There are a lot of good men in the world. Unfortunately, as a female traveller it seems like a lot of the good men stay home (wherever home might be), and the creepy ones come out to play. Here are a few of the most noteworthy encounters I’ve had over the years.
A camel, a camel, my vagina for a camel
Egypt is the land of the pyramids and other amazing historical sites. It’s also the land of pervy men — an astonishingly large population of pervy men. There’s nothing subtle about their perviness, either, and they have a very good grasp of a few key English words.
Pretty early on in my trip to Egypt I got “Big bum!” directed at me. Sorry dude, my body is far too bootylicious for you, so keep those hands off.
One asked “How many camels?” Presumably he was asking for either my hourly rate or my bride price, although who knows, maybe he thought I was a camel herder and he wanted to buy one or two. How does one go about shipping a camel back to Canada, I wonder?
My friend and I got called “fucking bitches” because we refused to pay attention to a couple of guys. I suppose if you’re going to learn words in a foreign language, wouldn’t “fucking bitches” be your first choice?
It was in Alexandria, our last stop in Egypt, that I lost all patience with the constant harassment, and I let ‘er rip with my annoyance. When a man walking by us on the street told me “I want to fuck you”, I lost it, and decided to hit where I thought it would hurt. “What’s wrong with you? You call yourself a Muslim? Do you think Allah would approve of this? You’re a disgusting pig!” I continued to shout out at him as onlookers collected around us, and hopefully put the fear of the scary big bummed white woman into him.
In Uzbekistan, I was excited to go for a Turkish bath at a historic hammam. Given that it was a well-established place that Lonely Planet said good things about, it initially didn’t bother me too much that it would be a male doing my massage.
Things first got uncomfortable when he wanted me to take my bikini off. I’d been to hammams before with female staff who were quite insistent on unfettered access, so I wasn’t sure if he was being creepy or this was just par for the course. So, stupidly enough, I took the bikini off. Bad call.
There was far too much ass and boob grabbing going on for my liking. Then again, the fact that there was any ass and boob grabbing at all was not to my liking. Yet I still wasn’t entirely sure if it was inappropriate or not, and I didn’t want to be rude and accuse him of being a pervert if this was just the standard routine. Looking back I’m not sure why I was the least bit worried about any of that, but at the time it really paralyzed my thinking.
Then the idea popped into my head that I could just put my bikini back on — brilliant, right? He tried telling me not to, but that much I was firm on. At that point, I figured the chances of my pervy radar being wrong were slim to nil.
Luckily once the bathing suit was back on there was no more gropey business going on.
At least I was sensible enough not to leave him a tip.
While I was in the Italian city of Florence I was staying at a hostel in a mixed gender 5-bed dorm room. One of the male staff took a liking to me, and if I was in the room reading in bed he would often wander in and stand by bed chatting at me. It was annoying, but I didn’t think it was worth the bother of putting the kibosh on.
One afternoon I was sitting in the hallway outside my room catching up with some journalling. Dude walked over from the front desk to bug me for a bit, and then he walked into my room. I thought that was a bit weird, but it moved from a bit weird to a lot weird when he didn’t come back out.
Then I started hearing noises. Having a little too much fun kind of noises, but not so obviously icky that I could be entirely sure what was going on. I also didn’t want to believe that dude was masturbating in my room, and I certainly didn’t want to walk in and find out, so I was caught paralyzed in my own little mental hurricane.
As I was trying to figure out what to do (or not do), a young woman (presumably a new roommate) walked down the hall and entered the room. A few seconds later, she hightailed it back out. A few seconds later, dude comes following after her, telling her that no, it wasn’t what she thought.
I was questioning my sanity before, but this was confirmation enough.
I went up to the other staff member at the front desk and went ballistic. “That fucking pervert was jacking off in my room!” I screamed. Buddy refused to believe me, and his only priority seemed to be to get me to shut up. One particularly offensive line he trotted out was “Why would he do that and risk his job?” Oh yeah, like it’s my responsibility to explain why he’s a pervert.
So much for the Italian Renaissance man. Luckily it didn’t take me too long to find alternate accommodations.
I was in Nazca, Peru, to see the famous Nazca lines. My morning excursion was a fly-over in a dinky little plane that involved acrobatic vomiting on my part.
In the afternoon, I did a guided tour of a cemetery with mummified human remains. The tour guide kept trying to chat me up, and I did my best to ignore him, while at the same time thinking it was a pretty odd choice of locale to put try to put the moves on someone.
On the way back into town, he asked what hotel I wanted to be dropped off at. I didn’t want him to know where to find me, so I said he should just drop me off at the tour company office. His next tactic was to drop everyone off before me so he’d get me alone. I wasn’t falling for that, so when the last couple were dropped off at there hotel, I quickly hopped out at the same time and said I’d just walk to my guesthouse.
I started booting it towards my guesthouse, which wasn’t far. Minutes after I walked through the door, who should turn up outside but creepy guy. He must have followed me there. I refused to speak with him, and the guesthouse owner shooed him away.
That night I was catching a bus out of town. It was late afternoon at this point, and I didn’t want to wait until after it was dark to head to the bus station, so I decided to walk over there and stop in at the tour company office to rant about the guide.
I believe it was the owner who was there when I showed up. He didn’t speak much English, but I don’t think I was particularly coherent regardless of language. What I did keep repeating was “HE FUCKING FOLLOWED ME!” I guess bat shit crazy translates pretty well regardless of language.
When I was all ranted out, I continued on to the bus station. Unfortunately, I had made the mistake of telling the tour guide (before he got overly creepy) that I was leaving town that night. A short time later, he showed up at the bus station and starts yelling at me, saying I cost him his job and this will hurt his family, etc., etc. He wanted me to talk to his boss and say that he didn’t do anything. No dice, sucker.
Peru is big on security guards. The bus station had a security guard, and he just watched impassively while this was going on, ignoring my pleas of “ayudame, ayudame!” (help me, help me).
After 45 minutes of verbal tirade, I realized that across the street there was a fast food store, and I recognized it as a chain that always had security guards. I also knew that as a white chick at a foreign fast food chain, chances were high that I’d be treated like the queen of the castle. And so it was that I was rescued by Norky’s and its lousy fast food.
It’s unfortunate that it’s the bad apples that tend to be the most memorable. It’s also unfortunate that the creepy ones come crawling out of the woodwork often enough that it starts to become the expectation rather than the norm. As a female, and often solo, traveller, I’ve had to learn how to stickhandle through some dubious situations. Does it affect my interest in travelling at all? Nope. And I guess that’s what’s most important.