In my last post we talked about fear for our safety and how to overcome it. My advice is to make fear your ally and to work together with it to keep you safe. The way I think you can do that is to have a plan for how you will stay safe and then actually taking those steps. Theories about safety won’t calm your fears, but real live actions will.
Let’s look at some actions you can take to stay safe.
General Advice to Prevent Attacks
Avoid cities: The crime rate in cities is tremendously higher than in the country and millions of times worse than on public land. The less time you spend in cities, the safer you will be.
Take a Self-Defense Class: Your best defense is self-confidence and training, and the time to get it is before something happens. All predators look first for weak prey—don’t be weak! It’s very likely that there are free or low-cost basic self-defense classes being offered around you somewhere—take one!! Then take one every year for the rest of your life!
Follow your gut/instinct: There is a million years of evolution inside you trying to keep you safe, but it has a very small voice and our civilized minds are so filled with clutter it’s drowned out. Your job is to get in touch with your ancient, instinctive nature and train yourself to listen and hear it. Over time, it will just get stronger and clearer but you need to work with it by using your imagination and being open to it.
Situational Awareness: The most important thing you can do to stay safe is to be alert and aware of your surroundings. You don’t want to blindly make yourself an appealing and easy target who is easily surprised. You do that by training yourself to tune into your surroundings and thinking like a bad guy. However, you don’t want to slip into paranoia or phobia. Compare it to defensive driving; hopefully you’re both calm and relaxed while you are behind the wheel even while maintaining constant vigilance and assuming every other car around you is getting ready to crash into you. Your eyes are constantly scanning for cars going too fast or out of place. You automatically look twice both ways for approaching cars or at the color of the light and other signs. It becomes a way of life you are totally unaware of but it allows you to drive for decades without an accident. With a little work Situational Awareness of danger can become just like that as you go about your day.
Mental Preparation by Visualization: Every accomplishment started in the imagination of a person somewhere and your safety starts in your mind but not in a fearful, cowering way—that’s the way to make yourself a target and end up hurt. No, you want to use your imagination in a strong, self-confident way. Make it a practice to visualize dangerous scenarios and how you will handle them. For example, if you are out for a walk imagine being approached by a stranger or dog who seems wrong somehow. What will you do and say? What will you wish you had with you at that moment? Then actually get those things and take it a step further by actually saying and doing the things you’re imagining. You’ll feel silly but fight through that, it might save your life. Whenever you can, practice blowing your whistle and getting out your mace/staff/gun/knife. Whatever defense you chose, visualize and then practice with it often. That way, you’ll develop self-confidence and muscle memory.
Try to think like a bad guy by studying them. Very few of us can comprehend the criminal mind, so it’s a mystery to us—and we are more afraid of what we don’t understand. It’s very important to know your opponent and his plans, so take the time to do online research. Then ask yourself, “If I were going to steal from or harm someone, why would I chose one person over another; what would I look for and want in a target?” Play a “war game” with yourself, when you see a person walking, driving or camping, ask yourself, “How would I rob or harm them?” Imagine actually doing it. Now, take steps to make sure someone else can’t rob or harm you in that way.
A van, Class A, Class B or Class C are the safest of all vehicles because you can just jump in the driver’s seat and drive away. If you’re very fearful for your safety, move them to the top of your list and sacrifice some other things you want. Truck campers and trailers force you to go outside to flee to safety creating a lot more danger. Because a van or Class B are the most maneuverable in an emergency and can get you further away from the city and its bad guys, I think they are a much better choice for safety than any other RV.
Install a Remote auto start and Alarm: If a bad guy is lurking around at night the alarm will go off waking you up. Since you always sleep with some clothes on and your van key right beside you, all you have to do is hit the remote start, jump in the seat and drive away. Hopefully, that’s all going to happen so quickly that the bad-guy will be startled and stunned and not be able to react in time to stop you.
Don’t get Boxed-In: Every time you park in the city or woods look around and be sure you can leave quickly either from the front, back or sides. Try to avoid it also in traffic, but sometimes it’s harder or impossible.
Get a dog: Most bad guys are looking for easy, quick and quiet targets. A person or a home with a dog is none of those things. Either the dog will make noise, alerting you and others around you that there is danger, or they will physically defend you. The risk of either one is enough to deter many bad guys.
Don’t make yourself an appealing target. The most likely thing to happen to you is a smash and grab and if you leave your iPad on the dash board, or a $1000 bike on a rack, you’re painting a bullseye on yourself and screaming “Come steal from me!” Don’t leave valuables where they can be seen and maybe even consider a reasonably nice but older, less desirable van.
Be Invisible so you don’t grab attention. A key to stealth camping is not to be noticed, and it works just as well to keep from attracting bad-guys to you. NRA stickers tell bad-guys you have guns, which are easy to sell. Signs for a plumbing business tells them you have tools or copper pipe, which are also easy to sell. A soccer-mom’s minivan only has diapers, toys and throw-up on the upholstery, so the bad guys go right past it. Maybe have a baby seat and diaper bag where people can see in.
Avoid Dangerous Places: This is mainly a matter of research and common sense. If a place looks seedy and run-down, keep going. If you’re going to a new city, call police headquarters and ask them where you should avoid. Or, when you get there, find an officer and ask him. Also, Google is your friend so use it to study high-crime areas of town.
Park in light, near others and away from obstacles or hiding spots: If you are staying in parking lots, don’t be in a dark corner all alone and surrounded by bushes. Again, that’s putting a sign on your van that screams, “I’m easy pickings, come and get me!” Park in the opposite way, in the light with nothing around you except other shoppers or campers.
If it feels right, make friends and get to know the people around you—there is safety in numbers. Unfortunately, many crimes are committed by family and friends so be careful who you include in your life by listening to your gut instinct. If you feel confident in them, then camping and traveling with others is safer. Being friendly with other travelers in a Walmart parking lot can make you feel better and you can watch out for each other.
Use high-quality locks and cables to secure you and your things. It seems obvious, but lock your doors at night and use locks on anything easily stolen like a car or trailer. If everything you own is behind that lock, don’t buy the least expensive, buy the most expensive lock—or better yet, two of them. Because all locks can be defeated, use multiples to slow down the bad guys and make them decide you’re not worth it. Whenever possible use a cable since they require a power tool to get through. There are too many options for me to try to cover them all so do a Google search on how to keep your car, trailer, money etc. from being stolen. I’d also go to a locksmith and ask for his advice, he makes a living by legally defeating locks.
Carry Tools to Startle Your Attacker and to Get Help
Air Horn: People are so accustomed to the sound of false car alarms that they have become almost worthless, no one pays attention to them. What you need is something that is very loud and distinctive and an air horn is perfect at that. It’ll work equally well on animal predators and human. Get one from Amazon here: Falcon Super Air Horn
Proximity or Motion Alarms: You can get these amazingly cheap so there is no reason not to have them. You can put them on your windows, doors and even on your tent. Bad guys depend on the element of surprise, once they’ve lost it, they often will give up.
Motion Activated Light: These are a little more expensive but well worth it. If a light goes off while a human attacker is approaching you, he will probably give up and leave. Even if he doesn’t, it will warn you and let you prepare for him.
Whistle: I always carry a whistle around my neck, mainly to call my dog, but it’ll also work to warn off bears or mountain lions and to call for help if confronted by a bad guy. It’s so simple and cheap there is no reason not to have one!
Cell Phone: I guess it’s obvious you should call for help if you are afraid for your safety, but there are three problems with that; 1) you may not have time to make a phone call, 2) help might be a long time coming, maybe even hours away, and 3) boondockers often don’t have cell signal. For those reasons you need to be as self-sufficient for your own safety as much as possible and not depend on the phone and outside help.
SPOT Rescue Beacon or Personal Locator Beacon (PLB): Because we are so often out of cell range, these can possibly be a life-saver because they only depend on a clear view to satellites in the sky to work–they DO NOT use cell towers! The technology behind the SPOT isn’t nearly as good as a PLB but it offers more services. With a PLB all you can do is call for search and rescue but it’s much more likely to work in difficult circumstances like a steep canyon or thick forest with limited sight of the sky. If your life depends on it, get the one most likely to work like this PLB from Amazon : ACR Personal Locating Beacon Floating PLB, Built-In GPS and Strobe
Create the illusion you aren’t alone:
- Have a second chair outside so people think that you’re not alone.
- Leave size 13 men’s work boots outside the door of the van and place a large man’s clothing in front seat. It gives the appearance of a couple is in camp.
- Set-up a tent as a decoy to lure bad guys away from the van. At night they will go to the tent while you are sleeping in the van. That’ll give you time to get away in the van.
Have at least one or more defense, then train and maintain your skills with it.
Consider a Firearm: Whether you own a gun or not is something you have to decide for yourself. But if you do decide to get one be sure to get good training to go with it and maintain your skills. Otherwise it can make you less safe instead of more. If you are interested in what it’s like for a woman to shoot a gun for the first time in her life, watch this video of my friends James and Kyndal:
Knives, spears or hatchet: Using a knife or other edged weapon on another human being is one of the hardest things you can do. Your attacker will be very close and you can feel the knife entering his body–which is much harder than you would think. Are you ready to stab someone multiple times even while they’re struggling to take the knife from you? The odds are quite good you will be killed by your own knife. Don’t carry one unless you’re sure you can use it and win. However, a knife can work very well against an animal attack. If you’re slashing at the eyes and face of a wild dog, bear or mountain lion it’s likely to break off the attack and run away. It’s very important that you visualize the whole fight many times before it happens.
Stun Guns: The legality of these varies tremendously by state so you’ll have to do your own research. They have several advantages: 1) they’re non-lethal, 2) small and easy to carry and 3) easier to learn, 4) their biggest advantage is the noise they make! It alone may drive off an animal attack and would even possibly prevent a human attack. On the other hand, their batteries can fail just when you need it most. This is the best selling stun gun on Amazon: VIPERTEK 53,000,000 V Heavy Duty Stun Gun – Rechargeable with LED Flashlight
Mace-Bear Spray: Oddly, the legality of these also varies tremendously by state so you’ll have to do your own research. They have all the same numerous advantages of a stun gun except they dn’t have a battery. Their main disadvantage is the risk of spraying yourself in the face instead of your attacker and a heavy wind blowing it back into your face. Here is a good one from Amazon: SABRE Red Pepper Spray – Police Strength – 25 Shots)
Walking Staff: The heavier the better but you have to balance that with comfortable walking. Simply waving it at an attacker (2 or 4-legged) may very well prevent the attack. If an attack does happen, you can strike a blow with the predator further away before he contacts you. This is one you can visualize and practice with often. Find a tree and assume he’s your attacker.
Super-Bright, heavy LED flashlight that blinks: Everyone should own one of these and have it handy! First, because it’s such a practical thing to have—everyone needs a bright flashlight! They are being rated by Lumens now and the minimum you want is 250 but 500 is better and 1000 is by far best of all! Second, they make such versatile weapons. Shine the blinking light in someone’s eyes and they are blinded to you. Of course they can still rush you, but if they do, they won’t see you side-step them and hit them on the head with it as they go by. Get one of these! I have this one and wouldn’t be without it: Duracell Durabeam Ultra 1000 Lumens Highly recommended—everyone should own one!
If you’ve read this, good for you! But reading it won’t make you any safer or diminish your fear one iota. What’s required now is action. You should probably plan to spend some money but if you don’t have it right now, that’s okay, the main elements of safety can’t be bought with money! They can only be earned by investing time and energy into preparing yourself to be a safe person.
In this post I’ve given you lots of actions you can take to stay safe and overcome fear, now it’s up to you to choose some of them and devote yourself to doing them, giving them however much time and energy they require. Once you are comfortable with one, chose another and start mastering it. There’s nothing wrong with starting with the easiest one for you! Mastering it will give you the confidence to make you want to do something else.
Just like fear breeds more fear, your goal now is to do the opposite and allow success to breed more success and courage to breed more courage. If you will truly try, you can do it!
I’m making Videos on my good friends James and Kyndal’s YouTube Channel. See them here:
He’s made a video of his wife Kyndal and a friend shooting for the first time, view it here to see if having a firearm might be for you:
If you don’t see the embed, click or cut and paste this into your browser:
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Falcon Super Air Horn
Duracell Durabeam Ultra 1000 Lumens
VIPERTEK 53,000,000 V Heavy Duty Stun Gun – Rechargeable with LED Flashlight
ACR Personal Locating Beacon Floating PLB, Built-In GPS and Strobe
Bob, terrific, well thought out post. When the subject of fear arises, I always think of the Dune line: Fear is the mind-killer. I would quibble with faith being the thing you need to overcome your fear. I suppose it works for some, but I have found knowledge is key. The knowledge that fear mongering is rampant but statistics show that crime is much lower than the media leads you to believe. Knowledge of how to not look like an easy target and how not to put yourself into a dangerous situation, knowledge that you have the right to leave and say no to anybody, knowledge that you can deal with setbacks, etc. Not knowing leads to fear, knowledge leads to how to be safe while still being adventurous. Your whole site is a treasure trove of information on how to be competent.
Among the things to consider is that some people are naturally much more fearful than others. Science has revealed that some have bigger amigyldias (the so-called lizard-brain part) in their brains which correlates with higher fear. I don’t know that people like that are able to overcome their fears and they cannot comprehend others that do not have a fearful tendency. One for the psychologists and neurologists to figure out.
The other one is for women, your age and attractiveness can be a big factor in real risks. A stalker with a bead on a woman is her very biggest risk along with abusive relationships. I know, I had one as a young woman and I was never more frightened in my life and ultimately had to take career risks and move away. I always had to be aware of where he was and not go to that city to be safe. As Margaret Atwood quipped: Men are afraid women will make fun of them. Women are afraid men will kill them. There are times when you absolutely must get away. And young women are at greater risk of predator males and to be safe must learn how to detect and negotiate them. I’m pretty sure my only mistake with my stalker was that I was civil to him. I thought him very creepy but good manners led me to be civil. As an older woman, part of it is being freed from unwanted men because I’m no longer a young thing. Since my personal freedom is the single most important thing to me, I don’t mind a fading attractiveness at all. 😉
With that said, an adventurous and curious spirit seems a necessity to the vagabond. I don’t think most people have this and that is why they let their fears dominate. It gives them an excuse to stay in their little circle where they feel safe even if in fact, they are not safe. They tell mostly mythical stories of how dangerous it is so they don’t feel they aren’t up to going. Your lack of untoward fears makes them feel inferior so they try to get you to be afraid too.
Instead of fear mongering, they ought to just recognize that they don’t want that life and own it. If you do want it, then there are lots of things to do to be safe. The only time I got a bit scared was once in the early morning in my van at a Walmart when a man banged on my van several times and finally asked if I had a big dog. Oops, somehow the door hadn’t latched and the dog got out and was running around trying to play with the early morning crew. Turned out the cat also got out but he was underneath. Otherwise, I am gratified to find that the vast majority of people one encounters are fairly nice to really nice and not dangerous at all.
I also suspect being an introvert and happy with your own company is an asset. If you are a “people who need people” desperately personality, then I suspect you won’t do all that well unless you go to social campgrounds all the time.
Oops, I meant this comment for your previous more general post.
Mary, thank you so much for your wonderful comment! It’s so full of wisdom I don’t know where to begin but to say thank you again!
I should have made it clearer when I said it’s faith that overcomes fear. I didn’t say it, but I meant that you have faith in your knowledge, learning, training and practice. In this case faith is synonymous with self-confidence. I think we are saying the same thing just using different words.
Thanks again for your wonderful comment!
If you are in a motorhome, mentally prepare yourself to drive away from whatever you have outside. That lawn chair is not worth as much as your life. Even replacing the electrical cord that was ripped out of the outlet when you drove away is something you can do if you live.
I absolutely agree. Nothing you own is more valuable than you and your health.
That’s very good advice Linda! Thanks!
I like the word “prudence” rather than fear for the rational, useful feeling. One of the books I study, As Bill Sees It, has a page on “Courage and Prudence.” It gives a definition for prudence as “rational concern without worry” and “a workable middle ground, a channel of clear sailing between the obstacles of fear on the one side and of recklessness on the other.” That is how I see the issue.
Incidentally, I do not lock vehicle doors unless I’m inside. Thieves break out the window and go on with what they were doing. That’s based on my own experience and that of a friend.
That seems like a good word Calvin. I also rarely lock my van doors for the same reason.
That video has to be the worst gun training I’ve ever seen. I’d even consider it dangerous behavior. It’s obvious by their surprised reaction the students had little in the way of pre-orientation and were not even instructed to use eye and ear protection. At one point someone walks in down range of the students holding weapons to offer some instruction. Show that to any certified weapons instructor and they would cringe.
I’d be ashamed to be posting such bad information. One should seek a qualified instructor before handling and discharging firearms.
Having learned to shoot at a very young age, I would have to agree. pistols without some kind of barrier before the target like at a range, seems really dangerous, especially with newbies. Starting with rifles seems much safer, in my opinion. Hand guns are so easy to wave around and the kick catches a lot of people off guard regardless of how they are warned. Ear and eye protection are very good to have as well.
I’m the last guy to worry about being PC or involving the authorities where they’re not needed , but proper safety when learning to use a firearm is just a very good idea.
I agree Cae.
I agree totally Cae.
Most crimes are committed by opportunists. If the opportunity looks bad enough, they’ll move on. Make chosing your rig an ugly choice.
Cae, I was trying to say that just not so bluntly! Plus, an ugly rig will hurt your steal. Somewhere between ugly an nice should work great!
eyes and ears. i use good plugs AND muffs. always safety glasses. just me. [[[google “slidefire” “bumpfire” and “bump fire rubber band trick” this is for shits and giggles not to defend your self, although you certainly can]]].
hair spray that stuff that glues your hair. sprayed into someones eyes will give them second thoughts. a shot in the mouth is even better. any rattle bomb paint works wonders, also.
if you need to run them down. run em. push your way out. if there is no way out make one. use your vehicle as a weapon. it’s a good one. + everything that everyone above had to say. lasers are nice. the stronger the better. just remember you did not start it!!!! also it’s me or them, not them or me. me is first. every time.
don’t be a victim. period. make them regret the errors of their ways. remember you did not initiate this.
now a nice thought.
ice cream. raz
I’ve read — and tend to agree — the most dangerous moment for most of us is when we hear a knock or loud bang/bang/bang on the door (usually cops who think they work for the German Gestapo). It’s always best (especially after dark) to leave the door locked and shout through the door (or a window) until you’re confident WHO is there *and* exactly what their intentions are. Give yourself time to be fully awake. You have absolutely no legal burden to open the door — not even for cops. That choice is purely at your personal discretion. They can say whatever they need to say either through the door or a window opened no more than an inch or two — never open wide enough they can just reach through and grab ya’. I agree — we’re a thousand times safer out here in the middle of nowhere than we would be in any city . . . that’s where most of the cops are too — yet another reason to NOT be there. This is good advice for a female — even if she’s just broke down alongside the road in her car.
Thanks for sharing that Jim, that is good information to have.
We had no real fears in five years of straight vandwelling. However, our biggest concern was policemen looking to wreck a good night’s sleep. Even so, that only happened once.
We find that the great majority of full-timers are on their best behavior and just don’t want any trouble. In our experience it was only after we got to know some people in deeper ways that they became an issue. We never bit into it, but just drove away.
There is a HUGE difference in the guy or couple with a well appointed van and a person sleeping on their van’s floor next to the spare tire with empty beer cans littering the place. RED FLAG! Time to roll!
We love the road and everyone has a good story. Its the details in those stories that will either put you at ease or make you want to leave. We listen to our guts and it is the reason we are still walking today.
Peace to everyone and Merry Christmas! May the Lord Himself bless you dearly and richly.
Thanks Marshall very good tips there!
After having motion sensing lights on a house I once rented, and later having a neighbor install them on her house, I grew to hate them. They were constantly going off. I’d jump out of bed, adrenalin rushing, look out the windows and see… a plastic bag blowing by, or bushes waving in the wind, or a nocturnal animal.
Of course, potential bad guys don’t know you’ve become so fed up with the lights that you’ve stopped paying attention. But it got to the point that sometimes I thought, “If there’s someone out there, just take what you want, but let me sleep.”
Thanks Al, that is a negative on the motion sensor lights.
I’m afraid I have to agree with you, Al. After living in a house on some wooded land, I too began to hate those darn motion sensor lights. Scared one witless going off for every owl or raccoon that passed by in the night. And like the car alarms, after so many false alarms, you tend to ignore them.
Thanks Candy, that good food for thought.
that’s a nice comprehensive list, Bob.
should be something there for everyone’s taste.
Wow, it takes a lot of time, effort and resources to become and stay good and safe with a gun!
Thanks Ming, yes, being good with a firearm really is a commitment, especially handguns.