I have been looking forward to August 13th all year, ever since I saw Julia Roberts' interview on Oprah about the movie "Eat Pray Love" - a quintessential solo travel experience, even if I do say so myself. I have been eating, praying, and loving my way through the book and gladly dove into the movie with no expectations - except that my heart would melt when I would see the scene where Javier Bardem says "You need a champion." Where do I sign up for that?
But then on Friday morning, I heard a blurb on whatever random news program was on about the book and movie that I had placed on a small, mental pedestal, where the voice booming across my house said something to the effect of "Everyone is talking about 'Eat Pray Love,' but is it really safe for a woman to do take on a journey like that? We'll talk about that coming up next."
I was dumbfounded. Instantaneously dumbfounded. I heard a voice in my head saying "Now, Christine, stop that," scolding my inner child for wanting to send the station and that reporter a copy of "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" by Mary Wollstonecraft, circa 1792.
Are we really so close to the dark ages that people are worried "Eat Pray Love" will give women the impression that they can (gasp!) do anything and go anywhere? I hope you can see my eyes roll, because I'm feeling them go back in my head.
I want to bookend that comment with one simple fact - I am a maniac about safe travels. It's not just a closing phrase for me. I don't go anywhere that my intuition says not to, I always tell people where I'm going and keep my cell phone fully charged, and I don't put myself in positions to be harassed. I don't look at a mountain and think, "I'm going to climb that and not tell anyone where I'm going." I stay logged into Google Latitude, so that if something should go wrong, my sister and best friends can tell the police "this is where her cell phone last had a signal, and this is how long ago it was." I don't disappear into strange cities, and I do my homework before I go - meaning, if I'm going into a city or culture that is unfamiliar, I have a plan that I don't deviate from until I have a chance to interview whoever I am meeting with that lives locally to know where I can and should not go.
I am not foolish enough to believe that all women function this way, but I have reason to suspect that not all men would either - and I didn't hear anyone questioning the safety or sanity of Javier Bardem's character Felipe, a Brazilian who made his home in Bali.
So here is my big travel tip this week, gals and guys - Go. Even if it's a stretch for you personally. Go somewhere that you've always wanted to see, even if it's just over the border of the state you're in now or across an ocean. Use Google to search travel safety tips. Don't drink anything that's being offered to you by a stranger. Learn about how to avoid being pick-pocketed, and the best ways to protect your personal property when you're on your own. Be smart about it. Carry a man's jacket with you if you want to make people believe that you're just temporarily solo until the assumed "he" returns. Don't look like a tourist. Dress tastefully and in alignment with the locals. Don't stand out and look like a target. Learn a few phrases if you're going internationally to a country with a different language. And if your intuition says to run, run. But in all cases, go. Go safely, take your time, be smart, but just go.