I should preface this by saying that we were actually in no danger at all.
Krystal and I spent nearly every weekend of our teenage years together. We were always at each others homes, driving around searching for a cool spot – any cool spot would do when you live in the boonies – and watching every movie we could get our hands on. Our favorite genre? Horror movies and thrillers.
Our love of film is probably what originally made us click, and because of our adoration of all movies, we may have watched ‘Taken’ a few too many times.
Which leads me to the story of how Krystal and I found ourselves fearing for our lives in what could have been a very bad situation, but thanks to God, it was all just in our heads.
The words he stated shocked us. He had seemed so nice when we met him outside, and while we toured the building!
Krystal and I stood our ground. We were in the tiny apartment we had rented online, gripping our bags in defiance. Our eyes darted between each other and the man in front of us. After we had walked in, we had heard a ‘click’ and turned to find ourselves now locked into this room with this stranger.
We stood shocked, eyes wide in fear, two terrified ladies just wanting to see Paris.
His demand? Our bags. His broken English had come through well enough, as if it was a statement he had practiced saying several times before. “Give me your bags.”
“No.” We stated in unison, both of us ready to stand tall for the other. We both knew that the only documentation we had for ourselves were inside these bags, carefully strapped to our backs. Without them, we would have no way to get home or to prove who we were. Not to mention, we would have no money left because Krystal thought I was joking about wanting to sew cash into my bra.
“No?” He looked taken aback. Why had we refused to give him our bags? Could these two girls really be that stupid? Willing to risk their lives for their backpacks?
He questioned us, “Why not? Give me your bags.” He demanded again.
Grasping at the ounce of courage I had, I questioned him back. “Why?” I sounded braver than I felt.
He looked completely surprised by my question. Baffled even.
Gesturing behind him, he pointed to the floor. “So I can put them down for you.” He stated matter-of-factly in broken English.
“They are heavy?” He continued.
I breathed a sigh of relief, looked at Krystal and found myself laughing aloud. This man was not out to get us, he simply wanted to take the weight off our shoulders. His statement came off as a demand because it was not his primary language. And the door being locked behind us? That was the only way the door would latch! He wasn’t attempting to lock us up and hold us hostage!
We handed him our bags, which he did set on the floor behind him, and then proceeded to show us around the apartment. He even provided us with a map with attractions pre-circled. He was a very nice man who just struggled with English and his inflection while speaking it.
Krystal and I were able to enjoy the rest of our trip in Paris and enjoy our beautiful apartment near Montmartre, however, I realized how quickly something seemingly safe could go wrong.
For Krystal and I, it was only a bit of a cultural and language barrier mixed with over-active imaginations which we can now look back on and laugh about. However, women do become ‘taken’ while traveling and it is a very serious and dangerous issue. For more information on trafficking, see this article.
While solo travel can be fun, always have a safety card available – a local friend, a family member, the phone number for the consulate or police, or travel in pairs. Always have your documents, such as your passport, photographed and stored somewhere as well, so you can prove your identity should anything happen to you or your luggage.
Always be aware of your surroundings, and don’t trust anyone simply because they seem trustworthy. I’m a believer that there is more good in the world than there is bad, however, sometimes you just happen to find the wolf disguised as a lamb. Traveling is a dangerous activity, and in a perfect world it would be perfectly safe. However, that world does not exist.
Leave A Trail
The only reason Krystal and I followed this man into a locked building, up three flights of stairs, and into a small apartment we would become locked inside with him, was because he had ample good reviews online for renting his apartment.
My family had the address of where I would be staying. You should always leave a trail or itinerary behind with someone who will expect you to be in contact.
Have fun on your travels! See new things, experience new cultures, make new friends. But above all, always we wary and always have an exit plan.