fussy eater turned foodie

Solo Travel in the Context of the ‘Me Too’ Movement

Recently, the media has been rife with stories from woman (and men) finally feeling comfortable enough to share their experiences of sexual harassment, whether it be mundane, inherent or traumatic, this has taken shape in the form of the ‘me too’ movement.

 

I must admit, I am a rather rubbish feminist. I sympathised with these women but felt like these situations had not really happened to me. I normalised this behaviour and allowed for the continuation of it by making allowances for people. I presumed this was normal and the way a lot of men were but since travelling I have realised how this a systematically negative problem in society.

 

I just want to share a few of my experiences in the hope that it can raise awareness for safety and make people realise that these kinds of behaviour are not OK! Now I am travelling alone, I have felt this more than ever. I enjoyed travelling with my best friend, who is an openly gay male but being in his company should not change the way people treat me as a female.

 

The first experience which my friend recently reminded me of was the skipper on our Whitsundays boat. He got us all (male and female) to play a game which essentially got everyone naked… it was fun and games but this same person woke myself (who was sleeping half naked due to the heat) and another girl up by sitting on our bed and tickling us… did he tickle the boys? No… did I want to be touched whilst I lay there in my bra? No… Did I just laugh it off? Yes.

 

Another traumatic experience was when I was alone in New Zealand; Auckland to be precise, for two days. This was the first time I had been alone in my travels and I felt optimistic and hopeful that I would gain confidence and start enjoying my own company more (I am a very socially dependent person, or at least I used to be…). I wandered around for the day and got approached by two guys asking me on dates, this is fine and normal, even slightly flattering but became tarnished by my next experience. I went to Ponsonbury, a nice neighbourhood in Auckland and sat down in a beautiful park to write some blog posts… when a man who seemed to be in his mid-30s started staring at me… I noticed the beer cans in front of him but he displayed characteristics of mental health problems too. He shouted over that I could use his laptop at his house, I politely declined and looked back at my phone. He continued to shout over and as I ignored, he started to head towards me with force… I jumped up and power walked off, to which he responded by screaming and making monkey noises, running around in a circle proclaiming “we evolved from chimpanzees” … I carried on and when I was safely far enough away I looked back to see him still staring. This made me shudder, what if I had been completely alone in this park? What if he had come with more force? I rang the guy I was dating at the time, who was in England and he simply said “just don’t be alone”. I was travelling alone! Does this happen to as many guys travelling alone? I doubt it.

 

Even dancing on the beaches in Thailand, I felt hands on my hips consistently whilst dancing with no attempt for communication. It was refreshing to be bought a non alcoholic drink and have a conversation with one decent guy! Yes, I am not saying everyone is bad… a few bad grapes should not spoil a bunch.

 

An even more eye opening, scary experience was in Cambodia. When in a different culture, I now try to immerse myself by befriending locals, if I can. The Khmer girls working at the hostel were so lovely, they became like little sisters and would take me out dancing to the local clubs… literally, I was the only white female most nights. I had so much fun and got to experience a different nightlife to what I was used to. I noticed on the first night that young guys followed the girls around on their bikes as if it was normal but I put this down to age mainly. However, one evening a local guy approached me and sat at our table with two open beers, luckily, I do not drink but it did not even occur to me until I told a girlfriend after that anything could have been in those. I am single, slightly flirty and friendly so I chatted to him for a bit. He asked me to hangout the next day and told me he would drive me home that night, I firmly made it clear I would be going home only with the girls in a tuk tuk but he was persistent and followed me back to my secluded hostel. The girls dropped me off first but he still came in and followed me to the restaurant area, which was closed. Fortunately, there was a sleeping security guard (who unfortunately, did not speak English). I based myself near him as I was too afraid to go to my private room. The guy kept trying to get me somewhere out of the security eye sight but eventually he gave in and came to talk to me – repeatedly saying he liked me, loved me and then wanted to sleep with me – I showed disgust and said no, he had tried to kiss me I pushed him off, he tried to kiss in between my legs, I clenched them together I told him I would punch him if he continued. I still felt somewhat in control of the situation as the security was my safety blanket but I knew I could not go to my room without him following me and the grip he had on my arms said that if he did follow me it would not end well. Eventually he left but I purposefully stayed out the next day to avoid him coming by. He was cute, he seemed sweet, why did he feel the need to put me in that situation? It left me feeling kind of scared, I want to travel and meet people without having to think of worst case scenarios for being friendly!

 

The last straw that compelled me to write this was when a guy I met in a friendly situation, who was also travelling alone, asked did I want to hang out in Bali… I took this innocently, I made a point that if we shared a room because it was cheaper than a dorm, it would be a twin bed and thought he just genuinely wanted a friend to hang out with. On the first day he was fine and friendly but by the second day he became inappropriate to the point I felt uncomfortable. When we were at rice terraces he embraced me and smelt my hair and said he just wanted to enjoy the moment, when we got back he got into my single bed offering a massage, I said no. He said he wanted to snuggle, I said I do not like being touched and do not want to be. He said he wanted to kiss me, I said please do not. He stayed in my bed to the point I had to ask him to leave to go to his. He was a sensitive, emotional guy and I gave him the benefit of the doubt that this had been a misunderstanding. I tried to make it clear I wasn’t interested, he asked me to give him a chance and I said he wasn’t my type. Eventually, I had to be so blunt that I said I am entitled to not fancy him yet when I spoke he continued to hold my leg or neck. I do not know how he did not realise how uncomfortable I was. When we got back to our shared room late I just wanted to play on my phone then could not sleep for feeling uncomfortable. The next morning, he woke me up by spooning me in my bed… how is that acceptable?! Had I not said I wasn’t interested? Had I not said I did not want to be touched?! Did he do this with guy friends he met and travelled with?! I packed my bags and left, disappointed and disheartened. Maybe I was lucky that my travel partner was gay and we had an uncomplicated friendship but why should that matter?

 

I apologise for the over sharing and the detailed rant but I felt so compelled to share my stories. I have experienced incidences my whole life and shrugged it off as my fault for being flirty or given the benefit of the doubt. However, I cannot do this anymore… I want to travel the world, I want to feel safe doing so… crime is real and exists for both genders, sexual harassment does too, my gay best friend got his back stroked on a night bus by an old gay man. Why is this normalised in society? To females (and some males), next time this happens it is not Ok… speak out and make people aware of how you feel! To those committing these acts, read the signs! No means no!!!!!

 

Don’t be afraid to say ‘me too’.

 

Me too

 

{ On a side note – one blogger I find inspiring is Danielle Lilly who speaks a lot about solo female travel and offers some advice – http://www.whileimyoung.com/marrakech-solo-female-travel-safety-tips-what-to-wear/ }

<3xx



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