Update: testing iCloud hack to track location for solo female travel safety

Here’s my update from testing my solution-vention of a low cost female traveler safety hack – using iCloud to send and store my phone’s location so people know where I am… on my solo female trip to Peru.

On my way out of the airport in Santiago, I just did a quick check to see if it was grabbing my location.

Grabbing location using iCloud for female solo traveler safety

All good.

When I got to the airport at my destination, I was approached by one of the many taxi drivers. I asked him where the collectivo was (a small minibus which is really cheap into town), and he told me that on Sunday mornings there are none. I had a feeling he was lying, so I asked at information and she told me where to find it – of course there was a collectivo.

When I got in, I opened my phone, and in that moment, I really wanted to send my location to iCloud. I felt the desire to “check in” somehow – but not in a public, look how awesome I am, foursquare type of way. So I turned on roaming because I didn’t have a local Sim card yet.

The downside with my iCloud hack in this situation was I didn’t know how long it would take for my location to be stored. I wanted an app that would tell me my location was stored, so I could turn off roaming – which isn’t an ideal solution in case something happened en route, but I felt it was better than nothing.

When I arrived at my hostel in Peru, all seemed to be happy and accounted for:

 Screen Shot 2013-11-11 at 10.56.12

But I have a confession to make – I’ve been here for a few days now, and I haven’t bought a Sim card yet… I guess this is why we user test an idea before we build anything.

I meant to, but then I read some forums that made me think that buying a prepaid Sim card in Peru was too difficult – something about needing to register in order for the number to work. Then I heard it was $49 usd for the month- bit pricey. Another slight problem is I don’t know how long I will be in Peru for – I might leave tomorrow for all I know. Sure – when I first arrived, I was convinced from the boredom and ickiness of 24 hour bus/plane travel that I would stay for infinity… but 24 hours later, I found myself researching what other long, boring bus journeys I can take to countries nearby.

To add to the disadvantages of an app solution, I met a fellow solo female traveler yesterday who was stood up by her airport pick up taxi driver. She agreed to let another driver phone her hostel, on his phone, to get the address, and, without actually confirming that he was actually talking to anyone, she took him up on his offer of a lift. Nothing happened, obviously, but she told me that her battery was almost dead on her smartphone anyway, so an app wouldn’t have tracked her in this case, and she didn’t have a local Sim.

Doesn’t look good for my solution so far…

However, there is one more thing I noticed – when I was planning to take a trek off the beaten path, the idea of getting a Sim card really appealed to me, not only in case I disappeared but because I was motivated by the fear that I would twist an ankle along the way, and need to call for help.


To sum up:

Four factors have slowed down my optimism on using iCloud and a Sim-

  1. the effort to buy a Sim card
  2. the high price of Prepaid Sim card when you only need it for this one purpose
  3. not knowing how long you will stay in any one country – desire to keep options open
  4. battery life

And two factors have given me hope that we need a better version of just an iCloud hack for this –

  1. when I know I’m going to be in a random, off the beaten track location, I want to be tracked, properly
  2. I have some inner desire to “check in” when I get somewhere

I will keep watching my behavior and see what else I discover. But for now, the idea of a custom built app for female solo travelers is officially on the shelf.

Want to see what solution I invented this week as part of my experiment? Check out my unrelated, rather ridiculous, but fun to make, underwear solution-vention here


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