It’s not always easy to travel alone as a woman, but solo travel can be the most rewarding and fun experience you’ll ever have. Unfortunately, chances are that if you’re a female out in the world, you’ll eventually have to deal with street harassment. It doesn’t matter what you look like or what kind of outfit you choose, catcalls and other annoying behavior can happen to anyone, particularly in parts of the world with more archaic attitudes toward women.
Don’t let the prospect of street harassment deter you from travel. Here are some simple strategies you can use to deal with this annoying phenomenon.
You’ll undoubtedly be surprised the first time it happens, but it helps to know ahead of time when you can expect to experience street harassment. Certain countries like Morocco, India and much of Latin America are known for more solicitous attitudes towards women walking alone. This doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t travel to those places, just that you should do some research ahead of time so that you know what to expect. Find out ahead of time if there are certain neighborhoods to avoid or if you should take a taxi home at night rather than walk.
It can be frustrating to come to terms with, but often times the best strategy for minimizing harassment is to simply ignore it. Men who catcall are looking for a reaction—even negative ones give them more attention and incentive to continue their behavior. Instead, just ignore the comments and keep your head held high.
Definitely resist the urge to get confrontational, as that may escalate the situation.
Don’t be Polite (Learn to Say No)
On the flip side, it’s important to learn how to shut down unwanted attention not just with body language but verbally as well. Oftentimes in Western cultures, women are taught to be polite even when we feel uncomfortable in a situation. If someone is pestering you for attention, for your phone number or for anything else, it’s perfectly alright to shut them down with a simple no and to walk away if they won’t take no for an answer. Don’t feel obligated to continue a conversation with anyone who makes you uncomfortable. It’s not rude—it’s perfectly appropriate.
Trust Your Gut
Only you can feel out the difference between a simple annoyance and an actual threat. Sometimes, the difference is so subtle that you can’t pick out exactly why you feel uneasy, but listen to your gut feeling nonetheless. If you ever feel truly unsafe, remove yourself from the situation as soon as possible.
If you need to get away from someone on the street, the easiest thing to do is to walk inside a hotel or store. You can also try flagging down a policeman or local woman for help.
Try Not To Be Discouraged
Reading about these situations ahead of time can be extremely overwhelming. It’s important to recognize that street harassment is an issue all over the world but that for the most part, it’s far more annoying than dangerous. Trust yourself, know your surroundings and you too can walk down the street without fear.