Solo female travel: Ladies, this is how a deterrent ring kept me safe on the road

[vc_row][vc_column][us_message]Editor’s NoteThis journal entry was originally written in a notebook on 21 March 2014 in Barranquilla, Colombia.[/us_message][vc_column_text]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.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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  1. Hi katukayo! So you told the embassy that youre married? And they don’t even ask for a marriage certificate or other supporting papers? Amazing!

  2. What a smart idea! I am not traveling alone very often nowadays but I remember when I was at university I was traveling alone more often. I remember when I was going to the Greek islands by boat guys would come and talk to me and wouldn’t leave me just relax and read my book. It was very annoying so in my next trip that summer I booked a cabin to avoid it.

  3. I’ve been traveling solo in Europe a few months ago but didn’t feel the need to wear a ring there. Haven’t really thought about wearing a fake ring, actually, but may consider it in the future. I actually don’t really know what to think about it… on the one hand, it would make it so much easier in some situations. But on the other hand, isn’t it kind of, I don’t know, frustrating that we actually have to wear a fake ring to be left alone in peace?!

  4. I’ve always worn a ‘deterrant ring’ since being 16!! People often tell me that it’s bad luck to wear it on my wedding finger and that I will never get married – well that’s cool – I had no intention of getting married anyway! Ha!
    It’s interesting to read how different people respond to it – and it’s certainly a sign of our times that people see it as a challenge. Glad it kept you ‘relative’ un-harrased throughout your travels though!

  5. I totally understand what you mean! I have a friend that enjoys drinking, and after he broke up with his GF, he constantly wears a ring. So, that others would not come close to him when he is out drinking.

  6. I believe it’s mostly a cultural thing but no doubt it helps all over the world. I remember that my (now) wife was asked a few times if she was alone although I was right next to her (most of the times anyway!) prior to the ring. Now, it doesn’t happen as much.

    Guess it served its purpose 🙂

  7. What a very interesting idea! I just returned from my honeymoon not long ago RTW for 3 months. And while it was not solo, there were definitely moments that I went to a restaurant or store by myself. It’s amazing the sense of strength my ring gave me. Knowing that I had my husband nearby could have given me that confidence, but if I went somewhere alone with my ring, it gave me a strength I never had when traveling solo years earlier. It almost feels like a shield, where strange men can’t hurt me. Obviously, not completely true. But it’s funny how just the smallest jewelry on one, specific finger can change your environment and your own attitude!

  8. I’ve thought about traveling with a ring as I do have my great nans engagement ring but I hate the idea that I HAVE to do this. Yeah some men are more pushy than others but most are harmless. I think in all my travels I’ve only had 1 that tried too hard, giving me strong cocktails, but he was still easy to get away from. Interesting to hear the ring does work though

  9. Interesting post! I am actually married and thus wear a wedding ring. When I visited Cuba last week, some men were amazed that my husband would let me travel alone:-).

  10. Wow! Your article really opened my eyes to what it is like traveling as a single woman. I suppose I am oblivious to much of what goes on in other circles because I am not looking to pick up anybody; I just like to travel. It is a shame that you have to play games to travel in peace, but I am glad you have found a method that works for you and that you demand the respect you so deserve.

  11. Hi Trisha, nice article. I read about using a fake wedding ring and even included it in one of my posts on solo female travel safety, but so far I didn’t have to use it. I generally just stayed in countries where I didn’t feel like I would encounter a prominent macho culture – so far. I think I might want to try it out at one point though. Where did you start looking for a cheap fake wedding ring?

  12. Interesting to read about your experiences wearing a deterrent ring. I live in the subarctic north of Canada, where I teach on a reserve and live in a mining town where there are considerably more men than women. Being a young white single woman attracts a lot of attention here because there aren’t a lot of women. Most of the men are away from home working in trades or construction for weeks at a time. I think because of this the men have a feeling of they can do and act whatever way they want because they are in the middle of nowhere away from home and there will be no repercussions. I’ve been told by some of my protective male friends that I should wear a deterrent ring and they have also offered at times to pretend to be my spouse when they felt I was in danger. I guess I am too stubborn because I prefer not to. I would rather learn how to face up to the harassment and be able to honestly tell guys to leave me alone and that they better not mess with me. Even though it’s annoying I feel like it is teaching me to be more tough and stand up for myself. But there are definitely times where I wished I had that sense of protection of being already taken as much as I rebel against the idea of needing to do that.

  13. Classic Trish V again I always enjoy your write ups about your nomad wanderlust life.
    The funny stories and punch lines leaves me in crack my ribs mode Lol

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