I WAS FOLLOWED ON MY SOLO TRIP

I've said it before and I'll say it again, taking a solo trip was the best thing I have ever done for myself. If you've been here for a while, you'll know I've had my struggles with anxiety and going places alone, so to hop on a plane and head to a new country on my own really was an achievement for me. That being said, my trip didn't go as smoothly as it could have...

The Duke of York Pub

I chose to visit Belfast. A few months previously I had be convinced to visit the city by a very charming Irishman (a trait I would soon discover most Irish males possess) and my trip was booked before I'd even had time to think about it.

On my second night in the beautiful city I was feeling confident. I survived my first night alone and even went to the pub on my tod, I was doing well. So why not venture a little further I thought? I really wanted to have a drink in 'the most famous pub in Belfast', the Duke of York, and I wouldn't be disappointed when I got there. But it was a half an hour walk from my hotel.

Back home in Birmingham I would never have walked it, a 30 minute walk? No thanks! But when I'm on holiday a half hour walk is nothing. I was happy to see the city along the way and so I left the comfort of my hotel to walk the streets of Belfast on a chilly January evening. 

Following the map on my phone closely I quickly walked through the city centre. Maybe it was the time of year or maybe Belfast is just a quiet town, I'm not really sure, but the streets were empty. This was a little unnerving to say the least.

During my walk I was mindful not to look lost or give away the fact that I was following directions. I walked with purpose and confidence and was always aware of my surroundings. That's when I spotted him. A man maybe 10/15 foot ahead of me walking along the empty city centre road. I had noticed him looking back at me a couple of times and then he slowed down. No worries I thought, I'll take a quick look at the map and then walk past him.

With a solid plan in my mind and my phone now firmly away in my pocket I picked up the pace, overtook the man, and turned off the main road. What could go wrong? 

"Excuse me", a voice from just behind me called. The man had taken the same turn as me. "Excuse me" he said again, "Do you know where the Berliner is?" By this time he had caught up to me and I could see that he was fairly attractive and not much older than myself. He was Irish but maybe he was visiting Belfast himself and needed directions to the pub? I was trying to make sense of the situation. Naively I slowed my walking and told him that I was sorry but I had not heard of it. This was a mistake. 

By responding I invited him to strike up a conversation as we both walked down the narrowing road. Thinking back now I can't even recall what he was talking about, but I do remember him telling me he was a local. That was the red flag I needed to get myself out of there. He was not a lost tourist, he more than likely knew where he was. Alarm bells were ringing, but then as if by some miracle, I noticed a pub just beside us - The Berliner. 

I thanked whatever guardian angel was looking over me and notified the man, who was walking ever closer to myself, that the pub he was looking for was there! "Oh" he responded 'Thanks". And off he went towards the doorway of the bar. 

Murals Square (next to the Duke of York)

My heart still pounding I walked on. Problem solved, I thought. Then I turned back only to see him standing in the doorway. He hadn't gone in. I turned back and carried on walking. It was by this time that I noticed the road narrowing even further. Was this a dead end?! How could this be I thought? I was following my map so carefully!

I turned back around looking for an exit to the dimly lit road to realise that the man was now walking straight towards me. What did he want? Maybe he was going to mug me? Or maybe worse. My heart sank at this point. 

I took one last look at my phone. I needed to get off this street. In my previous panic I hadn't noticed that the road did indeed finish here but there was a small alleyway that continued on through to another main road. The alleyway had no lights but it was my only escape. 

I powered through that ally quicker than I think I have ever walked in my life. I didn't want to overreact by running which seems silly thinking back now. Once I was out the other side I just kept going until I turned another corner. It was only then that I looked back to be sure I was alone, which I now thankfully was. You never really notice just how empty streets are until you think you might need to call for help. 

Continuing on my way I was even more aware of my surroundings than before. My senses were heightened and even little noises set me on edge. I was still determined to get to the bar, after all where else would I go from here? 

I did eventually arrive at the pub (which is well worth the trip) and swiftly ordered a vodka coke to calm my nerves which were just about shot at this point. For the rest of the evening I chatted to other tourists and enjoyed a spot of live music before choosing a very different route home. 

Thinking back to that night my memory is beyond fuzzy. The details are warped at best and I would never be able to identify the man if I ever saw him again. I've since looked at maps of Belfast and I can only assume that I must have taken several wrong turns on that night because the route I originally walked doesn't make any sense. 

Would I have done anything differently if I was to relive that night again? Honestly I would have never responded the the lad when he originally spoke to me. I was so scared of coming off rude or a bitch that I put myself in a very scary situation. 

I've since been called a bitch on several occasions when I've told men in bars that I'm not interested and while it's not nice, it's so much better than accidently inviting unwanted attention. 

That night could have easily ended up very differently. I'm very lucky that I spent the evening enjoying a few drinks and not at the police station, or worse. 

Spending a long weekend completely alone has done wonders for my confidence and I would recommend it to anyone, but please please just be careful. 

Thanks for reading!

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1 comment

  1. Oh god I imagine you were absolutely terrified but I think you did the best you could in that situation

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