To young women traveling alone: Remember Natalee Holloway

Filed under “Are you freakin’ kidding me”:

From The Associated Press: “A Dutch man [Joran van der Sloot] long suspected in the disappearance of an Alabama teen in Aruba was arrested Thursday in the murder of a young woman in Peru.” (Note: Updated from earlier post.)

Remember this guy? He’s been arrested and released twice in the Natalee Holloway murder. He is still their main suspect despite being released for lack of evidence, according to the AP story.

Even five years later, Natalee Holloway is my warning call to all my babysitters when they go away for spring break or senior trips. I stand in the doorway lecturing as the head home:

“Don’t go out alone with boys you’ve just met. Stay in very large groups – two is not enough.  Don’t go to their rooms. Don’t ride away in cars along with them. Don’t split up. Tell your friends where you are going and who you are going with! Don’t drink anything you haven’t seen made by the bartender! Always check  in!”

My sister-in-law, who will be a senior this year in high school, wants to visit some colleges with friends and my feeling is no way!! I feel like they need at least one annoying parent with them.

I say annoying parent because it does no good to bring an adult who just does her own thing when they get there. I don’t want the chaperone sitting at the hotel while the kids go out.  They’re not just there to bail them out. They’re there to make sure they don’t get into trouble in the first place.

I felt pretty strongly about young women traveling alone and then I saw the movie “Taken” with Liam Neeson on cable recently. In the movie his daughter, who I think was like 17, was hit on by some guys in France who eventually kidnap her, drug her and sell her into white slavery.

I’m telling you my girls will be lucky to go to Stone Mountain alone!  (I say this but my parents let me go to Italy for my junior summer with the classics department at UGA. We stayed in a group dorm in Rome but did travel frequently without any chaperones. What were my parents thinking? I especially remember one night a friend of ours taking off on a Moped with a guy. Even at 20 I thought it was a terrible decision! )

So there are several issues here to discuss:

  1. At what age can young women travel alone or with their friends?
  2. How far can they travel alone or with their friends? In-state, maybe over to Athens. Out of state – maybe to Panama City. Out of country? (Did you not just read the description of the movie “Taken”?!)
  3. Are we allowed to worry about or forbid college-age travel?
  4. What do you advise them when they are traveling?
  5. Do chaperones actually help? (I think Natalee Holloway’s group had chaperones.) What are you looking for in your chaperone?

80 comments Add your comment


June 3rd, 2010
2:24 pm

“Its not just young women. There are some pretty stupid ADULT women out there, who still go home with a guy they just met in a bar……or at the store, etc.”

Yes. Thinking of that scene in the remake of Cape Fear when Sam Bowden’s co-worker brings Max Cady home with her…cringe.


June 3rd, 2010
2:28 pm

@Jeff,again no big deal..Like Becca and stepmom2, if we went together, we left together..One of the girls that ran with us, once made a comment
that she wouldn’t sleep alone..Well, she didn’t many, many nights, but as I said, the guy had to pass the ok test with the others first..And most of the time, he went to her apt. and she wasn’t really alone with him, we were there..Might be why she’s had about 6 husbands and goodness knows how many boyfriends..:)

So hopefully without sounding ugly..I’m sorry for what happened (or didn’t) and am glad to have you on here with us..I try to be nice (and I achive that sometimes)..

@Becca..I am so with you on your theory..We stood up for each other, we
made sure that we all went home safe..We hung out at some really wild places..I’m talking Stewart Ave. area..This was 30 years ago, but that side of town was still iffy..Heck, we called a place on Stewart Ave. once to find out if a firend of ours was there, they told us no..So we called a cab that took us from Marietta to Stewart Ave., went to the dorr, told them to tell our friend (the one that wasn’t there) to come pay the cab driver..He came out, paid him, then had to pay for 5 girls to get in the bar and our drinks for the rest of the night..Those were the good old days..


June 3rd, 2010
2:33 pm

@JC: Sorry, no PC b.s. from me — I *do* think that a girl or a woman who gets drunk, loses control, and ends up in bed with a stranger is a slut. Not only a slut, but a stupid one, as well, since they have probably been regaled with warnings about drinking, men, sex, pregnancy and STDs for the last 20 years and have chosen to ignore it because “baby, it feels sooooo good.” But I’m an equal-opportunity judge: I also think that a guy who takes advantage of a woman in that condition is the worst kind of predator, man-slut, player, dog, whatever you want to call him (why is there no similar term for a “male slut”?) I won’t stand in anyone’s way to their right to be a slut — but they also can’t tell me what to think about them, either. I’m just at a loss as to why a girl or woman would not value themselves higher than prostitute by putting out for a few drinks and a few well-chosen words.


June 3rd, 2010
2:36 pm

DB, because sometimes people just like to have sex. What the heck is wrong with that? How is that in ANY way related to morality?

That being said, going anywhere alone to do anything with someone you don’t know very well is a bad idea. I mean, come on, if it’s likely the two, or three, or you are going to end up isolated then, hey, RED FLAG!


June 3rd, 2010
2:40 pm

white slavery?

Wow. I think the word you were looking for was sex slavery; not white slavery. Goodness. What in the heck were you thinking when you typed that?


June 3rd, 2010
2:49 pm

@JoeV – look up the definition of white slavery (or go back and read previous posts that define it for you). I think the word you are now looking for is embarrassed.


June 3rd, 2010
3:00 pm

Sally, it’s an outdated term. That’s the point. It is not used in any official capacity anymore. In public health research it’s called human trafficking. White slavery is a term that came about to separate the white Europeans who were largely trafficked for sex from the blacks who were trafficked for sex and labor. In the 200 years since the phrase was coined we see that all slavery is against the law and the only slavery still in existences is human trafficking. Race no longer plays a part. It’s for sex and/or labor and it’s victims are largely poor and young and female of all races.

What’s embarrassing is to insist on using a term that brings to mind a separation of race for intention (white for sex and black for labor).

Not that Theresa meant that. She just used it thoughtlessly.


June 3rd, 2010
3:04 pm

DB – I’m not going the bs route either. I was assualted as a teenager; I was doing acid, I lied to my parents about where I was, and I pretty much earned what I exposed myself to – I totally accepted responsibility for my complete lack of judgement being the sole contributor in my assault.

I also agree with you that anyone, regardless of gender (I just call male sluts muts), who gets drunk and goes home with someone they don’t know is stupid. What bothers me, though, is that we women all think we are fearless and brave and good judges of character, but you are none of those things as a young adult or a teenager.

Male or female, young or old, it comes down to how you are raised and your maturity level. Young girls looking for love and a good time fall for that claptrap and run home with someone attractive because they can, not because it will be good sex or lead to a lasting relationship. You reach a “maturity point” where you realize that exercising just the flesh is not as fulfilling as exercising the heart, mind and flesh. You can’t get that out of a one night stand.

I guess the rule my family adheres to is: don’t do anything you wouldn’t want your OWN children to know about.


June 3rd, 2010
3:13 pm

excuse my language but this kid is a rich piece of crap and ought to be stung up by his gonads, whipped and doused with mercurochrome

Asian Al Gore

June 3rd, 2010
3:18 pm

Where is arr the articres on grobar rarming? Grobar Rarming is scrary and deadry. Be ararmed!


June 3rd, 2010
3:20 pm

T: I think my last post got caught in the filter . . . :-)

Shannon OD from A Little Adrift

June 3rd, 2010
3:24 pm

I am a solo female traveler and I really feel empathy for the fear from this mother…but to go so far as to say that college age women should not travel is just too far. Many of the tips are valid, watching your drinks, taking certain precautions, but travel is an amazing experience, especially in the college years and fear should not stop women from traveling.


June 3rd, 2010
3:47 pm

@TWG -I went to Britain for 3 months with my college at 20. It was a fine experience! Yes, we ran off and got drunk a lot and partied with locals (but stayed in groups when going somewhere with guys) -so what? That was part of the learning experience and for God’s sake -when you’re 20, you should be allowed to travel without mommy and daddy! A friend of mine and I lied to our parents about the length of the trip and stayed on for 3 weeks to go to Scotland. We were going to head over to France, but we ran out of money. We lived on a dime a day, slept in a $9 a night NASTY hostel in Edinburgh and went to pubs at night where guys bought us pints and pub owners brought us dishes of “chips.” That dime a day we were spending went to a hard roll from a bakery every morning that we would eat with a cup of soup back at the hostel. Any extra cash we had was used to purchase day excursions and bus fare back to Gatwick in England. IT WAS AWESOME! One of the best learning experiences of my life! We spent our last night at Gatwick airport. I had a quarter in my wallet. A kind German man saw us there forever and brought us McDonalds. You know -the thing I’ve learned most in traveling on the fly, alone or with just another woman -for the most part people aren’t BAD -they’re actually very nice and helpful!


June 3rd, 2010
5:14 pm

Life is meant to be lived and mistakes are meant to happen. Some we regret, some we never recover from, but parents have to trust and let go – Sheltering only makes our children weaker adults. Trust your parenting skills and know that you will spend many a sleepless night but in the end don’t you have to let them go.


June 3rd, 2010
5:14 pm

I mean out of your house —


June 3rd, 2010
6:47 pm

Teens do not always think logically, and they really do think bad things happen to other people, despite what you have taught them. Regardless of how mature they appear to be, they are still adults in the making. Add alcohol to the mix, and they are primed to make a mistake.

I think the biggest difference between these days and my “heyday” is that when my friends and I went out together, we went home together. That was the deal. We never left anyone behind. Funny how opinions changed, and many times that really hot guy you met at the end of the night was not so hot, when you met him the beginning of the next night, before the margaritas :)

I have a son, but I think if I had a daughter, I’d feel the same way: There is no need for an unchaperoned senior hs trip. I think that’s asking for trouble. Even if your kid is mature, you cannot count on everyone else acting appropriately. Peer pressure is tough. In college, a year older, and hopefully a year wiser after being on his own, if he’s got the money, then he can go.


June 4th, 2010
8:35 am

I don’t think ANY high school trip is a good idea. College-age? Of course. But high-school kids are just that – KIDS. I have two daughters, 20 & 25, and they were both just plain stupid when they were in high school. Mamby-pamby head games led to fights with their girlfriends and every other day they had a new set of friends. The kids these days are spoiled and entitled and I sure don’t know where they get that attitude. Now my 25yo is just graduating from college with straight As at the top of her class while we just celebrated my youngest daughter’s daughter’s first birthday. Some you can teach, some you can’t. That one is still making bad decisions but she is of age and I have to let her make her mistakes on her own.

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

June 4th, 2010
2:27 pm

I know I’m late to the game here, but TWG does realize that “Taken” was fiction, right? Did anyone watch Dracula and worry about their daughter going to Transylvania and hooking up with some guy named Vlad Impaler?


June 4th, 2010
9:54 pm

my daughter has been driving from here to atlanta since she was 16…its about a 3 hour drive. of course i worried about her….breaking down and stuff…she had her cell phone…the first few trips and most of the time she takes someone with her…she has to call when she arrrives..and she usuallly calls along the way if she stops for any reason. going on a trip to the beach or something…nah…shes 18 now and could go if she wants to….i wouldnt like it…but the same bad stuff could happen to her here as well as anywhere…she has great friends who all look after each other etc….i have taught her all the saftey stuff etc….and hopefully she remembers it…when i was 18 i was hitch hiking across the country….and my mom would have killed me…she never knew where i was….i usually do know where my daughter is….she isnt gonna be put in a fence….and im not gonna fence her….i have taught her as soon as i realized what a free spirit she has (like her mom) how to be safe….thats all i can do…hope i taught her well…

Granny D

June 5th, 2010
2:11 am

After many years of living and travelling abroad, I am always mystified when I read the ideas of Americans with regard to their teenagers and young adult children. Unlike so many other cultures, American parents seem to feel that their children have a ‘right’ to ‘independence’. However, it seems to me that this so-called independence is what often leads to tragic results. And, I’m sorry to say that it also seems to me that so-called ‘independence’ is sometimes an excuse for lack of parenting. With nuclear and single-parent families and parents working two or more jobs to survive, how can children be supervised?

Active Duty Mom

June 5th, 2010
4:06 pm

HB, I’m with you on this one. I can’t wait to see what happens if any of Theresa’s kids decide at age 18 to join the military, where you are guaranteed to be moved to all kinds of places from okay to very dangerous. From what I have seen so far in the military, the people who were the most sheltered sheltered were and still are the ones that typically get into the worst trouble. Heck, I remember driving cross-country from the west coast to the east coast to and from different duty stations twice by myself in my early 20s (before cell phones) and traveling to 10 different European countries and to Japan by myself before I was 30. These experiences were great times and are great memories. Let’s face it, if you haven’t taught basic street smarts to your kids before they finish elementary school, they will only learn it the hard way.

Ole Guy

June 5th, 2010
7:49 pm

I might be from a distant planet, far-removed from the lunacy of late 20th/21st Century “ideals”. Just exactly what, from an academic point of view, is the purpose of a (pre-enrollment) college campus visit? The kid graduates from high school, raises hell for a few weeks, and THEN travels to U. At this point, between classes, exams, and all the anoying college stuff, the kid can scope out the local watering holes, and various venues of entertainment. I can almost guarantee that academics, particularly of the “-101″ freshman variety, is identical from one college to another.

These “visits” serve absolutely no purpose whatsoever…other than to serve as an opportunity to ogle the “campus crop”.


June 8th, 2010
12:36 pm

This is a bad world and bad things happen, but I think she contributed to putting herself in the situation that made it very easy for her to get killed. You don’t have to be out of the country. I have been to panama City Beach many times and girls/women put themselves in those situations all the time. I have met women teachers down there who most of the time are being mentors to little kids, but on their free time, they choose to go down there and put themselves in those situations. I am not saying they deserve to be killed, but we don’t know that that guy was even in his right mind when he killed those women, if he did kill them. There are bad things/people in this world and it is our rtesponsibility to look out for ourselves and others. Killing that guy is not going to fix anything. Taking him off the streets is good and confining him to a certain place would work, but wasting his life is not going to fix anything. It is just vengeance. I am 37 and a virgin, and it was by choice. I choose to wait for the right person who loves me and I am in love with. If I can wait then so can they. If they don’t keep their legs closed, then they could just as easily die from AIDS. The AIDS virus can go through a condom. Maybe not as easily as if you weren’t wearing one, but it can go through. I have seen videos about it during my medical training.


June 10th, 2010
8:19 am

My 14 year old niece was attacked a few weeks ago by five teenagers who beat her up and stole her cell phone. It happened because a fight broke out while she was in a dance club (no alcohol is served), she got scared and left her friends in the dance club to walk down the street to call her father, and she was attacked. When I asked her if she remembered me talking to her about the Natalee Holloway case and never to leave her friends, she admitted she remembered what happened to Natalee, but she panicked when she saw the fight break out and left her friends in the dance club, her friends did not get hurt. When fear and panic set it, people don’t do logical things and make mistakes.

Johnny: HIV (Aids) is not the only STD that is a big problem today, high risk HPV (human papillomavirus) is causing deaths from cervical and anal cancers and both men and women are getting HPV-related oral cancer. There is no protection from HPV , condoms don’t work because the HPV virus can live on skin that condoms don’t protect. The HPV virus can be transferred in the saliva also, so French kissing isn’t safe either. The only protection from certain strains of HPV is Gardasil injections or abstaining from all skin to skin contact. Men have no symptoms from high risk HPV (cancer causing strains), and there is no HPV medical testing for men, so many men are carrying and transmitting HPV unknowingly. Women can have the HPV/DNA test with their Pap Smear, but there is no HPV testing for saliva for either sex. Since you are a virgin and looking for a wife, maybe you should consider Gardasil injections for yourself, the government is advocating Garadasil injection for men and women aged 9 yrs, to 26 yrs old. Many women who are testing positive for high risk HPV are not telling the men that they are infected for fear of rejection, so be very careful. Most of my friends have stopped dating due to the devastating news regarding HPV.


June 10th, 2010
8:55 am

A few months ago President Obama lifted the ban on HIV positive people entering the U.S., so between many more HIV positive people entering the U.S,, in combination with the HPV epidemic, it’s amazes me that anyone would want to date any longer. Parents who want their children to be free spirits should take a realistic look at what America has become today, many freedoms we used to enjoy and took for granted are gone, there is no such thing as safe human contact when you can’t even share a kiss safely unless you are injected with Gardasil, travel is not safe, our school’s are not safe, our young men and women aren’t even safe on our military bases. Protect your children as best you can in our dangerous environment.


June 11th, 2010
11:28 am

Okay, all the women traveling on Natalee Holloway’s trip came back except for her. The choices Natalee made were not the choices the majority of girls made. It’s not Natalee’s fault, but maybe girls just need to look out for each other more.

amy s Jones

June 27th, 2010
1:41 pm

I don’t care how smart you think you are, it only takes a second to make a fatal wrong decision and your life is changed forever. People like Urin Van Der Snot are out there and they are preying on young women like Natalee & stephany.


July 25th, 2010
2:08 am

I found it very strange in the movie when the mother was told she was missing immediately said contact the FBI. This was even before she was given time to turn up. Maybe she was not murdered and did not want to return home.


August 9th, 2010
7:20 pm

(When my sister traveled to Europe she went with my mom. My mom was in her 40s at the time and my sister had just graduated high school. They went through abc tours and my sister loved Italy. To this day, my sister still regrets going with my mother because she was over controlling. My mom didn’t like the heat and didn’t want to go out at night. I personally think that it was my sisters choice and she shouldn’t complain because my mother actually paid for the trip despite

Traveling is dangerous. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t travel. I have read a lot of the comments posted here and some of them make too many assumptions about people. Every person is different and has grown up under different circumstances. NOT everyone young person has lived a sheltered life or doesn’t know that there actions could inadvertently end up costing them something later on in their lives. Many people that do travel alone don’t do it because they chose to. Forget about any STDs that someone may contract because people can get them locally(in your own house) and most people don’t travel to get laid; at least I don’t and I’m a guy. Bottom line I would advise over, over, over worry about your child traveling alone if they decide to do so and you trust them enough, Given that they are at least 18, they actually planned the trip(booked room and transportation), and saved up their own money to pay for their trip.


September 16th, 2010
9:39 pm

Wow. I’m shocked at this article. I don’t want to offend anyone, but I feel so lucky that my parents weren’t as panicked as a lot of the parents on this site seem to be.

I’m no mother but my parents put a lot of effort into making me confident enough to feel I could do anything. I’m now 19-years-old and I have spent at least 15 months away from home not including the year I’ve spent at university across the country from them.

Those 15 months included a three month backpacking trip when I was 18. I spent three weeks in a tour group of western Europe with my best friend then a week by myself in a tour group in Egypt then I proceeded to backpack for two months by myself in western and eastern Europe.

And I had an INCREDIBLE time. I learned so much over those three months. I think it’s such a shame that people think women traveling alone is so dangerous. If you have common sense and can speak English worth a damn, you’re going to be fine. I’ve never had a problem and I’ve never run into anyone on the backpacking circuit who’s had a real problem either.

I think it’s wonderful that you obviously care about the well-being of your children. However, the way you’re showing it could be hindering their ability to grow into independent adults. If your child has an ounce of intelligence and common sense, they’ll do much better than you think they will.

However, what’s normal for me may not be for you. I’m Canadian and, I’ll be honest, nearly all of my friends have traveled somewhere by themselves by now. Be it overseas or just camping in the next province. So it could be cultural too.

I don’t want to stereotype, but the most immature young people I saw in hostels, in residences, in tour groups were almost always American. Perhaps this alarmist attitude so many of you seem to have has something to do with it.