5 Ways To Safely Connect w/ Men While Traveling

Connecting with fellows travelers while on a journey can be a great experience or one that becomes a challenge depending on circumstances. I’ve had nice times with couples, gals, and guys but this post will focus on safety for women when the camaraderie involves men as on a recent Death Valley getaway where I enjoyed platonic camaraderie with two guys and felt comfortable and at ease. Please understand that this is the perspective of a female solo traveler who enjoys alone time so adjust accordingly for what it is you desire.

Mowgli time
Beware of guys in trees, JK as this one happens to be my beloved cousin! 🙂

1) BE SAFE – I encourage safety by sizing up the situation and avoiding connection with males traveling alone with a few exceptions (if large groups of people are around and it is a busy area and the solo guy makes very casual and sober conversation). It’s been my experience that several men together, in their SUVs, and especially if they appear to be family guys, are more likely to be polite and in possession of social skills that render it less of a possibility that they are engaging in behavior dangerous to me and/or are a current Son Of Sam (definitely dangerous to me). I’ve heard of serial killers, in rare instances, traveling in pairs but not of them in groups of 3 or more – yes, I realize I just invited my mom to send me an article 😉 I also consider my comfort level and if the guys are exhibiting energy that includes racy banter, profanity, and excessive alcohol consumption, I distance myself immediately.

2) BE CENTERED – This may sound airy-fairy but I have learned to be clear about what I like in travel and I am only open to situations that are compatible. I like to share that I am in a relationship early on so that it is communicated that I am not traveling to party. I believe most men hear this and are respectful of it and if they are looking for romantic possibilities, move on politely when it’s very clear that, that is not on any agenda. The evening I spent around a campfire with the two gentlemen I got to know in Death Valley was polite, humorous, and respectful with interesting stories and travel information swapped and when I excused myself early on all three nights to retire to my tent and read, they remained at the campfire talking quietly. The energy of the evening never veered from calm and chill.

3) BE ALERT – Ignore the childhood rule about eavesdropping being rude. Listen to the convos around you. I was on a patio and am here to tell you that two different tables of men were having two very different conversations and both tables were in the same age group (40s-50s) and out to ride dirt bikes for the weekend. One convo was pretty raunchy continuously while the other one was about the wives, kids, school choices, and a hilarious mishap on the purchase of encyclopedias right before the internet made the $600 purchase obsolete.

Watch alcohol consumption (yours and others) when flying solo and I will be perfectly transparent here, I enjoyed only one drink in the evening, around the campfire on my Death Valley trip and the guys were conservative in their alcohol consumption also. Over-consumption too often can lead to off color banter at best and off color behavior at worst from people who would not act this way when sober.

4) BE CLOSED – Say what? Initially, I keep to myself in order to, as I mentioned above, size up a situation and if I decide I am not interested in the energy around me, I use barriers to communicate. No, I don’t construct a literal wall but I have found that having my books, camera, and journal and focusing my attention on those will generally halt any interaction I am not open to. I also have discovered that a hat with brim can work as a way to shield from unwanted eye contact and allows me to feel a sense of privacy when I desire it.

5) BE SPECIFIC – Mixed signals have no place when traveling so I am clear when I communicate. The guys I met in the desert had individual agendas that included separating daily, with one going for adrenaline filled dirt bike rides while the other went in search of back-road photography on his motorcycle. I was very enthusiastic about solo hiking and spending time with my books and camera, with idle chat being put aside for the bulk of my day. All three of us got what the others were after and the crossover only happened at the campfire. This worked for everyone and when I neglected to stake my tent down the first night and navigated wind, I borrowed a hammer from one of the guys but handled staking in the stubborn rocky ground myself. Part of being empowered for me when traveling, is handling myself and not sending mixed signals of male/female connectedness in what can sometimes become a confusing manner.

Finally, I know there is a lot written about clothing choices and I realize I am barking up a tree here that might appear anti-feminist but it feels disingenuous and irresponsible to not share that I choose different clothing when traveling alone as opposed to when I am with my guy. I wear jeans cut off just above the knee and string tops when alone on the trail but generally wear these same bottoms and a t-shirt when around other travelers and when I went to the Panamint deck which has a bar and restaurant on my Death Valley trip, I donned jeans,  a t-shirt, and my hat. My cutoff shorts are reserved for traveling with my family and/or my guy or when I am not around other travelers. I am at an age where unwanted attention is not anywhere as common as it would be for younger travelers and I enjoy the anonymity that my age encourages but at any age, strategy can be put into place to up the odds of a comfortable experience.

Please enjoy yourself, be practical and be safe but don’t bow to the fear-mongering that often takes place around hiking and solo travel. To reassure yourself just compare the stats on crime against travelers and the stats on heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure from sitting at home in front of the TV.

Rock on and have fun!

8 Steps To Improve Your Social Life: Start A Village

Here’s the way it goes when it’s time to shake up your social life; it’s your day off and Susie was supposed to meet you for a movie but she broke up with Bob…again and now she’s fetal position until Groundhog Day or – you and the wife planned to limo to the local nightclub with Kanye and Kim but North did not win cutest baby at her prep pre-school so everyone is cranky, especially Kanye. And now, so are YOU.

This can only mean one thing; it’s time to shake up and/or start a village. I did it just last week as I realized that while I’ve had the supreme luck of having a good number of gals shape my world the past couple of years, I now am experiencing the supreme challenge of getting together with them.  I pondered this and wondered if just setting stable meet times might bring the women into the wild where they’d enjoy a break from their routine and I would selfishly enjoy their company. The idea blossomed further when I considered doubling up the socializing with grabbing some healthy benefits as well and voila! A new hike club was born.

My new village centers around hiking and is for ladies only as the friends I wanted to grow or reconnect with are the gals. The village is yours to create so only follow these guidelines as a template if you wish and then make your list and get started. *I will give personal examples at the end of each point.

1) Identify The Members. Decide whom it is that you’d like to spend time with and start there. It could be ladies, guys, moms, dads, families w/ little kids, parents of teens, boys, girls, co-workers, church group, singles, grandparents, or any other group. Narrow down the group you want to grow and let that be your beginning. *I chose ladies that would like to hike locally.

2) Spread The Word. Make a Facebook group and then announce it on your own Facebook and/or begin inviting people to join the group. Check your settings, as the group can be “public”, “private/unsearchable” or “private/searchable”. *I made mine “private/unsearchable” but set the group to allow any member to add any gal that she wishes and then I encouraged members to feel free to do this.

3) Make A Plan. If you are setting up a hike/camp/backpack/sports group, consider asking a friend to give you feedback on structure and/or feel free to enlist someone to co-create your group if it’s something that requires that two people participate to be a success i.e. tennis. *I took a friend on the first hike and she provided great feedback on logistics.

4) Keep It Simple. Make a doable meet commitment and spell out the plan and pin it to the top of your group page. *I made twice-weekly meet times and kept the time and location of both hikes identical. I am figuring on keeping it this way for a period of time so that the social enjoyment is maximized and any learning curve related to where to meet and parking details etc. is minimized.

5) Keep It Light. In other words, come into the plan with joyful energy. People have very crazed schedules sometimes and may not be able to join regularly. Make certain you create the group around an activity that you love so that if no one shows, you are still happy. *My first hike consisted of one gal and we had a blast. I hike alone frequently so the idea of a no-show day is something that is not a problem for me.

6) Consider A Donation. My advice is keep it very reasonable but the reason to even consider a donation is because you are committing to maintain the group and create the activities so this will help ensure that you feel your contribution is valued. *I set up a “$5 suggested donation only” for each hike and made certain to stress that anyone who had any challenge in this arena should not let it stop them from attending as it is voluntary.

7) Photograph The Fun. Pull out your phone or camera and take some photos. Distance shots – with your activity as the main focus – are lovely. *On my first hike, I took long shots of my gal pal on the hike and this really gave an idea of the beauty and vastness of the location. I posted them to the group so everyone could see the trail.

8) Adjust As Needed. If something is not working, don’t fret. Just make a change. Shift the schedule if you need to or the number of times you meet. *I realized immediately that initially making the two weekly hikes identical made more sense than two separate locations. This will hopefully give members a chance to come together easily and without constant checking of directions and info once they’ve attended the first time.

Finally, don’t let a challenged social life drain your enthusiasm and excitement. Start a group that likes to camp or hike or play tennis and get the word out. Whether you meet twice a week or once a month, the endorphin boost to your psyche will have you happy you made the effort. Rock on and get started, your village is waiting.

If you wish, feel free to share/like and tweet. Always grateful. 🙂