A newspaper article a friend shared with me recently was full of tips on how to travel safely. It was on “travel precautions every woman business traveller should take.” There were lots of tips on staying safe – from identifying exits as soon as you enter any room, keeping your hands free to use your elbows for self defence, not accepting rides from casual acquaintances, and carrying “weapons of opportunity” with you! In case you’re wondering, that includes water bottles, pens, keys etc that can be used for a quick strike on the face of your attacker!
I’m sure the author, a woman herself, had our best interests in mind while giving us all this advice. But what struck me most was the sheer enormity of the difference our gender makes in all these circumstances. So I wondered what might be the tips a man would give to another man who’s travelling alone.
Let’s see now. Tip for Women: “Know your available exits in every room you enter.” Corresponding Tip for Men: Sit facing the exit so you can get a longer look at any women who might be coming to the meeting!
TfW: “Be alert and pay attention when travelling. Looking down at your phone while walking around makes you an easy target for attackers.”
TfM: Look cool but casually pay attention when travelling. Looking down at your phone while travelling makes you miss out on interesting women you could catch the eye of!
TfW: “Do not accept rides from casual acquaintances.”
TfM: Don’t hesitate to ask the lady you just met if you could share the cab or drop her on your way. If she says yes, invite her for a drink next!
TfW: “Separate your funds. When you are travelling for business, do not keep all of your bank cards in your wallet or purse.”
TfM: Separate your funds. When you are stepping out of the hotel for a fun evening, do not keep any more money than you can afford to wake up without!
TfW: “Making sure people at home have your itinerary, flight information, hotel information and phone numbers is mandatory.”
TfM: Sure, let your wife know where you’re going. But why bother her with too much information like your hotel and your daily schedule? You don’t want her to worry and call you in the middle of a late night ‘meeting’!
TfW: In a hotel, take “a room with a peephole, preferably with no connecting door to another room.”
TfM: When knocking on a woman’s door, stand with your best side facing the door’s peephole… women always check before opening the door! And while travelling with a woman colleague, try to get rooms with a connecting door – it makes it easier to keep things discreet, if the chemistry works!
Of course, after the Tehelka episode, we shouldn’t forget elevator safety!
TfW: “If, while you’re waiting for an elevator, you find yourself alone with a stranger, let him take the elevator and wait for its return.”
TfM: If, while you’re waiting for an elevator you find yourself with a good-looking stranger, offer to let her take the elevatoralone. She’ll be impressed by your sensitivity and let you strike up a conversation on the elevator ride together!
We could go on and on but I’m sure you get the point I’m trying to make. Generally, I think women look at travelling alone with a sense of dread – mild or strong – depending on their past experiences. For men, lone travel carries a sense of excitement and adventure.
Maybe that’s why I see so many of my men friends on Facebook broadcasting their business trips. The women almost never do. Travelling alone isn’t a happy thing for us. And certainly not something that we want to call attention to!
If that isn’t proof that we live in a man’s world, I don’t know what is! And if the male world’s attitude towards women doesn’t change, I wonder how we’ll ever make life easier for women travelling alone. Got any ideas?