Recently while in New York we used the subway ALOT and let me stress it was perfectly fine and more importantly the best and cheapest way round the city. However there was only one time when I felt a little unsafe and that was on a completely empty platform with trains coming very few and far between, 2 slightly creepy characters, not in my native city, no one knew where we were and a little unsure as to if we were even on the right platform. Obviously we were fine but it got me thinking about just how much the world has changed.
In my late teens I went back packing across Italy and Greece with a friend for a month. It was amazing we travelled all over, ate and drank our way through the countries, stayed in hostels and campsites, caught trains/planes/ferries and saw places I had only ever dreamed of seeing. But also we did a lot of things I would never dream of doing now (and also would never dream of letting my parents know what I did- Mum look away now!)
So there we were two young impressionable girls with our luggage off on the trip of a lifetime with only a guide book and the wind in our hair. We only had booked accommodation in Rome for the first night we got there the rest of the trip we were leaving up to chance. Very unlikely I would do that now. I would have researched the accommodation, checked on Tripadivsor and have a least some idea of the route I would be taking.
We turned up in every location found someone who was touting accommodation and picked where we wanted to stay which was usually the cheapest. Some we were lucky with and some we just felt a bit uneasy but it didn’t stop us. We did this morning , noon and night. When we were in the Greek Islands we would just get off the boat in the middle of the night and follow some random tout back to their hotel/bnb/campsite. At the time we had no dramas with this but I often look back and think what the hell were we thinking!! Anything could have happened to us. We could have been taken anywhere.
We never locked any of our belongings up – but I guess we didn’t have iphones, ipads, fancy cameras, huge amounts of money or anything to special like what I would take away now.
We had two dubious train journeys. One which we shared a sleeper carriage with 3 very disturbing and creepy men. So much so that we didn’t sleep or at least tried to sleep with one eye open. The second was another over night train from Florence to Brindis which required a 4 hour stop at a deserted station in Arrezo at 4am in the morning. This was the only part where we at the time felt unsafe. I even called my parents in Australia just to hear their voices. Obviously I didn’t let on the predicament we were in. They didn’t need to know how reckless we had been!
Imagine not only turning up to a hostel in the middle of the night but then to see your friend riding off in the streets (at 1am!) on the back of an Italian hostel workers moped (said workers helmet was covered in MANY girls autographs) to get croissants. Whilst she was off cruising the streets I was waiting back in a very empty hostel.
Whilst I look back on these experiences and think ‘you cray cray’ I also look back and wouldn’t have that trip any other way. The stories, the memories, the adventure. I’m also a bit jealous of my former self. To travel with such a carefree spirit, trusting people, trusting my own judgement, no fear of harm, not planning or researching to the nth degree it’s exactly what travelling should be. The saddest part is with the world the way it is I couldn’t do this now. Others might but I couldn’t.
Being in Times Square the day before New Years Eve it was at the back of my mind this is the busiest place this time of the year. Could there be a terrorist ttack, could the wrong person be there, could someone with a vendetta against the world be there and want to hurt people. I felt reassured that there was an abudence of police presence. I felt safer knowing there were. And I felt upset that I had thought about that when I should be taking in the sights, sounds and magic of being there.
It’s sad that this freeness feeling isn’t what it was years ago (now I sound like my grandparents talking about the good old days) but I would love to be that naïve, carefree, wandering traveller. One thing I will never let go is a desire to go out and see the world. Yes everywhere you need to be aware of your safety but the main point is that you still go and still see what this beautiful world has to offer.