I wish I were joking,
but I'm not. We spent some time unpacking the situation after the fact, and I feel like I have a handle on it. I don't really even know how to begin, but here goes.
My good friend Sascha and I flew to Prague for the weekend for a girl’s trip. She lives in Luxembourg and Prague is a nice central location for us both. We spent Saturday and Sunday out exploring the Christmas markets, visiting castles and enjoying the local food (I loved Prague, but that's for another post). And Sunday night, we decided we wanted to have a night out on the town.
Around 8 pm, we entered the subway station. And a man approached us, said he had seen us in our hotel lobby. As we made our way to the city center, we tried to shake him but he kept up. He wasn't terrifying, and seemed nice enough, but we both had a weird feeling about him.
As we left the station, he asked if he could join us for dinner. Sascha and I stared blankly at each other, and then I turned to him and said, "we are both married" thinking that it would immediately put him off. He responds, "so am I!" And proceeds to show us pictures of his wife and two kids. Then he said he's in from Romania on work and has lost his colleagues for the night and would like to have company.
I think as women, we felt bad for the guy, so we agreed to let him come along. As the night wore on, it got worse. He had taken a creepy interest in me, and would not stop staring. He made some uncomfortable comments about how we look tense and need massages or something. We kept feeling like he was guiding us down weird alleys and streets, and he acted like he didn't know where we were going, but he did. He got dinner and drinks with us, and he kept changing his story, even his name changed mid dinner.
We had wanted to hit a few spots that night, but after dinner we decided we better head back to the hotel. He followed us to the subway and then was asking what floor we were on, and then he seemed mad that we were staying in the same room. The entire night he had been staring at me, and made Sascha feel uncomfortable.
Back in the hotel, he followed us into the elevator and watched us press our room floor, and then watched us exit the elevator and turn towards our room.
When we got into the room, we were both shaking and had the most awful feeling. We wanted to blockade our door. We talked through the situation, because we hadn't been able to get a word in since the man entered the scene hours ago. My mind kept jumping to scenes from the movie Taken. And I know trafficking is big in some of those areas.
We were so scared, we went downstairs to see if we could get a room change. And we notified security of his name and profile. No one by his name was staying in the hotel...
Thankfully, they switched our room and put security on high alert for us. But we didn't get to sleep until around 3-4 AM, and didn't sleep great. We think he had been poaching women from our hotel. And we were thankful that we were smart enough to catch on and notify some authority.
3 Tips For Women Travelers
Go with Your Gut
Always, always, always. I had an awful feeling about this guy that weaved in and out all night. He had moments that made me want to trust him; the pictures of his kids were so cute and he seemed nice enough. Those were ploys to get our guard down. Don’t let someone change your first impression, because that gut instinct was right!
Say What You Mean
Maybe as an American, I feel the need to overcompensate and be extra nice to people. That’s BS. Never compromise your safety so that someone else can feel good about themselves. I told that man “We are married” because I thought he would understand my passive-aggressive politeness. He didn’t or he didn’t care. What I meant to say was, “Fuck off, we aren’t interested!” Which is exactly what I was saying between the lines. Be direct!
Especially when traveling in Europe, I have picked this up from Denmark, Czech Republic, France, Italy and Spain, do not make eye contact with men. I consider myself a dominant woman, as in, I’m independent, confident and can handle my own. Back home in the states, I feel as though I make eye contact with strangers always. In places like the grocery store, on the streets, in the mall etc. But abroad somehow, men take it as a compliment or like I’m interested. I am NOT, however, cultural differences. Somehow, I’ll accidentally make eye contact in a train or city center and that creates space for them to catcall or approach. Ignore strange men, and be rude. I know it sounds awful, but you have to.
How men can help: You can help by being aware of your surroundings. If you notice a man making someone uncomfortable, please step in. Oftentimes, a man will quickly be put off by another man. Had our waiter or someone asked if Sascha and I were okay, or stepped in at any point, it may have put the guy off. Or at least created some space for Sascha and I. I have been in many situations where I have wished another man would just step in, and ask if I’m okay.
How women can help: You can also help! There is power in numbers. Same thing, if you see something unnatural, you will know. It never hurts to ask if someone is okay with their situation. They may look at you like you are crazy, or you may have just saved someone's life. Take care of each other!
I hope this information helps someone. Traveling is fun, but you have to be careful! In no way does this stop me from doing what I want to do, but it has made me aware of my own weak spots. I am too nice, and so many women are. I'll take this as a learning experience!