Solo Travel Realities: Unwanted Advances and Uncomfortable Situations

The Global Entity
e26s1 Solo Travel Realities: Unwanted Advances and Uncomfortable Situations

A sunny afternoon on a hot rooftop in Maputo

One afternoon I find myself on one of the rooftops at the hostel together with Brenda. The sun is intensely warm and everything feels sticky. It is the first time it is just us girls, up until this point we have mostly hung out in party settings in big groups. Our conversation starts a little tentatively but pretty soon I can feel how we connect.

With our words we travel through each others lives exchanging stories, questions and experiences of being a person but also a woman in this day and age. Mixed women, global, strong and often considered abnormal women. The siblingship I feel to this person is absolute. I decide to open up to her about what happened just before Igor and her included me into their sphere. Something that’s been weighing on my mind ever since.

A not-so-safe solo travel story

A week ago when I was out dancing I met a woman, she was super extroverted and we had loads to talk about. When the night was over she drove me and my friend home and we decided to meet up again soon. When the weekend arrived, she texted me asking if I wanted to come share a family day together with her kids and husband. Of course I accept! To be invited into a family setting did not only feel safe but like a privilege.

When the day arrives, the family come and pick me up at my hostel and we drive off to a neighbouring city of Maputo. The whole day is spent cooking dish after dish over the fire. Friends and family arrive throughout the day, I struggle with Portuguese the best way I can and manage to have a few conversations with the help of my Spanish. My host, however, seems to be busy and I don’t see much of her until the evening. She eventually approaches me and  invites me up to the roof.

The house is still under construction and there is no light on the roof except for one dim streetlight in the far distance. As soon as we get there, she is all over me. Tongue down my throat, hands under my clothes type of thing. I am shook. Nowhere in our interactions had I understood that she was interested in me, or in women in general. I hear her husband laughing downstairs with their family and friends, just a few meters away from where we are. When my brain catches up with what is happening I take a step back.

She immediately starts talking about everything in her life. I look at her, not sure what to say except for sorry. When I don’t really respond to what she is actually saying, she changes her tone to a more seductive one, telling me how I am this and that. I feel fixated to the floor by her energy, a thousand thoughts running through my mind; where exactly am I? What is going on? Is she gay? What about her husband?? If I reject her now, will they still drive me home? Do the taxi apps I use in Maputo work here? Why do I feel so unsafe? Is it safe to be openly queer in Mozambique? How long would it take for the hostel to notice if I go missing? When she kisses me again I don’t resist, not sure how to best navigate the situation.

Luckily, her kids come rushing up to the roof and she pulls away. I take a few steps back and look at her, there is like a dark shadow right over her face making her look almost demonic. I look around, there is nothing around us that could possibly cast a shadow. I feel scared. What is going on? Under normal circumstances, husband and the awkward situation apart, I wouldn’t have denied a gorgeous woman a date but something feels really off.

I realise that the shadow over her face may be there just for me, to affirm the gut feeling I already have that something is wrong. I silently say a prayer, thanking my angels for warning me and asking them to get me out of this situation safely. The shadow disappears. I suggest we go downstairs to join the others again, reluctantly she says yes.

The evening continues and I try to play it light, socialising and talking to everyone except her. When we start packing up, she suggests where we should go next but I say that I have a date tonight and have to get home. Except for the music in the car, everyone is quiet. I sit in the back with the sleeping kids, constantly checking the map to make sure we are going in the right direction. When I get home I take a long shower trying to wrap my head around what I just lived through.

Scams, security and sisterhood

Talking about it now, in the warm sunlight, with Brenda by my side, I feel a little bit silly. Maybe I hadn’t been in any danger at all. Maybe I was just dealing with a deeply unhappy person who did not know how to read that I was uncomfortable… When I had told my mom about it the day after she immediately said she had a bad feeling from the start and that the thought of sex trafficking had come to mind. But she didn’t want to scare me. She reasoned that maybe it was just her own fear projecting.

Now, I come to find out that it is not all that uncommon that tourists get conned into having sex with someone they think want the same thing as them, only to find out in the morning that the person wants money because they are sex workers or have taken explicit pictures/videos for extortion. Yohh. I don’t really know what to make out of my encounter. I think that if she had been a man, I would have had an easier time reading it for what it was. I usually associate women with safety and sisterhood, and to think that she may have had ill intentions towards me is hard for me to accept.

It feels good to share this with someone who has been here longer, who speaks the language and knows the local context and norms. It feels really good to talk to Brenda specifically about it who has the sisterhood code down. She affirms what needs to be affirmed, questions my own internalised sexism and helps me put the blame where it should be.

I block the lady in question on all socials, just to be sure. I don’t want her seeing what I’m up to, where. Then I proceed to ask Brenda about what it’s been like living here as a foreign, young, beautiful woman. I don’t think we give these kind of conversations enough credit. A lot of the conversations women share between one another is judgingly called gossip. I don’t believe people understand that that’s how we women build security.

Safety Travel Tips for beginner Solo Travelers

Firstly, because of the theme of this weeks post, I want to restate how incredible solo traveling is! It is something that has grown me in more ways than one and as many sometimes unsafe situations I end up in cannot compare with all the life affirming encounters, divine, kind people and miracles that I have had the fortune to encounter on my solo journeys throughout the years.

Secondly, trust your gut AND trust that your gut feeling/intuition will grow and develop! But you need to give yourself time for that learning curve to exist. After I got home from this potentially dangerous situation, I could have been berating myself over ending up in it, guilting and shaming. Instead I held space for the fear to be felt and then I started going through the events of the day. I realised that my gut had been telling me to not go from early on, but I had not recognised it. At this realisation I tell my body thanks for warning me and I promise to listen better the next time it tries to tell me something.

Thirdly, be your own mom! What I mean by that is that my mom used to have a list of things that she needed to know when I was going somewhere without her, a very reasonable list I must add! It contained things like the address, how long we would be there, how we would get back and who the adults were. These are all things she needed to know to feel safe to let me go off on my own adventures, if I had kids I’m sure I will have a very similar list. So why would I not ensure that I the answers to those basic questions when I go off somewhere? The simple answer is I wanted to be a cool girl, the kind that just goes with the flow and isn’t such a control freak. But lesson learned (hopefully), ask the uncomfortable questions!!

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