I love travel! It has been part of my life as long as I can remember.
Travel has been experienced with family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers. Together, we have travelled to many countries, visited amazing places, eaten delicious food, walked trails that would be strictly forbidden in Canada. We traveled for pleasure and for business.
Our chosen accommodations have covered the gambit from yurts, to tents, to cottages, to cave houses, all the way to reclaimed palaces and castles. We’ve experienced the aftermath of war zones, hurricanes, drought, and culture shock. We’ve witnessed celebrations, wins, architectural wonders, the resilience of humanity, the wonder of creation, and the quirkiness of traditions. We have always come home with new perspectives, refreshed and rejuvenated (albeit somewhat exhausted…but a good exhaustion).
We have always been richer because of such adventures. Until ‘it’ happened.
It happened on a solo trip to Europe. It was one of the most traumatic experiences of my six decade life. In a matter of minutes, one sick individual managed to crack my love of adventure, my confidence in self and belief in humankind, my love of travel, my sense of safety.
I was sexually assaulted. I was alone. I was scared, I was vulnerable, I felt deep anguish.
This isn’t the place to unveil the details, suffice to say, it set off a domino effect of emotions, self-doubt, self-evaluation, reaching out for help, questioning my faith, leaning on my amazing support network (personal and professional), and a renewed determination that one depraved, evil … (you can imagine what other descriptors would fit here), poor excuse for humanity, would not determine how I live my life.
But the journey to this determination was not easy, is not easy. It is still in process, but with the help of a wonderful trauma counsellor, and supportive family and friends, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I am a firm believer in scenario planning. Going through the process of asking ‘What if…’ (the name of my memoir that is scheduled for release at the end of summer). It’s natural for me to think through the potential challenges we may face in any given situation or event. I use it in business, teaching, and in my personal life…travel included. This scenario planning helps prepare for the journey ahead, helps me know what I can and should do to mitigate any potential road blocks or obstacles. If something doesn’t go as planned, I find myself reflecting on what I missed, what I should have thought of. If I had only thought of that, I could have avoided whatever happened.
That’s exactly what I did after it happened. I questioned and doubted myself. What did I do wrong? What did I miss? What could I have done to prevent it happening? The answer? Not a damn thing!
This experience taught me that some outcomes and happenings can’t be prepared for, or even identified. Sure, I can, and should, prepare, be equipped, scenario plan, but doing so will not stop bad things from happening. Bad things happen to everyone. Evil and good exist in the world, and no-one is exempt from the impact of either.
What can I do? Continue to build into the strong, amazing, support network I have — believe me, it truly is a lifeline, continue to do due diligence in planning, AND, invest in some good self defence classes. I can’t stop such attacks from happening, and hope I never have a repeat performance, but I can prepare just incase.
As women, we should never have a fear of solo travel, but let’s be prepared, just in case. I will travel again, mostly with family and friends. But, if a solo trip is called for, I will go. It will call for certain courage, but I will go.
Let me wrap up by expressing deep compassion for those who have been victims of such attacks…and worse! Don’t stay silent, reach out for help, find your voice, and don’t let these predators win!
If you need a listening ear, I’m here firstname.lastname@example.org