I get asked, a LOT, if I’m scared to travel on my own with only my four-legged companions. It never really occurred to me to be scared to travel. I don’t think of myself as above-average in the bravery department and initially I had felt a degree of trepidation but that was about being on my own in case something happened, like some mysterious part in the car broke. But I’ll tell you: if you want to feel like a total badass, get out on the road on your own. There is something so empowering about being out there and having to be completely self-reliant to make you feel like you can take on the world.
Trust Your Gut
Your survival instinct has been around for a lot longer than you have been and has kept a weak and defenceless species alive, so when it’s telling you that something is wrong, trust it! Take a second and figure out what may be wrong and if you still have that feeling in the pit of your gut, move on. Yes you may miss something but there are so many people who say “I had a feeling and I ignored it…”
Don’t be an Ass on the Road
I credit the fact that I have never had any major catastrophes on diligent pre-planning and maintenance of the car. In bad weather I slow down and keep lots of distance between the cars ahead of me. Those two things will go a long way to keeping you safe on the road itself.
Watch Your Feet
If you go out for a hike, take care where you put your feet; a rolled ankle can be a minor inconvenience but if you lose your footing and cause serious damage, the consequences can be much more extreme. I was once hiking through the Adirondacks on a leaf-covered trail. Everything looked pretty good but the leaf cover camouflaged a small depression and when I was watching the dogs, I wasn’t watching my feet and rolled an ankle. It wasn’t too bad but it was unpleasant.
Dress for the weather, both wen you head out and what it could be and at least take a small snack with you. I’m sure no one goes out planning to get lost but it does happen. In fact studies have found that you’re more likely to get lost after you’ve been somewhere a few times. It makes sense: when you first go somewhere, you’re paying total attention but once you get comfortable, the mind starts to get a bit lazy. Next thing you know, you’re lost. Carry a whistle. And even though you may not get any cell service, bring your phone with you. Some signals will go through and you can always use it as a flashlight or signalling device.
There is no need to wear ginormous diamond rings or expensive watches when you’re driving the roads so leave them safe at home. Big sparklies can draw unwanted attention. Same thing with having expensive things visible in the car. And don’t flash stacks of cash.
Plan for the Worst, Hope for the Best
Have a plan in mind for what you will do in the event of a flat tire or car stops moving or you run out of gas. Knowing what you will do in any situation reduces the anxiety of that unknown element. When we were in Arizona, I had my eyes peeled for snakes and I had read up on care for snake bites. Maybe a bit paranoid but I’d rather have that piece of mind. The weirdest thing was seeing signs for poisonous snakes in Minnesota and Montana.
And because we were heading into the desert, I made sure I had a TON of water with me. And I’m glad I did because we went through a lot of it. Oddly we went through more when we were at Monument Rocks in Kansas. But it was hooooooooot.
Do you have a daredevil dog? Jack is fearless when it comes to heights and will walk to the very edge of sheer drop offs. Once I realized that he gave zero F’s about heights, I kept him either on leash or next to me to keep him from taking an accidental tumble.
It’s not just car stuff to worry about. Think about what it takes to make yourself a less than ideal target. Have a plan of action to deal with people who get up in your space. The dogs are the best body guards out there and I don’t worry about people getting close without me knowing about it. And while the boys are less than intimidating, Piper more than makes up for it, especially when she fixates on something: her head goes up, her chest goes out, and she gets that intense Boxer stare that makes her look like she squints a little as her underbite somehow becomes even more pronounced. Heck, it even makes me stop and do a double take.
If you’re going to be on your own, be prepared to take care of yourself. Adopt the warrior mindset that nothing is going to stop you from going home safe. Get the thought into your mind that you will bite, claw, kick your way through anyone and anything that tries to interfere with your safety.
I know a lot of people put their faith in pepper spray and stun guns. For them I have two things to say: what are you going to do if it gets taken away, and have you ever experienced it? Like so many other things, TV would have you believe that a spray or zap will drop a person in their tracks. Reality unfortunately is far from TV. Neither are the end all be all of safety. Never mind the legality (depending on where you are).
Personally, when I’m walking towards the car I like to keep the key in a fist so that the metal part is sticking out between my fingers; this turns the key into something that would hurt. I also keep lots of keys on a carabiner that’s big enough for me to fit my hand through. That makes a good distraction if I smack someone upside the head with a mittful of keys.
The idea is to avoid being in that situation to begin with. Look at everyone near you. Make eye contact. Walk with your head high because you are a badass explorer taming the road. It also makes you look like less of a target and gives the impression that you know everyone’s face. People up to nefarious purposes want the easy target so don’t be an easy target.
Part of not being an easy target is parking your car where it can be seen. When possible, avoid parking near shrubs, trees, walls, anything that can provide cover for anyone who wants to lie in wait.
Think dirty. Ask yourself what you would do if you wanted to sneak up on someone and do what you can to prevent it.
When I’m travelling with the dogs, we don’t spend much time in cities since it’s harder to maneuver with them and I can’t really explore shops since I’d have to tie them up outside and I always worry about tying them up outside. I make sure I keep them in sight as much as possible. I don’t like to drive much at night since the whole part of driving is to see as much as I can and unfamiliar cities are hard enough to navigate at the best of times, never mind when it’s dark. That also keeps me out of sketchier parts of cities.
Someone at the Door
Hotels are relatively safe but if someone is knocking at your door there’s nothing wrong with asking who they are and if they say they’re with the hotel, have them wait until you confirm it with the front desk. Keep the blinds drawn if you’re at ground level or if there’s a walkway that goes by your window. And use every locking system available to you.
Find the Spot
When you’re camping, spot selection is highly personal but there is one thing to consider: if you’re close to people more people will see you. If you’re far from people, there may be no one close enough to hear you if you call for help.
Gas Makes Car Go
Now I know there are TONS of other safety tips, some of which I have addresses in earlier posts. Is there anything that you do to maintain your safety on the road?