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What I did keep track of, however, was the way it changed me.
Above all, she will learn to trust that feeling in her gut. This simply isn’t right.” Over the last seven years I’ve travelled through Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and both North and South America, predominantly by myself.Well, I was either alone or with other women, for starters.Any time I walked with a man the behaviour either disappeared, or shrank to such a minimum that I didn’t register it – although when I was with a man, he sometimes noticed instead. One of the factors that often arises in sexual harassment cases is also often referenced in terms of a traveller, because there are so many cultural boundaries you might be overstepping with your dress sense. There, women of all ages are dressed in much less ‘modest’ clothing – particularly in the hotter, more humid countries – and I wasn’t about to sweat in jeans and jumpers for the sake of not getting catcalled.The one and only facet of Latino culture I have still not changed my opinions about, because it tapped straight into a core part of my belief system.Being treated differently, simply because I was female.The cat calls and ‘complimentary’ phrases in Spanish of “” were actually preferable to the more silent advances; the lick of the lips and teeth, the sneer and accompanying grin which left no doubt, in my mind at least, of what they were thinking. The times where I turned around to glare seemed only to prompt further shouts.
I learnt to grow casually wary of old men, young men, street-cleaners and shopkeepers; all of them strangers, all seemingly unable to let you pass them by without a comment muttered under their breath.
After just three weeks of living in South America, I was walking through the streets of Cuenca, Ecuador, by myself.
The stooped figure of a man in his seventies was approaching slowly, walking stick in hand, and I began to smile even before we passed each other.
Six months in India in 2012 prompted me to write a piece about travelling safely as a solo female – still the highest trafficked article I’ve ever published – which made me think a great deal about how many women are concerned for their safety when travelling alone.
So after eighteen months travelling through Latin America, I thought it was necessary to address the biggest issue I faced there.
He was sweet; his suit looked a bit too big for him, and I immediately thought of the quintessential photos you see of male Latino pensioners. “Mi princesssa…” he hissed with a wide grin, turning his wrinkled and liver-spotted neck to keep his gaze on me as I picked up my pace.