It Could Be Anyone, Anywhere

  

It’s tough being a modern, independent, adventurous woman sometimes.  When I ended my last long-term relationship of 3 1/2 years, my protective bubble fell away. I’ve experienced how being outgoing, nice, and alone has made me a perfect target for predators, and has set my ‘bullshit detector’ on full blast.

At home or abroad, it makes no difference- it still happens.  While working at a nice farm-to-table bar and restaurant where I lived, I was walked in on in a bathroom (that didn’t lock properly) and trapped.  The guy got a swift knee in the gonads and I got away.  So did he.  My last 2 days in Thailand, a man I met who spoke 5 languages and was finishing up his degree, wouldn’t let me close my door after walking me to it.  He only left after I told him I’d raise my voice louder after every time I told him to go.  Guess he wasn’t smart enough to translate ‘No.’  Of course he had the audacity to ask me out the next day.  Get out of my life!  When someone offers to buy me a drink, my automatic thought is, ‘what do you want from me?’  I’ve come a long way from being naive and trusting.

While backpacking Costa Rica, I made friends with a local.  He offered to show me around the gems of Manuel Antonio, and I was excited to see the less touristed areas.  We trekked for a while, but once we were in a completely secluded area, he asked me to lift up my top.  I was out like lightning.  It was then (my first solo trip) that I had to come to terms with who I was to the outside world, especially while traveling: attractive, single, and easy to take advantage of.  It was depressing.  I wanted to make genuine connections, get to know another way of life, see the side of places I might not be able to on my own.  Why did there have to be an alterior motive?

This isn’t a ‘woe is me, I’m beautiful and life is hard’ post.  It’s a message to men that women, under no circumstances should be viewed as something to be conquered.  It’s a message to women that it could be a reality for you.  It’s a warning that the cool operator that says you have a beautiful heart and he only wants to respect you, might actually want to do the opposite.  I know this, because I’ve experienced that.

I’m truly thankful that these close calls haven’t gotten out of my control; I feel for those in which it has.  My heart seriously hurts for humanity when a gentle, beautiful, trusting person can be broken.  It’s not fair.

This isn’t a light post, I know, but it’s an issue worth talking about.  Many travel blogs only talk about the beautiful, positive side-and surely that’s true and real, but there’s the dark side too.  So much seems swept under the rug and replaced for something lighter and brighter.  I want to share my beautiful discoveries with you too,which I do, but I  also want to reveal the darker truth that few seem to talk about. 

My intention is not to discourage solo travel, but enlighten, raise awareness, and hopefully arm you properly.  It’s a big, beautiful, chaotic world out there worth exploring.  But not everyone is as trustworthy as myself and perhaps you.  Not everyone has pure intentions, and that is just the reality.

The hard part is acknowledging it is a part of life.  Have I put myself in situations where the probability of these instances are more likely to happen?  In some cases, yes.  Does it make it justifiable?  No.  But I refuse to change who I am and how I do things unless it suits me.  Why should I?

It’s upsetting and frustrating because I come from a place that wants to see the best in people.  Although I’ve had numerous experiences where I’ve been unjustly disrespected and sexually harassed, it hasn’t lead me to put all men under the umbrella of unworthy.  But it’s happened enough times that I want to speak about it.  What gives?

Beautiful Strangers

I arrived in Vientiane yesterday.  I wandered the streets with no direction and became very sad.  I had been advised to skip Vientiane and was told, “It’s just another city.”

As I walked the night market, not looking at anything, I thought about all the wonderful people I met in Luang Prabang.  Now, everyone had scattered on their separate ventures, and now here I was wondering why I was there and lonely.

I found an outdoor restaurant and ordered a beer.  As I perused the menu, I looked up into the eyes of an older gentleman smiling at me.

“I saw you there, and you looked sad.  I thought to myself, what can I do to help?  So I smile at you and I see you smile back.  That’s better.”  He tells me in his French accent.

I needed that.  As I devoured my chicken and onion with fried rice dish he exclaimed, “My God, well I know you’re not going to starve!”

I laughed and told him my favorite thing about Southeast Asia is the food.

Soon after he said goodbye, an older couple sat down on the other side of me.  Right away, the gentleman asked where I was from.  He and the woman had met on a Thai island in 1981 and kept in touch through snail mail all this time.  Now, years later, here they were, traveling together.

I told them I had just come from Luang Prabang and the woman said she did too and saw me there.  The man weaved his hands back and forth- the flow of people coming in and out of your life.

I was feeling lost for a brief time in this big city, and these strangers lifted my spirits and made me smile.  You’re only allowed to be sad for a moment here, so keep your glass half full and someone, perhaps a beautiful stranger will fill it.