(This will be the first of several more stories, I will be featuring female solo travelers I’ve met around, how they survived and other tips)
Solo travel is scary.
When I first started out, although I’ve put up a strong facade, I was shivering inside. I could still remember the feeling that with what I was about to do I was putting one foot inside death’s door. It still feels that way each time but experience had boosted my confidence.
I worried about getting into an accident, scammed, robbed, raped or worst murdered. My body thrown at a riverbank to be subjected to elements and discovered days later – decaying. I imagined all sorts of bad things happening to me.
I am sure these fears are the ones dominating the minds of solo female traveler wannabes and they are legitimate fears. I will not sugarcoat things and say that people are innately kind or say that the Philippines or the world is safe. It isn’t which is why we have been trained since childhood to not talk to strangers, go with any of them or travel alone at night, to always be on guard. This is what society had evolved to – a scary one.
These fears may be legitimate but it shouldn’t freeze a woman to solo travel.
Here is an unsolicited advice, travel solo once in your lifetime.
People will raise eyebrows, some would assume you have no friends or boyfriend to travel with, that you are probably a loner, that you are soul searching (as if you lost your soul somewhere), that you just got out of a relationship, a break-up or you just want to be with yourself for a while – any of these could be your reason.
What prompted me to do solo travel was the conflict when scheduling, on last minute someone will back-out and everything would go haywire – trip cancelled. Later on, I realized that solo travel freed me from putting up with other people’s bullshit. I still travel with friends of course because the experience is different however some experiences are meant to be shared while some aren’t.
Your first step would be to start locally, try discovering your barangay, your town, your municipality, your province; the next thing you’ll know you’ve gone over to the nearby province. Your confidence will start to grow, you’ll develop street-smarts, you’ll easily detect scams, you’ll know when to bargain and when not to.
But these are just baby steps as you’re still in your comfort zone. Travelling to Ilocos, Cordillera, Visayas or Mindanao where the people you’ll be interacting with speaks dialects you wouldn’t understand is scary. Language barrier is intimidating but thanks to our educators, literacy in our country is much higher than our neighbors so you can either talk in Filipino or English and you’ll probably be directed to the right direction or they’ll direct you to someone who understands you.
Alone and in an unfamiliar territory, the fear of the unknown will start to creep in until it paralyzes you. And like how women are wired, the mind goes overdrive but it isn’t without basis. We have read news stories of women getting raped, murdered or who went missing while solo traveling in other countries.
It is not different in the Philippines, you can get scammed, robbed, raped or worst murdered.
How to mitigate or avoid any of those from happening? I won’t be saying that it would work each time because there are a lot of people walking around with several loose screws.
You’ll probably laugh at what I’m about to tell you and stop reading but I’ve used it and I hope it will work for you as it did for me.
I didn’t study Psychology but I believe that their is good and evil in each of us. Depending on the circumstances, evil can surface and that too applies with being good. It just needs to be triggered that is why a lover cheat on their partner or that is why a friend tattles his/her own friend or that is why a person can betray his/her country.
So how do a female solo traveler apply this theory while traveling? You need to trigger the goodness in the other person.
Trigger the good.
How? Let the other person talk about himself (I’ll use he since men will pop up on your travel more often than women as a tricycle driver, a bus conductor, a boat operator, a habal-habal driver etc etc).
Based on my travels, people always has a story to tell even the shy ones. Talking to a stranger (a female) who they’ll never see again makes it easier to open up so strike a conversation and don’t forget to show you are genuinely interested, faking it triggers bad emotions and you wouldn’t want that.
End your dialogues or answers with another question. Ask about his job, his family, his town, his politics, how he view the world, the music he listens to, if he has a dog how old is the mutt, if he was from a certain town and got married into that town ask about his love story, if he is single ask about the girl she is courting.
When he starts asking details about you, give less or make things up and keep it short. When it can’t be help like this scenario,
“Bakit ka pupunta dun ineng, bakit ka nag-iisa? Babae ka pa naman. Delikado na ngayon, hindi ka ba nagbabasa ng dyaryo?” your reply would be something like “Oo nga eh, pagpunta ko po dun sasalubungin ako ng ka-opisina ko. Saka sabi sa akin (smile at him) ng mga kakilala kong nagpunta rito, mababait ang mga taga-rito. Tama po ba?”
The other person would probably smile but the phrase mababait ang mga taga-rito would force him to say yes in his mind even if he doesn’t vocalize it. You just conditioned his mind that he is one of those good people you were talking about.
My favorite topic is family, men especially fathers are always proud of their sons or daughters. Talking about their family especially their children always works for me. Usually they’ll tattle how their eldest son or daughter have gone to this school and was awarded this and that kind of medals or honors.
Ask mundane questions,
“Ilang taon na anak mo?” “Wow, galing nyo naman tay napaaral nyo silang lahat?” if they mention that they have six children who finished college, you’ll probably stay on this topic until you reach your destination. Or if it is on the negative like “Wala nga eh, ang aga nagsipagasawa. Sayang ang pinagpaaral, mga walang kwentang mga anak hindi man lang tumulong kaya hanggang ngayon namamasada pa rin ako”, your answer has to veer away from the negative but easing their sentiments “At least naman po nakatapos ng high school, siguro naman mararamdaman din nila ang nararamdaman nyo ngayong magulang na sila”
What should you do if your habal-habal driver or guide isn’t married? Try the family topic and if he speaks negatively about them don’t put oil on the fire. Genuinely ask why and he’ll probably spill out the beans but if he continues to put out negative vibes try asking about what he likes to do, his hobbies, who he voted for and why, what are his dreams until you find a topic where you sense he is upbeat about. The key is to find the topic he wants to talk about and he’ll probably won’t stop talking about it.
I repeat, trigger the good and let them talk about themselves.
With this, I hope I was able to help you out in your first step to solo travel. There will always be evil and bad people so be wary, research about the place you are going, know the demographics, the crime rate, have at hand the number of a police officer you know near the area or anyone you know who can be of help, send plate numbers, photos and other identifications of the person to friends and family and other safety precautions.
Again, most Filipinos are helpful and kind but there would always be some who are not.
Should you have any questions, you can drop a message on my facebook inbox and I will try my best to help out.
Good luck and you can do it too as me and others have!