Today in Chile, Joran van der Sloot was picked up for killing another young woman. I never knew Natalee Holloway, but being from Birmingham, I know more than a few people who did. I hope they are able to keep him locked up this time, because he obviously got a bit overconfident about his ability to get away with murder. Not only does the hometown connection pique my interest in these cases, but I’m also a young woman who recently discovered the glory of solo travel.
I am sure I am giving myself far too much credit, but I think I am a good judge of character. I have been lucky that the few people I have trusted while traveling have had no intentions of harming me, and therefore I haven’t been in any actually scary situations. Hearing all of the speculation and the stories from Natalee’s disappearance, all I can think is, “there but for the grace of God go I.” It’s amazing to think how many young women go on vacation (myself included), have a bit too much to drink, get charmed by that local with the nice smile, and then find themselves alone with him. And for the most part, it is fine. Usually it’s just followed up by you awkwardly trying to figure out what angle is your most flattering and if the light is right in your hotel room during the time you can hear him loudly peeing in the next room.
I can’t imagine discouraging all young women to stay home and never try to live it up in a foreign country simply because there are plenty of people who have the home field advantage. And I don’t believe in being overly cautious because if I bothered to be cautious all the time, I’d never have had some of the priceless adventures that I hold as such dear memories. But they could have turned out to be completely different if the people involved had been different. But I have been one of the millions of lucky ones, and statistical anomalies don’t make up for the fact that now two daughters and friends are now dead.
There is no formula for safety or advice that can be given besides the standard advice that should be taken in any public place. These two young women were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and with the wrong person. That is the scariest part. He could have seemed like any regular guy, just looking to hang out and maybe hook up with a girl at the bar, like regular guys all over the world often do. But alas, there but for the grace of God go I.