I’ve traveled a lot over the years, more so these last couple of years, and except for a few occasions, I’ve always traveled alone. Prior to my trip to Puerto Rico, I never encountered any situation that made me feel uncomfortable, or placed me in an awkward position because I was alone.
As I mentioned in another post, my cab driver who took me to my hotel in Old San Juan from the airport, was so concerned I was traveling alone, she gave me her phone number before dropping me off – in case I needed anything during my time on the island. I thought it was nice, but unnecessary; however, I came to realize she knew what she was talking about.
During my limited time in Puerto Rico, I was sexually harassed more than in the last decade of my life.
The first incident happened at a small seven room hotel, located in the El Yunque National Forest, where I stayed for a night. I was welcomed by a guy in his early thirties, who ran the place for his father. He asked me, upon checking-in, if I planned on eating dinner, which he cooks for guests who want to eat at the hotel. Since the drive up to the hotel was tricky (the road was steep and in horrible condition), I went ahead and took him up on the offer to eat dinner at the hotel.
Upon my return from a walk in the rainforest, I could smell dinner cooking, so I made my way to the common area on the first floor where I found him cooking. We started talking and he confused my friendly conversation for something it wasn’t. He came on strong and crossed lines that were both unprofessional and unwelcomed.
He created a really awkward situation (touching me, trying to hold my hands), which he continued to pursue in the morning. It wasn’t something he should have subjected any of his guests to.
Let me say I didn’t feel threaten or in danger, but that’s because of who I am. I think some other women in this situation might have felt differently. I can definitely fend for myself, and I made it clear I would hurt him if he crossed any other line. Men are not used to women clearly drawing a line in the sand that says, you do this, I’ll crush you. Being this direct, is enough for most men to get the hint and back off.
I can also assess who is a threat, and who is just being inappropriate. He was absolutely and completely inappropriate. I was staying in his hotel.
I never, ever should have been subjected to being uncomfortable or being placed in an awkward position. He shouldn’t be hitting on any woman staying at his hotel.
The hotel was beautiful with incredible views. This is somewhere I would have loved to have stayed longer to write.
This is a hotel listed on booking.com. This wasn’t an AirBnB listing.
The next incident happened about a week later on a beach. This was one of the most beautiful beaches I’d been on to date. I felt so blessed to be walking on this beach, until a naked guy approached me trying to get me to take his picture. I told him I didn’t speak any Spanish, and moved away from him.
Once I had placed enough distance between me and him, I sat down on the beach to enjoy the view and wait on the sunset. That’s when a lady running by stopped to warn me. She told me it wasn’t safe to stay there by myself. She said people came to this beach to do drugs and it wasn’t safe.
I was in shock and incredibly disappointed. This gorgeous beach was being ruined for me. I started walking back which is when I ran into naked guy again. I ignored him and kept walking.
I thought that was the end of him, except I saw him again and this time he wasn’t just naked, he was jerking off.
I’m sorry to be so explicit in my description, but I want to give a clear account of what happened. Something like this had NEVER happened to me. I’d read about this sort of thing happening to women in parks, on the metro and other places – but I had never experienced it.
I totally ignored him, although he was trying to get my attention. A short way down the beach, he popped up again. This time, I spoke my mind. I threatened him, told him if I saw him again, I would cut his throat. I made the gesture across my throat to make it clear. It came out of my mouth before I even knew what I was saying, but I meant it. I was trying hard to keep the rage I was feeling under control.
I wasn’t scared. I was furious. I wanted him to pay for using me in his sick and perverted way to get off and for absolutely ruining this experience for me. I’m not some victim or target for a man to use. I didn’t see him after my threat was issued.
These two incidents kept me from going out dancing alone. There was no way I was going to venture into a dance club on my own, it’s one thing dealing with sober men – an entirely different thing dealing with intoxicated ones. I had wanted to go salsa dancing, but I didn’t trust it was a safe thing to do by myself.
Unfortunately, neither of those incidents were preventable, and could have happened anywhere, but since both happened in Puerto Rico, a week from each other, I don’t recommend women travel there alone. These incidents aren’t going to stop me from continuing my travels alone. They are reminders to always keep my situational awareness, to be firm and clear with men what lines aren’t acceptable to cross, and to avoid situations (places with alcohol) where these incidents are more likely to happen.