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My Scariest Moment as a Solo Female Traveler

“Destined to be an old women with no regrets.”

I hear the sound of an engine cut out and see a motorcycle parked up above. They are back.

Panic fills me as I grab a few rocks from the ground. I see him approach. He is staring at me intently without any hint of emotion, the exact same way all Indian men look at me.

I feel naked, and his greedy eyes undress me as he gets closer. I quickly run up the small hill I had climbed down moments before for a pee break.

I say “go away,” again, as fiercely as I can, and hold up my rock. He doesn’t come closer, but he doesn’t back away either.

I reach the top of the hill and see his friend, who has parked his motorcycle by my bike. He has that same nasty cold-blooded look in his eyes. I feel my insides shrivel as anger rises up inside of me.

There is no doubt in my mind about what they are planning to do to me, and I have never been so afraid in my life.

India's children: a reminder of Heaven

India’s children: a reminder of Heaven

I grab my bike and quickly pedal away, unsure of how to proceed. They pass by me, staring as they always do. I hope they are gone for good this time –  I have been playing this scary game of cat and mouse for forty minutes now.

I’m at least twenty kilometers out from the main highway, trapped on a small road I thought would be a shortcut. “A shortcut to hell,” I think to myself now.

And that’s when I see them, six of them. They have multiplied. The two men who have been following me have brought reinforcements. Their three motorcycles are parked by the side of the road and they are all waiting for me to pass.

I stop. There are too many of them, they can easily overpower me. One starts to approach me and my heart beats faster inside my chest, I am trapped.

I beg the next couple who pass on a motorbike to stop.

“Help, help me, please!”

I am lucky, there is a women on board, a rare sight in this part of India. And she speaks enough English to translate. I quickly explain my situation as the pack approaches. She tells them to go away but it is no use, they look at her with that same slimy look they give to all women. We aren’t respected here, we are second-class, unworthy. Disposable. I have never felt so angry.

The Sikh people were Shirine's saviors time and time again

The Sikh people were Shirine’s saviors time and time again

She flags down the next older gentleman who passes. Like her driver, he wears a turban that shows he is Sikh, a gentle group of people I have come to trust and respect throughout my stay in India. She explains to him that I need an escort and he readily agrees. My followers are dispersing now, they realize their fun has been ruined.

I follow the man for a few kilometers before he speaks. He tries to ask me in Hindi where I am going, and I struggle to explain that I don’t know. It’s 5pm and almost dark out. I have never been caught this late without a place to sleep, and given my last hour of hell, there is no way I’m sleeping in my tent tonight.

He signals me to follow him to his house and I immediately feel relieved, I have a place to stay. He is kind and gentle, the type of man any child would be proud to call their grandfather. I arrive at his house were his wife, daughter, and granddaughter are surprised yet elated to greet me. I am saved, and within the next few days, I will find heaven in hell.

They serve me a cup of steaming chia before I even have time to change out of my dusty cycling clothes. A neighborhood child peers over the fence, shy yet curious about this newly arrived Westerner. The family later tells me that they have never spoken to a white girl before.


No one speaks English, but as always, I get by with a few words of Hindi and a lot of charades. They invite me to eat dinner, a meal of delicious Indian curry and rice, before taking me next door to meet the neighbors. I am proudly shown off to everyone in this small village, and pretty soon, they have all demanded that I spend at least one night with each of the different families.

As I sit on the ground next to the ladies they talk and laugh, and though I love seeing their smiling faces, it is hard not being able to understand what they say. I get up and find the children instead as language is never a barrier with them.

They warm up to me quickly and within minutes I have one on my back, and a child grabbing each hand. They show me their rice fields and their cows, and I stop to play with the smallest calf. He is soft, only a few weeks old, and nuzzles me to pet him. I’m in heaven, surrounded by playful children, laughing women, and a cuddly cow.

My anger slowly fades as I spend the next few days enjoying this family’s hospitality. I take a motorbike ride through the rice fields and taste my first stalk of fresh sugar cane. I spend hours with the children, and find myself happily in charge of the one year old granddaughter.

I sleep every night with the grandma, an arrangement I am more than used to now after staying with countless families as a solo female traveler.

The neighbors come over and I am ordered (nicely) to visit them daily. They are all incredibly hospitable, handing me cups of hot tea and different traditional dishes at each and every visit. It is overwhelming at times, the sheer hospitality and kindness, but every minute of overwhelm is worth bearing because of the amazing experiences I come away with.


After four days I decide it is time for me to continue on my way. They beg me to stay, but eventually relent and let me ride out with two of the men as an escort.

The girls hand me beautiful earrings and necklaces as I leave, and though I am trying to thank them, they end up thanking me. They have relatives forty kilometers away and have already arranged for me to stay with them for the following few nights.

I arrive at my next homestay to find a beautiful sixteen year old girl who speaks nearly perfect English because she attends a private English boarding school. She shows me around, tells me about her secret boyfriend, and immediately makes me feel like family.

I cook with the oldest sister, go out with the teenager and her friends, and visit the Sikh temple with the whole family. Once again I am treated like a queen. I stay a few more days before eventually heading out. They are worried about me so I promise to find a pay phone and call them that night. When I do, they tell me they miss me and that I should give up my bike journey to live with them. I have never felt so welcomed in any other country.

India. It’s heaven and it’s hell, and you are sure to experience both journeying as a solo female traveler.

You will see the savage brutality of inequality and you will learn to stand proud as a woman. You are sure to be taken in as a daughter, friend, and sister by countless amazing families.

I have stayed in a slum, with multiple farming families in the villages, and with wealthy families in different cities. In each and every home I was treated like a queen. Go out and experience it for yourself. It’s worth going through hell to get to heaven.

Shirine Taylor is a 20-year old solo female traveler cycling around the world, and a regular contributor to The Happy Passport.

This post originally appeared on Shirine’s blog, awanderingphoto.wordpress.com.

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Quick+Dirty Takeaway

1. Shirine was almost the victim of a gang rape in India.

2. She was rescued by a Sikh family who took her in and protected her.

3. India is both heaven and hell for solo female travelers.

4. Even though she endured one of the scariest moments of her life, Shirine wouldn't trade her time in India for anything and still recommends other solo female travelers visit India.

Want to dig deeper? Go for it!

Travel Packing Tips for the Reluctant Nomad

Fit everything I own into these two bags? Suuuuuure.

Mom, don’t freak out. I’m not not coming back, I just like to rhyme whenever possible. It’s good for SEO.

I have to pack for a trip to at least four countries over a period of at least 3 months and I’m only bringing one backpack and one laptop bag.

What’s a girl to do with restrictions like that?

Luckily, I don’t have that many clothes to place on the sacrificial altar, so killing my babies shouldn’t be too difficult (except those gorgeous DSW boots…I just bought those, damn it.)

Here are my travel packing tips after having to consolidate everything I own into 2 bags.

I hauled out everything I owned and began placing it all into piles on the bed – a “no” pile, a “maybe” pile, and a “yes” pile, based on weather, the mosquito factor, and the likelihood of having to look cute.

By the time I finished, I’d narrowed everything down to two of everything:

  • 2 long sleeve shirts
  • 2 t-shirts
  • 2 sweaters
  • 2 jackets (leather and heavy winter)
  • 2 dresses (one sun, one that I could wear should I be invited to a fancy dinner. Or a Nepalese Cinderella ball.)
  • 2 sports bras
  • 2 real bras
  • 2 pairs of pants
  • 2 pairs of sweatpants/workout pants
  • 2 pairs of underwear

Kidding. I allowed myself room for a smattering of socks and underwear, enough to last me for at least a week without doing laundry.

The garments marched two by two into my lone, cavernous bag, which had suddenly become a veritable Noah’s Ark of international travel.

Make sure to roll – not fold – your clothing when packing. Keep the stuff you must get at quickly (hand sanitizer! clean underwear!) in an easily accessible pocket.

Bra Pod! Step 1

Bra Pod! Step 1

Bra Pod! Step 2

Bra Pod! Step 2

Matt recommends getting tiny little Elf locks (like a padlock, not long flowing hair) to secure your bag. I am not doing this. I hope I don’t regret it.

In addition to my Noah’s Ark wardrobe, I am bringing

  • A bunch of girly toiletries
  • Some makeup
  • Prescription medications (anti-malaria, anti-diarrhea, etc)
  • My laptop
  • My iPhone 5
  • Chargers for said electronics
  • Noise-cancelling headphones
  • Batteries for said headphones

I dumped all of the medications out of their bottles, put it into plastic baggies, and labeled them with a Sharpie to save more room.

I also got an iPhone case that doubles as a battery, so when my phone is about to die on the plane, my phone won’t die on the plane!

This was about $50 on GroupOn and is already making my battery life longer than my boyfriend’s face after I made a joke about getting laid in Nepal. (Ohhh, so you don’t want me, but nobody else can have me either. Got it.)

Think your phone is about to die? Think again!

Think your phone is about to die? Think again!

And the piece de resistance of what I’m bringing to Nepal – VALIUM.

I have never taken Valium before, and I’m not quite sure why I hadn’t considered it earlier because I loathe flying. Absolutely hate it. Everyone always seem to be chewing gum in my ear or snoring loudly or shoving their elbows into me or trying to talk to me when I want to sleep.

I can’t sleep on planes to save my life, but I need to sleep on this flight. If I don’t, I may be awake for over 48 hours straight, and I think that will be really bad for my skin.

Valium face.

Valium face.

My itinerary is as follows:

11:30am Friday – Fly from LAX to Shanghai Pudong, 14 hours (last year’s flight was only 12 hours – is the difference because of daylight savings time?)

4:30pm Saturday – Land in Shanghai and enjoy a four hour layover after my 14 hour flight.

9:00pm Saturday – If you’re keeping track, I’ve now been traveling for 18 hours, and have probably been awake for over 24. The solution? Get on another 3-hour flight to Kungming, China.

12:20am Sunday – Land in Kungming, China. Endure a cruel 14 hour layover.

2:30pm Sunday – Fly from Kungming to Kathmandu, another 3-4 hours. With the time change I should arrive in Nepal around 4:30pm on Sunday.

The two biggest problems about this itinerary are as follows:


2. I don’t know if I’ll be allowed to leave the airport in Kunming, which means I may have to spend 14 hours in the airport.

Last year when I flew into Shanghai, I had a similar lay over and was allowed to leave the airport with a visa that was only good for 24 hours. But this time I’ll be in the country longer – first Shanghai, then Kunming.

Coffee and Valium, the breakfast of champions

Coffee and Valium, the breakfast of champions

The airport in Kunming is new and the information available online is confusing. One website talks about lounges, and even showers, right in the airport. Travel forums are filled with people asking the same question as me – can I leave the airport and get a hotel? If not, are there really showers in the airport?

I still don’t know. I guess I’ll find out when I get there (Yikes! I need a plan! A plan, I say!)

In the mean time, my Valium is tucked inside my Noah’s Ark menagerie, and as my sweetie helps me try on my packed pack for the first time, smiling at me tenderly before kissing my forehead, I wonder if I’m making a huge, huge mistake.

What’s your weirdest travel packing tip?

photo credit: diytrade.com

SUBSCRIBE now for solo female travel tips and get your FREE copy of 175 WAYS TO TRAVEL TODAY! Enter your email address below to download your copy of the book now. 

Quick+Dirty Takeaway

1. Roll up each individual item of clothing to save space.
2. Take exactly 2 of everything (except underwear - take a bunch of that)
3. Dump medications out of their bottles and put them in labeled plastic baggies to save space.
4. Get a battery-powered charger for your Smartphone (try GroupOn - they should be around $50)
5. You miiiiight want some Valium for the plane.
6. Just when you think you've eliminated all extraneous items from your bag(s), get rid of more. When you're running to catch a train in 100-degree heat, you'll thank me.

Want to dig deeper? Go for it!