Female Safety

 

 

 

Travelling alone as a female is a rich and rewarding experience, and something I’d recommend every chica doing at least once in their life. Being a girl and travelling alone can be daunting, and the more you experience different cultures, the more you realise gender counts. There are many ways you can make your RTW a little more comfortable if you’re a solo female traveller.  Just consider:

 

 

Booking beds in a female-only dorm

Beds in Female-only dorms are the first to book out, and often it’s far more comfortable to be in a dorm with other girls, as opposed to sharing with a touring rugby club, or a bunch of copulating couples.  Often you’ll find other females travelling alone, and it’s easier to team up with other travellers for a day’s sightseeing.

 

Befriend other travellers

Travelling alone always seems to garner respect, and one of the great things I find is that couples and groups will always warm to you if you are travelling alone. However, you have to make an effort to get to know others and hang out. I’ve made decades-long friendships based on one or two conversations that started along the road. However, I’ve also had people help me out when I’ve been incredibly ill, purely on the basis that I was friendly enough to say hello in the hostel lobby.

 

Research

Sometimes a little preparation can help you avoid culture shock, so be sure to read up on what you can expect if you are a girl travelling in certain parts of the world. Read up a bit on what is appropriate dress in certain cultures. Wearing a spaghetti strap top in Australia won’t be a problem, but in rural Cambodia it is not the norm, in India it may be considered provocative and in certain parts of Africa and the Middle East, downright offensive and inappropriate.

 

Be Tolerant

This can be tricky, as you may find that in some parts of the world you may be discriminated against or treated differently because you a girl. Sometimes it is going to suck, but sometimes you have to roll with it, and accept it as part of the culture. Try not to judge too harshly, and take the good with the bad. Also enjoy the fact that on the flip side, in some cultures you’ll receive incredible privileges and be treated extra specially purely on the basis of your gender.  It’s a big world, so take the good with the bad.

 

Safety

David Whitley wrote a great safety guide here. As a general rule, if you don’t feel comfortable somewhere, get out of there. Don’t lose your cool if you are angry- being the screaming foreigner can be a bad look, but feel free to be as loud as possible and draw attention to yourself if you feel compromised or threatened. Violence is never the answer, however it’s good to have a basic knowledge of self-defence before you go.  As for your stuff, just forget it. If you need to flee and your backpack is weighing you down, just leave it. Stuff and passports can be replaced. Your life can’t be.

 

Sex and avoiding…sex

Wearing a fake wedding ring is a time-honoured tradition amongst female solo travellers trying to ward off unwanted admirers, as is the old line “my husband is one business and will join me in a few days”.  When it comes to sex, carrying contraception is a no-brainer: STD infection rates are through the roof for backpackers and in certain parts of the world HIV infection is a massive concern - it’s not really worth the risk.

 

Volunteer

This one is not gender specific, but volunteering is often a fantastic and structured way to travel comfortably as a girl, and you’ll often find other long term travellers interested in meeting up with you down the road.  So much of travel can be about taking, but volunteering in the right project can be a great way to get to know local people and connect with a community while having a positive impact. I'd recommend this elephant park in Thailand here and this community project in South Africa here

 

AND…

I believe travelling, as a female alone is one of the most important things a young woman can do. That’s not to say I haven’t had my bad times, lonely times and scary times on the road. I’ve had my bum pinched, I’ve wailed about women’s rights, I’ve been refused service and in one unfortunate experience, I even had a guy try to attack me. However, I’ve also been treated like a princess, given preferential treatment, allowed entry into places men can’t go, and met true gentlemen out on the road.

 

If I’m honest with myself, some of the time I’ve got myself into uncomfortable situations because I was young and naïve about what I should and shouldn’t wear and act in certain cultures. If there is one thing travel has taught me is that a lot of the time there is no right or wrong, just different. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t change any of the experiences I had for the world, and definitely glad I travelled solo.

 

 

Safety

 

If you’re going away on a big trip, one of the greatest fears (for your parents if not yourself) is how safe you’re going to be. Unfortunately, you can never guarantee that everything will run smoothly. Muggers strike in unexpected areas, buses crash and earthquakes are largely unpredictable. But the chances of misfortune striking you are greatly reduced if you take a few simple precautions and apply common sense. Here’s a ten step plan for cutting the risks.

 

Get comprehensive travel insurance

It’s all too tempting to see travel insurance as an unnecessary extra. But if anything goes wrong, it’ll cost you far more than the £80 or £90 you spend for fully comprehensive annual worldwide cover. The key things to look at are whether you’re covered for any dangerous activities you might try out whilst away (such as diving or climbing) and whether repatriation is included. This is for if you fall ill abroad and need to be flown back home – without insurance, the bill can come to hundreds of thousands of pounds. You should also check whether the value of what you’ve packed (especially expensive electronic gear) is covered if stolen and the excess you need to pay on any claim. roundtheworldflights.com have a decent RTW policy here

 

Back up important documents

Make copies of important documents, such as your passport photo page, insurance policy and any visas. Then keep one copy somewhere safe in your bag, give another to someone you trust back home, and e-mail a version to yourself with a non-obvious name (ie. Give it the subject header ‘Bruce Forsyth’s False Teeth’ rather than ‘Copy of Passport’). The same applies to any bank and credit card cancellation numbers – write down the lost and stolen card hotline number so that you can call quickly if yours goes missing.

 

Double up on bank accounts

If you go away with just one card, you’re in trouble if that card goes missing or suddenly stops working. If you’ve two bank cards, it doesn’t matter quite so much if one is eaten by the machine – it’s a nuisance rather than a nightmare. It’s also an idea to have at least one credit card to pay for big things (flights, tours etc) on as this gives you extra consumer protection if there’s a problem.  Having at least three different cards (some debit, at least one credit) is usually a good idea – and Visa or Mastercard are the most accepted.

 

Keep some emergency dollars and euros

In most places, you can take money straight out of the cash machine with a card. The era of needing to carry vast swathes of foreign currency and travelers cheques is over. However, if your cards stop working or you end up in a cash-only part of the world, an emergency supply will come in handy. It’s always worth having a couple of hundred pounds worth of US dollars and euros (the two currencies that are easiest to change/ use instead of the local currency).

 

Spread your cash and cards around

A common form of travel idiocy is to take all these precautions and then keep everything in the same place. It doesn’t matter how secure the special compartment of the bag that you keep your passport, cards and cash in is if said bag gets nicked. The valuable stuff is best spread around in three or four separate places if possible – your wallet, a couple of different parts of your backpack, your day bag, a zipped jacket pocket etc. With this in mind, it’s often worth investing in a couple of shirts that have passport-sized, zippable secure pockets. Things kept in open trouser pockets are often easy prey for pick-pockets, but they’d have to be extraordinarily talented to nick a card and a passport from a zipped shirt pocket.

 

Take a dummy wallet

If you're going out for the evening then take an old wallet with some old currency or some dollar bills and old credit cards (or old ATM cards). That way if you do get mugged you can hand that over (Tip courtesy of Murray Harrold)

 

Drugs - just say no

Really say no. If you get caught with a bag of drugs in Singapore you can get the death penalty. The same for heaps of other countries. My best advice is to watch Midnight Express before you go. A lot of prisons in countries you will be visiting make that particular prison look 5*.  The high really isn't worth it. (Tip courtesy of Murray Harrold)

 

If you don’t want to lose it, don’t take it

Anything with extraordinary sentimental value (jewellery etc) is probably best left at home. The longer you spend away, the more chance you have got of losing something – and life on the road doesn’t exactly lend itself to keeping things in pristine condition. Any ‘best’ clothes you’re foolish enough to take with you almost certainly won’t be ‘best’ by the time you get back home. The same applies to day trips and jaunts to the beach. If you’re going to spend the whole day paranoid about losing your laptop or iPod, why bring it with you? Keep it somewhere secure in your hotel/ hostel.

 

Apply common sense

The dangers of some parts of the world – cities in particular – are often vastly overplayed. Often it’s a case of applying a bit of common sense as you would in any other major city. If you’d not walk through a slightly iffy part of London draped in jewellery and yabbering into an iPhone, then why be stupid enough to attempt it in an iffy part of Johannesburg, Los Angeles or Rio De Janeiro? If somewhere doesn’t feel safe, then take suitable precautions – stick to the main streets, don’t flaunt your wealth and avoid walking there after dark. The common same rules apply pretty much globally.

 

Listen to local advice

Almost every city in the world has some dicey areas. It’s part of what being a city’s about. How dicey they actually are varies – some can be genuine no go zones, others are probably going to be fine if you apply the common sense approach. Guide books can give you a decent idea of which is which (and they tend not to be overhysterical about it), but it’s a good idea to get local advice from a few sources and then make your own assessment. The best people to advise you are the people who actually visit the area on a regular basis (such as tour guides and taxi drivers) – not a paranoid old uncle who lives in a guarded compound in a posh suburb and doesn’t go anywhere near the rough areas because he’s heard you’ll instantly get stabbed.

 

Try and work out where you’re going first

Few things mark you out as a target more than standing on a street corner and unfolding a big map. And thus it’s best to work out which direction you’re walking in before you start walking. Take a look at the map on the bus or train, perhaps while you’re in the bar, restaurant or hotel and figure out your route in advance. It’ll stop you looking lost and – more importantly – give you that sense that you know where you’re going and what you’re doing.

 

Safety in numbers

You can’t guarantee everything with simple mathematical equations, but the simple fact of the matter is that Johnny Mugger is more likely to take on a lone tourist than a group of four. If you are going out somewhere that’s not exactly a quaint Cotswolds village, then teaming up with a fellow traveller or two is rarely a bad plan.

 

 

 

Weight

 

I had two numbers written in thick black marker across my wrist, and I was not happy about it. The thick marker had the type of ink that stains for days; the type of marker preferred by graffiti artists and people marking boxes when moving house; the type of marker hostel-grade soap and hand sanitiser couldn’t budge for the next few days.

 

The reason I had the two numbers written across my arm was that I was about to jump off Bloukrans River Bridge in South Africa. At 216 metres, it is the highest commercially available bungee jump in the world on what was also considered the world’s largest single span concrete arch bridge. A fear of heights and want of adrenaline had driven me to sign up for bungee jumping the bridge, but it was the number written on my wrist that was first and foremost on my mind.

 

In order to throw you off the bridge with an elastic bungee cord in a safe manner, each person is weighed and their weight factors into the length of the bungee cord they use. That’s all fine and good, but there are few things more horrible for a girl-no matter how well-adjusted and confident she is- than having someone writing her weight on her body. And the black marker written on my arm was a clearer indication as any that I’d done what I’d dreaded: I’d packed on the pounds on my RTW.

 

68 kilos.

 

When I’d left home seven months earlier, I’d weighed under 60 kilos. Seven months of rice, beans, chicken and fried plantains down one coast of South America, and a hefty indulgence in Argentinian steak up the other side, had led me to this weighty problem of a double-digit gain.

 

Sure, for a little while I could have blamed the industrial dryers used in Colombia, Ecuador and Chile for shrinking my once-perfectly fitting travel clothes. Or I could have been honest with myself that a change in diet, excess consumption of alcohol, a change in routine and the unfortunate tendency of the only affordable food being greasy fast food meant that I had put on the pounds.

 

Still, I could also have stopped and appreciated the fact that maybe, just maybe, I had packed on the pounds because I was happy. Eating has always been an emotional issue for me- as I assume it is for every woman I’ve ever met. Before I left on my round the world trip, job and relationship stress had keep my 5”11 frame fairly skinny.

 

“You need to eat more” my friends and family said, poking at my ribs. “You need to lose some weight” my then-boyfriend said. The exhaustion of being a prodded this way and that about what I weighed kept me firmly on skinny side.

 

My body seemed to follow one rule: when I was happy, I packed on weight, when I was skinny, it was generally because I was miserable. But it took me until I was standing on the bridge in South Africa about to jump to work his out.

 

Here’s the real reason I had put on so much weight on the road: I was happy. In seven months on the road I’d rescued baby sea turtles in Costa Rica, swam with sharks in the Galapagos, camped with the Colombian military in the jungle north of Cartagena, hiked to the top of Wayna Pichu to overlook an ancient city, dragged my increasingly large butt across the W circuit in Patagonia, walked across a glacier, rode horses across the plains in Argentina and shopped for bigger sized clothes in Rio.

 

I’d never been more active in my life, and never had so much fun. I wasn’t unfit. I wasn’t fat. I was happy- and my weight gain was proof of that. So with that increasingly comforting idea in my head, I counted down from three and jumped, letting my screaming body. I had earned every one of those kilos, and every one of those kilos had ended up being well worth it.

 

So yes, you may gain a little weight while on the road. Your pants may become a little tighter and the bungee cord may ever so slightly have to be adjusted for your extra few pounds. But that's probably because you had a few extra pints with new friends, ate amazing food you know you'll never be able to taste back home, and filled your belly with experiences.  And you might have to consider that yes, you can measure happiness by how little your clothes fit once you return home.

 

 

By Shaney Hudson

Waistline

 



 

David Whitley takes a gruesome look in the mirror and realises that a different approach to health whilst travelling is needed 

 

 

 

When it comes to putting on weight, let’s just say that no-one’s going to be offering to give me a piggy back any time soon. Part of this is because I really like the sort of food that is generally accepted to be bad for me – pizzas, cakes and curries are, quite frankly, excellent inventions. But travelling regularly has to have something to do with it.

One of the challenges of travelling is staying healthy. There are many aspects to it that really don’t do the body any favours. Long journeys on buses, trains and planes aren’t exactly conducive to a healthy lifestyle, and natural rhythms take a kicking from changing time zones on a regular basis.

 

There’s also the small factor of what you eat. Through sheer practicality, most travellers tend to eat out more whilst away than they would at home. Regularly cooking for yourself while on the road requires a high level of self-discipline and staying in accommodation with proper kitchen facilities. Staying in the same place for a while helps too – no-one really wants to lug ingredients from town to town with them.

 

And when you eat out a lot, you don’t always have what’s good for you. If you’re anything like me, ordering a salad in a café or restaurant seems incredibly wasteful. Especially when there’s other, tastier stuff on the menu for roughly the same price. I also hate wasting food – Yorkshire blood, I’m afraid – so if I’ve ordered it, I’ll tend to eat it, even if I’m shovelling the last few scraps when I’m already full. Do that twice a day for weeks, and your waistline soon gets to know about it.

 

The more you move around, the more likely you are to use food as fuel than something to savour. When rushing for flights and trains, it often becomes a case of grabbing something on the way, with convenience being more of a motivating factor than nutrition.  Sandwiches, burgers, street food stalls and the like come into play perhaps more than is ideal.

 

Exercise regimes that are easy to make routine at home become much trickier whilst travelling too. Gym membership is futile, and it’s only extremely devoted joggers that can bring themselves to A) use up valuable bag space for extra trainers and running kit or B) go for a run every morning.

 

So what strategies can you put in place to make sure you don’t turn into a big fat biffer? I’ve a few...

 

 

 

1. Cook for yourself whenever possible – and go vegetarian when you do.

 

2. Ditch the puddings and those mid-afternoon ice creams. Snacking on anything just because temptation is there can mount up.

 

3. Keep the booze intake relatively manageable.

 

4. Swim whenever you get the chance. Jump in the sea daily if you’re by the coast, and use hotel or hostel pools for a few laps when possible.

 

5. Walk everywhere you can – even when putting an extra kilometre or two on to the journey. It’s often the best way of seeing things anyway. If it’s a few stops by public transport, it won’t take all that much longer.

 

6. Try and grab fresh fruit and veg from stalls instead of chocolate bars.

 

7. Drink water and fruit juice rather than cans of fizzy pop.

 

8. Don’t be scared to leave something on your plate every now and then.

 

9. Eat BEFORE you’re really hungry. Some of the worst eating decisions come when you suddenly realise you’re ravenous and go charging off to eat the first thing you find.

 

 

Do you have any tips for avoiding weight gain whilst travelling? Share them by leaving a comment below.

 

 

Flight coping

 

 

You can try and pretend otherwise, but frankly there’s no way of making a long flight to the other side of the world enjoyable. Unless you’re sat at the front of the plane bathing in a pile of your own £50 notes, then you’re likely to be cramped up in a small seat for longer than you’d really like to be. That said, it is possible to alleviate some of the misery, make the journey more tolerable and fight the jetlag...

 

 

Go West

For some reason, jetlag is almost always worse flying from west to east than east to west. No-one really knows why, but the body just seems to prefer it that way.  In jetlag terms, if you’re booking a round the world trip, you’re far better heading across the Atlantic first. 

 

 

Break the journey

Of course, the easiest way of avoiding a hellish 24 hour flight is to not have a 24 hour flight. Stopping off somewhere on the way to Australia or New Zealand makes sense on so many levels. It’s a chance to explore somewhere new, allow your body to adjust gradually, and work the first stretch of the journey out of your system before tackling the next. This, of course, is where a round the word ticket comes in.

 

 

Arrive at the right time

When booking your flights, take a look at what time they’ll arrive. Getting into Sydney at 6am and then forcing yourself to stay up for the whole day so that your body clock gets in sync is absolutely horrendous. Arriving in the afternoon or early evening means you get to expend that second wind of excitement that comes from arriving somewhere new, then go to bed at the right time. It’s worth seeing whether there’s an alternative flight that arrives at a better time...

 

 

Check in online

Get online a couple of days before you fly and check in through the airline’s website, and it’ll spare you a fair bit of time and stress at the airport. More importantly, you’ll be able to pick what seats you want, and hopefully some of the best seats are still available. Where those best seats are depends on the airline and the type of plane they’re using. But colour-coded diagrams can be found at Seatguru.com, highlighting the best and worst seats. The emergency exit rows tend to be best for space, but many airlines now charge extra for the privilege of sitting there. The seats behind the bulkheads are theoretically good too – they’ve got extra legroom. But this is often where families with young children get sat. You’re running the risk of being in screaming kid central.

 

 

Sneaky seat tricks

One of the best tactics if you’re travelling as a pair is to track down a row where three seats are placed together, and reserve the seats on either edge. The middle seat between you has instantly become one of the least appealing on the plane, and thus is less likely to have anyone in it. More space for the two of you to spread out in – hoorah. If the plane is pretty full and someone is sat there, you simply offer them one of yours so you can sit together. You’re no worse off than you would have been if you’d picked two together anyway. For solo travellers, everyone seems to have their own tactic. Mine is to target the least appealing seat on the plane, and try and sit myself next to it. No-one, for example, wants to be in the middle of the middle aisle at the back of the plane. So I tend to pick an aisle seat in the middle aisle towards the back. Unless the plane is full, I’ve a good chance of getting two seats to myself.

 

 

Come equipped

Most airlines will provide an eye mask for night flights – they’re really handy. But ear plugs are rarely included and they’re just as important for blocking out the outside world. You’ll also want to bring loose-fitting clothing that’s comfortable to wear and a few easily removable/ addable layers. Air crews seemingly like the plane to be either roasting hot or fridge-like, so you may need to add or subtract depending on circumstances. Never rely on the in-flight entertainment system working/ having decent films either – an engrossing book or two will make the flight far more enjoyable.

 

 

Maximise your space

It’s amazing how many people will accept the clutter in the seat pocket in front of them as something to be tolerated. A sensible pre-take off move is to take it all out and throw it in the overhead compartment. It sounds silly, but this can buy you an inch or so of leg room.

 

 

Fight the recliners

People who instantly recline their seat and keep it that way for the duration of the flight are sub-human scum. If they’re going to do that, then the gloves are off – prepare for war to protect your leg room. The first tactic is to be prepared. If you see them about to recline, shove your knees up hard into the space they’re going to recline into. They should take the hint when they hurt their back. If this doesn’t work, or you miss your window, either ask them to perhaps recline only half the way or do everything in your power to make them uncomfortable. Continually latch and unlatch the table, rummage around in the seat pocket, spread out a nice broadsheet newspaper so it tickles their head and aggressively jab the seat-back screen whilst pretending to adjust the volume.*

 

 

Drink sensibly

Yes, they may hand out free booze on the flight, but overindulging in it is likely to make you feel far worse. Dehydration is one of the worst aspects of flying – not to mention contributing factors to jetlag – and there are few worse things for dehydration than alcohol. If a couple of glasses of red wine help you relax (and thus sleep) then so be it, but getting off your chops purely because the drink is free is an exercise in stupidity. Also make sure you get plenty of water down. Cabin crews will rarely provide enough, so don’t be afraid to go to the galley and pester for more – ask for a large bottle if possible, and that spares everyone the annoyance of you continually going up to ask for small glasses.

 

 

Close your eyes and doze

Even if you’re someone who just can’t manage to sleep on planes, there’s a lot to be said for going through the motions of sleeping. Spending a couple of hours in a semi-sleeping trance can do the body and brain a surprising amount of good. The trick is to stop worrying about whether you properly get to sleep or not, and just sit back with your eyes closed in as relaxed a manner as possible. Switching off counts for a lot, even if you can’t fully nod off.

 

 

*Yes, this is childish, but shooting is too good for these selfish types.