety talk. Don’t do this, don’t do that. Be careful. It’s always men telling me to be careful, hold my bag tight or not exposing my mobile because there are so many crooks in that specific area. But you are a good guy, I usually ask back. Then they get a bit confused. My point is, how do I know that the man warning me from other men is the good guy.
The other day I had one of my morning walks in a business area. It was early, shops closed, few people around. And from nowhere a man approaches me from behind, closes in and starts asking me the standard questions. Usually that’s how it starts and usually it ends by them telling me that they have something to sell or can offer transportation. But this one asks me if I have a paper map. How would I otherwise find my way. Thank you, I’m fine, I know where I’m going I reply. But he is not convinced and tells me again I should get a paper map. Finally I tell him I’ve got one in my mobile so I’ll be fine. Then he urged my very strongly not to use my mobile while walking the streets of New Delhi but to get a paper map at the tourist office, and he points towards a tiny alley. Considering everything was closed I assumed the tourist office also was. So I had to stop and tell him with a sharp voice that I’m fine and that I want him to continue walking ahead of me where I could see him and not to approach me again. This whole scenario is a bit disturbing and in a way also very kind of him to care about my safety. But! There is a big but.
From my perspective, walking the streets in India carrying a paper map is screaming out the message: Here comes a single female tourist that doesn’t know where she’s going. So I’m holding tight to my phone, head held high, walk in a confident way, looking forward not making eye contact as if I know where I’m going. Here in New Delhi there is one safe place to stop and look at the my mobile. Outside any bank. For the simple reason that there are always armed security outside.
On the other hand, considering the many hours these guards sit outside the banks and inside the many ATM booths, considering how bored and sleepy they are, I’m now sure any of them would be of any use is something actually did happened.
Let’s get back to the husband topic. Isn’t it interesting that so many people still think that the safest way to travel for a woman is together with a man. Even though husbands and boyfriends and ex-ditto are the reason so many women around the world are killed or attacked or abused.
Staying safe as a woman is not about staying away from traveling, getting a husband for protection or not doing normal things any man would do. But until the world is different from now, it is about keep on doing what we love and believe in with a clear and sharp mind. Without paper maps.