When I was in my very late teens I went interrailing. You could go all over Europe with a Young Person’s Rail Card. So a friend and I took off on our European adventure and had an amazing experience. We would time our travel so we could sleep on the trains to avoid paying for accommodation.
One night, we were on a train that had compartments of six seats each. All the compartments were full as we moved down the train, and we were starting to worry that we might have to sleep standing up. We found one compartment full of men with two empty seats. It wasn’t the men I found a problem, the compartment felt somehow wrong. I took my friend by the arm and asked her to keep looking. She was too afraid of the idea of sleeping in the hallway and insisted we stayed in that compartment. As we walked in it felt like I was in a pea soup fog, my tummy was tight and the hairs stood up on my skin. Little did I know at the time, but this was my gut telling me to GET OUT!
As the night went on, one man took it upon himself to explore the inside of my leg. He didn’t get very far but the experience taught me a few important lessons. Firstly, at that age I had no skills to handle the situation – believe it or not, I didn’t want to make a fuss. The next lesson was that everyone else in the carriage watched or turned a blind eye, so you are on your own. The final lesson I learned is to act. Not only to act against what the man intended to do, but before even getting that far, to act upon my intuition.
Years later, when getting into a mini-cab in London, the same feeling came over me again. I opened the cab door and got right back out again. The driver was angry and started shouting. The younger me would have gone with the situation for fear of offending him. Often the fear of offending other people stops us acting on our intuition. We don’t want to upset anyone especially when we have no evidence for why we feel uncomfortable. Bizarrely, it’s a far bigger faux pas to call someone a liar then it is to be one. The main piece of advice I would give a young woman would be to trust your intuition. When something feels wrong it often is. Never fear upsetting your friends or offending someone’s sensibility. You might never know why you back out of doing something, but that is far better than wishing you had when it’s too late.
I was so upset by the young woman killed so horribly in India this week. It made me wonder if, just for one moment, as she stepped onto the bus she had that feeling inside that she should wait for the next one. Sadly we will never know. We hear so many tales of people with bad feelings about going to the twin towers or not boarding a flight that crashed. Sadly, we only hear the stories from the people who trusted their intuition. Let’s hope these stories increase to build a consensus that following your intuition is one of the best ways to be safe.