If you’re a single woman pondering solo globe-trotting, the Canadian government has some packing advice: Make sure you take a fake wedding ring so you can pretend there’s a man waiting back home.
Okay, to be fair, this particular advice in the 2011 Foreign Affairs publication Her Own Way: A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide falls among a long list of practical suggestions about how to avoid getting into a sticky spot while travelling alone, and how to get out of it if you do.
Some are self-evident: Get a valid Canadian passport.
There’s the ever-fashionable travel tip: Sport a vest with many pockets so you can keep at least one hand free at all times. (And this one: To avoid eye contact with undesirables, the “simple solution is to wear dark glasses in public places.”)
Along with nuggets of wisdom that fall in the “advice-your-mother-made-you-memorize” category: “Know the risks of ending up alone with strange men” and “There is no country on Earth where hitchhiking is safe.”
Then there’s the secret weapon every woman should have in her back pocket – a fake wedding ring. The guide suggests: “Also carry a photo of your husband (or an imaginary one), which you can show to persistent suitors. Being seen as married will lower your profile and stave off uninvited advances.”
The suggested deception, as Toronto Open File reported, has spurred different reactions. A Mount Royal University ethics professor raised the risk of telling a lie that may have to snowball into more fabrication. But Terri Mayo, who organizes the Wandering Women Travel Club in Calgary, told the website that “if it's for your own safety, it's a good lie, a white lie,” although she did point out that it could have been phrased more like a suggestion than a directive.
A Foreign Affairs spokesman told Open File that the document was written by a team of women and men after “extensive consultations” with female travellers. (It does offer valuable suggestions on what to do if you do run into trouble.) Its advice is clearly geared for women travelling in places where gender equality isn’t the norm. And while you may rightly argue that the onus shouldn’t be on women to make men behave properly, there’s an obvious danger in trying to teach that lesson while travelling solo in a place where women are banned from driving because it would tempt them to have sex.
So there you have it, straight from your friendly federal government: Pack your passport and your fisherman’s vest, and start poring through those fashion magazines for your fake hubby. After all, if you’re going to lie, you may as well make it a good one.
Have you ever worn a fake wedding ring on a trip? What other tricks do you use to stay safe while travelling alone?