When I first started my travels abroad, my mum warned me of all the dangers. She would start all of her sentences off with, “… as a woman” and proceed to lecture me on the scary parts of being a female traveller. She persisted that I choose my travel destinations with intent, that I pack lightly but smartly, that I carry cash on me at all times, and that I keep her notified on the daily of my whereabouts (no matter how little or insignificant I might find them to be). She told me to pay attention when I was on public transit, to verify taxi identifications, and to stay in public areas. I won’t lie, at first I thought she was crazy. I am 21 years old for crying out loud, I know how to make my way around. It felt like she was coddling me and trying to trespass into my new found land of green and luscious independence. I had lived under her roof since coming into this world and I was finally on my own. Let me be on my own.
I truly didn’t understand her point of view until one night. I still get chills thinking about it. My roommate and I had booked a trip to London. The night flight was cheaper, and therefore, we booked it without hesitation (mistake number one). We were travelling from Paris to Gatwick, and had painfully booked an Airbnb miles away from the Charles-de-Gaulle airport, elongating our trek by a few hours. Once we arrived at the airport, we needed to take a train to a different terminal. With our luck, we made it in time to catch the very last train (plan ahead and avoid a situation like this, it was so incredibly stressful I am sweating just thinking about it). After what felt like forever, we hopped on and sat down phone-in-hand. After a little Candy Crush and a lot of jet-lag, I placed my phone on my lap (as I would do on public transit in Canada) and looked out the window. All of a sudden, I caught the gaze of two males standing directly in front of me. They were speaking a different language and pointing in the direction of my roommate and I. I nervously stayed still and prayed that they would leave us alone. I guess the passenger to my left caught on to what they were saying and slowly whispered to me, “put your phone away, they are eyeing it down”. Immediately I placed my phone in my pocket and looked away. The two men witnessed the older lady whispering to me and started berating her with insults in French. She exclaimed that she didn’t know what they were talking about and that she was just asking me a question but the two men persisted that she was out to get them. This went on for what felt like an eternity. The minute we got to our stop, the older lady came out with us and walked us to our terminal.
If it hadn’t been for her, I am not sure what I would have done. Though I know that this situation could have happened to a male as well, being a woman comes with a certain amount of vulnerability. If you take anything away from this story, make sure you really watch your surroundings and never place yourself in a position where it is only you and a bunch of strangers on a night train.
Also, listen to your mum.