The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Safety Principle #5

You can rudely decline that drink. That's what Daniel Craig should have done.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a good movie. Not a great movie.

It’s entertaining but it’s not remarkable for its ideas, performances, direction…

But there is a moment that offers more than the rest of the film.  And it has significance for solo travelers.

To travel safely you may have to be rude on occasion.

(Semi-spoiler alert.) Towards the climax of the film, Martin (the bad guy) returns home to find Michail (the good guy) in his yard. Sensing that he has been discovered, Martin invites Michail in for a drink – luring him into a trap. Michail complies. And, after a short dance of words, Martin pulls a gun and takes Michail to what can only be described as his dungeon.

There, while Michail is hanging from the ceiling, Martin does what is apparently a psychological necessity according to the genre; he talks to Michail. And here is where it gets relevant to solo travel.

Reflecting on Michail actions, Martin says how curious it is that people are more fearful of offending a person than for their own safety. Even as Michail’s gut told him that it was not safe to re-enter the house, he did. He could have run but, for fear of offending, he went in for a fateful drink. At least, that was Martin’s take on it and I think, in general, it’s pretty accurate.

Solo Travel Safety Principle #5:  prepare to be rude.

Principle #5 of my Five Principles of Solo Travel Safety:

When it comes to safety, if polite doesn’t work be rude – especially when traveling solo. Regardless of whether it may hurt someone’s feelings or disturb other people, if you have to, be rude to ensure your safety. Turn away from a belligerent person, yell loudly, make accusations in front of others… do whatever it takes to get attention and help from those around. By being rude, you can get yourself out of many situations but, you do have to read the situation correctly.

Being rude will not help with evil people like Martin. (Fortunately, there are few of those in the world.) But it will work with small time threats and make you feel more powerful in situations when you’re vulnerable.

If you are a particularly timid person, I suggest that you exercise a loud, yelling voice before traveling alone. Go into your basement or any place private and yell – with authority. You likely won’t have to use it but you will be stronger for it.


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  • Janice Waugh

    Wow. Good for you. And wasn’t the timing amazing! :)

  • Michelle

    I had to be rude this morning while I was on my way to work in Valparaiso, Chile. A guy sat right next to me on the metro, which was practically empty. He said, in English , “Don’t worry”, which of course is a red flag and my spidey senses had been giving bad vibes earlier from this guy. I said a rude comment in spanish, made sure others saw this interaction and quickly moved to a different train car. You have to do it, even if it puts you out of your comfort zone. Your column made my day today and reminded me I made the right choice.

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  • Alayna Wood

    I have been going through and reading your blog over the last week and I have to say out of all the other travel blogs I have read, yours contains the most useful information about what it takes for women to be safe as they travel alone. I like how you talk about the benefits and pros of solo travel but also the realities of it and how dangerous it could potentially be. Your honest and realistic and I truly like that about your blog.Thank you.
     I wrote a blog post awhile back about reverse sexism and how people say that women suffer from it if they constantly think the worst of men’s intentions. The thing is we don’t have the luxury to not look at a worse case scenario. We can’t afford to let our guard down because somewhere there is always going to be someone who will want to take advantage of it. Now, that’s not to say we need to be paranoid, but if it comes down to it… I’d much rather be considered a snarky b***** for ignoring a man’s catcall or refusing an offer of a drink than be on the 11 o’clock news. I think people should be more sensitive to the situations they try to put others in and realize more how it comes off to them. 

  • solotraveler

    Absolutely right. Better safe than sorry. Cheers!

  • Miranjelica

    I have had to do this. A guy came up to me in Montmartre, an Italian who said he was also in Paris because of work. He was visiting friends and asked if I would like to join him. I found that beyond my comfort level, even though he seemed nice and remained so after I declined. Better safe than sorry! I may have missed my chance at true love or just narrowly avoided a mugging, I’ll never know, but I don’t regret my caution.

  • Cheap Flights to Entebbe

    He who is only a traveler learns things at second-hand and by the
    halves, and is poor authority. We are most interested when science
    reports what those men already know practically or instinctively, for
    that alone is a true humanity, or account of human experience.

  • Peggy McPartland

    Great reminder Janice! It can be hard to be rude but is so important to trust your gut! It’s the one thing I tell people – trust your instincts, they won’t fail you.

  • Anonymous

    Loved this Janice!  I often say that ‘tough love’ is necessary when traveling alone.

  • Janice Waugh

    Yes, scammers like sweet and simple marks. I heard the Swedish version was better as well.

  • Janice Waugh

    I know. We are taught to be polite but sometimes it’s not the right thing to do. Thanks for contributing.

  • Abby

    Great reminder! I have the hardest time with this. It’s ridiculous! Especially being a female — how many times have I been with a guy who’s been the tiniest bit rude? I say something, and he’s like why do you care what that stranger thinks of you — you couldn’t see that he was (fill in situation here).

  • Don Faust

    Rudeness will help keep scammers at bay also, if you know something is not right.  I thought the movie was decent, but I heard the Swedish version was better.

  • Janice Waugh

    there you go Cailin. It is absolutely necessary sometimes. Fortunately not often.

  • Cailin O’Neil

    In Berlin recently I had to be rude to a guy and after I walked away he yelled after me “Was I creeping you out? I just wanted to talk!” and I just walked quicker and told him sorry I’m headed somewhere. I felt so bad! It’s hard to be rude but its true it is definitely something you need to master. I think also “Acting crazy” goes hand in hand with it – if people think you are nuts they are more likely to leave you alone. haha

  • Janice Waugh

    That’s cool Debbie. I don’t think this statement stood out for everyone.

  • Janice Waugh

    Europe is so wonderful. I’ve been a number of times. Please read the safety section in particular – especially my 5 principles of safety starting with #1: public is always safer than private. Have a great time!!!

  • Janice Waugh

    I think there’s truth in what you say. If you’re forced to be rude to protect yourself it’s because someone else hast been rude first.

  • Debbie Beardsley

    When I heard that statement in the movie, I thought Oh boy that is too true!  Why are we so polite even when know something is up?  Important point to bring up!

  • Jim @NeverStopTraveling

    I agree with Satu — that’s a valid point in that type of situation when you’re being physically assaulted. I was referring to non-physical coercion.

  • Satu

    Excellent advice. Sometimes it is necessary to be rude. Let’s say you’re a solo female traveler in India and you’re getting followed or groped (which has happened to me several times and happens a lot in India): saying “please, would you be so kind and not follow me, I don’t like it” or “please do not grab my boobs again” really does NOT work. Shouting, cursing, telling the guy to p*** off, slapping, kicking: always work wonders. When my personal safety is at risk I am perfectly within my rights to defend myself and here I have to disagree with Jim: in these situations I have to be rude.

  • Debbie

    if you are just looking for nice weather and the activities or amenities you like – this is a great last minute site.

  • Aleah |

    Hi Janice! Will go solo backpacking in Europe for 70 days starting next month. I’ll read through your blogs, I know I can learn a lot of tips from you!

  • Jim @NeverStopTraveling

    Very good advice. Everyone can get into a bad situation if they’re not careful. I don’t think we ever have to be rude if you decline an invitation with a polite (or contrived) excuse. If the other person pushes you about it, they’re the one being rude. And that should make you think get out of there and away from that person as fast as possible.