Pilgrims walking on the Via Francigena

Safety for the solo woman pilgrim

Walking the Via Francigena alone as a woman safely and with confidence

By Kym Wilson (adapted from a longer article in our e-newsletter number 9, December 2019)

Sadly, from time to time there are reports of women being approached or attacked when walking the Camino de Santiago and even the Via Francigena. I don’t believe fear of this happening is a reason not to walk alone, but it is a risk to be aware of and to be prepared for with tools or a strategy to fall back on just in case. As the Scouts’ motto says, Be Prepared in Mind “by having thought out beforehand any accident or situation that might occur, so that you know the right thing to do at the right moment, and are willing to do it.” This is how we can empower ourselves.

As you prepare to walk the Via Francigena, some questions to ask yourself and contemplate around your personal safety are:

  • What do you need to feel safe wherever you are in the world?
  • How do you need to resource yourself so you feel confident as you walk?
  • What would you do if you were approached or someone tried to attack you?

Here are some suggestions for walking safely.

1. Walk mindfully with awareness of your surroundings

Choose carefully when or if you wear headphones and listen to music as this could prevent you from hearing someone approach, as could losing yourself in thought or day dreams.

Practise being present and aware. Not only will this aid your safety but it will give you a deeper and more complete experience of the places in which you walk using all your senses.

2. Take a self-defence course or do a refresher before you go

This will teach you effective skills to defend yourself and be safe. You don’t need to be fit to do this and it’s not about learning some kind of Hollywood style Kung Fu moves. You will learn really useful skills that will support you in everyday life and boost your confidence.

3. Trust your gut instincts

As you walk through nature, your intuition will continue to be fine-tuned and refined.  Listen to your intuition and gut instincts.

Not all strangers are dangerous! Along the way you will most likely meet kind and generous people who want to help you and take you into their homes. Listen to your intuition to discern whether or not you should accept help from a stranger.

If you get a sense it really isn’t safe to walk a certain path or route or at a certain time of day such as after sunset or before first light, trust your instinct and don’t. You will find another way.

4. Pre-program police and emergency phone numbers into your phone

You never know when you might need them and they are different from country to country.

You can find the different contact numbers for each country in ‘The Basics in’ section at the beginning of each Lightfoot Guide to Walking the Via Francigena.

5. Use an app on your phone such as Follow Me or Find My Friends and have someone back home follow your journey

My brother-in-law tracked me when I walked and I had given him instructions that if he didn’t see me move for a day to check in with me because something could be wrong. This gave me comfort and confidence that someone knew roughly where I was in the world.