Guest Post: Safety for the Single Female Traveler
(Today we have a guest post from Becky Schade, a young, single woman who full-times solo in her Casita Travel Trailer. Visit her wonderful blog here: http://www.interstellarorchard.com/)
As a young, female, solo, full-time nomad, I get asked a lot about safety on the road. Do I feel safe going it alone? Aren’t I worried about something bad happening?
When I was a college student living in an apartment complex next to campus, a girl coming back from class one afternoon got held at knife point in our parking lot by some members of a gang. They thought she was affiliated with a rival gang. Turns out she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, they let her go unharmed before the authorities showed up. I was at class when this happened, but it could have been me on a different day.
The point I’m trying to make is, I don’t feel like the world is any less safe on the road as it is off. There are risks no matter what lifestyle you choose to live. The only way to insulate yourself from all risks is to avoid getting out and living at all.
When you’re traveling solo, one of the oft expressed concerns is for your personal safety against ‘bad people’. Because stories of violence are so often reported to the public, it can sound like these bad people are all over. They aren’t. Most people are good, although random acts of kindness rarely make the front page of the newspaper.
Since I’ve started RVing (I use ‘RV’ and ‘RVing’ as a sort of catch-all to include everything from vandwelling, travel trailers, on up to the large Class A motorhomes and 5th wheels), I’ve been on the receiving end of many random acts of kindness – especially from my fellow RVers. I’ve been invited over for dinner, loaned tools to perform work on my RV, and when my electrical system stopped working one day at the first campground I was staying in, my neighbor whom I’d never talked to before came over to peek at my fuses and breakers to see what the problem was. I’ve had help replacing my tank vents when I was getting a leak, help replacing my water heater’s anode rod when I thought it was rusted in too tight for me to move, and help replacing one of the friction pads on my fancy hitch when it wore out and needed changing. About 20% of the time when I’m hitching or unhitching my RV in a place where people are around someone will walk over and ask if I need help. I actually prefer no help at these times because I have a system down for remembering all the steps and if I’m interrupted or if someone tries to step in, something vital might get missed.
On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve never once had a run in with a ‘bad person’. I’ve over-nighted at truck stops and in Walmart parking lots at least a dozen times with nary an issue. This makes a lot of people (especially my parents) cringe, but really I’m not flaunting danger to come and find me. Most of what keeps you safe on the road is common sense, let me share some things I do and have heard of others doing:
- I never stop at rest stops or stay in parking lots or campgrounds that are empty.
- When over-nighting outside of a campground, I choose parking lots that are well lit, I park under the lights where security cameras can see me easily.
- I always lock my doors at night.
- I keep aware of my surroundings when I’m not in a place I’m familiar with.
- If I pull in somewhere and get a gut feeling that something is off – I move on. And really as a RVer that’s one of your best defenses: your house has wheels, so when something or someone is making you uncomfortable, just keep driving until you find something better.
- If you’re here reading this you’re probably interested in van living which is a plus for safety over some other types of RVs, because you don’t need to step outside to get from the living quarters to the driver’s area.
- Mace is a good thing to have.
- An air horn also wouldn’t hurt.
- Carry around a big flashlight that doubles as a weapon when you need to go out at night.
- Having a dog with you also reduces the chances of being bothered by unsavory sorts.
- A firearm is an option too, but if you go this route please take classes so that you know how to use it, if you don’t know how to use a gun and your assailant does and manages to get it away from you, you could be in real trouble. Also look up gun laws in your domicile state and the states you’ll be visiting, you don’t want to get in trouble for not having the right permits.
- I have also heard of women who have used decoys as a way to deter would-be assailants. For instance putting hunting decals or pro-gun stickers on a tow vehicle, leaving a pair of big men’s boots or a large pet bowl and chain outside the RV door at night.
- I even heard of a lady who had an inflatable doll that sat in the passenger seat of her tow vehicle, dressed up in a flannel shirt and cap.
As for other bad stuff happening, I can guarantee that if you’re on the road long enough it will. But don’t despair, because you’ll be getting better and better at dealing with the problems as you go.
Going off on an adventure like this alone will greatly improve your self-reliance. I live and travel in a 17′ molded fiberglass travel trailer which I pull with a mid-size truck. I bought it used from a private seller in Florida, and hauling it back home to South Carolina was the first time I ever hitched up a trailer, or drove towing one for that matter. I noticed half-way home that one of my roof rivets was missing, and rain was in the forecast. So I picked up a ladder and a roll of duct tape at a Walmart to temporarily solve the problem until I could get home and and could look up online to how to replace a rivet. And thus began my education in RV ownership.
Overcoming obstacles like these has improved my self-confidence immensely and made me feel a lot more comfortable about dealing with issues that may crop up on the road. Now I realize that no matter what happens, I have the strength to deal with the problem, and the peace of mind that I get from believing in myself is so satisfying. At first I was sad that I was going to be going RVing alone, but now I’m happy it worked out this way, because I’ve grown so much as a person.
Here are a few other safety tips to make getting on the road a little less intimidating:
- Learn as much as you can about your type of RV before you start living in it. Scour the internet, take a class, read all the manuals, find someone else who has the same kind of RV in your area and ask for tips. Most fear comes from a lack of information or understanding. The more you know, the less scary it’ll seem.
- If you can manage it, set some money aside as an emergency fund not to be touched unless there really is an emergency, like a breakdown or if you were to get sick. If you can’t manage this right now, start budgeting your money so you can make one. Even a small amount regularly put aside will add up over time, and it’s nice to know that cushion will be there if ever you need it.
- Join an online forum community for the type of RV you plan to get. That way when something does invariably break down on it, you’ll have ready access to a whole slew of people to ask how to fix it – chances are someone will have already gone through what you’re going through now and will have the answer.
Becky Schade lives full-time in her Casita Travel Trailer and tows it with a Dodge Durango. She is determined to live a deliberate life which for her means RVing. To follow her interesting and informative blog go here: http://www.interstellarorchard.com/
Go to the bottom of the post for some of my recommendations for Safety Supplies
Bob’s Recommended Safety Supplies
Some of these things are not commonly available so I am including links to Amazon.com.
Bear Spray: Much better than mace, it is a liquid that shoots out to 30 feet and works perfectly on ALL predators (mace is a spray and wind can blow it into your face blinding you but leaving your assailant unharmed!). Non-lethal but very, very effective! Some people will tell you it doesn’t work They are wrong! In Alaska it has proven itself as the ONLY truly effective tool against bears. Every government agency in Alaska recommends it above everything else. Bears are so fast that time is critical so only buy one with the chest holster for nature walks. The chest holster puts it instantly at hand. This is the one I carry:
9.2oz.-Magnum Bear Spray W/ Chest Holster
Air Horn: Again, this is a non-lethal but very effective tool so it should be the very first thing you reach for in a true scare. As a bonus it is cheap!
Super Blast Pump Air Horn
Large Flashlight: Be sure to get an LED bulb. Perfect safety tool because it is gives you a very strong light and makes an outstanding weapon!
MagLite 3-D Cell LED Flashlight, Black
Emergency Whistle. A whistle is probably not as effective as an air horn, but you can carry one around with you all the time, so it’s still recommended. Very good tool against 2 and 4 legged predators.
Sonik Blast Whistle, Orange/Black
Auto-Opening Pocket knife: For safety and survival a good knife is number one! Close-quarter blade combat is one of the hardest things a human can do, but to me it’s worth carrying just for the piece of mind. I carry it mainly for badly behaved dogs who might attack me or Homer. After that happened a few times I always have a pocket knife. My arm means I can’t “flick” a knife well so I am in love with the assisted opening knives and only recommend them. They are fully legal.
Kershaw Black Clash Folding Serrated SpeedSafe Knife
Hatchet: Very few things make you feel as safe as a hatchet. I like the Gerber ones because they are light enough to carry with reasonable ease.