The most common question I’m asked is “aren’t you afraid to live in and travel alone in your van?” The question always comes from other women and my answer is always “Heck No!”
Please don’t get me wrong. There are situations that are scary and bad things can happen.
But, scary or bad situations can happen whether you live on wheels or in a sticks-n-bricks (stationary) house.
In a sticks-n-bricks you take safety precautions like locking your doors and windows or installing security cameras or alarms.
Living in a van just means you need to take different precautions.
I actually feel safer living in my van than I did living in a stationary house.
In my van, if the neighborhood doesn’t feel safe I hop in the driver’s seat and move.
You just can’t move on the spur of a moment in a sticks-n-bricks house.
But, to be fair, there are pros and cons in any type of dwelling you live in.
If you’re considering the van dwelling lifestyle – but aren’t moving forward because you’re afraid it’s not safe – be sure you’re looking at the whole picture before you make your decision.
How Safe Is It Out There On The Road?
I can’t give a general answer on how safe it is on the road nor can I ever guarantee anyone’s safety. Every city or town is different. And, everyone has their own style of travel and may spend time in more crime prone areas.
What I can tell you is the majority of people and places I’ve encountered are NOT like what you see on the news!
If you watch the news regularly you’d think the world has gone to hell in a hand basket (one of my Mom’s favorite sayings).
The news only shows what it considers newsworthy. And, these days, the most newsworthy items are the awful, bad, negative things going on in the world.
It’s a half hour of horrible, disastrous, unimaginable acts. Although, once in a while, the news sprinkles in a few seconds of a random positive act.
But that random positive act is greatly overpowered by all the negativity that preceded it.
Keep It In Perspective
We need to keep things in perspective and look at the whole picture.
What you see on the news is only a small portion of the real world. The majority of the real world never gets included on the news. That majority includes good people doing good things for humanity.
Bad things can happen no matter where you live, no matter what type of house you live in.
Don’t let the bad minority overpower the good majority and keep you from living your life.
Throwing Caution To The Wind
I’ve learned to overcome my fear but that doesn’t mean I throw caution to the wind.
I don’t take risky chances when it comes to my safety but I also don’t allow fear or paranoia to be my guide.
Simple Safety Tips For Solo Female Nomads
When you live alone in a van (or any home on wheels) you need to be realistic about your safety. And I mean realistic as opposed to paranoid or fearful.
There’s no room for paranoia in anyone’s life. Fear and paranoia can prevent us from living the life we want and a life unlived is not a life.
The tips I share below are simple tips – many of which aren’t commonly shared.
1 – Trust Your Instincts
Trusting your instincts (intuition) is most likely the best weapon you have. Everyone has instincts. Instincts are always with you and instinct will never fail you (as long as you listen to it).
My instincts have never failed me.
It was me who failed to listen!
The number one thing I do is trust my instincts.
After being on the road a while, I had a defining moment in terms of instinct. It was a moment when I had to learn the difference between fear and instinct.
How I Learned The Difference Between Fear and Instinct
Shortly after I hit the road full-time I was spending the night at a Walmart. I can’t remember where it was but it was a bigger city.
I’d gone to bed and suddenly became fearful. I initially thought it was my instincts telling me to get the heck outta there. So, I sprung out of bed to get ready to leave.
But, something didn’t feel right about the whole situation. I decided to simmer down and think it through before making a hasty retreat into the night to who knows where.
After calming down a bit I realized something. This fearful feeling was different than the instinctual feelings I’ve had in the past.
This fearful feeling caused physical reactions… I was breathing harder, I felt panicky, my stomach was in knots and bad thoughts were racing through my head.
In the past, when I trusted my instincts there were no physical reactions and no negative thoughts. I simply felt an urge and I listened.
I decided to get my booty back in bed and stick it out. It was time to overcome fear once and for all.
Absolutely nothing bad happened that night.
The only negative thing that happened was I didn’t sleep well. I was needlessly worried and on-guard because I was listening to fear rather than instinct.
Something very positive happened that night too.
I learned the difference between fear and instinct.
2 – Be Aware Of Your Surroundings
Women are great multi-taskers. But, we often go about our day not being fully aware of what’s going on around us. We focus on all the tasks at hand and can become clueless about everything else.
Being aware of your surroundings is commonly referred to as “situational awareness”. It’s important for the solo lady nomad to know what’s going on around her and make situational awareness a habit.
To be aware of your surroundings does NOT mean to be paranoid. It simply means make it a regular practice to be aware of what’s going on around you. Why? So you are prepared for the unlikely, unexpected event.
Any “bad guy” that might be lurking nearby will typically look for a clueless victim. Why? Because a clueless or pre-occupied victim is an easy target.
Building Your Situational Awareness
Becoming aware of your surroundings is as simple as looking around and listening.
The hard part is putting it into practice.
When you park your van, before you even get out, look around and intentionally pay attention to what you see and hear.
- Are there people?
- How many people?
- What are the people doing?
- Are there animals?
- What kind of animals?
- What type of vehicle are you parked next to?
- Is there anyone in the vehicle next to you?
- What’s across the street?
- What sounds do you hear?
- What type of scenery do you see?
As you intentionally pay attention to your surroundings you’ll start seeing more and more. Possibly things you never realized!
Start slow and keep working at it until situational awareness becomes a habit.
3 – Use Common Sense
In our complicated world we sometimes forget to use the common sense we were born with.
Common sense is pretty simple and straightfoward. For example, if you’re standing 3 steps away from the edge of a cliff Common Sense says “don’t take 4 steps forward”.
The bottom line is, quit trying to complicate or overthink it and just use your common sense.
4 – Keep Your Keys In Reach
Make a place for your keys and keep them within reach when you’re sleeping. This way you know where your keys are. You can grab them quickly or hit the panic button, if needed.
I made a key-necklace so I can wear my key around my neck during the day. To make the necklace I just bought some leather string at Walmart. At night, my key-necklace hangs on a hook beside my bed. I always know where my key is and it’s easy to grab.
5 – Have Your Clothes Ready To Grab
This may seem like a strange tip for staying safe but it helps you get away quickly (and un-naked), if needed.
Some women sleep in their day cloths, other’s sleep in PJ’s and some sleep in their birthday suit.
If you sleep in your birthday suit (or in any other revealing attire) you might prefer not having to drive away naked.
On the other hand, if push comes to shove, I’d certainly suggest driving away naked. You can stop and get dressed later when you reach a safe area.
It’s a good idea to keep easy-to-grab-and-easy-to-put-on clothing handy in case you need to leave quickly during the night.
Other ideas for covering yourself in a hurry include:
- A big beach towel
- A small blanket
- Bath robe
As for me, I keep an oversized tee shirt and a pair of capris on the table. I lay them in a way that I can almost slip right into them.
If you find the need to leave quickly don’t worry about putting on your unmentionables. In an urgent situation, your undies and such aren’t important nor do you need to worry about your hair. The ONLY thing you need to worry about is getting out of there.
6 – Park Facing Outward
When staying at a Walmart, Cracker Barrel, unhosted campgrounds or anywhere you are “on your own” it’s a good idea to park so your van is facing outward.
What do I mean by facing outward? I mean park in a way that you can hop in the driver’s seat, put it in drive and go!
Do NOT park so you have to put it in reverse, back out, put it in drive and hope you’ve backed out far enough to go forward without having to back up and try again.
Parking facing outward gives you the advantage in the event that you need to leave quickly.
7 – Auto Club Card
An auto club card (like Good Sam, AAA or any similar company) can be a life saver if you find yourself stranded somewhere with a non-functional vehicle (a flat tire, dead battery, etc).
There are kind, helpful people out there who may offer to help you. But, if you’re in a remote area or you find yourself in a questionable neighborhood the auto club is a great safety net.
All auto cards are not the same. Be sure to review what your card covers and what it doesn’t.
8 – Don’t Use Your Key Fob To Lock Your Doors
A great way to keep your belongings safe (or even yourself safe if you’re inside) is do NOT use the key fob to lock the doors!
When you hit the lock button on your key-fob it sends an electronic code to lock (or unlock) your doors.
Some thieves have devices that can grab your code when you hit the key fob.
With the code from your key fob a thief can easily gain access to your vehicle. This gives them free reign over anything that’s inside your home on wheels.
Using the key fob to unlock the doors isn’t as important because you’re usually unlocking your vehicle and driving away. But, if you lock your doors with the key fob and walk away… you just gave any lurking thieves access to your valuables.
Instead of the key fob simply hit the lock button – the old fashioned way.
How do I know this?
I know this from personal experience.
Before you have any other thoughts… I was NOT camping or sleeping in my van.
The robbery happened when I was staying at a hotel.
My daughter was with me at the time and the van was packed with her stuff (she was moving) so we got a hotel.
I called to report that our stuff had been stolen and told the Police I knew my van was locked. My habit was always to hit the key-fob as I walked away from the van and wait for the “beep beep” indicating that the van is locked up tight and all is well.
I remembered hitting the key-fob just before going into the hotel.
What baffled me was, I didn’t know how our stuff could be taken from a locked van with no signs of forced entry.
That’s when the Police officer explained how thieves get the key-fob code.
9 – Let Someone Know Where you Are
Letting one or more family member’s or friends know where you are offers peace of mind to everyone involved.
There are several ways to let someone know your whereabouts:
- Make a plan to call at a certain time or when you reach a destination. Naturally, you’ll need to work out your plan with someone before you hit the road.
- Use a tracking app on your phone. I currently use the FollowMee app but there are many tracking apps to choose from on Google Play. New apps coming out regularly with free and paid options.
- Use a tracking device such as the SPOT Messenger. I used the SPOT Messenger for about a year (a paid service). It’s a device (not used with your phone) that tracks you via satellite rather than cell signal. This is a great option for anyone who goes where there’s no cell signal. I found I never like to go where there’s not a cell signal so I switched from the SPOT Messenger to the FollowMee app.
I’ve shared some real world safety tips for solo female nomads including ways to stay safer on the road.
What I’ve shared with you are things I use every day.
Naturally, there are other tactics you may want to implement (such as a baseball bat, billy club, bear spray or pepper spray – just to name a few).
Any additional tactics you want to use are entirely up to you. After all, you need to tailor your plan to You.
More Van Life Articles: Topics and Articles.