Trust Betrayed – The Sometimes Suckiness of Female Solo Travel

Heather Markel, Writer, Speaker, Photographer, Traveler, Business Strategist

“Changing cultures, changing ways, meeting new people
Assuming the best of them, but sometimes finding something less.
A moment, a wrong assumption, a slip of the hand
Trust betrayed, feelings a mess.”

Heather Markel, June 2019.


I’m very lucky and perhaps also smart and prudent. I’ve been solo traveling the world since January 31, 2018. In all that time I haven’t had any bad experiences, until now. I’ve made countless friends who work in, or own, the lodging I’m staying in. We’ve enjoyed conversation, food, drinks and remain in touch. So, my recent experience shocked me. I’m sharing it especially for the other female solo travelers out there who might be dealing with their own difficult stories or who want to avoid having a bad one.

I stayed in a small hostel-hotel recently in a small town in Argentina. The owner was lovely. He made me feel welcome and offered me coffee. We chatted. My first night he insisted I eat the delicious fish empanadas that his colleague had made and enjoy a glass of wine with them. He even invited some female travelers I met to join us for wine another evening and the four of us had a lovely time. So, it was with delight that, on my next-to-last night at the hotel, I accepted the owner’s offer to cook dinner for me and one of his staff and then have a quick drink down the street. I was careful with how much I drank the entire time at the hotel because my intuition told me not to let my guard down. I’m so grateful I listened.

“Always listen to your intuition.”

After a short while, the owner and his employee walked me back to the hotel. I felt protected and appreciated them making sure I got back ok even though it was not late and this town is one of the safest I could imagine. That’s when things went awry. Or, at the very least, my presumption they were protecting me.

When we got to my room door the staff member said goodnight, quickly, and walked to his room. Before I knew what was happening, the owner began kissing me and tried to force his way into my room. Luckily I was able to push him away, state clearly I didn’t want him, close the door and lock it. I wanted to throw up. I was disgusted. He is the owner of a hotel. His job is to keep me safe, and I felt completely violated. But this was not the scariest part. I got ready for bed and jumped under the covers. A few minutes later, someone turned the handle of my room door and tried to get in. I presume it was the hotel owner. I held the blankets over me, relieved he didn’t have another key or try to break the windows. Who does such a thing to their hotel guests??!! When I saw him the next evening, he acted like nothing had happened, and actually invited me to have dinner and wine with him again! I declined and left early the following morning to avoid ever seeing him again.
The experience left me feeling violated and vulnerable. I began to doubt myself. Should I never again trust a seemingly nice man? Was I an idiot to go to a bar with two men and believe they would treat me with respect? I have decided that, at least in South America, I won’t be accepting any further evening invitations from any men unless, of course, I am interested in them. Seems that if you are alone here, the mere act of dining or having a drink with a man, even with other people there, runs the risk of making him think you want to have sex with him. If you solo travel in South America be aware that there is sometimes a cultural bias in this regard.

Despite this unfortunate incident, I always try to see the good with  the bad. Because I needed to feel safe in the next town, I booked myself into a “luxury” hotel (multiple floors, elevator, more than one person at reception) right in the center of town. On the way back to my “luxury” hotel one evening I stopped across the street. I was so happy that I chose this hotel. It was perfectly located. I felt safe in it and around it. It was inexpensive and the staff lovely. I realized, ironically, this bad experience pushed me to love my choices, and notice that I did. It has also pushed me to be very clear with my boundaries, another excellent lesson, and luckily one learned without too much pain. And so I see that within the hardship was a gift.

If you are a female solo traveler, check out my tips to stay safe.

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