Google "female solo traveler" or "traveling alone as a woman." The results are less than thrilling. There are lists of dos and don'ts--"Go here" and "Avoid this." That's not what solo traveling is about--people who travel on their own are looking for freedom to make their own decisions. Unfortunately, the search results from Google seem to indicate that women solo travelers should accommodate their plans for everyone else in the world. Lists of tips imply that women travelers must change their habits and follow specific itineraries to stay safe.

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That doesn't sound like freedom, and it doesn't feel particularly empowering. Not everyone is stuck in this old-fashioned mindset, though. Now, new technology like the SafeUP app is helping women create communities so they can move through the world with more autonomy and confidence.

What Is SafeUP And How Does It Work

Above all else, SafeUP is a community of women working together to keep each other safe. The app is the tool connecting them. A woman can use SafeUP to contact guardians who then come to her aid. Guardians are not people she knows personally--they are just other nearby community members.

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Imagine this scenario: a young woman decides to walk back to her hostel after enjoying Tel Aviv's nightlife. After a couple of blocks, she starts feeling a little uncomfortable--the air has cleared her head, and she starts worrying about being out in the dark on her own. To make it worse, when she passes a man smoking on the street, he asks her for her phone number. She doesn't respond, and he becomes insistent. He starts following her. That's when she pulls out her phone and opens SafeUP.

She keeps walking, and the guy keeps pestering her. Fortunately, after a couple of minutes, a woman turns the corner and greets the traveler. This guardian joins her on her walk. The smoker desists and turns back. Once he's gone, the guardian stops and helps the obviously shaken-up young woman calm down. She asks the traveler if she wants to keep walking the rest of the way to the hostel or to take a cab.

SafeUP community membership works on three levels. First, there are members. These could be anyone as long as they are women with approved profiles on the app. The creators of SafeUP have a thorough vetting process to weed out fake profiles. Members can choose when to activate the app on their phone or not so it's not always tracking their movements. Then, there are guardians. These are members who have completed training. They are always connected to the app and willing to respond day or night. Finally, there are community managers who organize training, events for guardians and relate to local authorities.

The idea is simple: women help women in their community, and technology connects them to make it easier.

Currently, there are SafeUP communities in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States. People interested in getting more involved in the SafeUP community in their area or starting a new branch can get more information from the app's website.

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The Story Behind SafeUP

Neta Schreiber, the co-founder of SafeUP, had an eye-opening moment about ten years ago at a party. She and another friend realized that a third friend was missing. They began searching for her and found her in a dangerous situation--half-naked with two men accosting her. Neta observed how quickly the two left her friend alone when they were outnumbered by the women. She wished that everyone who found themselves in a similar predicament could be rescued that way and so the idea for SafeUP originated.

Other Apps For Solo Travelers

SafeUP is a fantastic way to make women feel safe by creating a community. It's meant to work in many contexts: walking home at night, preventing domestic violence, for women travelers, and more.

It has some limitations though: it only works where there is already a community of guardians. Women in some cities in Europe and Oceania can depend on SafeUP, but travelers in Latin America will still need to find other ways to keep themselves safe.

Fortunately, several other apps protect travelers in a variety of ways.

Sekura

This simple app is straightforward, easy to use, and works well. It has four main actions: sound a siren, send a text with your location, call an emergency number, and fake an incoming call.

Wander Safe

This app collects information from its community about places where they felt unsafe. It links these reviews to maps so that travelers can see which areas to avoid. It also has an SOS function which alerts emergency contacts of a traveler's location so they can intervene.

My SOS Family

People use a timer in the app. If the timer reaches zero, even if the phone is off, My SOS Family will send alerts to the users' contact lists.

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