I was sitting in a pub a month ago and someone asked where I was staying. I told them without telling them anything specific. That was that.
Later they asked how I could feel safe traveling alone. Well, I said, “I have developed certain skills. For example, I keep important information to myself.”
They looked at me quizzically. I continued: “Earlier, you asked me where I am staying. I answered. Were you happy with the answer?”
They all responded: “yes”.
“Do you know where I’m staying?,” I asked. They were all surprised to realize that they didn’t and understood completely that I do have a few skills up my sleeve to keep me safe.
Polite yet vague answers to common questions.
Most people who ask questions of me as I travel are simply curious. Their questions are innocent. But, because in the rare case they may not be, and, my answers could be overheard by the wrong person, when I travel solo I play it safe.
Some people put up a shield when they travel solo by wearing a wedding ring or carrying a picture of a brother to substitute for a husband. But, I’m a really bad liar. So, instead, I’ve developed the ability to answer common questions with truthful, vague and safe answers. Here are a few examples…
Where are you staying?
- At a B&B in the ____ district.
You want to give an answer that doesn’t sound evasive but also doesn’t give people any specific information. You can also elaborate about how the owner has taken you under their wing.
Can I drive/walk you to your hotel?
I always take a bathroom run and call a cab before anyone is making a move to leave. That way I can honestly express gratitude but not accept the ride. Don’t accept a ride or even share a taxi. By doing either you are putting yourself out of control and revealing where you are staying.
Are you really traveling alone?
Give people the impression that should you go missing for a minute, people would know.
What are you up to this evening?
To spend the evening without this person keep your response as vague as that. If you wouldn’t mind spending the evening with them, meet in a public place away from your hotel and return to your hotel via taxi so that they don’t feel obliged to get you home.
How old are you? (or some more subtle variation)
Very young and older travelers can be targets for con artists so try to present yourself as if you are in your 30s, 40s or 50s.
If a simple, pleasant response to an apparently innocent query doesn’t work, if a person digs deeper for information, you really should question whether you want that person to have any information at all. Then it is time to be assertive and say that you don’t reveal that information to people you have just met.