If you follow me on Instagram, you will have seen my encounter in Fiji with a very pleasant and hospitable bellman/concierge/doorman on my recent trip. All in all, this man was wonderful, kind, and friendly. Until he told me that I should not take a taxi because it is dangerous.
For the last 7 years, since my youngest was just 2 years old, I have been traveling all over the world with my boys. Sometimes alone, sometimes with a partner, sometimes on a tour or with a group. Only, once in those seven years have a truely felt caged.
I know this feeling may not seem normal. But you have to remember I am not normal. Yes, I love an all inclusive or group tour where I do not have to worry about anything, from logistics to where our next meal comes from. But you also have to remember that I took my 5 and 3 year old boys around the world from the West Coast of Canada to Jordan, a Middle Eastern country I had never heard of. Because it would be an adventure!
I do not exclusively look for Hawaii or Mexico or California for Spring Break. YES, I go to those places, but this spring break we headed to Fiji. In years past we have done New Zealand, Jordan, Palestine and Israel. I am not your average traveller. I have been to Iraq, yes, on a holiday (No one does that according to the Iraqi I met in Istanbul Airport). I tell everyone I know that the Middle East is my favorite part of the world. I crave adventure and culture and am more comfortable in a country where I do not speak the language than a big city in North America.
With all of that being said, I am still a single woman, traveling alone with her kids.
Why You Can’t Tell a Single Mom That Your Country is Dangerous
So then why am I telling you that you cannot tell me your country is dangerous.
Let me give you a little backstory.
We are staying in a resort in Fiji. I have read all of the things to do on google, I check out websites and blogs. I follow their advice. We took the local bus into town, wandered around, and perused the grocery store. We knew the basic mistakes to avoid in Fiji. We managed to find the right bus to take us back to Denarau Island and even hopped off at the marina for some more shopping before grabbing another bus to our hotel. Easy peasy right?
The next day we are making arrangements to visit the Fiji Cultural Village. They offer a remake of a traditional village and demonstrate the rich history of the Fijian people. They had invited me to visit after finding out I was a family travel blogger but they did not have any more availability for pickups (they offer to pick up and drop off their guests). I told them that was fine, we would make our own way there. As the crow flies, it was less than 10km from where we were staying and just 5km by road out of the town of Nadi. We had successfully taken the bus into town the day before and I knew there would be plenty of options for a taxi to get there.
So the first thing I did was walk up to the doorman/conscierge who had been helpful in showing me where the bus stop was the day before.
I asked him, “I want to take the bus into town and then a taxi to the Fiji Cultural Centre. Can you tell me how much I should be paying the taxi driver or do they have meters”
I mean each country is different. I paid a set rate from the airport to our accomodation so despite my googling telling me that there was meters in taxis, I was not sure. I like to know ahead of time, there is nothing worse than the “rip off” on arrival (If you have read my Egypt posts you wil have heard about those).
“You cannot take a taxi maam, it is not safe.”
I was aghast.
“What do you mean it is not safe?” I asked, the shock must have registered on my face. “I have been all over the world, you do not need to worry about me getting around, but I need to know what you mean when you say it isnt safe!”
“Well maam, if something were to happen, if you end up in the wrong place or you get ripped off, you are going to complain to the hotel and then I am going to get in trouble.”
“Ok,” I replied. Giant exhale. “I am not an American, I am not going to complain about you or your hotel on the internet if the trip I am choosing to take, goes sideways. “But I need to know, WHY is it unsafe. You cannot tell a single woman your country is unsafe when just yesterday you showed me where the bus stop was and today I plan to do the exact same thing.”
He can hear the quickening in my voice. I am anxious and uncomfortable.
“Am I going to be kidnapped? raped? You cannot tell a woman something is unsafe when it has nothing to do with safety, but only of your hotel’s reputation!” I am clearly mad now.
“But maam, let me tell you, if we book you a car and they take you where you want to go, we know the driver, we have their plate number, they will make sure you are taken care of.”
“Again, I just asked you how much I should be paying for a taxi. I am a woman traveling along with my kids. I need to know what is unsafe in Nadi. You can’t talk about safety and then not tell me what I am worrying about here.”
“We just do not want anything bad to happen maam.”
Seriously the frustration is overtaking my body. Clearly this man is not worried about my physical safety. It is not about me and my kids being kidnapped, robbed, or violently attacked. It is ALL about the possibility of the taxi driver taking me for a ride or overcharging me. This has nothing to do with safety. It is all about the hotel’s reputation if I happen to be unhappy with the taxi bill.
“Want me to tell you how much a car would cost?”
“Fine,” I reply. “Tell me.”
He makes a quick call, and tells me “It’s normally fifty but the driver will do it for thirty.”
It is not about the money. Thirty Fijian dollars is about fifteen USD. I roll my eyes and say, “Fine. I want a ride both ways.”
He hangs up the phone, and writes down the license plate number in his book at 4:30 as our pickup time.
“Be back here at 4:30 ma’am.” he says.
I have never felt more caged in my life.
What I Wish Men Would Know About Women and Safety.
Men don’t understand that women worry about safety on a daily basis. There are countless instances where women have been harassed, followed, assaulted or murdered while simply living their lives. With social media, this is thrust into the forefront again and again, and recycled with every new share, insighting constant fear and mistrust of strangers.
Several times in my life I have made choices that could have resulted in really horrible things happening to me. I wont detail them here, but, had those men had ill intentions, I could have been in a lot of trouble. I was lucky.
I laugh off flirtatious men in the Middle East. I have had more marriage proposals than I can count (sometimes from their mom’s even), but I have also said no to every invitation into their home for a meal, or dinner with a bedouin in a cave, or anything that involves a situation where I am in a position to be victimized. Every encounter I have with a man in a country like this is transactional. A cab driver, a bedouin tour guide. Never is it a “friendly offer” to spend a day with me. Its not worth the risk.
As women travellers, our experiences are impossible to compare to that of men. On a daily basis, women are catcalled, solicited, followed, have had our personal space invaded or been touched without consent.
While I almost always feel just as safe when I travel as when I am at home. Maybe some of this attention has no ill will. Maybe it is meant to be a compliment. Maybe none of these men have ever done anything inappropriate to a woman, but this type of behavior that we experience as women is impossible to ignore when it is happening to us. It is impossible to know whether a man is trying to compliment a woman or means harm, so us women are forced to assume the worst.
Women are forced to consider our safety every time we are alone. I just wish that I could have had this conversation with my doorman before he told me his country was unsafe.
I would also like to have a conversation with every all-inclusive traveler who would complain about a hotel or an employee who answered a question. I did not ask “how to get there.” He was not suggesting I use local transport, I wanted a simple answer about a taxi. But because of the internet and people who complain when things do not go as planned, staff, and businesses have to worry more about their reputations than offering genuine advice to travelers.
I mean, maybe this guy got a cut for arranging a driver, and that is totally fine. Hotels all over the world have deals with drivers. Drivers have deals with hotels. It is all part of how travel works. It is a commission-based world, and that is ok.
But let’s keep women’s safety out of it.
Lindsay Nieminen hails from Vancouver, Canada and shares her love of travel on this website. She is passionate about showing others that they should not put off traveling the world just because they have young children or are single parents. She aims to encourage them to seek out adventure, whether it is at home or abroad by providing information on how just about everywhere can be a destination to explore as a family.