I came across his business card recently. It felt as if I nearly allowed his memory to escape me. Inadvertently or on purpose, I’m not quite sure. One thing for certain, an impression was left. I almost allowed the way he treated me to dictate if I would ever travel solo again. I assumed he would leave a nasty stain on the concept of me wandering this world alone. He did not. I couldn’t permit that.
I am a woman. I say that to say that this is nothing unusual. If you’re a woman, you know.
In late 2017, I took my final weekend trip during my study abroad curriculum. Needless to say, it was only fitting that the last trip was solo. So, I gathered my bag and traveled to Larnaca, Cyprus. While advised against it numerous times, I did. I arrived apprehensively. Essentially, a discounted roundtrip flight was the sole determination for my next destination.
As I exited the airport, a queue of taxis stood by for clients. I took some time to determine which driver I’d drive with. Unknowing of the custom that the first cab in line gets business first and so forth, I went to a man several vehicles behind. Words were exchanged with drivers not pleased with my choice as I entered his cab. I didn’t totally realize what occurred until we drove off, and he revealed what transpired. I instantly felt sorry for not assimilating to the culture, but I soon got past it. Even though the studio I rented was not distant, it was challenging to locate. It was downtown but a newly developed accommodation. Leaving the vehicle behind, we roamed and asked questions. I was appreciative of his support as I had no data on my phone, and by no means would I have been able to solve this alone. The locals spoke Cypriot Greek. Blindly, I assumed my limited Greek would get me around. Still, directions were not my forte, especially considering locals communicate in broken Greek foreign to me. All of his guidance, patience, and compassion made me comfortable giving him more business. I requested his business card and added him as a contact on WhatsApp immediately. He asked that I send a message so that he could save my number. As this is quite common, I was not reluctant or disturbed whatsoever.
That same evening I made a friend, Georgia, another single female traveler. We decided to go to dinner and had a feast of fresh seafood. Upon my arrival at the apartment, my phone connected to wifi. I had multiple messages from the taxi driver. Initially perplexed, I convinced myself that I was simply overthinking and misinterpreting his hospitality. After questioning if I made arrangements for the following day, he proceeded to tell me about sites he believed I would appreciate and he would take me to. I planned to give him further business, and he was aware of that. I took his efforts for kindness, not anything more.
Side note: During my travels, I stay with one driver for the duration of the trip. (If I decide that taxi will be the chosen mode of transportation.) They more than likely give you deals the more business given. They also tend to prioritize you as you are a returning and reliable customer.
The following morning, I accompanied the driver to complete his itinerary. I felt comfortable. He suggested that I no longer sit in the back since he enjoyed talking with me and believed up front would be more convenient. Looking back, I don’t entirely understand how I was so naive to the series of minor advances. We stopped for breakfast at a charming indoor-outdoor café near the water, with a view of countless palm trees. It was stunning, and I was happy. We ate and held a good conversation. When the bill appeared, he clutched it from the waitress to pay. I requested to pay for the meal. After going back and forth, I asked that the waitress take my card. In doing this, I made clear that this was no more than him showing me around the city. Besides, I aimed to exhibit appreciation for everything he was planning for me.
Following breakfast, we drove outside of Larnaca. Acknowledging that I desired to see more than tourist sites, he took me to a neighborhood market. The minute we parked, my energy lifted. Environments such as these never fail to spark my interest. We roamed around the market. I was introduced to new foods and did loads of window shopping. Not much time was spent there. The moment we returned to the vehicle, he questioned if I was curious to see flamingoes. Before this point, I’ve never observed these animals in the wild. I couldn’t resist. At this instant, fatigue began to sneak in. I fought it off as much as possible. As I started a series of uncontrollable yawns, he asked if I bored him. Following my laughter, I told him not to overlook the fact that he picked me up from the airport the day prior.
We arrived at Salt Lake. Even though we drove around it numerous times, we ended at a viewpoint. Excited, I replaced the lens on my DSLR. I stood on a deck, viewing the lake, just absorbing it all. At first, the flamingoes were challenging to see as they were so distant. He explained that they were sleeping and most likely would not come closer to shore. At that very moment, a few began swimming, and I was able to capture photos. It was surreal. Before this, he frequently rubbed my shoulders and arms in manners that made me uneasy. He used this opportunity to grab me by the waist and draw me in closer. As I pulled away, his hand traveled lower and lower. His grin stretched from ear to ear while I remained uncomfortable. I wanted to leave this situation promptly. There was no uncertainty about how he made me feel. Although I requested to not be touched, it didn’t register.
Vexed and uncomfortable, I stated that I was exhausted and needed to return to my accommodation. Chuckling, the cab driver declared that we had at least one more stop, but more if I could handle it. I asked that I please be taken back to the studio once again. He acknowledged what I said, but that is not where we ended up. We stopped by a street packed with art and galleries, and even though I was going to make my way there, I refused to do so accompanied by him. He insisted we get out and experience it together. Again, the response was no. I proceeded to state that I was tired and required sleep. Eventually, he understood, or so I presumed.
I cannot quite recollect how or why I ended up in the lobby of a hotel across the street later. Perhaps I had to use the bathroom or ask a question. I don’t know. Nevertheless, I recall the conversation after. I stepped out of the hotel and noticed the driver standing outside the taxi. I assumed he was anticipating being compensated for driving me around all day. We didn’t discuss cost, just went with the flow, so I was curious to know the amount he would charge. When I inquired, he smirked. Apparently, I did not owe him a thing. I attempted to give him money many times, but he declined. I express appreciation to him for taking his day to show me around. Assuming the conversation ended, I started to walk towards the apartment I stayed in. He grabbed me by the arm as I walked away. At this point, anxiety overcame me. He continued to notify me that he got us a hotel room for the night. Perplexed, I asked him to repeat. Thinking I misunderstood or instantaneously a sizeable language barrier than we experienced before appeared. The driver repeated himself and said we should have time alone tonight. Trying to persuade me by noting that it is an area that I have not seen as yet, and there were local drinks that I would like. In shock, I declared that I was not interested. He refused to take no for an answer once again. This whole time my arm is in the grasp of his hand. I let him know that it would be considered, and I would message him on WhatsApp when I awoke. That seemed to be satisfactory. He let me go.
I swiftly advanced up the stairs to my studio. Naturally, I would not be able to sleep after this encounter. I took a while to gather myself. I then texted that I would be unable to come to the hotel room. Once again, I wasn’t left alone. The discussion took entirely too long and increased my anxiety. He said that the room was canceled, and I was relieved. Mentally, emotionally, and physically drained, I tried to rest. Unsurprisingly, I woke up to more harassment. The driver made arrangements for us for the coming day, and I was instantly triggered. He was aware of my departure date and knew where I stayed. I informed him that my day was planned out but thanked him for making time to do that. He was not pleased. After saying that he would like to transport me to the areas I intended to tour, and I voiced that that was established as well, he began to get angry. The following message included a time he would be outside waiting for me the upcoming morning. Bothered, I came up with this ludicrous lie that I thought would get him off of my back. I let him know that I pushed up my flight because I would be missing too many classes that week. My reasoning was so that he no longer thought I was in the same studio. He claimed he would drive me to the airport, and I assured him that was taken care of before ultimately blocking him.
As a woman, these circumstances are standard. Confronting something like this overseas while being unable to use my phone alarmed me. I vowed I would never go anywhere alone again, but I couldn’t allow a man to make that determination for me. Comparable and more unfortunate situations occur universally and every day. I hesitated to put this story out there because I do not ever want women to be deterred from traveling independently. Still, it is essential to note the reality of what is possible.