How to: stay safe while traveling in a van

This is a question I get asked often, and rightly so.

After all, according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs safety is one of our main needs, second only to our physiological needs (food, water, sleep etc).

So, how does one stay safe while traveling and sleeping on a vehicle?

This blog post is obviously written by a female solo traveler but you might get some useful tips if you are a guy a couple or a group too.

So, let’s start by saying that you should be more concerned with safety on the road than when still. It is so MUCH more likely that you can have some kind of crash than you will be robbed/ raped/murdered.

That said, there are also other risks linked to vandwelling and it’s normal to sometimes feel worried about the prospect of starting your journey.

So, here are my tips:

TIP 1. START LOCAL

Before starting up your big (or small) journey, do try and test out your van locally. This will allow you not only to check the set up and make sure that you are happy with it, but also to try van life in an environment you know. Trying to find a safe parking where to sleep can sound daunting at first, I know from experience! By exploring locally you will more or less know the areas and know where it’s more likely you will find a good spot. Thats really good practice for you’ll be in new places!

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Explore familiar places first!

TIP 2. TRUST YOUR INSTINCT

Sometimes you will just feel something is not right. It could be a parking, a person, a situation. Just leave. No explanation needed.

It has happened many times that I’ve set up somewhere, ready to go to bed and then left because there was something off. That’s ok. It’s part of the game!

guts

TIP 3. GO UNNOTICED

This to me is VERY important. Most of the times I don’t want people to know I’m there. Obviously with a Kangoo is fairly easy as it’s small and blends well with other cars. The bigger/un-stealthy your van will look, the harder that is. Being low profile is particularly important in urban and residential areas, last thing you want is to be woken up by police checking on you! Try not to put any loud music, slam doors in the middle of the night and putting lights (unless you have your windows shaded). Also, I like to use my “night spot” just to sleep, not to cook, not to clean or reorganize, just to sleep!

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The side of the road, maybe not the best place to go unnoticed

TIP 4. KNOW YOUR OPTIONS

Right, you might be taking all the necessary precautions but let’s face it: sometimes sh*t happens (kind of an unnecessary asterisk there!). There will always be weird, bored people out there. Be prepared! What can do you should something go wrong? I think that if anybody wanted to enter your vehicle and harm you, you would hear them coming. Always have your keys close to you and the driving seat free of any clutter so that you can just jump in and drive away. Also,  make sure that you can get away easily (aka no parking that requires van contortions to get out of it).

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Make sure you are not stuck in your parking space!

I also feel reassuring to have some kind of weapon close to me. I always have a knife at a hands reach (whether I would be able to use or not that’s another question), pepper spray and a big heavy torch. You probably will never need to use any of those but better safe than sorry right?

Lastly, make sure your phone is charged so that you can make emergency calls in case of need.

TIP 5. DON’T BE PARANOID

Thank you to Rachel (a lovely van nomad) for this tip 🙂

I do think that the more you believe something is going to happen, the more likely it is going to happen so don’t be paranoid! Fear could ruin the whole trip, so be careful but don’t over stress about it. Again, have a test before going on a big trip, you might find out that is not the way of traveling that suits you most.

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Scare your enemy, another good self defense technique

Finally it does get better with time! I remember the first few days in Pam were not so great, as I had the feeling that everyone knew I was in it and where watching me (totally unfounded thought). It started getting better after maybe a week so hang on there! 🙂

 

Thank you to my dear friend Jasmine for shooting some of those pics! Check her out here she’s incredible.

 

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15 thoughts on “How to: stay safe while traveling in a van

  1. Hahaha I love the pics in this! These tips are great! When I have done long road trips by myself and only had the option to sleep in the front or back seat of my Honda Coupe I would always cover my face with a blanket. It made me feel more secure and I always felt that if someone couldn’t tell if I was male or female, they would be less likely to try anything because of the unknown.

    http://www.dancinaroundtheworld.com
    Amrine

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bravo Marina. I have been living in a Kangoo for 4 years now. I find your safety tips excellent They are exactly the best ones I discovered myself. (Plus a few more : I adopted a fake dog . I do not put pictures of my van nor of myself on the internet. I have a noisy alert siren at and instead of a knife) Please, your advice on a natural and comfortable device against mosquitoes ?
    By the way, I would love to travel solo in a Kangoo convoy to Greece, Balkans, Portugal or Canary… Anyone interested ?

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  3. This article brought up a few tips I had not considered yet regarding safety while vandwelling but the most important lesson I really liked and it makes me feel less scared is “Don’t be Paranoid!” Thank you for sharing your experience and knowing that it gets better with time. I look forward to my own adventure with my fubabies 🙂

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  4. Great blog and your van is fantastic!

    I’m planning to van dwell (is that right?) in September, so something I plan to do is to have a pair of men’s dirty boots on the front seat together with a dog lead in the hope that just seeing the two items might put off a prospective thieves!

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  5. I have done extensive traveling in my Ford van and Sprinter and never had any problems. I am also 6’1″, 240#, Retired Army and have been doing martial arts since 1961. Let’s just say I don’t look like a victim. That being said I still carry some items/tools that could be used to defend oneself if required. Several knives, from pocket to cooking to machete, a small shovel with sharpened edges, a sharp hatchet, a hickory bokken, a 42″ polypropylene sjambok from Cold Steel and an HK 26.5mm flare pistol that I take in the kayak. While rearranging some items in a grocery store parking lot in Florida I did have a local drunk make a run on the van for my camera bag. Two good licks from the sjambok and he was a changed man in full retreat. I also walk with a cane that has an unbreakable shaft from Cold Steel, eleven layers of fiberglass with an epoxy core, and a solid brass alligator handle. “Walk softly and carry a big stick.” Theodore Roosevelt. They key to being safe is situational awareness at all times and operating under the maxim of “When in doubt, don’t.”

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  6. Being a very protective husband and father having raised three girls I can assure you you would be safe and sound in my presence. Protecting the weak and innocent, rescuing damsels in distress and humiliating the powerful, arrogant, aloof and unaccommodating would be me…. I Love My Job. There’s strong and then there’s Army Strong….

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