Airai, Palau Creepy Red Pick-up Man

Mom, don’t read this one. Jennifer, you too.

I’m on the flight to Yap right now. I just had a really creepy experience. I’m still kind of spooked.

I left the internet café after uploading my last post, and was heading back to the hotel to pick up my bags and go to the airport. I was walking alone and it was getting dark – I know, bad idea.

I was on the side of a busy thoroughfare when a red pick-up truck honked at me. I couldn’t see the driver, but he was waving.

To my knowledge, I don’t know anyone living in Guam. So I kept walking.

About 10 minutes later, I’m passing through a parking lot and the same red pick-up pulls in front of me to block my path. The guy inside yells out:

“Hey, how ya doing?”
“Fine.”
“You need a ride? Get in.”
“No thanks. I’m okay.”
“Nah, don’t worry about it. I’m heading the same way. I’ll take you wherever you want to go.”
(Editor’s Note: He was driving the other way when he honked at me.)
“I’m just walking around. I don’t need a ride. Thank you.”
“Hey, it’s okay. I’ve got some time to kill. I’m going to the airport tonight. Hop in.”
“No thank you. I’m actually not going that way. I’m going the other way. I appreciate it, but no.”
“Hey, it’s okay. What’s your name?”
“Matt.”

The guy reaches out across the passenger seat to shake my hand. Judgment call: do I shake his hand or do the wise thing and rudely snub a potentially innocent gesture?

His palm was empty as far as I could tell and his other hand was on the steering wheel. I shook his hand, then quickly pulled away, said goodbye, and walked briskly out of there.

Man, that was creepy. I shouldn’t have shaken his hand. I know. It was an involuntary gesture – like when people hand you flyers on the street and you pick them up without thinking. Social mores compelled me. But at least I didn’t get in the car. If I had, I would’ve deserved whatever was coming.

I walked a little further, then stopped at a strip mall liquor store and called a cab. As I was entering the parking lot, I noticed another beat up old car following behind me. He was going about 3 miles an hour and pulled right up front of the liquor store as I went inside. When I came back out, I looked him straight in the eye. He panicked, started his car, and drove away. He was a little old Japanese man.

I don’t know what the hell was going on. I didn’t encounter a single Caucasian the whole day, so maybe I was some kind of rare delicacy for the Jeffrey Dahmers of Guam. Or maybe the only guys who walk around by themselves at night are looking for a ride – if’n you catch my drift.

I’m going to cut down on doing that from now on.

The main thing these two incidents reminded me of is that this kind of trip wouldn’t be possible if I was a woman. And that’s a goddam shame. It would drive me crazy not to have the freedom to put on a backpack and wander around. There’s so much stuff to see.

I don’t think about it much, as I’m not a particularly compassionate or empathetic kind of guy. You women folk got a raw deal. And just about everything that’s bad about being a woman is directly related to the existence of men.

Anyway, it was pretty fortunate that I called a cab. The clock at the internet café was off by an hour, and when I got in the cab I realized I had just over 30 minutes until my flight left. There are only two flights a week to Yap, so if I missed it, I’d have an extended stay in this godforsaken hell hole. The woman at the check-in counter gave me a nasty look and scolded me thoroughly, but I managed to slip onto the plane during the final boarding call.

So I guess it was kind of a good thing that creepy gay red pick-up man offered me a ride. If he hadn’t, I’d have been stuck. Thanks creepy gay red pick-up man.

Adios, Guam.

The captain of the plane thanked us all for ignoring the threat of terrorism and giving business to the beleaguered airline industry.

Jeez cap’n, I didn’t realize I was ignoring it until you said that just then. I guess that’s the thing about ignoring.

He also warned us about the touchdown in Palau. He said it’s pretty rough, and there’s not much he can do about it. That seems weird, cause this isn’t some puddle-jumper. It’s a 737. I guess it’s a short runway or something.

I have to stop in Palau on the way to Yap — which doesn’t make sense to me, as Yap is halfway between Guam and Palau. Anyway, I forgot the warning until the moment we hit the ground just now and I nearly bumped my head on the ceiling. That wasn’t fun. I’m coming back here in a few days. Not looking forward to doing that landing again.

32 Responses to Airai, Palau Creepy Red Pick-up Man

  1. Rin

    It’s nice to have empathy for the raw deal. But travelling solo as a woman in less touristy parts of the world falls into the difficult-but-not-impossible category. Step one would be developing a healthy disregard for social mores. As in “oh man if I don’t shake the creepy pick-up guy’s hand he’ll think I’m mean and rude. Waaaaiiitttt a second, I’m so okay with that”.

  2. MY son married a Palaun gal from the state of Ngiwal on Balbedaup Island in Palau, the above is a web-site made for him by his cousin who lives in the USA states still. MY son is buried on a hill overlooking the ocean paradise he loved. He was one day shy of being 48 years old when he drowned Dec 11, 2004. The entire Village atteb=nded his funerl and burial. Thank you for telling others about Palau I was priveledged to have been with my son for the month of march the same year.

  3. Amber

    It’s horribly depressing to read you acknowledging that this wouldn’t be possible as a woman. I envy every detail of this trip as if I could do it one day, but wouldn’t happen. Not only cause I’d be too scared but cause I’d have a reason to be. Anyway, I don’t think I could do all that traveling alone, purely cause I like to have company and a backup. Gotta wait for that special someone to come along and go with me I suppose.

  4. Misty

    Someday I’m going to prove everyone wrong and travel around the world in spite of my gender. 😉 …Of course, I’m considering some creative costuming for the trip. My family would probably have a collective heart attack, but I suppose it goes with the territory.

    It’s good to see someone actually recognizing the realities of the world we live it, though. 😛

  5. Lenore

    “…Of course, I’m considering some creative costuming for the trip.”

    That can work. My friend shaved her head before going to Portugal alone to live in the poor part of Lisbon for a year. She looked a little scary, so no one bothered her. She said she fit right in.
    Oh, and she said that if you don’t look like you’re scared or lost, it’s less likely someone’ ll try to take advantage of you and stuff.
    I’d love to travel alone too someday. We’ll see… Matt’s videos have definitely been a huge inspiration.

  6. Jessy

    Creative costuming is always a good idea if you’re going to travel alone as a female. If your chest is flat enough for you to get away as passing off for a male until you open your mouth–cut the hair short and go for it. And I’ve always found that men’s clothing is a bit more sensible to wear when traveling. It’s hard to find women’s clothing that doesn’t show off all the things you don’t want creepy men in red pick up trucks to pay attention to.

    I might also suggest spending a bit of that travel money on self-defense classes of some sort before you head off. And don’t forget a bottle of mace. That’s the one thing Matt didn’t pack that a woman would find incredibly helpful–and if you don’t use it abroad, well, it doesn’t hurt to have it in America.

    Of course, both of those things are good for any girl, whether she’s looking to travel or not.

  7. Katy

    Just a quick fyi, you can’t pack mace… It’s a big no-no on airplanes and crossing most borders. As for it being more difficult as a female, I agree, but again, there are too many things to see, so just be smart, stay away from dark alleys. ; )

  8. Poindexter

    So Male, who’s holding the gun to your head and forcing you to revisit what you find offensive? I bet you slow down and gawk at traffic accidents as well, in selfish disregard for the rest of the world you live in. Grow up. I have been in many countries and found that if you pretend not to speak the same language as someone you feel creepy about it’s easier to keep your distance.

  9. Alicia

    Whoa. He was just relating a story, people, no need to take offense. These kinds of reactions are why I hate feminists. I’m a girl, I recognize that I’m in more danger of being overpowered than a man is. IF you don’t acknowledge it, you’re in denial.

  10. Jesse

    why are you stating GAY like its a bad thing? You could go around the world as many times as you want but you really never understand the people in YOUR OWN COUNTRY.

  11. K.

    Jesse, I don’t think he is–I think it’s more of a collective thing, like “creepy gay”. Not “creepy, gay”. Gay is just an adjective that happens to come after creepy. Gay does not necessarily equal creepy in this post. I think.

    …I need some rest :)

  12. Jamie

    Hi matt.,
    ive got to say that i love what you’ve done..
    but you should seriously think about going to Palau again…you’ll be suprised how much its changed. I know what it was like in ’03..lol. not much of a site but please definitely give thought to visiting again lots have changed and you’ll love it this time of the year!
    -Jamie
    Palau

  13. Red pick-up truck guy

    Yeah, Matt. I totally agree with the last poster. I certainly hope you come back to Palau…

  14. tumbleweedsusan

    Love your website and videos Matt. You are my hero!!

    You are so right about solo women travellers. I travel solo all the time. It can be difficult. But I am from New York, so hey….fuggetaboutit.

    Ginny Specht- It can be challenging, but certainly not impossible, as the other poster stated. I find in my experiences, that most parts of the world are safe. You just have to be smart. Meaning, don’t go wandering around after dark in alleys in Beirut. If you are smart, you can pretty much go anywhere in the world safely, even alone, even as a woman! Trust me. I was scared at first too, now I have no reservations.

    Don’t us that as an excuse to deter you from seeing the world!!! And don’t wait for that someone special either. Get out and see the world now…life is too short to sit at home and wait for ….someday…..someone….maybe…

  15. ypi

    This is terrible incident. While reading through first few lines, i was wondering Matt is talking of himself or writing autobiography of a girl… But what you expressed is a grim reality, a bitter pill

  16. Meg

    That’s unfortunate that Matt had such a creepy experience on Guam. Although I’m haole, I was born and grew up there and now that I live stateside, I definitely miss the friendly island atmosphere.

    Granted I’ve never had to deal with the kind of “friendly” people he did, but then again, I didn’t walk the liquor store and hourly motel lined streets at night!

  17. Matt, I am intrigued by your videos. A retired military man I know of has spoken of the out of control crime on Guam. He said a few years back he was there, and there were several men on trial for RAPING OTHER MEN. Not making this up.

    Glad you made it out safe.

  18. Anna

    What an odd attitude you have about women, Matt. You possess an unhealthy hero worship complex regarding women. I hate to break it to you, but women are identical to men, except that in the U.S. they are a privileged class: a woman cannot be forced into paying child support, whereas a man must pay 35% of his income for 18 years or go to jail. Big difference: women have reproductive rights, men do not. I would much rather be a woman since they can make a living simply by reproducing, and a man is defenseless after mutually consensual sex. You need to grow up, dude.

  19. Ay

    Thumbs up for Anna.
    The balance among men and women in the U.S. is really unfair.
    It’s really sad when people use sex as a power mean against other people, man against women or vice-versa.
    Anyway there is a easy way nor to be raped: to consent. Think about how many meaningless ONS you’ll have collected till the end of your sexual life and then consider that one more wasn’t something so bad.
    This is when the other person just wants sex, not when is violence covered up by sex.

  20. Annie

    Ay, I hope you will consent to what they do to you in the jail wher you’ll end up with this kind of thinking I hope. Your comment is offensive.

    Matt, I don’t think it’s much more dangerous for women. These strangers in
    red trucks scared you as well even though you’re a man. Take care.

  21. Jen

    Hey Matt, I was really inspired to travel after watching your videos but I know personally that I would need a travel buddy given i’m a 6’2″ light skinned young woman so I’d really stand out in certain countries.

    Speaking of which, Anna, Matt’s views are completely justified…has rape been quelled in the US? No. Men still top the ranks when it comes to that (and yes I am aware of women raping men). Thankfully I only get stared at because of my height but never followed unlike both of my 5’4″ roomates who have been followed at 8pm at night. The world can be a safe place to travel but at this day and age men are still far safer when solo.

  22. Joltz

    I don’t know if this is any help, but I am a woman and I lived in Guam as a kid (ages 12-14, 1997-1999), walked to school daily, and had no problems. Granted I was in a DoD housing zone but the island didn’t seem too bad, as long as I wasn’t wandering alone at night.

  23. K

    “There is an easy way to not be raped: to consent.”

    :

    In my opinion: aside from not being able to choose who to have sex with or if or when to have it, and the feeling of being violated part, and intense shame part, and the possibly getting an STD part, women have to worry about things like getting pregnant. I think there are plenty of factors that make it anything but easy to ‘consent’, in other words, even when it’s ‘just sex’.

    Not to get off topic, but just wanted to throw that in.

  24. Linnea

    I’ve traveled around West Africa, ostensibly alone but usually hanging around with other white people when I had the chance. Harassment, yes, but I think it had more to do with being a wealthy white than a woman (the guys were harassed, too). I never went out alone after sunset, though.

    Ay, I can’t believe you wrote that the way to avoid being raped is to consent to the unwanted invasion. Talk about blaming the victim – as though it is her attitude that is defining the event, rather than his action!

  25. Mary

    ANY female who claims they have not been subject to harassment and perversions while alone on foreign travels are either lying, are in denial, or are blind, deaf, and dumb. I’ve talked to many experienced female traveler and they all agree with me so I don’t know who these women are who claim they have never come across anything. Did they simply go from shops to tourist sites and mingle with other tourists and nothing else?

    I’m female and have lost count on the number of times I’ve been perved at. With no eye contact men have come after me to try and touch my body, masturbate in front of me, ask for sex, make insulting remarks, I even had several instances where men jumped into open rikshaws to try and grab my breasts. I wonder how men would feel if they would be a constant subject of lewdness. Matt’s incident which he describes as ‘creepy’ is baby-food and nothing. I once had a man describe the ‘most creepy thing’ that ever happened to him as the most lamest incident that nowhere compares to the far more creepy things women go through again and again.

    The truth is that except in the western world where I certainly feel safe, other parts of the world really view women in general as commodities, and western women in particular, as prostitutes. And it doesn’t matter if you are dressed ultra conservative or modern; you’re still a target.

    Its sad but after many such experiences I realized I had to learn to be suspicious which was not what I wanted and it lost the point of exploring other cultures. Local people also don’t interact with women travelers like they do with male travelers. In most conservative cultures you are either perved at or left completely lonely. If you try to strike up a conversation to learn about a culture or area you are viewed as indecent. Women really have it though. Women should travel with men to maximize their experience of travels. Men absolutely have much much more freedom than women traveling.

  26. Denise

    It’s not just there that “creepy” incidents happen. It happens all around the world, maybe just more in what’s considered bad countries because of the high crime rate. I live in Sweden, Stockholm and have been sexually harassed in the middle of the day, like some random guy touching my boobs on the trainstation. I mean wtf, that’s not something you usually see. I myself would be scared of wandering around alone in another country at night, especially if someone I don’t know wanted to give me a ride.

    Last year I went to Holland and America, I had no problems at all (except some drunk boys whistleing when I walked by) because I was with friends. If I’d been alone, I certainly would not feel comfortable with it. And these parts of the world are considered to be “safe” of some sort. Every night in America, I heard policecars while trying to sleep. If I’d been out there I would be scared and most likely have been harassed.

    Since I’m a rather attractive young girl with a big chest, a small waist and a short height. I’m a target in mens eyes, EVEN if I’m walking with my fiance or a male friend. Females are a prey, men are the hunters. It’s how it’s always been.

  27. Jessica

    If you don’t want to shake someone’s hand but don’t want to break convention, either, just put both of yours together and slightly incline your head. Keeps distance between you and the other person, and you can move away as you do this.

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