Sunday, March 11, 2012

Who to ask for help

When you are by yourself travelling and don't have anyone within a 20 hour flight radius to help you if something is to go wrong, you will often have to ask a local for help. Being a young woman, I am always strategic with who I ask for help, so I thought this might be an interesting topic to shed some light on.

So what I am about to talk about I find very difficult to explain - so I hope its not too confusing! When you travel solo, and have to rely on yourself and yourself alone - meaning you have absolutely no connections or networks in the continent you are in, and there is no point calling home because lets face it, what the hell could your parents possibly do to help on the other side of the world?

I found I developed a sixth sense so to speak. I had an instinct that would kick in and direct me towards people I could 'trust' and people I should 'avoid'. I guess it was my body's way of surviving, and I believe it was developing this skill and trust in my gut feeling that changed my personality. When it is just you and your thoughts, you become a hell of a lot more aware of what goes on around you. How people interact, their mannerisms, whether they are friendly or have a hidden agenda. Every person I met, I unconsciously would analyse their intentions and figure out whether they were good company to keep or not. And I made sure I would never ignore my gut feeling.

So.. when I needed help, I would call on this instinct or gut feeling. I would target people who I knew would be safe to help me out. I never trusted anyone, I guess a better description would be to say that I used them politely. I made sure I would choose friendly looking women or parents with young families to help me. It seemed that mothers were always very empathetic and would go to unbelievable lengths to help me out... I guess it was because I am very young looking and they couldn't ignore that mothering instinct. I owe a lot of my rescues to mothers!

I guess what I am trying to say to all you young women travellers out there is don't ask the creepy looking guy on the train how to get to such and such. It's plain common sense. If you have an uneasy feeling about a person, don't ignore it and don't forget you are your own boss on the road.

I also thought I would share a story that has inspired me to write this post. It is dedicated to the amazing young English family that helped me get from Gatwick airport to my hostel at ungodly hours of the morning.

This was my first experience of travelling by myself. I had just finished my semester two studies in Italy, and was heading straight to London to begin my Topdeck adventures around Europe. I had not given myself much time at all for errors, which is something I have learned from. I had uni that Friday in Prato, then had to catch the Prato train to Pisa in the afternoon, where I would catch a plane from Pisa to Gatwick airport. From Gatwick I had to catch a train/tube to the Clink Hostel in London, where my bus left for the tour at 7am the next day.
I had a few hiccups getting to Pisa with train delays, but luckily I didn't miss my flight. After getting to Gatwick I had no idea where to go, it was something like 12am in the morning and there was only one or two tubes left to get into the city. I saw a young family and I knew this was my only way out of here - as there weren't many people on the plane, nor was there anyone in the airport with it being so late. I followed them and asked how to get to where I was going, and where they were going. It was by pure chance they were heading to the same place. They helped me pay for the tube (something I didnt even consider) and booked me a taxi from the tube to my hostel (something I couldnt of done as I had no idea of the number for a taxi). The mother refused to let me walk from the train to my hostel, as she had grown up in the area and said she wouldn't dare do it herself. Im glad she was so persistent, because by the time we got to St Pancreas Station it was 1 or 2 am and the nightlife there was insane with it being a Friday night. I would have been a sitting duck walking by myself with a massive pack. There was no way I could slip under the radar and blend in with everyone else.
Anyway the family waited with me for my taxi to come, but it never did. We waited for like half an hour, and they had no obligation to do so. They refused to leave me on the street by myself, so they shoved me in their taxi and drove me to the hostel. I tried to give them money but they refused. I will never forget their kindness nor the help they gave me, and it is people like that who make travelling such a beautiful thing.

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