I know it’s a bit out-of-place to be talking about travel right now, given the current global context as I write this in early/mid 2020. But as I stay stuck at home for the good of the community… My mind is still travelling, and is even beginning to plan the next big adventure, once the world “reopens”, of course.  Perhaps it is a way to keep my mind entertained while trying to work from home, but it’s exciting nonetheless.  Even though the world has had to change for just a little while, I believe that it is a good time for girls everywhere to reflect on their journeys, and even form ideas to begin a journey of their own, whenever it is safe to do so.

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Photo by Emily Rawle.

The case of the Uni-sex hostel room 
Location: Florence, Italy 

My key piece of advice for when one is wanting to see multiple countries within a short span of time– especially as a solo traveller– is to join a tour group. Tours are a perfect way to experience a taste of multiple different cultural landscapes across a crowded continent, or explore multiple places in one country. 

So, that’s when I found myself in Florence, doing a stint in Northern Italy. Even though I was travelling alone on this tour, it helped that I was moving with a solid group that provided a solid structure. Now, onto the story about the Uni-sex hostel room, which was where I stayed during my time in Florence… 

The case for Uni-sex hostel rooms, is that they’re an easy way to meet a new selection of people. I believe that it is a good way to safely expand one’s comfort zone when it comes to meeting international people. However, with that comes the risk of encountering some “interesting” characters. When confronted with someone who doesn’t respect your space, having a plan and sticking to it is vital in maintaining personal comfort, especially for girls.

In my journey, this came in the form of a man who thought it was ok to demand that I get out of bed, get dressed, and get a drink with him in the hostel bar downstairs, and was not going to leave me alone until I gave in. As soon as I realised what was happening, I formed my plan: have one drink, don’t entertain him, tell him all about my boyfriend, and take the first opportunity to go back to the room and go to sleep. 

My plan went as I anticipated, even though he did try to challenge me with statements like “I thought Australian girls were meant to be fun.” — For the record, Australian girls are fun, but only when they want to have fun. 

Another key piece of advice when travelling solo is, once you are in your hostel for the night; do not leave the building with someone you don’t know. When this man tried to do that: I was firm, as a girl should be in this type of position. Luckily things started going my way from that point, people were all over, and when he became distracted, I noticed a girl who needed help getting inside; so I helped her and took my chance. From there, I ran back to the room, where I was finally able to fall asleep in peace. 

When I returned home and told this story to a friend; she was stunned, because while it made sense that something like that could happen, she didn’t even consider it while planning her own travel. When planning to travel, It is good to hear all kinds of stories. What happened to me only happened once in the handful of times I stayed in hostels during my time in Europe. I can still happily recommend uni-sex hostels, but I have to warn girls to keep their girlhood whits, and be prepared for anything that may be thrown at them, be it a good time, or not.

-Emily Rawle
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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