This One is for the Ladies: On Safety in Sri LankaPosted: May 3, 2012
When I first embarked on my journey, I was riddled with reservations and self-doubt. I was worried about being lonely (more than I was worried about being alone, and before I even started thinking about the safety issues that could arise as a solo female traveler). Now, for the month that I have been here, I have only felt lonely for the handful of times that I was especially homesick. Besides these rare occasions, I have been lucky enough to often be in good company, and so gradually loneliness fell by the way side. When I am alone now, I savour it, sit with it, take the time to reflect.
As far as safety concerns go (aside from some of the jarring, lightning-speed transportation) I have always felt safe. I do make a point of taking my clothing cues from the local women in Sri Lanka – knees and shoulders covered, and nothing overtly tight or revealing. (However, I am more lenient about this when in tourist-friendly areas.) I am always in before dark since there is really no night life to speak of in Sri Lanka, with late-night activities mostly occurring within the comfort of home. Some more tourist-friendly areas cater better to all night partying and clubbing (such as Unawatuna). For my late nights in ‘Una, I would always head back to my hotel with my group. I was also lucky enough to have picked a hotel with some modest security and a locked gate – much to my embarrassment when I was stumbling in at the wee hours of the morning! – but I was glad for the security measures.
Yes, boys and men will likely ogle no matter how conservatively you dress. As a foreigner, I am just someone new, different. The staring rarely stops at the men anyways – children and women stare just as much, and will even giggle and point (although they’re rarely the ones cat-calling). Everyone here, especially men, are extremely curious and ask so many questions. I’ve just grown to accept that I will likely be answering the same questions every day, and being rude won’t stop it, so I just stay brief and I never give details that make me uncomfortable if I can avoid it (i.e. where I’m staying, where I’m going).
I surprised myself in how I’ve fared on my own, and how comfortable and confident I’ve grown, but I truly cannot take all of the credit. I need to thank all of the wonderful, amazing, and inspiring people that I have met along the way, and that kept me in such great company, especially my fellow “lonely” female travelers. I know that this trip has been such a dream come true for me largely due to some of the extra fabulous women I’ve gotten to know, so this one is wholeheartedly dedicated to you all. Istoo-tee!