If there is one thing that I’ve noticed, it’s that traveling as a woman is very frustrating. I am a 5’1″ asian female and although I’ve spent a great chunk of my life practicing karate, I can’t prevent that sinking feeling of having to be completely aware of my surroundings while I’m abroad.
I’ve traveled to Europe with another one of my friends back in 2014. Imagine, two little asian girls prancing around Europe…. it’s a scene from “Taken” waiting to happen. I had struggled with wanting to let loose and drink at the bars because I kept imagining scenarios that this would happen to me…. plus my parents wouldn’t be able to save me the way that Liam Neeson could…. I’d be screwed.
This time, is a bit more interesting. I definitely feel more laid back, but I’m noticing a lot more difficulties to staying safe. People don’t talk about the dangers of backpacking. You’re an easy target in the airport and when you’re on the streets because of your backpack. People know that everything that you have is located in that very backpack that is on your back. It’s pretty scary. I’ve been more aware when I walk the streets, looking to see who is watching me. Sometimes there are men at different points who are part of the same gang and will pretend that they’re going the same way as you, but they’re just slowly trying to creep on you to pickpocket you or to corner you.
Athens, Greece, according to Disney’s Hercules, is the city of thieves. Which isn’t too far off. I was shopping at H&M with my daypack on. (Mind you, I’m getting better at this and moving anything valuable in the bottom pockets near my back and placing a scarf or jacket on top so that if my bag gets unzipped, it’s a struggle to get to the goods.) All of a sudden, I hear my backpack being unzipped. Thank god my daypack is super hard to unzip, because it always gets caught. I heard it and immediately turned around to catch a lady who was pretending to shop. I called her out and she peaced out like her ass was on fire.
Throughout my time in Athens, I noticed men who would come sit next to us, when there were plenty of seats elsewhere. They would eye our backpacks or purses and nod off to other men to signal to move in. That’s when Tonga and I would immediately peace out and go into a store. This happened way too many times for me to count. All I’m trying to do is enjoy my time in a city that I had heavily read and learned about. After all, my minor was in Archaeology with a focus on Greece and Rome.
Another instance in Athens, was when Tonga and I were walking back to our hotel and we were approached by these men who were claiming to be our brothers and that we were their sisters and that we should all live harmoniously. The ironic thing is that Tonga warned me about these men. They would go up to you and tie a bracelet on you and then claim that it’s free of charge…. but then go into detail about how much effort it took to make the bracelets and that any donation would be helpful. If you don’t give them a donation, they harass you. So as soon as these two men cornered us, I had said no thanks and continued walking. As I kept walking, Tonga got sucked into it. She tried to get away, but she was being too nice.
One guy asked me for a high five as I was walking by and I hesitantly gave him one and then he continued by grabbing my hand and not letting go, where I proceeded to drop my hand and twist around to grab his wrist and proceeded to tell him to not touch me. He was definitely butt hurt and called me out saying that he thought it was funny that I told him not to touch me, but I gave him a high five. I then lectured him about how I gave him the high five, but he overstepped his boundaries with me by grabbing me and that he had no right to grab me. He let it go.
I had to pull Tonga away. The man managed to get a bracelet on her, but when he realized that she wasn’t going to pay anything, he demanded to have the bracelet back. He then started yelling at us as we were trying to get back on a main road.
Every time we head back to our accommodations, we have to check behind us to make sure no one is following us. We have to triple check that the doors are locked. We have to make sure that we have an emergency plan. This sucks. We can’t drink too much or stay out too late because there is a chance that someone will follow us home. It’s frustrating that even though we’re on vacation, we still have to have our guards up.
The only good thing is that now I know that all those years of karate were good for something. Here’s to a safe trip!