Ding. Ding. Ding.. (engine shutting down)....."you may now walk freely about the cabin"
That's when I jolt up in my seat, wide awake, a million thoughts running thru my brain all at once and not a single one makes any sense, finding myself determined to try to mentally prepare for the unexpected and at the same time knowing full well there is nothing more to be done but wait.... walk out.... and see what happens!
It's a total high of fear, anxiety, excitement, exhilaration, a feeling unlike anything else and totally addictive!I love it!!!! After those few moments of exhilaration, the thought, oh my, I'm really doing this! I'm really here! It's time to put on the "GAME FACE"!
Whenever I would exit some form of transportation, be it a plane, a train, a bus or a tuk tuk, I began to notice a pattern to my behavior when encountering a new place and group of people...sort of a defense mechanism that would come into play, like the stance a defensive line backer might make in preparing for a tackle, or a model about to hit up a runway, perhaps a super hero getting ready for super hero time?..and... IT'S... ON!
I'm not very tough. I'm a wimp. In a Star Wars play fight with a 4 year old involving plastic light sabers, I didn't last 30 seconds. I think perhaps a lot of women who don't travel might be antimidated by travel because they're afraid of getting hurt, but in 1 year and 5 months of travel, I never once had a problem and almost never felt afraid....how is this?
Over time, I discovered I tend to have a certain look on my face that slowly came about after the first or second time of getting harassed by taxi drivers, bus drivers, tuk tuk drivers.....it's my "don't mess with me or I'll punch your face" look, and it works! Yes, perhaps it's mean when first arriving in a new place to pull out the inner bad ass in you, not speak to anyone and stare straight ahead, walking in a straight path to the tourist information desk/ATM machine, but I have to be honest, it's worked out great! I just pretend I'm...you know...Beyonce....workin' my stuff!
It erks me that some people choose not to travel because of these issues...that theives and fast talkers/assholes win so often because we let them, because we are afraid of them and that's just not right!
As a women, I felt I had a great luxury in knowing it was all right to be rude sometimes, because I had to! My male counterpart on the other hand has yet to this day discovered that it's all right NOT to smile, greet and say no multiple times to strangers offering transportation and lodging, where as I have no problem walking by and ignoring anyone with the inappropriate balls to think it's all right to scream in my face demands of what I should and should not do immediately in their country looking to get an easy buck. If they want my money, they have to work harder and be more polite then that!
Would they speak that way to their wife? Their mother? Beyonce? U-huh..(cue snap) That's what I thought!
As a women tourist, we hold the money....we hold all the cards! It's up to us to make sure we get treated appropriately and we will be, as long as we show confidence in ourselves!
Here's some details of my game face:
Jaw tight. Eyes straight. Not angry, just with great focus and intent. Not in any hurry. I'm not confused or lost at all and know exactly what I'm doing. It's all right to smile or say hello, but if a conversation begins to follow me or goes longer then I'd like, I walk away....I don't ask them to stop, or that I'm not interested a million times, I just ignore them, their shot is over.
(Of course, on the inside I'm terrified, have no idea what I'm doing and all I can think about is where my money is, which pocket my passport is in and how fast I can run with a gigantic pack on my back for dear life)
Occasionally the 'face' backfires....
like the poor dude who ran a Bed and Breakfast on the island of Chiloe Chile and would stand outside the bus door with a card for his facilities....I totally pulled a face and walked away....when my husband walked by him later, they had a nice chat, shared some friendly banter, talked about soccer and we walked away with a card for a cool place to stay at a reasonable price....sometimes....really...people are just nice, but that's hard to tell as an outsider.
The point is, as long I pushed myself to feel confident in myself, I rarely had a problem getting what I needed when I needed it. Don't let the creepy dudes antimidate you. With a little confidence and an inner diva, traveling can be so much more fun!