This is a men’s world... should a woman travelling solo be scared?

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Some time ago a post “Do you like sex ..? written by Lydia, solo female bicycle traveler from the Netherlands raised vivid discussions on facebook bike touring group. Lydia described both previous and contemporary cases, mainly during her travels by bicycle, when she was sexually harassed by men – it could be just by somebody using “innocent” word,, but she went through fortunately unsuccessful attempt of rape. Most men reading the post seemed not to realize the fact that such things take place. Yes, they do, since even when you are on a bike, nothing changes – men are still men and women are women. Obvious obviousness. I promised myself then to describe my stories of this kind from my life on the road. I was lucky they were not that drastic, but let’s call somehow definitely uncomfortable.

Japan. It is early sunday morning in Hiroshima – quiet, calm, no passers-by – the streets are extinct as if it was not Japan. This time I’m without a bicycle, I go sightseeing so just want to catch the tram. I’m at a tram stop looking at the timetable and try to find out when the tram arrives. A kind passer-by walks close and as I understand he wants to help me. He stares at the plate just like me for a while and then .. I grabs my butt, the front as well and soon after that runs down the street. I do not know whether the more it pisses me off, or makes me laugh .. “hope this two seconds made you happy man” the thought runs through my head, but I don’t feel well at all.

Thailand. I am pedaling at my own pace when a boy overtakes me on a scooter. “Hello!” he greets me so I reply “hello” as well. I hear greetings many times during the day, especially here, in central part of the country where people are generally very friendly towards rarely seen here foreigners. The boy, however, returns. When I stop, he something says something to me in Thai, pointing to a forest nearby. I wrinkle my forehead, but I don’t want to understand… It seems incomprehensible to me – this child does not even have his first mustache and has the audacity to submit me sex proposals. Me, that as a simple glimpse could be his mother. When he touches my breast I have no doubt I shout at him showing that I just call the police immediately. I see just a smoke of his quickly disappearing scooter.

Vietnam. At that time I have two companions but we lose each oher somehow passing through the town. I’m standing on the roadside somewhere in the shade and wait until they arrive. Young Vietnamese riding a scooter also stops there. So what, he stopped. Well, but he is saying something to me, then he shows some money. Well, I am not mistaken, he is offering money for sex. I send him to hell as well in Polish and quickly see his scooter disapperaing. When I tell my companion about this incident he is most interested in what color was the bill I was offered. “You were not curious, how much you was valued?” I hear. Well, how nice.

Cambodia. I cycle through the village, I stop here and there, I eat, shop then I go on cycling for several kilometers but I feel that in a thousand scooters every now and then I see the same one. Well, but I am not wrong, when the road gets empty, village ends and houses disappear I see this scooter standing on the side of the road and a man a little hidden in the bushes masturbating. Well, it is not funny.

Greece. Small town again, as I am shopping, I see passing by old man. He barely moves on walking slowly. After some time I sit down on the square using free wifi there when I see the same man approaching me. He walks slowly, heavily leaning on a cane. When it gets close to me he is curiously watching and says something. I do not know Greek, so in such moments I try to just be nice – a smile on my face and a gesture of helplessness – I do not understand what you’re saying to me, unfortunately! The man touches my hair. Well, here blonde is rather unusual color – in Asia it also happened to me that black haired people wanted to touch fair hair. But wait a minute! The guy is trying to get my head to his lips while pulling my hand to his trousers button fly. No man, y9ou must be joking! I push the old man, because I do not want to treat him nicely any more and I cycle on pretty mad.

Serbia. It is pretty cold, foggy evening in November so I do not want sleep in a tent and look for a shelter. I find the only gueshouse in this tiny village, talk to the owner about the price as he shows me the room. 15 Euro he says. Could it be 10? I ask innocently as 15 is actually a bit too much for me. Then he takes me and says – if we make love a little it wil lbe less. Oh well, really? My body is worth this 5 Euro discount? I push him away and require another room at different part of the building. I still think whether to stay but really the cold night is not friendly. I stay and lock my room tight.

And finally – Poland! A few years ago, when I was still afraid to sleep in the wild. I’m in the mountains looking for accommodation – I see a rural gueshouse, perfect place then. Can I put my tent here? I ask. Of course, no problem, there is a good place behind the house, grass trimmed, feel free. Nice place, pleasant atmosphere, there are some guests and prepare the barbecue. Safe, right? I fall asleep, but in the middle of the night a sudden noise wakes me up. A few men – four or five stand around the tent, shining their flashlights onto it .. and pretend to be bears. They are drunk so they roar, howl, talk nonsense and throw hints at me. Definitely they have fun, and I lie rigid with fear hearing only my heart pounding through my head and go through the worst scenarios. Alcohol changes people, I do not know what can come to their minds. I do not know how long it lasts, but when they finally go reeling with laughter, I grab my backpack with documents, jacket and run into the woods. I’m sitting there for two hours or so shaking do not from what more – fear or cold. Then I decide to go back to my tent but do not fall asleep. As soon as dawn rises I leave. My only regret is that I did not go to say “thank you” to the host.

These are just a few examples.

I do not want to get misunderstood. It is not that I feel permanent danger while travelling solo thinking that every man I encounter wants to try my femininity – on the contrary, I always say that a woman traveling alone inspires others to look after her and to help – this is what I experienced dozens of times.

Maybe someone can tell – your stories don’t convince me, nothing happened really. Fortunately, nothing bad happened, but I was not laughing. I felt fear, resentment, anger. I’m a woman traveling solo because I like to travel like this and do not want to be afraid. This, even innocent-looking situations should not take place.

Therefore – should a woman traveling alone be afraid of? My answer is, on the contrary to the prevailing positive opinions – sometimes yes, she has reasons to feel so. She should never forget that she is a woman and this little fact changes a lot. I have a few safety rules which I follow, I described them in the “For Women” blog entry and I believe that obeying them helps me to go safe.

Safe journeys to all!

Added 11 thinking about "This is a men’s world... should a woman travelling solo be scared?

  1. Thailand, West Coast. My bike several times ahead of two young men on a scooter – heloł and alluring look. Stubbornness enough for them for good 20 km.

    Regards
    Wojtek 🙂

  2. Wow, Ewa! I also had several similar adventures. I remember, as in Tanzania I went briefly into the water, and by 5 seconds I felt on my butt a few hands of local adolescents… and they did not have the desire to give up or go away.
    The situation in Hiroshima had to be awfully strange. I, Japończycy 😉 Mi kilka razy zdarzyło się być namolnie fotografowaną, especially in parks or on the beach. Gentlemen do not quite done with the fact, I screamed and that clearly showed “dame” (not allowed). usually they stopped, as I started to curse in Polish… (“ups, This is not American!”).

    1. Well, I also very surprised this incident, at the end of a foreigner in Japan it is virtually untouchable, So I was on the bus with his mouth open.. but also there has just had another unpleasant incident – I was hit by a car, who fled. There are cases examined on the go.. As for the pictures well – it gets the monkey – annoying, and how, However, at least not dangerous.

  3. Hi Ewa,
    i also got offered a free sleeping place at a camping site in a coastal town in Spain,by the owner. He said to me, look,a camping spot at this site costs 10 eur. I said, no thanks, i think I’ll keep cycling and camp somewhere on the beach. Then he offered me a ‘free’ place in his caravan, but i did have to share the bed with him. So gross! I went away feeling sad, disappointed in men and angry.

    A few weeks later I met a fellow cyclist,a guy cycling in the same direction as me. After a few days he started to get a bit too familiar. One afternoon he rested beside me when i laid down to take a midday (to hot to ride) nap. I told him i did not appreciate his sudden fysical closeness, and suggested he backed off. The thought came to my mind:’okay, i need to go further alone’ . i couldnt stand his presence anymore since that moment.
    He noticed and we talked about it, and he made me feel like i might have taken it to heavily and maybe overreacted a bit.

    So, i descided it couldnt do any harm to cycle further together, since we were already back on the road. Two days later our roads would separate anyway.
    But on the last night, we went wild camping somewhere in the midst of nature. we ate together and he drank some alcohol that he bought on the way.
    Suddenly he started saying some dubious things, suggesting that i had lead him on and so on. That he thought i was supressing my feelings and in fact was interested in him.
    I didnt know what i was hearing! At that point i started doubting if he was really a good guy (until that point i thought he was), as i feared he might force himself upon me. I listened to him for a little while, noticing that there was no talking sense into him. Some frustrations about his experiences in life with woman he fell for, passed the revue.
    And i felt i had to be very carefull with wath i said or didnt say. Like i was an insect,already trapped by a spider in his web. i felt i couldnt move.

    I descided i had to exit the situation and acted firmly, saying ‘goodnight’ as i left for my tent. I slept that night with my pocket knife beside me, finally falling asleep after i heard a snoring sound in the tent besides me.
    I left the day after, not saying a word to him. I felt betrayed, stepped upon, vulnerable but fed with anger i packed my stuff, rode away and never looked back.

    A few days later he texted me: ‘you are lucky i am such a pollite man, be carefull, because there are other types of men out there, you might not be so lucky then..’
    Again, this feeling of anger, sadness, and also the judgement of myself. how could i be so naive? i shouldve followed my gut feeling and cycle of the first time he tried something.

    But even after these, and other events I still enjoy cycling on my own. Even these encounters teach me some things about putting boundaries, being strong and independent. And knowing that there are many men who would never do or say such things to make a woman feel less powerfull then she is.

    1. Hey Lizzie, wow, thank you so much for sharing your stories as well! Do not know what I an say about apart from “sorry it had happened to you”, but it shouldn’t be me to say “sorry” but the guy that was soooo polite. Uh.
      It can’t be this way that we do not trust people any more at all, taht would be nonsense.
      Happy and safe travels!

  4. This, unfortunately, are not situations , that happen to girls traveling alone, I always ride with her husband and ambiguous situation had unfortunately a little less:((( It happened that my husband kept me out of hand and it somehow does not bother others obmacywaniu :(( And this is just scary, because if the husband does not bother them, how to stop them? , what to do? and how can you feel safe?

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