Escaping Human Trafficking in Luxembourg

Luxembourg Waterfall

A Tiny Little Dot on the Map

This sounds absolutely insane – I know! Even as I write this blog post months later, I am still in shock. As a solo female I managed to take a one year trip around the world, visiting some misogynistic countries and a few that were in conflict, without any major issues. That is… until Luxembourg.

LUXEMBOURG! Of all countries! 🤯

While traveling from Belgium to Germany, I decided to pop by Luxembourg for a quick, one day visit. Luxembourg is a tiny little dot on the map of Europe, and you can easily tour the capital city in one day. After checking into my cute little boutique hotel, I set out to explore. I was surprised to learn that all of the public transportation is absolutely free – just hop on any bus, train, or tram and you’re all set! Luxembourg is the first country in the world to offer this amazing service, and I was ready to explore it to the fullest!

Old World Charm

After checking out the main tourist destinations, I decided to stroll through the Place d’Armes – the main plaza in Luxembourg City. It is dotted with shops and restaurants that are brimming with old city charm, and is the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon. I stumbled upon Bella Ciao, an Italian restaurant with outdoor seating, a lovely ambiance, and delicious-looking food; I sat down for a late lunch.

Goat cheese salad at Bella Ciao, Luxembourg

My main server, who also seemed to be the manager of the restaurant, was beyond adorable. He was very sweet, spoke several languages, was charming toward all of his guests and staff, and seemed like a genuinely nice person. The food, service, and atmosphere were all spectacular, and after an hour or so of indulging, people watching, and some innocent flirting from the sweet waiter, we parted ways.

The Setup

Less than one minute after I left the restaurant, I was randomly approached by a man in his 50s or early 60s that was very eager to chat. Always polite, I carried on with the conversation, but something about this man rubbed me the wrong way. He was dressed in nice, business casual attire, had a kind face – basically a very unassuming person – but one thing struck me as odd; he was asking way too many questions. Intrusive questions. And on three separate occasions he asked me where I was staying. I managed to sidestep the inquiries about my hotel by giving vague answers:

(1) Oh, not too far from here.
(2) Just one of the touristy hotels in the area.
(3) Actually I forgot the name of it, I just got into town a few hours ago.

By now he had spent about 20 minutes following me around and chatting with me. In an attempt to end the conversation, I told him “I’m going to grab some food, have a nice day,” waved goodbye, and quickly ducked into an ice cream shop. As I was browsing the selection of ice cream, I could see him out of the corner of my eye waiting for me outside the shop.

Oh great. 🙄 Well, I guess I’m eating this inside the shop, instead of walking around with it as I had originally intended.

The Pursuit

When he realized I wasn’t coming outside, he came inside the shop and pulled up a seat next to me, continuing with his barrage of questions. At this point, I got up and continued walking around the plaza, looking straight ahead, never at him, and responding with one word phrases. I didn’t actively engage him in conversation or even look at him, totally giving him the cold shoulder, hoping he would just go away. No dice. After another 20 minutes of this, he still wouldn’t leave!

Doesn’t this man have anything better to do than to wander around aimlessly with me?!

The straw that broke the camel’s back? It was this (and I so vividly remember how uncomfortable I felt): The man stared straight at my chest, and in a weird trance (you could tell the gears were turning in his head), never once breaking his gaze, slowly said “You’re so young and beautiful.”

Ummm. Hi. My eyes are up here, buddy.

It was creepy. Beyond creepy. I have had several people give me innocent compliments, but this wasn’t an innocent compliment. It wasn’t even an “I’m going to try to sleep with you” vibe that some blatantly sleazy guys give off. The immediate stomach turning reaction that I got from this man’s comment was more of a “Oh, I could get a lot of money for you” kind of feeling. Complete kidnapper vibes! He then unyieldingly tried to convince me to go to a certain club later that night.

Ummm. That’s definitely NOT happening!

Desperate to get away from this man ASAP, I told him I was done exploring and was just going to head home; I waved goodbye. Since the public transportation is free, my plan was to just get on the first bus to anywhere to put some distance between us, and then figure out what to explore in whatever area I would find myself.

He . Followed . Me . To . The . Bus . Stop .

The (First) Escape

At this point, I was curious if this man was just keeping the conversation going until my bus came, or if he actually intended to get on whatever bus I would get on. So weird! To test the waters, when the first bus pulled up, I slowly stepped forward as if I were planning to get on, and he stepped forward with me!!

Oh my gosh, give it up already!!

I was so irritated that I finally turned straight to him and said in a very direct and annoyed tone, “I changed my mind, I’m going to walk around some more. BYE!!” I turned abruptly and quickly speed walked away from him. While waiting at the crosswalk, I could see him slowly making his way in my direction out of the corner of my eye.

I decided I would walk back to Bella Ciao and enlist the help of the friendly waiter. All the while I could see the man slowly following and keeping an eye on me, this time from about 20 feet behind me, since I yelled at him. While looking around for the waiter, he happened to see me first, and excitedly greeted me, happy that I returned. I urgently filled him in on my situation and, without missing a beat, he directed me to have a seat and stay as long as I wanted. It was coming up on the dinner rush and all the tables were reserved, but he was happy to help me, and I am forever grateful.

He asked me to point him out, and I told him “the guy in the plaid shirt.” He looked around confused, and I repeated, “that man in the plaid shirt and khakis.” His immediate response: “That guy?!?!” “I know,” I told him, “but yes, it’s him.” Not someone you would ever suspect. My guess is he was expecting some 20-something-year-old sleazebag-looking guy.

Goodbye and Good Riddance

Obviously now the man, having realized I told the waiter about him, continued to walk on by as he passed the restaurant. Goodbye and good riddance, creepy old man! I intermittently kept an eye on him, and after he had disappeared out of sight for a good 15 minutes, I thanked the waiter and quickly made my way to the bus stop. At this point I was only interested in getting back to my hotel safely.

I was on high alert at the bus stop, but thankfully there was no sign of the man in the plaid shirt. Whew! Now I can just get back to my hotel in peace...

Creepy Old Man, Part Deux

As I made my way to the hotel, there was an older gentleman that happened to get on the same elevator as me. Nothing weird about that. He also happened to be going to the same floor as me. Still nothing weird about that – to think it was anything other than a coincidence would be sheer paranoia! Nevertheless, any time I open a door, I always make sure no one is in my immediate area, as it is very easy for someone to rush a door and force himself in. I waited for the man to pass me and continue walking down the hall, opened my door, and I was safely in my room. Thank goodness!

Knock, Knock !

Around 2:30am, I was roused from my sleep by a knock at the door. “Sorry to disturb you ma’am, but we have an emergency at the hotel and we are evacuating all the guests.”

What? An emergency?

Half asleep, I tried to process what I was being told. There was no peep hole, so I couldn’t see who was on the other side of that door. The following thoughts ran through my head:

(1) There is no alarm going off, and I don’t smell smoke.
(2) I don’t hear any commotion or the sounds of people walking around and leaving.
(3) It’s a small family-run boutique hotel. Even though there are only about 10 rooms, I don’t think they would knock door-to-door. Surely they would at least call the room, right?

I didn’t respond, and decided to call the front desk to verify. No answer. I figured this could mean one of two things:

(1) It’s actually the front desk guy knocking on my door, trying to evacuate the hotel.
(2) He could be asleep in the back. These small boutique hotels are often family run, day and night; in the early hours of the night they take a nap in the back, as no one is typically checking in during those hours.

Not knowing what was going on, and not wanting to open the door, I stayed quiet in the room. After a total of three knocks over about 5 minutes, the person went away. I figured if it was truly an emergency and they needed to be certain that the rooms were empty, the hotel staff has a key that can open my door to check. After several uncomfortable minutes of uncertainty, I eventually drifted off back to sleep.

“Whachu Talkin’ ‘Bout, Willis?”

As I was checking out that morning, I asked the front desk guy what the big emergency was at 2:30am. He looked at me as though I was crazy – he had no idea what I was talking about. There was no emergency at the hotel, and I was so happy I had the presence of mind, even half asleep, to not respond or open the door that night.

My guess…? I think the man in the plaid shirt targeted me while I was eating at the outdoor restaurant. Once he wasn’t able to get the location of my hotel, and after I waited for him to leave, I think he called a partner and told him to follow the girl in the polka dot dress sitting at Bella Ciao. Genius, really, because while I had my eyes on high alert looking for the man in the plaid shirt, his (also unassuming) partner was able to easily follow me to my hotel and find out my room number.

Vigilance

Was it a human trafficking ring? Probably. I’ll never know for sure, but it certainly felt that way. In any case, whatever it was, the intentions were definitely ill-natured. At first glance, I was surprised that, of all places, I would have issues in Luxembourg. But it makes sense. Luxembourg is the richest country in Europe. 1 in 15 citizens of Luxembourg are millionaires. With so much wealth floating around, it makes sense for human trafficking to be a hot commodity, as people are wealthy enough to buy… people! 😔

Stay vigilant, friends. Pay attention to your surroundings, don’t walk around distracted, and always trust your gut – it could save your life. For more information, check out my Tips and Tricks to Keep You Safe while traveling, and in your everyday lives.

Happy travels!!

solofemaleexplorer

Hello! My name is Sunita Bendale and I have been an avid solo traveler for the past twelve years. I grew up with the values of a traditional Indian family, and lived a very sheltered life. After becoming a registered nurse, I made the very difficult decision to challenge my cultural and familial norms, and moved clear across the country to sunny California.

Best . Decision . Of . My . Life!

I didn't know anyone within a several thousand mile radius; my friends and family were back home in New Jersey, but I was not going to let that minor inconvenience deter me. My adventure had just begun, was absolutely thrilling, and I welcomed the challenge to create a new life for myself.

With an innate passion for dance, I quickly found myself immersed in the Los Angeles Argentine Tango dance scene. I was a young woman with big dreams and stars in my eyes. One day, on a whim, I decided that I wanted to see the world and dance in Paris. It was a spontaneous last-minute trip, booked only for four days, but I was determined to see and experience as much as I could. I spent those days running up the steps of the Eiffel Tower, taking in the views during the day and night, wandering through the Louvre, staring straight into the eyes of the Mona Lisa, stuffing my face with the most exquisite macarons and every delicious pastry you could imagine, making friends with the taxi cab driver that drove me all over the city, catching the 1am last sparkle of the Eiffel Tower, and dancing the nights away. I didn't sleep. I wanted to soak it all in. The experience was immensely liberating, and jump-started my obsession with travel.

Since that glorious trip, I have made it my life's goal to dance all over the world. It is wildly invigorating walking onto a dance floor in a foreign place, not knowing a single soul or speaking the language, yet being able to dance flawlessly with any random person in the room. To be able to detect the slightest, most subtle shift in weight and move perfectly in unison without so much as breathing a single word - it's enthralling.

Every successive trip since then has fueled my addiction. For the past several years, I have been working as a Nurse Anesthetist, which has been fulfilling in so many different ways. Not only do I absolutely love my career, it also affords me the financial independence and flexibility in scheduling to pick up at a moment's notice and travel the world. 

Many people find the thought of traveling alone a daunting experience, especially as a solo female. However, I am here to share my experiences and safety tips, and assure you that it is not only possible, but can be very cathartic. My goal is to empower women (and all travelers) by providing them with tools and resources that will bolster the confidence to travel solo.
I'm just a girl dancing through life, and enjoying every step along the way.

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