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    This 26-Year-Old Woman Went Viral For Revealing How She Stays Safe While Traveling Alone, And It's Contributing To An Important Conversation

    "Never stay in one place for too long just staring at your phone. You can easily become a target that way."

    If you’re a solo traveler or have ever been interested in traveling alone, meet Alexa Renee. She's a 26-year-old travel blogger and content creator who's been sharing her experiences online for about three years — and lately, her content about travel safety has been getting extra attention.

    Alexa, who's based in DC and works as a coordinator for a nonprofit, has been to about 37 countries so far and shares content focused on culturally immersive travel and budget traveling. Over time, people started asking her about staying safe while traveling alone, which inspired her to start sharing her tips.

    @lilmsawkward

    Why I travel 🌍🌍 also I lied my most asked question is does a sugar daddy fund me and the answer is no. #blacktravelblogger #blacktravel #traveltiktok #solotravel #nomad

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    BuzzFeed spoke to Alexa, who began sharing her travels on TikTok earlier this year. "I think a lot of people want to travel the world but may not have people to do it with," she said. "Solo travel can be a bit nerve-racking for many, including myself sometimes. So, I figured I would make some videos about how I personally like to keep safe and try to blend in when traveling abroad."

    In this TikTok on keeping safe while traveling, Alexa shares how to keep your real-time location private, even while sharing your travels online.

    @lilmsawkward / Via tiktok.com

    "First, I never post in the moment. If I'm posting a location, it's because I've already left. All of my posts are delayed by several days, or I don't even post until I've come back from the trip," she said in the video.

    @lilmsawkward / Via tiktok.com

    "With my [Instagram] stories, I try to delay [them], even when I'm home, at minimum one to two hours. I never share Airbnb, hotel information, or my itinerary during my trips, but I'm more than happy to share them when I get home. So, who does have my location? I always share my itinerary and live location with my family — that way, they can check on me."

    Alexa places a location sticker: "Grand Canyon National Park" with a photo of the park to share on her Instagram story
    @lilmsawkward / Via tiktok.com

    Alexa recently shared another TikTok on how to not stick out as a tourist, and it went viral with over 2.4 million views. "Here's how I attempt to not stick out and stay safe while I'm traveling, keeping in mind that I'm a Black American woman who always sticks out when I travel," she begins the video.

    Alexa in a TikTok video that's titled: "Staying safe and not sticking out as a tourist traveling alone
    @lilmsawkward / Via tiktok.com

    "I never tell people I'm traveling alone; I always say I'm on my way to meet friends or family. When I was single, I used to always say I was traveling with my husband, and I would keep a fake ring and put it on my ring finger."

    Alexa wears an ordinary ring on her ring finger
    @lilmsawkward / Via tiktok.com

    "The biggest way to become a target is if you are walking and looking down at your phone or looking at directions. Never stay in one place for too long just staring at your phone. You can easily become a target that way."

    A phone recording of the downtown street of a country abroad
    @lilmsawkward / Via tiktok.com

    "Before you leave your hotel, already have your directions out and mapped in preview — that way, you know exactly where you're going. If you get lost, you can ask for directions. Just make sure you let that person know someone's expecting you somewhere," she continued. "I ask Ubers and taxis to pick me up or drop me off across the street from my hotel, and I always let them know I'm going to go meet a friend."

    A Google Map preview of a destination, showing directions for a two-minute walk
    @lilmsawkward / Via tiktok.com

    "Never count your money in public, and always keep in mind the culture and customs when you're packing. Like, if you're traveling somewhere modest, you're gonna wanna wear modest clothes so you don't stick out too much."

    @lilmsawkward / Via tiktok.com

    As a fellow Black woman who loves to travel, I also appreciate Alexa's candidness about her experiences traveling abroad. For example, when one TikTok user asked if she's ever experienced racism abroad and if there are any places they should avoid because of it, Alexa expressed, "As a Black woman, I've experienced racism everywhere, including here at home, in the United States, and multiple places abroad." She concluded video saying, "Yes, I've experienced racism abroad, but no, I don't think you should avoid any specific places unless there's a safety aspect involved."

    @lilmsawkward / Via tiktok.com

    With a history of racism, fetishization, and discrimination — as well as other safety concerns — that Black women have faced, the mere thought of traveling solo can be overwhelming. Many Black women have shared their hesitations about traveling alone — but many have also shared why they started embracing solo travel. In fact, the number of Black solo travelers has been increasing, especially as more stories are highlighted and more online communities have formed for support. According to this 2018 study, "Tweeting the Black Travel Experience," Black tourist communities are one of the fast-growing travel groups.

    For some, Alexa's videos have also helped highlight the reality that many women in general have to take extra precautions in order to stay safe:

    Someone comments, "It's sad that we have to go to these lengths to stay safe"
    @lilmsawkward / Via tiktok.com
    Another comment says, "It's so sad that we have to think and plan like this just to avoid being harmed"
    @lilmsawkward / Via tiktok.com
    A final comment says, "Isn't it weird how we have to coordinate our lives around men and their potential violent behaviors"
    @lilmsawkward / Via tiktok.com

    Overall, her content has created an engaging community where many comment with their own insights and tourist safety tips:

    Two comments on Alexa's video: One says, "It's the dressing part that most people forget; locals can spot tourists based on clothes the most" and another says, "This was great advice; I always 'walk like I know where I'm going and I'm running late'"
    @lilmsawkward / Via tiktok.com

    "It’s been so exciting to see the comments [and] a community of people contributing tips on traveling and sharing how they keep themselves safe. Lots of important conversations have started as well!" Alexa said.

    Another comment: "Even if you are traveling with a friend, if someone asks, 'is it just you two?' always make it seem like there are more people you are traveling with"
    @lilmsawkward / Via tiktok.com
    Two more comments: "I've always traveled with my real wallet and cheap wallet that has some cash and old gift cards" and another tip: "If you're staying in a hostel, pay a little extra to be in a female only room"
    @lilmsawkward / Via tiktok.com
    A comment says, "Take a screenshot of your map too; saves battery and you don't always have a good connection"
    @lilmsawkward / Via tiktok.com

    Ultimately, Alexa wants to encourage people to stay safe so they can enjoy their travels even more. "Some people felt that I was contributing to some paranoia or making people not want to travel, which is the complete opposite of what I was trying to do. There’s absolutely a way to have fun and be free, but also travel safely. I wanted to just relay my perspective and tips as a Black American woman who travels often," she said. "My end goal in anything that I do is to encourage people to see this incredibly beautiful planet we have."

    "I want people to [know] that solo travel can be safe and incredible! It’s truly an eye-opening experience that everyone should have at least once in their lifetime. I’ve never felt more confident and sure in myself after a solo trip. I hope people are encouraged to travel and take with them some of these safety tips along the way."

    To keep up with Alexa's adventures abroad and get more content on solo travel, be sure to follow her on Instagram @lilmsawkward and TikTok @lilmsawkward, and check out her website lilmsawkward.com.

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