Decisions that don’t always make sense at the time

Posted on: August 26, 2012

I’m watching “Taken” right now, and as much as I love it, it always scares the crap out of me.

When I was 16, I wanted to do a 6-week study abroad in between my junior and senior year of high school. I didn’t get very far in asking my parents if I could be an exchange student, living with another family in another country, when they shut that idea down: “No.”  No explanations, no discussion, just a big fat “NO.” I was annoyed but whatever… fast forward 2 years later, when it’s my brother’s turn to ask if he can go. Do you want to guess the answer? “Yes! Sure! Go ahead!”

I was LIVID. Went and cried in the bathroom. I couldn’t understand how they could trust him to go and not me. Why did they think I wasn’t responsible enough?  To me, it was typical Indian parent behavior – favoring the son. I cried and cried about my perceived unfairness of it all.

It was years later, when I guess I got to the point that I’d seen enough and read enough and heard enough that I realized that it wasn’t my behavior they were concerned about – it was everyone elses’ and the thought of what could happen to me, as a girl. And those possibilities are pretty fucking scary. I didn’t appreciate what I saw as “gender discrimination” from my own parents until I got to the point where I could imagine the same things they did.

On one of my trips to Botswana, I got off the plane and was expecting my hotel driver to pick me up. The airport had changed since the last time I’d been there and I didn’t see anyone standing with the hotel sign.  So I walked around a bit, but couldn’t find anyone. It was close to 9pm, I was tired and didn’t know where he could possibly be.  I went back to the hotel / taxi stand line and asked where “Hotel X” was and all of a sudden, this young driver says, ‘Oh! That’s me!’ – he was a driver for another place (Hotel Z) close by in distance to my hotel.  I asked a few times, “But you don’t have my name? Or the hotel name? Am I really supposed to go with you? How am I supposed to be sure you’re here for me?”  And he, in a very sweetly Motswana way, says, “Yes! With me, m’am. I’ll take you to the hotel.”

And I know I looked hesitant, because all of a sudden the rest of the taxi stand vouched for him. So … I went with him. And got in the van. There were two other people also traveling, so I felt a bit better. Also, this whole time, I am pretty much thinking, “Ok, he’s basically my size and small for a guy. I can totally take him if I have to…”  Not really thinking that anything bad was going to happen, but trying to prepare for the worst. We actually chatted the whole time, discussing how much the city had changed since my last visit, and just joking about stuff.

The first drop-off happened at Hotel Z and then I was the only one left… and two minutes later we get to my hotel. He got my bags, I tipped him, and he walked me in.

The hotel clerk looks at me, looks at him, and asks: “You came with him?? That’s not who we sent!”

Well… fuck.  Those are pretty much words you NEVER want to hear.

We then figured out pretty quickly that he was friends with my hotel’s driver and my original driver decided he didn’t want to do a late run, so just asked his friend to pick me up since he was already going to be at the airport for the other hotel.  But neither of them, in their infinite wisdom, thought to let anyone else know. And that’s the African way, so it’s not a huge deal, but when you’re a single girl, traveling alone, and *if* went missing, nobody would know for about a full 12 hours, it’s kind of scary.

So now that I’m older and ‘wiser’, truth be told, I’d make the same decision my parents did so many years ago with one exception – I won’t let my son go either.


4 Responses to "Decisions that don’t always make sense at the time"

That is a wake-up call! To be a woman traveling alone in a foreign country can be scary. Sometimes when we’re in those situations, we don’t think about potential dangers until after the fact. Thanks for sharing your story.

– K.

Thanks for the nice comment and you’re definitely welcome!

Gah “Taken” totally freaked me out too. After I watched it I reviewed every overseas travel I’ve ever done (most exotic location: Slovakia… with 15 other women from my college and two professors — not exactly pioneer woman ;), and still freaked out a bit. I’ve always been overly-paranoid, but this movie made me pretty certain that I’ll lose about 5 years off my life in anxiety every time I travel alone.
So glad your Botswana journey was safe though! I’m totally going to tell my friend Pam about it (she lives in Rwanda and travels all around eastern Africa). You guys are my travel heroes!

You know what other movie freaks me out? Hostel. AHHH! I cannot watch that one at all! I love that you want to Slovakia with a group of 16 others – how did that even happen??? To be fair, my travel isn’t hard. At all. We stay in pretty swank hotels and get chauffeured around by drivers 😉 And I have met some of the most amazing, smart, nice, friendly people during my time overseas. The hospitality of the people in the places I’ve been has been so generous, and when they realize I’m alone, they often go out of their way to check in on me. Sometimes, I need a trip just to be reminded of how awesome people can really be. 🙂

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