When you travel alone, the only safety device you have is your instinct. Your senses are heightened and you only have yourself for protection. Sometimes when you travel and meet the most amazing people, you are riding that crest of a wave and it is so easy to forget that any moment can change in the blink of an eye.
The world is mainly full of wonderful people but beneath the rose-tinted spectacles lie the snakes and others to be wary off. It’s so easy to forget this and I have been incredibly lucky on each of my travels. I have put myself in dangerous situations both in London and abroad and I have become so much wiser but no matter how smart or careful you are, you need to remain vigilant when travelling.
After an incredible three days socialising with great people, I moved onto a small hotel in a Belizean town. Having arrived within five minutes, a man with dreadlocks approached me and started asking me questions. Immediately my hairs went up and I could feel the adrenaline in my body screaming at me to stay away from this man. After being polite for a minute I firmly said that I had to go and walked away thinking what a strange character. Then as I waited to check into my room, another sat opposite me and asked me questions. It’s so usual for people to be curious when you travel but you just KNOW when something isn’t right. Again I was polite and returned to my laptop with him still sitting there.
I checked in and later at dinner, he came through the restaurant and asked to sit next to me. Again, I was on my laptop but there were no spare tables so I said he could but I would be leaving in a minute. He sat right where my computer was so I had to move it and he tried to talk to me.
I spoke trying to hide the hostility in my voice at this man invading my personal space. I was blunt but he wasn’t getting the message. He said it wasn’t safe to walk into town at night and that he would drive me tomorrow. I refused and asked him if he was hungry (why was he sitting in a restaurant otherwise?) He said no, he had eaten.
I asked if he was getting a drink? Again, he said no.
Then rudely I said ‘Why are you sitting here then?’ and he replied ‘to talk to you.’ I told him I had finished my meal and was going before realising that my room key was sitting face up with the number of my room. I turned it over hoping that he hadn’t noticed but the number was too large not too. As I got up he told me which room he was in and if I wanted anything to just knock his door.
I said ‘I won’t be needing anything’ and left.
Four hours later at 10.30pm, there was a knock at my door, which was opposite a flight of outside stairs and not the safest of rooms but when the knock came I was not surprised. They knocked again louder this time and I sat still refusing to move or even speak waiting to see what their next move would be. Then again, louder than before until they gave up and presumably went away.
I could have asked who it was through the door and still refused to have let them in but then I would be identifying that it was actually me in that room and who would be knocking my door at that time of night? It definitely wouldn’t have been the owner that I met earlier that day, it had to be him: the Lebanese guy from the restaurant who had spotted my room number earlier and knew that I was alone.
I had already bolted the door, perhaps sub-consciously in preparation for an unexpected visitor. Now, I put a chair underneath it to stop anyone from coming in. I was going to ask to be moved in the morning, the office was closed already and I was secure in the room. If I see him tomorrow, I will confront him and ask loudly why he was knocking my room late at night? (without him knowing that I changed to another). No one is going to make me feel unsafe when I am alone and taint my experience of travelling. Sometimes things happen and you have a close shave to remind you that you are a Western woman travelling by yourself and that at times the world is not a nice place.
I can look after myself and I am so sure that if I ever got into a physical situation my instinct would be to fight instead of flight but I am still a woman at the end of the day and you should never underestimate a stranger.
So, if you ever feel uneasy or that something just isn’t right – ask to be moved as soon as you can. It really isn’t worth thinking ‘it will all be okay’ because if there is any element of doubt in your mind, it is better to cause a slight fuss and feel 100% safe than to have wished you have done something sooner.
Listen to your instinct and trust it…I certainly did.
If you're looking to travel to Belize as a solo traveller, there's lots of advice to help you plan your trip on the Girl about the Globe website.