The problem occurs when we get distracted or lose sight of our surroundings. I was talking with my daughter last night who also travels a lot with her job about a scary experience she had at her hotel. After coming back from work, she was checking her phone and didn’t pay much attention to the man on the elevator until he got off on her floor instead of his own and followed her down the hall. Feeling panicked she rushed into her room and closed the door. In hindsight, she knew that was not a good idea and wished she had reacted differently but the reality is most of us are so surprised by those situations that we instinctually go to our home even if it is a hotel room. It’s like closing the front door on your house – you just feel safer being in your own place.
I have had the same experience and reacted the same way more times than I care to admit but what I did learn was to change my behavior, especially when I am away from home. I have developed a new routine so when something makes me feel uncomfortable I don’t have to think about it, I can react in a way that keeps me safe and does not make me more vulnerable.
I pay a lot of attention to who is around me especially on elevators and generally strike up a brief conversation. It’s nice to chat with people but it also ensures they know that you could identify them if you had to. At any moment that I feel the slightest discomfort, I stop and pretend I’ve lost something and need to go back to reception or some other public area, I do not go to my room. Even at home I drive down the street instead of going into my garage if anything seems strange. I do this so often now that it is second nature to me and I don’t have to try to figure it out when something does happen.
In “The Gift of Fear” Gavin DeBecker talks about listening to our intuition instead of ignoring it and how to spot the signals of potential danger. I think this is a must read for all women, especially those who travel alone.