Solo female travel: Ladies, this is how a deterrent ring kept me safe on the road
For a year, I pretended to be married due to a bitter adversary that I am really sick of incorporating my life with but it all boils to that. Oh well. I bought some cheap wedding ring in Brasil and wore it for an entire year because, yes, I was pretending to be married. At first, I did it so I can avoid men who have the habit of picking up women at the hostel bar. I just wanted to enjoy my bottle of wine peacefully even if I was alone. Solo female travel can be really challenging but I found my way through it, happily.
Fortunately, it worked. Whenever I am sitting by the bar, I had the habit of showing off the ring by holding my wine glass in a manner that everyone (I mean everyone) can see it in all angles. It’s surprising to see how a lot of travelers are familiar with the ring — and they actually respond to it. Everyone left me alone and they didn’t even bother to talk to me or say “excuse me.” I sat there like an invisible person. It felt so powerful. However, not everyone responded the same.
Some took the ring as a challenge.
In age of millennial travel, I realised there are some people who are actually challenged with the idea of dating someone married. Exhibit A: a 26 year old American traveler who I will always remember because he was the first one to bravely come up to me in the presence of the ring. The first thing that he said was, “so you are married?” Not even asked for my name or where I am from which is usually the basic backpacker conversation starter. At the time, I did not know how to respond because I never thought someone would come up to me wearing the ring.
Should I come up with a story about my fake marriage? I was caught off guard and wasn’t really prepared so I did what I had to do — I diverted the conversation towards him. “So you are interested in married women?” I bounced back. He is younger than me and I figured that not only that he was into married women but also into older ones. Well, I wasn’t that far from his age. It’s just that he really looks young — wife beater, slippers, ball cap backwards and pulls his shirt over his head with one swoop. Like a boy. It was summer. I knew this because he was staying in the hostel for as long as I was.
“Don’t start. I am not interested. I am married.” He then started talking about sensible stuff as if he got out of the boy cage. “You’ll never know. You can never choose who to fall in love with. Who knows, the love of my life just might be you — a married woman.” Okay, so he was indecently proposing now but what he said actually made sense. We can never choose who to love and what can we do when some of us gets really excited with this kind of relationship. First lesson from wearing a fake wedding ring, actually.
Some find it incomprehensible that I am traveling alone, without ‘my husband’.
They find it hard to believe that I will choose to travel by myself, without my husband, which at the age of 28, should have already included a child — not doing the solo female travel hurrah. It was then that my love for culture grew stronger. It was a clear evidence of the different take on having family at the age of ____, which are so different from the values of my family. The VVDH (Velarmino-van der Heijde) Rule Book did not say that I have to be married at a certain age. But in other parts of the world, it really is a big deal.
I got out of conversations like this by saying my ‘husband’ is doing some errands in the next town, sending stuff to our family back home, excuses like that. Sometimes, I tend to be creative and say, “he just took the kids somewhere and won’t be back for a few days. I am sick so I stayed.” Sick but drinking wine. Well done, Trish.
A lot of them gave me so much respect.
Though it is not possible to give an accurate generalisation about every culture, I know one thing is for sure when it comes to Latin Americans: anything about family is important. Women who are married get the same respect as their spouses. For example, when I was applying for an Argentine visa in Uruguay, my personal life was scrutinised because that’s how it is in all Embassies, based on my experience. They will ask everything about you and I noticed that you need three things in order for them to grant you the visa: (1) You should have a job to prove your financial capability; (2) a proof of your financial resources; (3) they will ask if you are married and have any dependents.
I don’t know what does being married had to do with successfully processing my visa but I believe it’s been a great challenge to solo female travel lately because of women trafficking. 20+ million people are involved in human trafficking every year: 49% are single women.
And the rest totally ignored me.
Which got me thinking: wow, the deterrent ring kept me really safe without even knowing it. It was some kind of a force, a signal that I subliminally sent to everyone. Even my fellow women get curious sometimes: “Ah, you’re married. But what brings you here?”
Bottom line is that everyone responded to the deterrent ring whether I showed it off or not. At present, I just wear it when I feel like there is a threat or if I want to excuse myself from talking to someone at the bar. It’s weird but more often than not, I really enjoy being with myself, with my usual glass (or bottle) of wine. The ring saved me when I really wanted to be alone.