Over spring break the year I studied abroad in college, I traveled a few days with friends, and then I traveled alone for a week. The first day of my lone travels, I went sightseeing in beautiful Brugge, Belgium. As I walked around the downtown area, I started to feel like I was being followed. I went in a shop, the guy went in a shop. I went back to the town square, there he was, and so on for maybe 15 minutes. I was getting really nervous and the only thing keeping me from feeling panicked was that I was in a very crowded area.
Then he came up to me and started speaking to me in French. My socialized politeness kicked in and I told him I only spoke a little French and tried to understand what he was saying. He was trying to get me to go with him to meet his friends and have some drinks. This sounded quite terrifying and a potential recipe for disaster.
As I worked on how to say no without being mean (politeness again), he became bolder and put his arm around me and acted like he would kiss me. I quickly moved away from him and said I had to meet friends (a lie since I was alone) and then hurried away (finally I was done being polite).
I was really scared he would follow me and I took off at a brisk pace and zig-zagged up and down busy streets until I had lost him. By then I had no idea where I was and I had to consult my map and figure out how to get to the hostel where I was staying. I was pretty shaken up – literally – over what had happened and I was very relieved I had lost him. Chances are he meant no harm, but I was taking no chances. And maybe he did. He’d already been physically aggressive toward me. And had he meant harm, some people would have blamed me because I was a 21-year-old woman traveling alone.
I felt like hiding in the hostel but after a quick break, I made myself get back out there to sightsee. I would only be there that day and I didn’t want to miss out on seeing Brugge because of some creepy guy. I didn’t see him again but kept a wary eye the rest of the day.
Location: Brugge, Belgium