Traveling alone might be something you want to do, but not unless you can do it safely.
For many women, contemplating full-time RV living can come with a list of questions about their safety. In fact, many of the questions I receive as a full-time solo female traveler have to do with protecting myself on the road.
Often, I can see the fear in people’s eyes and hear the worry in their voices when they begin to ask me questions about my safety and traveling full-time on the road. Their first assumption is that my safety is at risk, a presumption that isn’t true.
As of the writing of this article, I have lived on the road for eight months. I am here to tell you, I feel safe living on the road. There are a lot of good people in this country and in this world. Forget stranger danger. Sometimes the most dangerous people in our lives are the ones that are living in our own homes, as domestic violence statistics show. Sometimes strangers are good people that can also become wonderful friends.
It is time for us to let go of the incorrect assumptions that living in a house is safer than living on the open road.
While these safety tips for traveling alone are geared towards women, they can apply just as equally to men. Also, while I am using the term “RV”, it is also applicable for other full-timers, such as vanlifers and nomads of any kind.
This article is also meant for people who travel the country by road, and isn’t necessarily written for people who are traveling overseas. That list of tips would be completely different from these.
Traveling Alone: Tips To Stay Safe
Here are some tips to help you stay safe when traveling alone and/or living full-time on the road.
Be not only able, but ready and willing to defend yourself
This is a huge one when it comes to traveling alone on the open road. Being in a new place every day or every other week can keep you on high alert for danger. New surroundings come with new noises, as well as new people coming and going. You don’t always know who belongs there, who doesn’t, who you can trust and who you can’t.
That’s why being ready and able to defend yourself if the need arises is important.
Although I am placing this one on the list, I don’t say it to make you paranoid. There is a reason that they are called “happy campers”. Most all of the people I have run into on the road are kind, happy and helpful people. I’m sure there are a few with bad intentions, but they certainly are not the majority by far.
Whether you are inside your RV or sitting outside enjoying the fresh air and the view, there are a few basic and easy to obtain items I have seen many full-timers have on hand as a part of their personal defense systems.
Items To Have For Personal Defense
Here is a list of those as well as the benefits of each.
- Wasp and hornet spray – Benefit: Shoots 20 feet
- Bear spray – Benefit: If it can take out a bear, it can take out a person
- Pepper spray – Benefit: Legal to carry in all states
- Airhorn – Benefit: Will startle your attacker as well as draw attention
- Whistle – Benefit: Will notify others (if around) that you are in danger
- Car alarm – Benefit: Likely already have and will draw attention to yourself
When it comes to other weapons, whether or not you choose to have them is up to you. If you choose to, you are also responsible for knowing all laws for any place that you may be traveling through.
One resource that I really love for personal defense and protection is Spy Escape and Evasion. The founder is a former CIA officer who puts resources and techniques in the hands of people like you and me to protect and defend ourselves, or escape, if we are ever in a sticky situation.
When I lived in Las Vegas, I was able to see him live and he showed how to escape from duct tape, rope, zip ties and more. Pretty cool stuff and you’d be surprised at how easy he makes it to learn. He also has recommendations for other items to have on hand to protect yourself.
Make good decisions
For me personally, a huge part of making good decisions involves going where I am allowed to go as a camper, RVer or full-timer. Making good decisions also means that I know there will be other people around that are similar to me.
While there are people who stealth camp or take the risk and park where they shouldn’t, I never want to be in a position of getting kicked out of a place or putting myself in danger by being in a place where I am not welcome to be. For those reasons, I choose places that allow the kind of camping (or glamping) that I do and they usually always also end up being places where I feel a sense of community while I am there.
If I am traveling in an area that I don’t know that well or there are not many safe camping options, I will opt for paying for a stay at a developed campground. While I do watch my budget and expenses, my safety is more important to me than keeping a few extra dollars in my pocket. With that said, I choose free camping options as often as possible. However, I do my research, read reviews and whenever possible, scope out the place in advance of choosing to stay there.
Making good decisions also means not being in a place where people are partying. Some of the recreation areas that are very appealing for camping, also become huge party areas for the locals from the area on the weekends. Steer clear of theses kinds of places, especially on summer holiday weekends.
[ Learn more: How To Find Cheap, Free (and Safe) Places To Camp ]
Always tell someone these four things
Hitting the road as a full-time traveler adds many more variables to your life. You are no longer just going from home to work and then work to home. You can go anywhere you want at anytime! That’s the great thing about it. The bad thing about it is that if someone needs to find you, they will not know where to begin looking if you don’t tell someone where you are.
So, for your own protection and safety, while you are out living your adventurous lifestyle, be sure to keep your friends and family updated with these four things:
- where you are now
- where you will be next
- when you will be in either of those places
- and who you meet along the way
The last one is especially important so that people know who to contact in case they can’t reach you or if something goes wrong. For your own safety, it is good if a trusted friend or family member is aware of who you are meeting along the way.
Exchange contact information among friends and family members
While I may not stay in contact with everyone I know all the time, I am usually always in contact with someone. It is good for friends and family to have ways of getting a hold of each other in case of an emergency or if they want to get an update and they aren’t able to reach you.
Keep an emergency information card, packet or folder with you at all times
Having some type of written emergency information on you at all times is so important when it comes to traveling alone and doing it safely. This can be something as simple as a written paper or as complex as a packet or folder. Keep it in a place where someone entering the door of your rig would immediately see it.
This information should include who to contact in case of an emergency (name, phone number, etc.) as well as who can take care of your pet if you have one and anything happens to you. Also list any pertinent medical information such as health conditions and/or medications you may be taking. This needs to be a “grab and go” card, form or folder so that anyone assisting you in the case of an emergency can get you the help that you need.
Traveling Alone: Additional Safety Tips
Have someone track you
If you find this is a good option for you, have a trusted friend or family member track you at all times. There are different options for doing this, from something as simple as an app such as Life360 to GPS tracking devices.
While it is good to have someone watching out for your safely like this, the signal won’t necessarily track you, but will track your phone. So, it works if your phone is on you at all times. Also if you do decide to go this route, make sure that your friend or family member understands that while they have access to check and see where you are at all times, that you don’t want that information to be common knowledge or shared with others.
Keeping the knowledge of your whereabouts limited to a select few trusted people can also help to protect you and keep you safe. You wouldn’t want to become a target via hearsay if someone knows where you are traveling and that you are alone.
Follow your instincts
One of the biggest safety tips for solo RV living has to do with trusting your gut. Of every full-timer that I have heard tell their story of getting into a situation they shouldn’t have been in, they all started with “I drove down this road, it looked a little bit sketchy…” Ok, listen. If your gut is telling you that something is not quite right, it is likely the case that something is not quite right.
Listen to your instinct, trust your gut. When you learn how to read that, it will never steer you wrong.
Meet up with others along the way
Just because you are traveling solo does not mean that you can’t meet up with other people along the way. My experience on the road has been enriched by the other full-time travelers I have met so far on my travels.
There are some amazing people out there with interesting stories all their own. Don’t be afraid to meet them. Meeting other people that are doing what you are doing also normalizes this way of life. You don’t feel like such an oddball when you are surrounded by five, ten, hundreds or thousands of other people doing what you do.
Also, there are constantly events for vanlifers, full-timers and nomads. Search for things you are interested in and go to them. Traveling solo doesn’t mean that you always have to be traveling alone. Plus, you can exchange tips with each other and learn even more.
If you feel unsafe, move on
This is a simple way to protect yourself. If you find yourself in a situation that you do not want to be in, just leave. If it is immediate danger, get yourself out of the situation. Or if you’ve already unpacked or settled in, come back for your items later. No material possession is worth your safety. It can be replaced if need be.
Other Safety Tips For Traveling Alone
As you travel, you also need to consider things like climate, conditions, terrain, weather and vehicle maintenance. You never want to put yourself in a position of danger just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. You want to do everything you can to be in the right place, at the right time and with the right people.
Learning and following these basic safety tips for traveling alone will help you to be prepared, not scared. Life on the open road is an abundant and adventurous life so do all you can to enjoy it along the way. Making good decisions, doing your research, as well as being ready and able to protect yourself if it comes down to it, will take you a long way in staying safe as a full-time RVer and help you enjoy your life on the open road.
What other tips do you have for traveling alone? I’d love to hear what has worked for you in the comments below
Traveling alone doesn’t have to be scary, in fact it was the best experience of my life. Hear my story in The Proving Ground: A 12-Month Solo Road Trip Across America