Before I started my trip in South America, I was told repeatedly by well-meaning friends and family to be careful. “South America is a dangerous place, especially for girls travelling on their own.” I was told stories of muggings, kidnappings, and even death.
So when I began my adventures, it´s safe to say I felt pretty nervous. I made a series of ´rules´ (more just guidelines really) for myself, based on what I´d learnt from previous (much shorter) trips travelling alone.
1. Don´t be alone. Making friends with strangers isn´t as difficult as it might first seem.
2. Know exactly where you are going when arriving in a new city – even if that´s just a cafe. Walking round a bus terminal with a huge rucksack looking lost is a sure fire way to attract the wrong kind of attention.
3. Walk like you mean it. Even if you´ve no idea where you´re headed, pretend in your head that you know the route perfectly.
4. And Walk Big. Your posture gives away a lot about how you´re feeling. If you look vulnerable, you become more vulnerable. (Note: this doesn´t work in every country. Sometimes as a woman it´s better to make yourself look smaller, to try and blend in. That´s just a theory – I might be wrong.)
5. Don´t get drunk. And get over the fact that there are things you might have to miss out on. Rooftop explorations and midnight river walks and stumbling into interesting remote neighbourhoods… these things are probably best not tackled alone. But this can be countered usually by #1.
In actual fact, for the majority of my trip, I´ve been following the first rule so well that I´ve rarely needed to worry about the others. It´s been a joy to meet people from all corners of the world, and it´s been a joy to share with them in my travels, be it for an hour, a day, or a week. And even when I have been alone, of course, I´ve personally found South America no more dangerous than anywhere else I´ve travelled in the world – including my home city of Birmingham.
I guess my biggest rule for anyone (not just girls) thinking of travelling alone is – just go for it! The world is actually a pretty friendly place, most of the time.