Who would of thought I would find trouble in Tulum, of all places? Yet there are times on the road where people will take advantage of you or your situation, which can in turn either ruin your trip entirely, or even end it for you completely. Especially as a female solo traveller, as much as we all aim for equality in all aspects of our lives, it is on the road that we may find the most problems when it comes to being female.
We are all aware that safety is key when travelling alone and it is probably safe to say, that we all as women, try not to put ourselves in to situations that could cause us harm. For example I wouldn’t go walking alone at night if the area was deemed a little unsafe and if I needed to, then I would take a taxi.
It’s all common sense and being wary of your surroundings but what happens when you do all these things yet still, you are taken advantage of? Sometimes it’s inevitable and having things stolen from you is part of the journey, no matter how safe you keep your belongings. Unfortunately I found out the hard way here in Tulum that sometimes, it’s not just the cliché theft and ‘cat calling’ that can cause us female solo travellers problems, it can be the people who pretend to be your safe haven and in the end let you down.
I decided to do a work exchange here in Tulum; in exchange for accommodation, I would help set up their Instagram and take photographs of the hotel and so on. I felt a little unsure when I first arrived as the owner was not there to great me, he actually never came to meet me for at least 2 days and I had no guidance from him whatsoever as to what he wanted me to do. Of course, I just got stuck in and set up a new email account, Instagram and started linking their Facebook and then posting away.
I spent 2 weeks there in the end and at times I felt very secluded and out of the loop. The staff were not aware why I was there and thought I was just a guest (it is a small hotel and they only had a handful of staff).
The hotel was 80% closed on my last week and there was hardly any guests so I decided to leave and maybe come back in high season. I also struggled affording to live on the beach strip as the food/coffee was not included in the deal and a meal in this area was between $150-500 pesos and on my budget I just could not afford 3 meals a day. I was actually losing money working for them rather than earning anything.
My bank card had been ‘swallowed’ by an ATM previously and I was struggling to get money transferred and this is when my boss offered to help me out by using a PayPal transfer and giving me back the amount in pesos.
It was then that he went quiet and was hinting that the payment was still ‘pending’ although I had proof that It had been accepted the same day it was sent. It took him 3 days before I got just half of the money and the day before my last, while doing errands in the town, the bike I had been using from the hotel had got stolen. The lock had been cut and the bike was no more.
It was then that he decided to keep the rest of MY money as payment for the bike, knowing full well I had no money for food or for a roof over my head. I pleaded that he give me my money and that I of course will pay for the theft of the bike when my new bank card arrives but no. He would much rather take a young solo travellers money for himself (a wealthy business man who has a roof over his head and food in the cupboards).
Luckily there are plenty more good people here that have helped me out but it upset me to think that these ‘criminals’ are not just the unprivileged and poor that have succumbed to theft, just to pay for food for their families and/or for drugs. It was a normal middle aged white man, with a beautiful young family.
I guess just be careful who you trust and how much effort you put it to making something work for others, who themselves have no motivation or want to help you. He honestly thought that to build and maintain an Instagram account from scratch was ‘easy work’ and it would need no more than a few minutes a day, when in all honesty I was spending up to 8 hours a day building relationships and followers and posting photos.
This man was not a Mexican or a local, he was an Australian with a young family of his own. I would hate to think that when his children grow up and if they choose to travel, that a person could manipulate them the same way he did me. I hope in the future for the sake of the younger generation, that travel will be safer for everybody and compassion and understanding on the road will be widespread and used every day.