The art of trust is one of those tricky, nuanced arts that is hard to learn but necessary for any traveler to know.
Over the past few years of solo traveling I've learned a thing or two about navigating trust. My main advice? Trust everyone. But also, trust no one.
Most the people you meet during your travels will be totally ordinary people. Depending on the country you are in, they might see you as an anomaly or an obnoxious tourist, but in most cases they will have no ill will toward you. In fact, most locals will be more interested in helping rather than hurting you.
Which is why I say, trust everyone! Whether you are totally lost and need directions or you want to find a good place for lunch, trusting the locals can make all the difference.
Most of my best meals have been recommended by a random local I met along my journey and if it weren't for local assistance, if probably still be lost on the island of Capri.
Plus, meeting locals will make your trip all the richer. One of my fondest memories from my years of travel is the day I spent with the teacher that I worked alongside in Ethiopia. She brought me to her home and showed me around with pride. After a midday feast we went to her parents home where I was forced...erm....invited to eat a second meal. Finally, we spent the afternoon shopping in a part of town I would never have known about otherwise.
Even a conversation with your waiter can be incredibly rewarding, but you have to let your guard down every now and then.
Trust No One
That being said, there are bad people in every corner of the world. Unfortunately as a tourist you are a target. It will often be assumed that you have loads of money and if you are a solo female traveler you will be a target for other reasons as well.
No matter how comfortable you are, your safety has to come first. While most people will mean you no harm, if you get a bad feeling, listen to it.
Sure, sometimes our bad feelings have no backing. Often it comes from judgement and making assumptions. But when you are traveling, there's no time to worry about forcing your gut to be politically correct. Just listen to your gut and trust yourself over all else. Because you are always better safe than sorry.
For more tips on staying safe while traveling, check out this blog.
All in all, it is not cut and dry. Don't be so apprehensive that it gets in the way of experiencing your host country. But at the same time, don't be so trusting so as to put yourself in danger.
Most importantly remember that 99% of the time you are in more danger driving to work every day than you are walking down the street in a foreign country. So get out there and get exploring!