When I started the Solitary Series back in late June/early July, I bet you didn’t think you’d have to wait six months before getting to read parts two and three (well neither did I!). I planned on waiting until I returned from my trip to Spain to write part two on safety so that I could include practical tips and strategies that worked for me on my trip, since it was my first solo international trip. While I had a great time and was excited to share my experience with all of you, life got the better of me and I fell behind on writing. So today, I am faced with a list of stories and pictures to share with you all of the past six months, but first I want to finish what I started back in July so that you too can start embracing time alone without worrying about the pressures of social stigmas, safety as a woman traveling alone, and to simply be able to find satisfaction in time with yourself!
Part 2: SAFETY
“Keep your head on swivel, it’s a jungle out there!”
I shake my head with muffled laughter as I shout back, “I will!” to my dad as he pulls away from the curb of the movie theater. This catchphrase has been his regular parting gift to my sister and I for as long as I can remember. Whenever we were dropped off at football games, volleyball practice, outings with friends, or even when we drove out of the driveway in our own cars on the way back to college, that advice always lingered in the air as the dust settled.
Although I always took my dad seriously, I never felt worried about the “jungle” he was referring to; I grew up in a small town and went to university in a small, albeit bigger than my hometown, college town in West, Tx. It wasn’t until I started traveling (both solo and in groups) as well as moving to Dallas that I ever really started to use his advice wholeheartedly. Now, I can see that my dad’s words and other safety strategies I’ve learned along the way really have made a difference in my confidence as a woman.
In the Instagram polls I took for this series, when asked for the reason they didn’t go out alone, 57% of women said it was because they were too scared. On an additional open-ended question on the topic of stigmas being the reason, my favorite response was, “yes, but you know, and safety!” I got asked several questions about whether I carried a gun or pepper spray or held my keys in my hand a certain way (all great things to have, but I’m going to talk about what to do when those aren’t in your possession.)
Below are some tips that I have incorporated into my life that have helped me feel safer:
- Plan ahead– be intentional about where you’re going to go and look up how to get there beforehand, especially if it requires walking before reaching your transportation.
- Eliminate opportunities- sounds weird when I word it like that, but I mean that you should take away options for something to go wrong. Don’t sit in your car and idle before driving away; if you’re walking alone at night and there is a guy (also alone) walking towards you, simply cross the street and walk on the other sidewalk; sit near other people on the subway/bus and not separated by yourself; park near the front of a building and/or near a bright light in the parking lot. (Ex: the pic below was from my walk back to my hotel in Spain; I always walked on the right because it was a clear sidewalk and I wasn’t close to the cars where someone could easily be hiding and/or pull me into the car. Morbid, I know, but a gal has to think of these things!)
- Keep your head up- GET OFF YOUR PHONE! I understand that you may need to use it on occasion for a map or a text, but keep your head up and your eyes focused on your surroundings. Occasionally glance around you and behind you (or on swivel, as my dad would say!), and take in who is around you.
- Walk intentionally & confidently- I found this helped me a lot when in Spain, whether I was walking around the city trying to find lunch or returning to my hotel from the subway at 1am (Spaniards stay up LATE!). I would walk with my head up, eyes staring straight ahead, and with an intentional stride to my steps; I simply looked like I knew what I was doing and where I was going, and that helped me feel more confident, and in my head made me think that no one was going to try and mess with me!!
- *DON’T feel like you have to alter your appearance- I often hear women say that they feel they need to dress down so as to not get unwanted advances, or to always wear their hair down because it’s easier to grab a ponytail. Ladies, you should NOT have to alter your appearance to feel safe!!! Let’s be honest, a creepy guy at a restaurant or bar is going to hit on you no matter what you’re wearing, and it is not your job to make him a better person. You do you, boo!!
Part 3: SATISFACTION
Okay, so now that we’ve discussed stigmas and safety, getting those practical things out of the way, let’s get you out there!! How, you ask? By doing something you like.
Seriously, just go do something you enjoy, it can be big or small. These are a few of the things that I enjoy doing by myself:
- going to a movie
- grocery store
- Barnes & Noble, browsing with a coffee in hand
- art/music festivals
- museums (in Spain I did a whole day of free museums and it was the BEST!)
- jazz club
- restaurants (nice and/or casual)
Go out, despite your insecurities, and focus on enjoying the meal/show/event/experience; if you need to take a book or be on your phone, that’s okay, but don’t feel like you need to just to seem busy. Get to know the people around you! I have made friends with bartenders, waitresses, regulars, or just said hi to those around me, and so many great conversations have come from it. It may seem weird that I’m telling you to do that when the point is being satisfied in being alone, but if you are alone because you have to be (single, friends are busy, new in town, on vacation by yourself, etc.), don’t let that limit you!! There’s a girl who rents karaoke rooms by herself every once in awhile and just rocks out for two hours, having a blast putting on her own concert!
Find new ways to challenge yourself, and don’t be afraid to step out in faith and bravery to try something new! It may be hard at first, but it’ll open up a freedom and a side of yourself that you can’t believe you’ve waited this long to experience. You’ve got this!!
Now go, and live fearlessly authentic.