Respect and courtesy are human rights. Yet ladies, we’ve all had to deal with that creepy stare, the catcalling, the unwanted attention.

We’ve all been afraid, even if for a moment, of what could happen when we’re alone.

As travellers, as women, we’re always on guard. Much of it is fear that is instilled in us, ingrained into our very nature. We are wary of men as much because of what we are taught as the way we are treated by the few.

And yet…it doesn’t have to be this way.

I had an experience once, that made such an impact. I was travelling through Switzerland, staying at a hostel in Interlaken.


Interlaken, Switzerland

It was a ten bed, mixed dorm and every bed was full.

I was the only female in the room.

I was nervous. Afraid. After all, we spend our lives wary of a moment like this. I was still fairly new to the hostel experience, especially the mixed dorm room, and trying so hard not to freak out and let people know I was scared. I didn’t ask for a different room, the hostel was pretty full, and I was only there for two nights.

How bad could it get?

As it turned out – not bad at all. I was never stared at. Nobody ogled me. No catcalls, no whistles, no snide comments.

If I was changing and a guy happened to walk in, his eyes would shoot to some random corner of the room so fast I thought his eyeballs would come loose and spin in their sockets.

Dorm room in the Netherlands

Sample dorm room, Amsterdam

Not to say that things don’t happen. In Rome, a group of us wanted to visit a famous fountain at night, without the tourist crowds. I went upstairs to get my shoes, and heard some rather suspicious noises when I cracked the door open. I knew who it was. Two of my roommates had been making eyes at each other for the last two days, and decided to make the most of it.

Coulda put a towel on the door, dammit.

Trevi Fountain Italy

Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy

Women, we do need to be careful.

It’s a sad part of life.

There are stories, facts, and fears.

But at this hostel, I had more respect and courtesy from the men in my room when I was half dressed than I’ve had fully clothed at work. Not to say they wouldn’t try to hit on you. They would. It still didn’t change the fact that if I was in a vulnerable position, they didn’t try to take advantage.

It’s an interesting dichotomy in hostels.

On the one hand, society tells us single men and women can’t or shouldn’t cohabit. Bad things will happen, or lack of control will reign. Don’t have shared toilets, because the same thing.

My personal experience, however, says that there are unspoken rules. Don’t stare at a roommate when they’re changing. Male or female. Be quiet when you enter the room at night. Don’t make noise if you wake up early (before 8 am. Heaven!).

Be courteous, be polite, no matter where you meet (like the toilets). Be raucous and loud (in the common room), go pub crawling, laugh, share the kitchen (don’t always clean up after themselves) meet new people. Be respectful. Have fun. Don’t harm others. Take turns buying drinks. Stay up late. Protect a woman who needs it.

How’s this for courtesy: being escorted back to your hostel by another resident late one night

It was an unusual experience, in some ways, but not in the respect and courtesy I received. That, I had the pleasure of experiencing in most hostels. And if I wasn’t treated ‘special,’ at least I wasn’t harassed.

I wish every woman could feel as safe walking down the street as I felt in that dorm room.

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