"I wonder where the mother bear is."--famous last words of travelers in bear country
"Are you feeling lucky, punk?--you know who
Special Concerns of Solo Women Travelers
(see The Mindful Traveler, chapter 6)
Women traveling alone face greater hazards than men and should therefore be more mindful of their surroundings and what can go wrong.
Avoid late night travel in subways and/or public transportation. Think about escape and flight whenever you on the street, and evaluate the peril of your surroundings. In a big city your back-pack should be stowed away in a locker by dark.
In general, realize that what you take for granted in the States (or your home country) may not apply abroad, including the safety of door locks, the privacy of rooms, and the effectiveness of forcefully "saying no."
Sometimes we are too politically correct to admit it, but harassment is more likely in Italy, Spain, and the Balkans. Attractive young women, especially if they are blond, have even greater problems here and in less developed countries, than in northern Europe.
Women should rule out hitch-hiking in all countries and will always be safer traveling with known friends, male, or female. Of course, traveling with a large bear can also do wonders for safety.
Otherwise, follow the Tao invisibility guidelines described above if you want to reduce hazards. Also avoid form-fitting pants and other clothing that may appear to advertise your sexuality. Unfortunately in many cultures, a woman traveling alone is often perceived as interested in a sexual encounter.
To prepare for contingencies, carry a whistle and play out various scenarios. Imagine how you will respond if someone in a crowd pinches you or grabs your ass. (Only a fool would grab the ass of a female bear). In general, you should avoid eye-contact with leerers and should know the local vernacular for saying no in such a way as to leave no doubt about underlying intention.
Don't be caught without a flashlight at night and be ready with an ample phone card (that you know how to use) to call for help. The phone card, of course, will do you little good if you haven't figured out the local protocols for raising an operator or calling the police.
Remember also that awareness of local surroundings is critical. Stay away from dark streets and bad neighborhoods. Steer clear of walls during the night and watch your back side. Avoid turning your back to the sidewalk when looking at buildings. If you sense you are entering a perilous situation, don't hesitate to seek out a police officer or turn back. Whenever you are hesitant about hailing a cop because you are not sure if it is warranted, reconsider. Nothing is gained by being a dare-devil.
In preparation for a solo trip, you should review the specialized literature and videos on female travel. These discuss specific harassment scenarios and the pros and cons of different emergency responses.