I didn’t want to write this post because my time in Panama wasn’t as expected. This isn’t the sort of post that I want to share with my readers, but I feel like I need to. But, this trip was the first time that I felt unsafe while traveling alone. When I was in Panama City I briefly met a girl at my hostel. I didn’t put two and two together until I had returned home. About a week later I was in Bastimentos, another Island near Bocas Del Toro. While there, at Red Frog Beach I found out that a girl around my age had gone missing. A few days later we were told that they had found a body in the jungle on a trail.
We learned that this girl was a traveler. She had lived in Vietnam for 18th months and had traveled all over the world.
The First Time I Ever Felt Unsafe While Traveling
I’ve been traveling and living abroad on and off for nearly three years now. And I have to say that during that time (up until now), there were never really any situations where I felt truly unsafe. Sure, I have felt uncomfortable before, but never as if my life was in danger.
When I first found out about the girl who was found murdered on Bastimentos, I didn’t know many details. We were only told that she had gone missing. As a solo female traveler, the first thoughts that came racing through my head was that she must have wandered off somewhere she shouldn’t have been, or that maybe she didn’t travel very frequently. In my mind, I thought, “This could never happen to me.” I have to say I’m ashamed my head even went there.
The truth of the matter is that bad things happen everywhere you travel to. They happen in your cities and towns where you grew up. It’s just apart of living.
We found out a few days later that the missing girl was found in the jungle. She had been strangled. Those were the details that were given to the public. And then information about the girl came in. When I found out that she was a traveler, from a town close to where I grew up, and that we were close in age, it really hit me. For the first time, I was scared to be traveling by myself.
How To Deal With Those Feelings
If I’m being honest, I spent the rest of my time in Bocas Del Toro feeling a little bit on edge. Yes, I had made friends with two other girls. And yes, we were all staying in the same place and hanging out everyday. Even so, I was still in my head about what had happened so close to me. I ended up not doing everything that I wanted to do because I didn’t want to venture off alone, which is something I usually have no problem doing. I still went out at night. But, I made sure that someone was walking back when I left so that I wouldn’t have to walk back to the hostel by myself (again something that I’ve done countless times before).
I began to run through scenarios from my past trips where I thought to myself, how could you be so careless? But then I realized that I can’t spend my time second guessing my decisions. The worst thing you can do as a solo female traveler is lose your confidence.
My heart goes out to the family and friends of Catherine Johannet. I can’t even begin to imagine what they have had to go through the past few months. I only briefly met her, but she was a part of the tribe that all of us solo female travelers are apart of. And I’m glad to have had the chance to even exchange a few words with her.
Have you ever felt unsafe while traveling alone?
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