Being a woman is liberating. Traveling solo abroad is exhilarating. When blending the two together, traveling solo is a once in a life-time opportunity that changes lives and perceptions about the world. Lately, India has received a bad-rap about women who travel the country in pursuit for adventure and come home a mental mess due to harassment from local men. Harassment in India is not a new perception, but thanks to the wide-spread social media networks, news travels faster than the speed of light.
First thing to understand is that harassment can happen to anyone in any part of the world. This does not mean that women should stop traveling to India, but must be smart about their approach throughout the country, especially when flying solo. These useful tips are beneficial for those who are traveling solo or without a male companion and want to stay safe from trains to massage parlors.
Ayurvedic treatments are common in India. However, a general rule of thumb is that a female therapist treats female clients and a male therapist treats male clients. Prior to entering the massage room, confirm with the staff that a female therapist will perform the treatments.
India is affordable, especially with the conversion rates being around 60 rupees per one US dollar. Purchase a first class ticket, and avoid second and third class. India is so different that a first class ticket is nowhere near the experience of the Eurorail. People throw themselves and luggage through the windows, thus lines do not exist. The first-class train is adventurous enough. For those who have fear of the train, fork up the few extra bucks for a domestic flight. Flights range between $30 to $70 US dollars.
In a sea of brown people, lighter skin sticks out. Mentally prepare yourself that you will attract many wandering eyes. You can avoid being looked at by what you wear. India is becoming more progressive in certain cities, but tight clothes and bare skin will always attract eyes. India is hot so short sleeved and knee lengths pants and skirts are reasonable. Women can also purchase local clothing such as a Punjabi dress to try to blend in better.
Leave your Valuables at Home
Valuables attract eyes. The technology wave makes people irresistible to living without technology. Leave the iPod, tablet, laptop and other goodies at home. If bringing a smart phone, make sure to use it in a safe environment like a café and keep it protected with smart gear. Some people who see technology find it as an interesting way to strike conversation to want to exchange contact information. Or someone is trying to sneak a hand into that purse to grab what they want.
In the “old days,” thieves would pick pocket and slash bags in a blink of an eye. Sly like a cat, these slick thieves will be fooled with your Pacsafe theft proof travel gear.
Part of traveling abroad is to meet the locals. Follow your gut before you expose too much information. Do you trust this person? Or does something not quite feel right about this person? Never reveal your contact information, hotel location, room number or other pertinent information on where people can find you. People in India lie all the time to tourists, so a white lie on telling someone you are staying across town is better than being too kind and risking a situation. The point is to overcome naivety, which “corrupt” people can sense.
Part of manifesting good and bad events are through your thoughts and emotions. If you are on overdrive with fear about getting robbed or starred at, then take it as a sign to join a tour or day trips. When someone obsesses about something bad happening, it usually happens. If you catch yourself thinking or saying, “The only thing I (do not want) did not want to happen was…” it’s a sign that the universe is sending you what you are thinking about most of the time.
Women should embrace traveling, but need to open eyes to the world of possibilities. For as many good things that happen while traveling, something bad can happen too. Women shouldn’t walk around with rose-colored glasses, but continue to travel with eyes wide open to the environment. India is an amazing place, with more good than bad. But remember when entering a world of starving mouths and poor pockets, people flock to westerners, whether male or female, in search of a bit of help or curiosity.
Continue to travel, endure the locals and embrace the chaos. India is a special place and is waiting for you to explore the beauty, culture and chaos.
Elizabeth is a fitness professional, workshop presenter and freelance writer. She is an active traveler who treks the globe looking for interesting stories to write and places to photograph. Her most significant travel achievements include living and volunteering in Australia twice and studied yoga in India.