Travel Writing Exercise: Unsafe
There has been a lot of buzz lately surrounding safety and the independent traveller after Sari Sierra, a 33-year old woman from New York City, was discovered dead near some ruins in Istanbul, Turkey. It was her first time out of the country and she was traveling alone. Many criticized her decision to travel on her own as a woman, which was countered by a wave of solo traveller backlash, but the point remains – what does it mean to be a safe traveller?
You can prepare and research a place all you want, but no matter where you are, there may be times when you’ve felt unsure or unsafe. It could be in a big city like London, or a rural Asian fishing village. Most times we return home unscathed, but every so often, something triggers the emotion of fear within us. You can create a very compelling travel story based on an event where you weren’t 100% sure about your well being.
Write about a time where you felt unsafe while traveling.
Below you can read a vignette I’ve written as an example, to get you started. Feel free to leave your story in the comments section, or send me an email and maybe I’ll feature yours next week!
They shut the electricity off every other day in Ghana.
The government blames it on a drought in Lake Volta, which is Ghana’s largest source of power, but Stephanie thinks it’s more of a political move to garner votes for the upcoming presidential election. Regardless of who is right, the sun sets at 6:00pm on the dot, and Ghana becomes a thick curtain of black.
Growing up in New York City I never experienced complete and total darkness like I do here in Ghana. There is always a source of light somewhere, this weird purple-red haze that sits above the buildings, blocking out the stars, like a natural ceiling filled with light pollution. But when it gets dark in Ghana, you can’t see the space before you, even when the moon is out. It’s eerie.
The rest of the group left the internet cafe early, but I remained behind for an extra hour to catch up on personal matters. I volunteered to pick up some groceries – bread, eggs, bags of water – but the enchantment of the internet caught up with me, and soon I saw that the sun was setting. My flashlight was at the villa and if I was going to make it back before everything turned black, I had to leave now.
The sun set quicker than I thought that day; in an instant it seemed as though the world had been swallowed up. I feel nervous walking back to the village – most of the stores have close up, and I still haven’t bought the bread. They warned against walking around Hohoe alone at night, in the dark, but that’s exactly what I’m doing. What if I get robbed? Kidnapped? Someone could swoop out in an instant and take me away, hold me for ransom. Even if I yelled for help, the robber would decree in his native language that I was only joking, he knows me, we’re good friends. And then, I’d be gone.
I see a little shack with a single light bulb running, pumped by a generator. There is a skinny boy standing at a table, where he is selling loaves of bread. Anxiously, I walk up to him and buy two loaves.
“You are from America?” he asks. His smile is large and welcoming.
I nod. “Yes, that’s right.”
“You like Ghana?”
“I do,” I reply, but I’m anxious to leave.
“We love you!” he tells me. I’ve never seen him in my entire life, not a day since being here. And I’ve been here for almost three months. “You are a superstar, thank you for liking my country!”
Suddenly, a gaggle of little Ghanaian children swarm around me. But not in a scammy way, like how beggar children will enclose an innocent tourist and demand money. No, these children are hugging me, smiling, singing songs, saying they love me. Not one of them goes for my daypack. Not one of them asks me for money.
“They like you,” the boy at the table says. “Because you are nice. They want to walk you home.”
It’s then that I realize how most people are good people, and not out to hurt you, and that these people have so much more to worry about than stealing some little white girl. Because everyone in this village knows everyone else and everything that goes on, and they are protective of visitors, and each other. Word would get out fast. I wouldn’t be missing for long.
The fear subsides, and I walk home alongside seven talkative Ghanaian kids. Sometimes, the hold my hand.