Since I began this website 10 years ago, the question I’m asked more than any other is, “Will I be safe living on a van? I want to, but I’m afraid.” I mainly get it from single women but I do get it from many men as well. In today’s post I want to answer that question as best I can and reassure you all that YES, you will be safe. In fact, you will be safer boondocking in a van than you ever would be at home in a city. I’m specifically answering women, but nearly all the advice I’m giving here will apply equally to both men and women in how to deal with your fear and stay safe.
This will be a two part post and in this one I’ll just give you general advice but in the next one I’ll give a long detailed list of 1) things you can do now to keep yourself safe from bad guys, 2) what you can do to prevent an attack and 3) some ideas of how to defend yourself.
But in this post I first want to address the issue of fear, because being too afraid can cause you more mental and emotional harm than the bad guys can do you physical harm. If fear is your Master, it’s like a noxious weed growing in your heart that kills out every other good thing.
Embrace your fears:
Sometimes we think being afraid is bad and a sign of weakness, but I don’t believe that at all. I’m convinced that fear is a very good thing because it’s a gift given to us by nature/universe/god to keep us safe. Without it we would run around willy nilly doing dangerous and foolish things that could quickly lead us into great harm. No, fear is a valuable ally we need to embrace, listen to and invite into our life by following its warnings. But, at the same time, we have to control it so it doesn’t become too strong and dominate in our lives. In the right proportion it keeps us safe and happy, but if left unchecked it can lead to paranoia and phobias that dominate and paralyze us and make our lives even more miserable than being a victim of an attack.
Unfortunately our society is plagued by so much fear that way too many Americans are huddled in their houses, which have become fortresses of fear; captives in a pleasant prison of their own making. The epidemic of fear that paralyzes us is a result of the fear-mongering which is an institutionalized part of our lives and it’s coming from our family, the government and corporations alike. There are three reasons for the flood of fear around us:
- The government spreads big fears to get us to be docile and obedient in our houses and so they can chip away at our rights. I don’t mean that in the sense of an evil conspiracy theory, I believe most government officials really are that fearful themselves so they think they are doing a good thing when they spread the paranoia around and erode our rights to “protect” us.
- Corporations use fear to control and motivate consumers to do what they want them to do. They use little fears so we will buy their deodorant so we won’t smell, or their car so we won’t be killed in a crash. They create the fear that if we drink the wrong beer we will be shunned. They use fear to keep their business growing.
- The media is full of fearful things because it attracts customers to their papers, TV shows and websites’ “If it bleeds, it leads.” Most reporters have a “crusader” mentality so they are looking for every bad thing they can find so they can rescue others from it. Once they find it they hype it up so they can be the heroes and crucify the villains. Small problems don’t make a big enough splash in the news cycle so they turn them into big problems.
In each of these cases the people behind them are so full of fear themselves that they want everyone else to share in it; that way they feel justified in their fear. When you told your family and friends about vandwelling, I’m sure many responded with great fear for your safety and spread it to you like the contagious disease it is. They probably had good intentions but because they have been immersed in fear all their lives, in their concern for you they just automatically spewed it all over you.
Fear has become like an evil and corroding thread that is woven throughout the fabric of American culture. The result is that while fear is good, paranoia and phobias are bad and way too many Americans have slipped over the edge into phobia and become crippled by it. While they mean well, many will want to cripple you with it “for your own good.”
My suggestion is that you don’t fight your fears but that you face them and have answers for each of them. There is a solution for every fear so you should find it and when the fear arises you can offer it as a solution to calm it. You may have to do it many times, but eventually the fear will subside and return to a normal, healthy size.
Fear is the only thing that stands between you and living the life of your dreams. To make your dreams a reality you must find a way to overcome it!
Overcoming Fear of Physical Harm:
For many of us, especially for women, their greatest fear is for their physical safety, “Will predatory men hurt me?” So let’s look at solutions to calm your fear for your safety.
The first way you can reassure your fear for your safety is by showing it that thousands of other women are living as nomads in total safety. I’ve been doing this a long time and have met literally hundreds of solo women nomads. The topic of safety generally comes up in our conversations and none of them have ever even considered giving up the mobile life because of fear for their safety. Universally they have all said they felt safer traveling and boondocking in a car, van or RV then they ever did while living at home in a stick-n-brick house.
They all discovered that criminal predators lived in the cities where there were many easy targets with things worth taking. They weren’t on public land where there are few targets and they had little worth stealing.
But my saying that probably won’t be enough to calm your fears, you really need to hear it from many other women directly. In order to do that I asked some lady vandweller friends of mine to make a video with me answering just this question; here’s a link to it:
If you don’t see the embed, click or cut and paste this into your browser:
But you still may need to hear it from even more women so I would encourage you to join my forum where you can talk directly to hundreds of other people (roughly half women and half men) who love to share their experiences on the road. You can hear directly from them what their experience has been and how they stay safe. You can join the forum here: http://www.cheaprvliving.com/forums/. On the forum I started a thread by asking “How do you stay safe on the road?” and I got many wonderful responses. I think it would be worth your time to just go and read the whole thread through here: http://www.cheaprvliving.com/forums/Thread-How-do-you-stay-safe. In my next post I’ll compile a list of the best advice.
Finally one of the best things you can do is follow the blogs of some solo women travelers so that you can see and talk to many others who are doing it safely and having a truly wonderful time. Every time you read one of their posts, your fear will diminish, “If they can do it, so can I.” Here are a few links for you to follow:
- RV Sue and crew: http://rvsueandcrew.net/
- Becky at Interstellar Orchard: http://www.interstellarorchard.com
- Jaclyn on her Harley towing her teardrop: http://www.jhblueroad.com/
- Charlene in her van: http://swankiewheels.blogspot.com/
- Kim at Kimbopollo: http://kimbopolo.blogspot.com/
Finally, to lay to rest once and all for all the idea that living mobile is a certain death trap I’ve compiled a list of measures you can take to both feel safer and to be certain that you are safe. That will be in my next post. But, it won’t be enough to just read the list, you’ve got to take action and actually so some of those things. Every time you do you will feel your confidence and hope growing, and at the same time your fear diminishing. The list will be in my next post.
Faith is the only sure cure for fear and as you take these steps with hard concrete action you will build faith in something that will push out the fears that threaten to cripple and paralyze you. From now on, whenever fear questions your dreams, discuss them together, and discover together the way forward. There you will find the oldest and best wisdom for you.
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing that you think you cannot do.” ~~Eleanor Roosevelt
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The Gift of Fear: and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence
The Science of Fear: How the Culture of Fear Manipulates Your Brain
The Fear Cure: Cultivating Courage as Medicine for the Body, Mind, and Soul
Right on, to borrow a phrase from back in the day.
Fear sucks the life out of everything.
After spending weeks watching my father die in super slow motion (cancer), I have a new perspective on fear of dying. Particularly dying doing something meaningful, something you love.
Irv, fear of death is often the hardest of all to overcome. I’m really sorry you had to earn to deal with it in such a painful way.
Excellent blog and many thanks to the women in the video for sharing. Bob’s quote from Anais Nin really touched my soul: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to bloom.” At that point, you either bloom or you slowly wilt away. I’m wilting. This can happen more than once in your lifetime and spells time for a change. I think it is good to include men in the discussion since we are all vulnerable and need to admit that as part of staying safer. I do wonder if one feels safer in the city/country depending on where they grew up. I never feel safe in a city, don’t like them even a bite and I live in one and I grew up out in the country.
I feel about as safe in a city as in a small town. To be honest, I’m 58 years old and no violence has happened to me that I didn’t provoke or at least knowingly fail to avoid. I stopped those behaviors long ago, and have not suffered violence. I mind my own business and that’s all I need. That despite three or four recent years living in a “dangerous” neighborhood.
Very little has ever been stolen from me except by people that I trusted.
My bottom line is to behave with caution or avoid situations that really are dangerous and to use prudence in trusting. The context doesn’t matter much.
Thank you Cathy! That’s a good point, we are naturally more comfortable with the familiar and that easily turns into fear. Being aware of it is a big step toward overcoming it.
Being in a town, city, or rural area you are traveling in is I think normal to be somewhat apprehensive because we are not familiar with it as opposed to a place we have lived for years and know about. We know pretty much the lay out and have grown to trust it on what ever level we are comfortable with. In a new place when traveling everything has to be filtered through our fear filter again.
That’s a good point Steve, new things always give us a sense of unease so if we are aware of it we can overcome it easier. Thanks!
Thanks so much for the video! It is so encouraging to see this as I prepare for my 50th birthday month long solo road trip (September 2016!). I also want to try out the vehicle dwelling lifestyle and see if it’s something I might want to do.
As I save and research for the trip it can begin to seem a little overwhelming, and CRVL’s articles and videos have been so helpful.
I’m really glad to be of service Jeannie!
Fear, like many things, has its merits. The thing to keep in mind is if fear is controlling you rather than you controlling it.
You are exactly right Cae!
Thank you for including my blog in the list.
It’s a shame that women in our society are conditioned to be fearful.
I cannot number the times I’ve selected a book on kindle to once again find it begins with a woman murdered in a grisly way. TV shows and movies, the same thing. After a few decades of that kind of indoctrination it’s no wonder that there are women afraid to go anywhere alone.
My advice to women, advice that has served me well: Resolve not to walk, talk, act, or think like a victim. Live each day with confidence. Fear attracts predators.
Four years on the road and the only threat I’ve had is a hungry bear shaking my trailer, and even he left when he realized I wasn’t an easy target.
Best wishes to you, Bob, and your readers, including all the rubber tramps on the other side of the river!
Thanks Sue! When I think of a strong woman living her life to it’s fullest, I always think of you first! I know you don’t want to think of yourself that way, but you are a great example and inspiration for all of us, women and men.
The only times I’ve felt unsafe were when I was alone near small towns with a high percentage of bored, drunk guys I imagined (and my imagination was the problem) were looking for strangers to mess with. I avoid river trips through banjo playing country. 😉
Been watching too many movies Al!!?? Some of my best friends play banjo!
As a somewhat decrepit female in my mid to late 60s I feel less safe in the hallways of our suburban apartment building than I ever did in my van whether I was in the desert or a Walmart parking lot. In my van I knew I could always drive away if anyplace ever started to feel unsafe but I never felt the need to do that.
Thanks Linda, nearly all the vandwelling women I know say exactly the same thing, they are safer in their vans than in the city.
Since starting to learn how to participate in my life I’ve slowly grasped that most of my fears are irrational. Knowing this and living it has been a wonderful process, slow at times and other time it feels like I’m rushing right along.
One of the bits of wisdom I’ve learned; “Ask yourself – Am I in the room with a tiger?”. So often, most times in fact I’m not. Most times I’m a victim of my own mind, the same mind that put monsters under the bed and shadow creatures in the closet. Times that come to mind when I was in the room with the tiger; walking on new thin ice, trying to unsnag a hung tree using a chainsaw and jaywalking a very busy street. Real fear, change my behavior.
What to do when I realize it’s irrational fear? Let it go, change my behavior. Easily said, it takes practice. Lots of practice. Heck writing this comment is part of my practice. But I’ve found life so much more rewarding since I’ve decided to participate. Cultivating gratitude has helped.
Thanks Bob, a nice reminder from out of the blue. Life is good.
Thank you Doug, that was very, very well said!
I have traveled solo through many different countries and never been afraid but I always use caution around people until I get to know them. I think my spidey senses are pretty strong. I don’t ever put myself in unsafe situations and I never drink unless I am in a safe place. I have never been afraid in my little RV. I feel very safe sleeping in my RV. To be honest, the only thing that scares me is hiking on my own because I am afraid of bears and it really bothers me that I feel that way. I wish I was braver in that regard. I admire woman that can go hiking on their own.
Lynn, you are a strong woman who is getting the most out of life. I really admire you!
Get Busy Living Or Get Busy Dying
I love that Scot! Thanks
Bob, wondered if in Part Two you could touch on a situation where a married couple has one spouse that wants to full time and the other doesn’t. This belongs in a fear category for me and perhaps others, the fear of a failed marraige/relationship or staying married/in the relationship and reading blogs until death do we part. I realize it is an individual decision, but any insights may change mine and maybe others perceptions of the dilemma. Thank you for a wonderful blog and forum.
KP, I’m so sorry for the position you find yourself in, but I don’t really have any great wisdom to impart. There are so many variables I can’t even begin to guess at the root fear that’s holding you back and I know nothing about you or your circumstances so I’m in no position to offer you any kind of advice at all. But let me throw out some general thoughts that might apply broadly to people in your position:
1) The fear I’m not good enough so I need to stay with a mate who isn’t that concerned about what’s best for me.
2) The fear that I need another person and if I’m alone I can’t make it. Better a mediocre life than to be alone.
3) The fear that I’m unlovable and if I give up my mate I’ll never be loved again.
4) The fear of the scorn from family, friends and church if I divorce.
5) Fear of poverty without the money from your mate.
7) Fear of change. The feeling you’re better off with a poor but proven life than a risky and unknown life.
Chances are you are experiencing some combination of these fears about your relationship and that they are tied into your own insecurities about yourself. Ultimately the fix is to love yourself enough that you insist on being happy and finding the confidence to do whatever it takes to make it happen.
I believe you deserve to be happy and if you will allow it and cooperate with it, the Universe wants you to be happy as well. It won’t be easy, you’ll have to confront your fears and your insecurities and make difficult decisions and then take hard actions to make changes. If you will, I believe the Universe will align with you to make your dreams come true.
I wish you the very best in these difficult circumstances.
F.E.A.R. FALSE EVIDENCE APPEARING REAL.
Think about this for a moment, remember to think of it when your afraid, Its ALLWAYS true, even when your certain your scared for good reason. WHENEVER I am afraid, I challenge the fear, I will not run away and let fear win, I learned to do this the hard way. On one occasion my fear was justified, I thought about running away, but I did not, and I got beat up, but I fought back the best I could.., whats weird is we became best friends afterwards, and I felt good about myself for not running away.
Thanks Mike, very wise.
love the video’s!! this one, not for me so much but for other women. i think my father said it best “men are taught to react to fear with anger, women are taught to react to fear with fear” i’m real easy going, just don’t scare me because things change very quickly!! also i think paying attention to your gut feeling is really really important, so don’t feel silly if you are getting really uncomfortable about a place or situation..LEAVE..no one really cares if your a sissy or not, and you might avoid something not so good!! best wishes for a happy and joy filled new year. margo
Thanks Margo, I totally agree about the gut feeling, we need to work o getting in touch with it again.
Thank you Bob and Mike for a thoughtful response. Thank you for taking the time to offer your help.
It’s my pleasure KP. I just wish there was some way I could help you through this tough time, but we each have to find our way through on our own.
I’m a woman and seriously considering cargo camper dwelling as my retirement and the thought of safety is a concern for me.
Because I’m from rural Missouri I’m use to guns, hunting, and backwoods type mentality. I have discovered that there is nothing that says ‘leave’ more than the sound of a double barrel shotgun loading. So I’m considering this as a viable option. Also using it if necessary cause who can miss?
My 90 year old grandma kept one by her front door just in case you weren’t a friendly invited guest…lol. It struck fear in my heart every time I knocked on my mostly blind grandma’s door. It went something like this, “I dyed my hair grandma…its me….don’t shoot!”
I would also be nice to know you could help someone else if you needed too.
Sherry, I totally agree about the shotgun! I think the pump shotgun is even more distinctive because the movies use it all the time. Just the sound of racking another shell in the chamber will chase many bad guys away!
Bob, this is a Really Great Video. These Ladies shared a lot with you and Us. I want to Thank You Ladies for a great interview. You have help some one, so GOD will help you 100 fold. I know that when I try to share this lifestyle with other people, they frown on it just because they want and like the Jail (The House with a Mortgage) but I say that some will and some wont. I knock the dust off my feet and travel on.
Thanks Terry, the majority of people have no interest in this life, and that’s fine, I just try to get the word out to thise who do.
Your writing here has helped me so much. Thank you, Bob. All the best.
I’m very glad to help Abbey!
Really a helpful blog. thanks for writing. i will say just keep it up.