What are some tips for women in their solo travel adventures?

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Answered by: Rachel, An Expert in the Tips for Female Travelers Category
When I was living in Ghana, solo travel adventures were a necessary practice. I lived with 4 of my coworkers for a total of one year. While they grew to be my family in many respects, I was nonetheless living, working, sleeping, and eating in the same space with the same four people. Periodically, I needed to up and leave to ensure sanity for all parties.

Traveling alone is both harder and easier than when traveling in groups. Reservations are a breeze, finding a table a cakewalk, even the simplicity of making a travel itinerary is so much simpler. If you want to change your route, you can. If you want to stay an extra night in a particular city because you didn't get a chance to check out a well known market, you don't need to seek approval from any fellow travelers. However, one of the downsides of traveling solo, especially as a woman in West Africa, is you tend to get a higher rate of unwanted attention. Being in a group can deflect many of the common disturbances experienced by a woman while traveling in this region.

For one of my solo sojourns, I traveled to Togo. The moment I successfully crossed the border by myself, I walked to the nearest hirable motorcycle driver, said, “that way!” and sped off into the capitol, Lome. To be fair, this sounds dramatic but it takes 45 minutes to cross the entire country going from west to east. Opportunities for getting lost were pretty slim. I dismounted from the moto at the most secluded beach bar I could find and accepted a wonderfully chilled Coke from a waitress. Tables nestled in the sand were shaded by tall palm trees, fresh fruit was available for purchase, and the surf pounded in the background.

“Bonjour! Comment allez-vous?”

My peaceful moment of solitude was shattered by a smiling Togolese. I managed to reply, “Uh, bien, merci…” as he invited himself to sit. And it began. The only thing I can equate it to was involuntary speed dating. After I evicted Man #1 from the chair, he was followed by #2, #3, #4, and #5. My journal sat next to me on the table – beckoning me with the promise introspection. But the journal didn’t get a word in edgewise. An hour and a half later I was fed up. I drained my luke-warm Coke, bought some fresh papaya from a friendly vendor, and escaped the “secluded” beach bar for the sandy streets of Lome.

Many women can recount similar stories during their solo travel adventures. Traveling alone can give you a lot of freedom for spontaneity and independence. Often, those are the most attractive aspects for women. However, in terms of deflecting unwanted attention, here are some tacit tips from one seasoned traveller to another:

1. Be Polite

Yes, I understand you don't want him in front of you. However, being overly forceful and deprecating with your refusal to engage with the man can lead them to anger and defensiveness. Sometimes, their wounded pride can cause more trouble, or develop into "a scene." Be calm and quiet, and simply request that you prefer to be alone.

2. Smooth the ego

In the end, when you're approached by most men in this region, most of them are putting on a show. Sometimes they are merely curious as to where you come from, and other times they have more nefarious motives. Either way, smooth their ego when you tell them you're not interested in speaking. You can thank them for their attention, compliment the courage it took to approach you, or answer one or two of their questions. Being brusque and insulting them will only increase resentment.

3. Be married (or so they think)

I agree, ladies, you shouldn't have to lie to make other men desist their attentions. However, sometimes, it's the fastest way to deflect unwanted attention. If you have a real wedding ring and a real husband to use to your advantage, by all means make that relationship known. However, for everyone else who doesn't have a husband, or a real wedding ring, sometimes having a simple ring you can slip on at the right moment will help.

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