Making a difference while traveling the world

My parents are understandably concerned about me traveling to the other side of the world by myself. I, too, am concerned, but I’m not going to let that stop me. The majority of my trip, the volunteer organizations I’ve signed up with set me up with a family in the northeastern part of Thailand and in a dorm-like setting in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, but there are other parts of the region I’d like to see and I may have to do it on my own.

I’m debating whether to arrive in Bangkok a couple of days early to check it out before I can officially start teaching, since I’d like to arrive towards the end of May and their school year starts June 1st. I may have a friend of a friend to show me around there or friends joining me on certain parts of my trip, but I have to be prepared to do it on my own. I’ve never done it before, but I hear that it allows you to meet so many interesting people and see the country in a different way. What are your thoughts and suggestions? I found this article helpful to me:

http://www.helium.com/items/1208048-woman-alone-in-bangkok

A Single Woman’s Guide to Bangkok, Thailand

by Alison Tennant

October 15, 2008

I’m a worrier. I don’t think I’d have got around the world a few years ago without being a worrier.

So this article will concentrate on the single “lady” being careful in Bangkok – or anywhere for that matter – rather than on the places she might want to visit.

First of all, I’d prefer “female” or “girl” or even “chick”. “Lady” sounds like a 1920s Englishwoman off on safari!

OK, so pack an extra pair of panties! That’s what you’d expect me to say, right? But that’s for a separate article.

When a girl is travelling alone, there are different rules and regulations than there are for a boy travelling alone. Often BECAUSE of boys travelling alone.

In Bangkok, unless you’re a well-seasoned traveller, DON’T just turn up at a backpackers’ hostel and ask for a bed. Even if you don’t get offered one in the corner of a room full of men smoking goodness-knows-what (and it does happen!), you’ll at best be squeezed into a women’s dorm in which are girls who return, drunk, at 2 a.m. and spend the rest of the night between bed and bathroom.

Ah, the bathroom! Bangkok’s aren’t the worst in the world (those are in Hong Kong in my experience) and they usually DO provide paper, but the female traveller ALWAYS needs to be wary of them! Travellers from the U.S. please remember – Eastern facilities are rarely “restrooms”.

If you sit, hold your bag on your lap; if you squat, strap it around our neck before you even drop your jeans. WHEREVER you travel, carry some tissues with you and always have some spare ones in your bags back at the hotel. There are few day-to-day things worse in life than there being no tp!

Back to bed. If you DO have to bunk in shared accommodation, keep your valuables in the bed with you – either in pockets of whatever you wear (and do wear something!) or under the sheet you’re lying on.

If you have a quick check of your belongings everytime you move, you’ll never forget them. The easiest way to do this is by choosing a phrase or sentence to represent your important things. (E.G. carrying a purse, tickets, money, keys, tampons and passport? The initials are P, T, M, K, T, P, so make up a silly phrase you’ll always remember. Something rude is often best (!), but here we’ll settle for “Please Take My Kettle To Paris“. Say that 10 times a day and you’ll soon know if anything’s missing!).

Where to hide things when on the move? Well, you’re a woman. An obvious hiding place for money is in your bra. If someone tries to pinch it from there, believe me, you’ll know about it!

But DON’T put any in there that you’re likely to need in a hurry – removing it could be embarrassing!

When you’re travelling among the Bangkok crowds, keep straps around as many parts of your boidy as you can. Wear a shoulder bag around your neck, carry a purse around your wrist, strap a money belt around your body or even a smaller one around the top of your leg (under jeans or tights of course).

Bangkok’s public transport is known for harbouring ‘slit-bag’ thieves (i.e. however well locked your rucksack is, a sharp knife could give someone its contents in seconds).

So, a couple of tips: firstly, in a crowd, strap your bag where you can see it (i.e. to your front if possible) or at worst wrap your arms around it; secondly, fit locks to the LESS important pockets (a thief has only a few seconds to rob you, and he’ll go quickly for the things which LOOK important – that way, with a bit of luck, he’ll get hold of your soiled underwear rather than your mobile phone!).

Of course, so many of these precautions should be taken if your’e a single girl travelling ANYWHERE, and the golden rule should ALWAYS be: don’t keep your valuables all together. If you put your credit cards, money, travellers cheques, passport, and plane tickets all in a wallet in your handbag, you’re asking for trouble, whether your’e in Bangkok or Birmingham.

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Comments on: "Traveling alone, as a woman" (2)

  1. My mom was totally freaked out about my adventure too. In fact, she purchased an enormous satellite phone for me, which actually made me a terrorist target!

    In the end, being observant, following your gut and leaving a situation whenever you don’t feel it’s right–no matter the cost, financially, physically, emotionally–is what helped me through. We are savvy women, and the world, by and large, is a gracious place.

    That does not mean you won’t end up face first, your pack bearing down on your back, pushing your nose into the floor of Mumbai’s Victoria Station. But this makes us resiliant, right?

    Can’t wait to hear about your adventures!

  2. Strange that this has me at my school site…I meant to send you here: http://thevolunteeryear.wordpress.com/

    Look forward to your adventure stories!

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