Friday, February 8, 2013

Safety for Solos

I recently read a blog post,  A Girl’s Guide to RVing: Self-Defense,  by Lynn at Winnie Views.  I've also written a post about that subject, and would like to add my thoughts to hers.

When I decided to hit the road full time, I also decided that I wasn't going to be fearful.  If I was afraid, I wouldn't be successful as a full-timer. This is still my life, my home, what I enjoy doing every day.  I'm not on a road trip or a vacation.  I'm living my life and doing the same things I'd be doing if I was living in San Diego in my two bedroom/two bath condo.  Except I have so much more.

I love having a different view out each window every few weeks.  I'm not the type of full-timer who stays in RV parks and sees the attractions of each city and town I'm in. I'm not usually parked close to another RV, don't usually have hook-ups, have no planned activities.  I also don't have a human traveling companion.

If a single person, man or woman, wants to be a full-timer and travel solo, but is afraid for his/her safety (men have fears, too), they can easily stay in RV parks.  The cost is more, bit it's safe.  There are lots of people around and lots of things to do. Club houses and pools and laundry rooms.  Some parks have lots more than that.  They are like small towns.  It's easy to meet your neighbors in an RV park.  If the people or activities or location aren't to your liking, you can just drive on to another park that you might like better.  If you find one you really like, you can pay by the month or year and the rates are reduced.

But for those of us solo travelers who want to be off the grid, park away from other RVers, live on solar power and occasional generator use for battery top-offs, it's a completely different life.  I can see why some people would be fearful living full-time in this kind of lifestyle.  But honestly, other than a couple of minor bumps in the road that turned out fine, I haven't had a minute's trouble or had my safety in jeopardy.   The minor bumps?  No problem - remember, people, we have wheels!

Can you imagine seeing these horses running past the front of your truck?
These free grazing horses were so great to watch - whether at the lake or in my camp site!

...and this was my camp site - overlooking the lake.

When I started planning for this full-timing lifestyle, I thought a lot about what kind of rig I wanted, how big, whether to get a motor home (Class A, B, or C) or trailer, slide outs or no slide outs, should I have a toad?  Eventually, after a lot of thought to my comfort, ease and safety, this is what I decided, along with some things I've learned while traveling solo.

Following the list below has allowed me to live every day without worrying:

1.   Small Class C motor home so I'm always near the driver's seat and can U-turn easily in the middle of a street if necessary.  I've done many U-turns, once for my safety, usually just to turn around.

2.   No slides.  I wanted instant departure if needed it and didn't want to take the time to bring in a slide.  (Or deal with slide issues/repairs.

3.   No toad - I didn't want to have to take the time to hook it up, or leave it behind if I needed to leave in a hurry.  (And I didn’t want additional insurance, registration, maintenance and repairs.)

4.   Unless I'm in a place with lots of other people nearby and plan to stay for a few weeks, I don't put out rugs, chairs, plants, bird feeders, etc.  Maybe two chairs, a couple of bird feeders and a welcome mat, but that's it.  If I have to take off in a hurry, I don't want to worry about or miss anything left behind. 

5.   Have a dog with me.  I had Katie when I bought The Palms and she has been a perfect traveling companion/guard dog.  Katie definitely barks if anyone comes near The Palms. Once a man tried to reach into the window on the dinette side. (I can't remember why, but I had the screen open to show him something and he reached in.  That wasn’t very smart with a barking dog right there - I thought Katie was going to take his arm off.)

6.   Never park anywhere without at least two other RV's close enough to hear me scream. FYI, I've never had to scream. :)

7.   Air Horn.  It's a pet air horn to stop Katie from barking, but it's LOUD and within reach.

8.   I bought two small $5 canisters ofpepper spray.  I keep one Velcro'd to the wall near the cabin door and the other up in the bunk near my pillow.  (I also have a Spray Shield – Animal DeterrentSpray attached to Katie’s leash in case an animal threatens us and we can’t get away.)

9.   Speaking of the bunk, if I’m not feeling safe, I wouldn’t want to open any windows, except that the bunk windows are high. I could open one and scream and blast my air horn without worrying about anyone reaching in.  And then jump down and start my engine and drive away. 

10.   Park in rest stops only if other RVs are there for the night and it’s very well lit around my parking space.

11.   Always carry a set of keys in my pocket. If I lose my purse or wallet, I still have my keys.  (And I won’t be locked out.)

12.   Keep an ignition key by the driver’s seat. In an emergency I don’t want to be looking for the key.

13.   When away from The Palms, always lock the doors.  Don’t trust that your things are safe inside when you are gone and the doors are unlocked.  Or that no one is waiting inside for you on your return. I usually lock the doors if I'm inside, too, unless I'm around people I know, or there are many RVs nearby.

14.   Use common sense.  If in doubt, start the engine and drive away. Don’t even think about it, just drive away.

Most of the above are the same things I'd be doing in San Diego in a house or condo - they are obvious safety precautions wherever we live - park in well lit areas and keep the car key in my hand while walking to the car, keep the house locked, don't go into dark places away from other people.

So... just have a plan, keep to it, and enjoy.  I've happily and safely lived in all these campsites, and many, many more - what an interesting life I'm living!   At the end of the day, I couldn't be happier.

If you can think of anything I've missed, please leave a comment.  I love this topic and am always open to learning new things to make full-timing as fun and safe as possible.

From Me and Katie, have a great Friday, everyone!  :)


  1. Great blog.... the one thing I also do is keep the keys within reach while in bed.... the panic button can be pushed over and over to alert neighbors.

    I also have kept a key around my neck on a lanyard.

  2. klbexplores - thank you, both good ideas. Unfortunately I only have a regular key for the truck, not one of the chipped ones, so I don't have a panic button on it. I like the idea of wearing a key on a lanyard - I might take my cabin door key, which is smaller, and do that. Nice to have a back-up. :)

  3. Great article! We camp in RV parks. I only lock the doors when I leave the dogs inside. Maybe I should start locking the doors whenever we take a walk since you never know if someone is lurking nearby. It has been on my mind recently, so that is probably a sign that I should lock up.

  4. Beautiful photos, Barbara, and a very good post. You have learned a lot, but you started out with a good plan and you've stuck with it, and been very successful. Often we feel more vulnerable when there are a lot of people around, but mostly it's only because we let our own fears cause us to feel that way.

  5. While I'm not a solo - my husband & I are together - your blog had excellent advice for everyone. Lots of common sense practices no matter how we travel or who with.

  6. Great reminders for everyone....not just solo RVers! You have had some beautiful places and views to call home! What a great life!

  7. Another great entry. I will have to take note and use a few of the suggestions.

  8. And you have your cell phone which you could call 911 in a true emergency. I think when you had your stomach problems/surgery you proved you could handle anything. You have pointed out a lot of great points for all of us, solo or not.

  9. That was a good, well thought out blog, great for anyone traveling about!! love all the pictures. I love seeing new things and exploring more than you do. the only time I was uncomfortable was in New Orleans & nothing caused that, it was just a gut feeling, making me feel weird. My mind taking flight I think :)

  10. Thanks Barbara! You said it so much better than me, and really like hearing your ideas. I do a lot of the same things (especially keeping keys accessible-- probably a solo's # 1 fear-- locking themselves out of their rig or losing their keys!!!).

    I can't wait to start full-timing, follow your lead, and see if I can park under a few spectacular rainbows too!

  11. You sure have it all together, and I salute you! All the points you made are great and they are really good common sense.

  12. Very good points! I might add, wear or carry a whistle when hiking or walking alone. If you fall, or get lost it could be heard better than your voice. Also have someone who knows where you are, and keep in regular contact with them. It doesn't have to be every day, but they should know to be alerted if you don't contact them when you said you would.

  13. Go with your gut. If something doesn't feel right, hit the gas pedal. :)

  14. Barbara, What an EXCELLENT post !

    "I'm not the type of full-timer who stays in RV parks and sees the attractions of each city and town I'm in. I'm not usually parked close to another RV, don't usually have hook-ups, have no planned activities. I also don't have a human traveling companion."

    That statement describes me to a T !

    In my time on the road there have only been two situations where my 'gut' was uncomfortable. I didn't see anything or hear anything. I just didn't feel right.

    One was in a Walmart and the other was in an RV Park.

    Both happened in the first year. And both times I simply got behind the wheel and moved on.

  15. I agree with everyone else in that it was a great post! It's a reminder to everyone to be safe and always be prepared for the unexpected.

  16. Great post! If I didn't love where I live, I'd be in an RV for sure. One thing I read a while back was...instead of pepper spray, use wasp spray. It has a
    25' range, so you wouldn't have to get close to the dirt-bag. Just a thought.

  17. great post Barbara..and a very good list of do's and dont's even for those of us who travel with a partner!

  18. Absolutely great post on safety, one of the very best I have seen. All common sense approaches that would work for anyone. Did like Merikay's whistle idea too.

  19. Good post! I took keep an air horn (need to get a new one) & pepper spray in my bed at night. I also have an alarm thing that is magnetic on my door that will scream if anyone opens the door. I can turn if off & on when necessary. And of course, multiple big dogs, so no one really would want to mess around me anyhow. And like you, when I leave the rig, the doors are locked. I made a copy of the entry door keys, so that's easy to take along.
    A good flashlight that strobes would be ideal as well. I need one of those myself. Added the app to my cell phone & it works fairly well, but the flashlight would be so much stronger.
    Thanks for today's post & all the beautiful boondocking pics!

  20. There are some really good suggestions on your list. I specially like the one about keeping an ignition key in the cockpit.

    We had our own experience of not neglected bringing a key with us -- fortunately our lounge window was unlatched and a picnic table was nearby. But if it was doable for us, it would be doable for a thief too.... sigh.

    My alternate suggestion to Pepper Spray is to carry a can of Flying Insect spray -- it has a much longer spray range and as long as someone gets to medical attention quickly it wont cause permanent damage (so I'm told)

  21. Great post Barbara,
    Oh how I want to get back on the road and see all there is to see.
    Thank you

  22. Enjoyed this post... from the voice of experience.

  23. I almost always have my keyring in my pocket with all my keys on it, but that means if I lose it, G U L P !! So, I keep an extra key in my purse. And we keep a key to the door hidden outside, and then a key to the ignition hidden in a place accessible from the door key, hopefully minimizing problems. Cell phone always in pocket, too. So far, so good!

    Virtual hugs,


  24. Terrific blog post. I am getting ready to embark on my first long trip solo. Like you, I am not interested in campgrounds or tourist attractions. I want to live a quiet life in inspiring places that feed my soul. Terrific ideas that I will take to heart. Security is my number one fear and concern. You have validated my concern and alleviated some of my fears. Thanks!

  25. Just wondering. Was the safety thing the only reason you went with a C v.s. a towable trailer? Do you ever have isues with driving the whole rig into town for groceries etc?

  26. This was a great post. Though I travel with my husband, I have thought of what I would be thinking if I were alone on a few nights when it's been dark dark dark.

    I'd add that everyone should have at least one, preferably two, fire extinguishers. We have one mounted in the entryway so we can grab it from outside, and one near the bedroom. Not sure if anyone's mentioned them yet! We are in Imperial Dam and someone just burned their class A to a crisp because he forgot a pizza in the oven. Basically there's nothing but the chassis left.

  27. Thank you for those great safety tips. I have passed the link on to several other people, too.

  28. Great post! Thank you. I also have an app Lattitudes where my kids and I can go to to see where each of us is located at any given moment.

  29. Great post! Gives me more confidence for when I get to "hit the road!". One thing I have heard is that pepper spray is illegal in some places - for instance, it isn't allowed in Canada. But animal/insect sprays are allowed, like wasp spray or bear spray. And they have a longer range. Really like the idea of wearing a whistle on a chain around your neck, too. It might be a good idea to add keys to the whistle chain.

  30. I'm so grateful to have been referred to your blog. In the near future, it will be "Me and my Cats and RV" for me. I'm a 59 year old widow and gypsy at heart wondering about methods of travel, safety issues and am researching Class A, C and B+ motorhomes and wondering with no more than a 24 RV would life be easier on the road if I had a small tow vehicle? I love remote nature spots, but also love being a tourist and want to visit towns and cities too. Have you ever towed a car behind your RV?

    1. Did you do it? I'm just reading this and it's been a few years. Don't know how to get in touch with current solo women.

    2. Did you do it? I'm just reading this and it's been a few years. Don't know how to get in touch with current solo women.

  31. I wish to show thanks to you just for bailing me out of this particular trouble.As a result of checking through the the net and meeting techniques that were not productive, I was thinking my life was done.
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