07 Oct 2010

I just wrote this on Ravelry and decided it would be a good blog post. So here it is, without further revision (I’m tempted but I’m working on another post about knitting socks and this is a distraction of sorts)…

Me at a local yarn shop in VilniusI love traveling alone! I have been in several European countries on my own and have never run into any problems that I would not encounter in cities in the USA. You do have to be prepared to deal with poor people begging, especially if you’ll be in areas where there are a lot of rich tourists. This makes some people uncomfortable but it’s part of life and it’s not really any different in Europe than in the USA.
And as a woman, you should always be aware of the cultural norms of the country you are living in. When in doubt, don’t look strange men in the eye on the street and don’t smile at strange men, particularly if you don’t know the culture. Don’t walk in dark alleys alone at night; take a cab or bus if you have to go somewhere after dark. It’s pretty much common sense, but common sense is different in different cultures. It is good to know how to say “stop” or “help” (or even “fuck off dickhead”) in the local language, although I’ve never had occasion to use these words with strangers. I have never been groped in public or anything like that. Maybe it’s just because I’m almost 50? Maybe younger women need to be armed with pepper spray? I hope that’s not true.
I tried a money belt once but it was just icky (although it may be appropriate if you have a roommate, such as in a dorm). Again, as in big cities in the USA, keep your bag close to you, don’t leave it on a chair in a restaurant for example, carry a bag that you can shove under your armpit and snug up to your body without looking weird. Don’t wear a lot of bling, especially if it’s real! Always keep $50 in your sock so you can get home if your bag does get swiped. (OK, I don’t do that but it is good advice, and my grandmother always told me to do that with a $20-bill in NYC when I was a girl.)
I don’t use guide books but I just pick up some small local maps and city guides when I arrive at my destinations. One thing I’ve found especially cool for travelling alone is taking a course of some type at the destination. Then you meet people and find out about the local scene in an organic way, instead of by reading about the same 18 restaurants that 5 million other tourists have read about in the same guide books.
I prefer to travel with a cause — to take a course, to visit friends, to do some research, rather than just as a tourist. I find that this gives me many more opportunities to talk to people with shared interests and to get to know the places I visit in a deeper way.
OK, maybe I’ll write a travel book next. LOL. I just love this topic. That said, I’ve been in Europe since June (this time with my husband) and I am SO ready to go home and sleep in my own bed!!!

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