When traveling alone, safety should be paramount. This has always been my mantra but sometimes you find yourself in dangerous predicaments regardless. Unless one ultimately stays indoors. These stories are an example of how despite my caution, I still found myself in situations I would have rather avoided in San Francisco.
Let’s get into it. I was staying in the city centre where conveniently, all the stores were nothing more than a five to ten minute walk for me, awesome right? I thought I’d treat myself to a perfume gift set from Macy’s so I went for a short walk and was happily browsing the options while speaking to the assistant.
As if by magic, I knew as soon as these two men walked into the store, something was going to happen. They walked around the perfume boutique, came very close to me and the grabbed $300 worth of perfume gift sets and ran out of the store.
No one even attempted to stop them. That includes the security who watched as the event transpired. It was weird, the lady at the counter said it happened all the time which was even more shocking. I thought to myself, they just stole handfuls of this $130 perfume gift set that I’m now paying for. Dang. I was a little bit shaken probably due to adrenaline more than anything but thankfully I was in no real danger there.
I can’t say the same for this next situation.
Taking the wrong turn.
Note: San Francisco has a huge issue with homelessness which is clear to see on arrival. You can quite easily identify a homeless individual from someone who is not. I was advised where to go and where not to go in the city as some areas were heavily affected by homelessness and not safe for tourists like myself.
I had left for my day trip to Yosemite National Park at 7:15am and returned around 9pm so it was dark but I was in the city so the streets were well lit. I was ready to call my uber home but google maps said my accommodation was a ten minute walk. I obliged without a care in the world.
What I’d been told was that there was an area behind my accommodation which I should completely avoid because of how many homeless people lived there. I hadn’t considered the route google maps had taken me on but it turns out I was being led right into the epicentre of this place I was told to avoid.
Walking with my huge phone in my hand trying to follow maps, I soon realised that the further I walked, the less people were around, the darker the street lighting had become and the more run down the stores looked. There were so many homeless people around me that at one point I hadn’t even noticed I was walking on the road because there was no space on the actual sidewalk due to the number of homeless people dominating them, literally.
The walk felt never ending, I could feel myself being watched and tried my best to
- Not make eye contact
- Not look scared
- Not look lost
Which was pretty nerve wrecking when I observed my surroundings. Everyone was homeless. I tried my best to walk as briskly as possible and find my way back. When I did, it was only then that I realised the route I had taken. I was completely shaken, scared and annoyed at myself for not being a bit more streetwise, literally.
I’m not saying homeless people are dangerous and should be avoided, anyone can be dangerous but it is well known that as a tourist in a foreign country, you put yourself at risk when you go to places that locals tell you to avoid. In this case, I was just following google maps but still, could have found myself in a very different situation that could have been very bad.
Top Three Tips when travelling alone
- Listen to the locals advice.
I was fortunate enough to have met awesome people from San Francisco who knew the ins and outs of the place and were very cool and down to earth. They know where to go and where not to go so pay attention and take heed to what they are saying.
2. Have your wits about you
Make sure you research where you’re going before you go, ie if you want to visit a certain neighbourhood alone, make sure it’s safe and make plans to get back before it gets dark (if necessary) whether it’s by uber or public transport. Never leave yourself stranded. Pay attention to your surroundings, dodgy characters etc and if something seems off, trust that instinct and get out of that situation.
3. Have fun and don’t overthink
I am the biggest over thinker ever and the last two points make this last point seem random but, the point of travelling alone is to be independent, go out and explore. There are definitely dangerous people out there but there are some amazing ones too. Have your wits about you and have fun, explore, engage and push yourself out of your comfort zone.
Don’t live in fear and don’t anticipate it but react to danger with haste. You’ll be fine. If I can do it then you definitely can.