Advice for Lone Travelers - 5 Ways to Protect Yourself
I am sitting in front of my computer completely transfixed on a blue-spiked collar and just seconds away from adding it to my shopping cart. Why? Because enough is enough. I can't travel anywhere or even head to the grocery store without being accosted. Am I emitting some "come hither" pheromone, which beckons random people to encroach on my personal space? Apparently, that seems to be the only logical explanation.
So it boils down to this decision. Which one of these collars should I strap onto my neck to prevent potential stalkers from getting too close? Blue or black?
All kidding aside, I am a magnet for crazy people. They appear harmless at first, but then they start showing their stalker-like tendencies soon after our initial meeting. My close friends have witnessed first hand how quickly strangers approach even when I'm buffered by an army of people. Since this happens often (especially when I travel), I have amassed a few tips to deflect unwanted attention or, at the very least, protect myself during precarious situations.
Tip #1: Download the bSafe app.
bSafe is one of those life-saving apps that help friends identify your whereabouts if you're wandering down a dark alley, approaching your car in a sketchy neighborhood, or jogging along an unfamiliar path.
Why I love this mobile app...
- Trusted friends assigned to your social safety network can virtually "walk you home" via a GPS tracker. You can also notify them when you've safely reached your destination.
- An SOS signal will alert your entire network if you are in imminent danger. Friends also receive recorded video and audio feeds so they know exactly what is happening.
- Schedule a fake incoming call if you need to get out of a predicament quickly.
I downloaded it soon after someone was assaulted at my gym parking lot. That horrific incident reminded me that atrocities can happen where you least expect it, so it helps to have a second pair of virtual eyes.
Tip #2: Trust your internal alarm system and take heed of several pre-defined warning signals.
My brother gave me a book entitled, "The Gift of Fear", which reinforces the notion that instincts are a powerful form of initial defense against possible attacks. If you have nagging doubts or can't shake that negative first impression, heed those cautionary signals and remove yourself from potential harm. I can't tell you how many times my visceral gut reactions saved me from challenging encounters.
If a stranger offers unsolicited help, doesn't take no for an answer, attempts to establish familiarity, and so on, you may be in danger. Gavin de Becker outlines these PINS (Pre-Incident Indicators) in his New York Times bestselling guidebook that identifies precursors to violence at length. This preventative primer empowers women by helping them quickly gauge and react to potentially dangerous situations.
Heads up: The initial chapter is quite descriptive, but provides the necessary framework for helping fellow females survive brutal attacks. Need a book during that long plane ride? Purchase this one.
Tip #3: Choose your poison - pepper spray or kitty keychains?
Pepper spray is a popular option among many females since it's easy to use and can be affixed to your gym bag, purse, or key rings. Make sure to replace them after the expiration date since pressurized containers lose their ability to spray intended distances (if at all). Other options include pepper spray pens and pepper spray lipstick. But given my accident prone tendencies, I would likely immobilize myself instead of the lurking creeper.
I doubt pepper spray is allowed through TSA checkpoints, so pack these in your check-in suitcase instead.
Wild Kat Keychains are deceptively cute, so attackers won't suspect that you are armed or dangerous. These appear completely innocuous at first glance, but can easily disable your assailant during an active attack. Click here to watch a video demonstration.
Caveat: I wouldn't suggest purchasing these if children can easily access them. The edges are quite sharp and should be used with extreme caution.
Tip #4: Be a bitch.
Someone recently told me that I am extremely approachable, easy to talk to, and couldn't possibly possess a mean bone in my body. This initial perception is most likely responsible for many unwanted conversations or advances since nice easily comes off as weak.
While I don't mind interacting with new people, I do mind attracting socially-inept individuals who take advantage of my accommodating nature. Some are just awkward and harmless, but others trigger instant heebie jeebies, which should command a different response altogether.
In "The Gift of Fear", the author tells potential victims that rudeness can prevent attacks, especially if the perpetrator continues to pursue you after you've said "no".
Don't be afraid to crank up the "bitch" factor when necessary. This is definitely something I personally need to work on doing, but my safety depends on it.
Tip #5: Notify your loved ones - They can function as your backup safety net.
There are few precautionary measures that I take while at home or on the road.
1. If you require the services of a plumber, appliance repairman, or contractor, send a screenshot of their contact information to someone you trust. Include time of scheduled visit and notify loved ones when these individuals leave.
2. Forward your travel itinerary to family members and use social media to "check in" if it is safe to do so. If you don't want to broadcast that your home is vacant, send a text message instead.
3. While traveling, make sure to memorize or take photos of license plates. I hired a driver in India and made sure I didn't get into the wrong car by repeatedly checking the license plate.
4. If you don't have a physical or electronic map handy while touring solo, take photos of key landmarks so you don't get lost while heading back to your hotel, hostel, or B&B.
I hope these tips are helpful in preventing potentially disastrous situations. This was not meant to be an exhaustive list, but a reminder of what to do and what to anticipate if you ever need assistance.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”