People ask me all the time, 'aren’t you nervous traveling alone'?
I usually look at them funny and think no? Why? Wait, should I be? I do tend to have rose coloured glasses on and always assume good intent, as in the world is a wonderful place where humans naturally are pleasant and helpful creatures. I have found this to be true 99% of the time. Yes of course, you obviously need to be smart about things and be aware of your surroundings, but you also need to simply trust your gut (your intuition).
Here’s a little travel story to explain what I mean.
I was on my way up to Iowa, and saw on the map that I would be driving right through St. Louis Missouri so I decided to stop in since I was driving right by. I thought I would take a couple hours to break up the extremely long drive from Nashville to Osceola and check out the city. I had done no research on St. Louis. All I knew about it was they had this giant arch thing that looked like something out of Star Trek, and my friend from Iowa said I MUST go up the arch.
Now I’m not a fan of heights so going up the arch really was not my number one priority, and luckily (or I mean sadly) when I arrived it was completely sold out and I wasn’t able to go. I did however want a cool picture of the arch and the skyline, so I took a little walk down along the waters edge enjoyed watching some of the boats go by and then saw a bridge ahead of me and thought ‘perfect! I’ll just go across that and get a great picture!’
As I was getting closer to the bridge I started to have an uneasy feeling in my stomach. It looked like there was a bit of construction or something going on at the entrance to the bridge so I figured that’s all it was and kept going. I was about 1/3 of the way across and really started to feel unsure about my decision, there was a lot of broken glass on the bridge, some old broken needles and other rubbish everywhere along the sidewalk. I started to feel this nagging like, turn around, you have no where to go here if something were to happen. I finally made it to a spot that looked decent enough to get a panoramic picture and then I turned around and decided I wasn’t going to cross all the way for the ‘perfect’ picture.
I felt like I hadn't seen enough of the city and I seemed to be in a 'touristy' part of town, but that uneasy feeling didn't really go away once I was off the bridge so I decided it was time to go. I toddled back to my car and carried on my way not thinking anything more of the uneasy feelings I had had.
It wasn’t until a few months later I was having a drink with a friend in Denver that I learned how accurate my gut had been that day. He was originally from St. Louis and I told him I had stopped by and mentioned that I had started to cross a bridge from the arch to get a better view. The look on his face was one of disbelief. He said ‘you were going to go to East St. Louis!?’ I shrugged my shoulders and said yes, I guess (since i really had no clue what direction I had been walking) but i decided to turn around.
Apparently East St. Louis is a very dangerous part of town and definitely not somewhere a solo female traveler should be going.
SO moral of this story, always trust your gut! It knows what’s best.
I also had another experience in South Dakota when I was having car trouble. I ended up parked in a bank parking lot across from a small diner. I kept hearing this voice saying, ‘go to the diner’ but instead I sat on the phone with my mom having a small meltdown, then talking to my mechanic at home who obviously wasn’t really able to help me and then on the phone with AAA. I was staring down the barrel of a $2000 towing bill because the nearest Hyundai dealership was 200 miles away (I was only covered for 100 miles) and the garages that I had called locally said they couldn’t work on my kind of car. After another meltdown and feeling completely alone, I decided to go wait for my tow in the diner because it was freezing in my car and the snow just kept falling.
The waitress in the diner brought me a cup of tea and when i mentioned my dilemma she said ‘Oh did you call the guys up the hill?’ I looked at her and said no, she found me the number and I called. Wouldn’t you know it, they said they would at least take a look at my car and see what’s up. They came down the hill, picked up my car and me and then showed me inside to the waiting room. It wasn’t too long before the shop manager came in and said I was ‘Good to Go’ my rear brake had locked up for some reason, but they fixed it and it was working now and it cost me less than $100. WOW! I stress again, your gut knows what’s up, so listen. There's a reason it's called your second brain (more on that in a future post)
And for the solo female travelers or soon to be solo female travelers out there, please know that the world is a safe place most of the time, but use your head, let people know where you are going, when you will be back, share your itinerary, text a friend, don’t wear headphones while you’re out walking, and just be vigilant of your surroundings and most importantly Have Fun! Traveling is an amazing adventure.