It’s kinda wild. One min you can be drinking tequila shots with your friends, then next you could be running away from a weirdo named Pol on the streets of Girona at 3 am.
Men are genuinely moving mad.
I’ve always been baffled by the fact that straight men generally aren’t very aware of their behavior in dangerous spaces. From someone walking suspiciously close to you and catcalling on the street to full-on creepy guys at work, their presence is well and truly not appreciated.
“It’s a compliment.” is not gonna slide anymore, it never has. Thank you (next).
Mostly, I try to make light of these situations I’ve experienced. I even wrote a whole jokey article “To All The Boys That Have Catcalled Me Before’ which made me feel better for about a week until I had more and more to add to the list. But at the time of unwanted attention, it’s safe to say I’m not so witty or nonchalant. I’m usually texting my friend saying our secret code word (disclosed for now) and they’ll either call me or send me funny memes.
But seriously, at some point after-dark walking home becomes scarier. And in a different country that you don’t know too well, it’s even worse. Hopefully, if you’re reading this you don’t know what I mean and yet for some reason, I kinda think you might do.
Solo travel is a beautiful, beautiful thing. There’s all that freedom, friendship, and experiences that you would never have if fear stopped you in your tracks. However with solo travel comes with a logical sense of anxiety. New places, new people, new unknowns.
Even so, I’ve been brave. I’m well aware that I’m lucky to be able to see some of the world, and I won’t let any man following me and my friends home at 3 am stop me.
Well, that was until it did stop me for a bit.
Living in Barcelona is all-round fabulous, but my friends and I fancied a trip away to visit a city nearby called Girona. If you’re a GOT fan, you may notice the building behind that goddess (it’s me) was in a few of the episodes.
Picture 5 twenty-something girls, barely really knowing each other popping to a nearby city to see some views and get dance a little.
We went to a few local bars and were met by a strange yet seemingly harmless guy called Pol. That said, he was alone and had what I call ‘loco Ojos’. Which funny fact, is what they call Mad-Eye (Moody) in Spanish Harry Potter.
We ditched him and carried on our night. British girls being as British as we could be, singing “Feliz Navidad” in November and stealing glasses from pubs… for the memento.
The night continued and we eventually headed home and turned to notice that Pol was behind us. So we went to another bar and left when the coast was clear.
Note: this wasn’t so much of a group decision as we just knew what we had to do.
We finally left, glasses in hands and almost everyone wearing creepers or high trainers.
I can’t remember if it was me or my friend who said ‘remember Pol, imagine if he was following us!’ and we turned around jokingly and he was. We spotted his silhouette in the distance but he was most certainly heading our way.
So, we ran. With great struggle up a cobbled uphill pathway to our Airbnb. It was likely we’d lost him and we got into the lobby area of the apartments but couldn’t lock to the door back to the street. Hypothetically, he could’ve got in.
We’d found ourselves in some horror movie where we all had to be quiet whilst we watched the door and ran into the lift.
One of us pressed the button to bring up us upstairs and every time the lift wouldn’t move. We had careful eyes on the door as we tried 4 more times. In true scary film style, one of my friends accidentally dropped her glass as we were keeping them as a weapon. The sound was piercing and relieving all at the same time. Wooo… Girls trip!
At that moment we tiptoed up the stairs and locked the door straight after we all managed to get in. We were safe. Sigh.
It’s likely Ojo loco Pol stopped chasing us after we ran but there’s no way we could be certain.
Yes, that really happened. We laughed and drank more and got sleepy. But the problem really didn’t go away as we did. I got back to Barca and was waiting for my train when a man twice my age stood next to me close enough to hold my hand, his heavy breathing and alcohol breath brought me to silent tears. What before might’ve been a laughable anecdote really made me worry about my safety in a country I’d otherwise thought was innocent.
I do still love Barcelona. But there’s a fear instilled in us as women, that solo travel is unsafe.
Think Taken or the moral panics of the news constantly. It’s like our sexuality and femininity (although I know men have it bad also) are a weakness for men. That if we wear suitable clothes for the heat in some countries we travel to, that we’re asking for the attention. Whatever.
I’ll be honest after that happened I didn’t want to leave the house. Getting any public transport or walking alone felt like a chore. Sweaty palms and being over observant is the worst mixture.
But time went on, and as I continued it got less daunting and sometimes I even forget why I was so nervous. Still working on it though.
It may be hard, we gotta continue, we travel we love, we enjoy. Because we have to hope, that people will never make us feel unsafe.
I often brush my valid concerns with a ‘sorry, I’m being dramatic’ but for once, I feel like when it comes to safety, we’re never being dramatic, we’re being reasonable, when sometimes we shouldn’t be.
But that doesn’t for one tiny second mean that’s gonna stop me from traveling and thriving as we do best.
People gotta change, BUT NOT US. We don’t have to change how much we drink, where we go, what time we go out, what we wear and how kind we are.
What we’re doing is living. And that isn’t a crime.
But what certain sad people are doing, is.