Personal security and safety on the road is a popular topic among RVers, especially aspiring full-timers. Folks want to know what they should do about protecting their RV from thieves once they hit the road. Many wonder: “What kind of gun should I carry?” And along those lines, the huge question of interstate firearms transportation arises, bringing all sorts of complications into the full-timing equation.
All travelers have different ideas about how to stay safe in this crazy world. When Jim and I were thinking about becoming full-timers, we asked our friend Ted how he protected himself during his world travels. Ted has circumnavigated the globe twice by motorcycle and we figured that if anyone knew about staying safe in unfamiliar territory, Ted would. After all he’s traversed some of the most dangerous countries on the planet—all without a single act of violence committed against him. (Read more about Ted’s travels at jupitalia.com.) When we asked him if he carried a gun to protect himself, he turned to us with a surprised look and said, “When you carry a gun you bring bad energy into your life, you’re just asking for trouble. I’ve never carried anything and I’ve always been fine. You Americans think the world is such a dangerous place, but I promise you, it really isn’t.”
We didn’t expect to hear that kind of answer, and I just couldn’t fully buy into his theory. After all, turn on the TV any day or night of the week and you’ll see how dangerous the world really is, right? Jim thought Ted’s advice made sense, but I disregarded Ted’s opinion. Against Jim’s better judgment, on the day we left our old life behind, I packed my .380 semi-automatic in the RV. It was a weapon I’d been trained to use and was comfortable with, but like most people, I had never fired it outside of a shooting range.
As we drove around the country, I thought the pistol would make us feel safe, but instead it became the elephant in the room. Any time we left our rig, I wondered if it would be stolen during a burglary. At night when I thought I heard noises outside, I wondered if I could actually use it. Perhaps the biggest problem it created was when we wanted to drive through Canada, but couldn’t because we were carrying this lethal weapon on board. When we finally decided to visit Toronto, we had to leave the RV at a public park in Niagara Falls to avoid breaking the law.
Finally, I got sick of the worry. Four years ago I decided to stop carrying this burdensome object in our rig. Today when I think about the many dozens of times that having a pistol on board weighed heavy on my mind and affected our travel plans, I’m astounded and wonder: “What was I thinking?!” From Detroit to the Rio Grande borderlands, there hasn’t been one time that we encountered a situation where we felt threatened enough to pull the trigger and potentially kill a human being.
I no longer see the world as a dangerous place. Full-time travel and getting rid of our television has everything to do with shedding my paranoia. The TV no longer throws grisly crime scene footage at me on a daily basis, and instead of seeing the bad things that humans are capable of, I live in what some might see as ignorant bliss by giving strangers the benefit of the doubt and following this mantra I found in a magazine:
“Presume innocence of each piece of life, at least until you know better, and the joy of a loving community will be yours.”
Although I follow this mantra, it doesn’t mean that Jim and I blindly put ourselves into potentially dangerous situations; we follow these simple tips for personal safety on the open road.
Be aware of your surroundings. If you find yourself driving through an uncomfortable area, keep moving. Listen to your gut instinct if something just doesn’t feel right. Look around the area in which you’re parked and if it’s not well-lit, leave. Remember, there’s safety in numbers and if you need to pull off the highway for some rest, look for other RVers and stay near them. Never use rest stop facilities at night; always stay close to your rig in unfamiliar areas.
Watch your wallet. Wear a “no eye contact” city face when you arrive in populated areas and remember to put your wallet in your front pocket or carry your purse close to your side. As you walk through dimly lit areas, walk with purpose and don’t linger at night in places that you don’t know very well.
Get your face out of your device. Smart phones are great navigation tools but you need to unglue from your screen when walking down the street. Always know what’s going on around you while in unfamiliar neighborhoods. Save the texts for later; they aren’t going anywhere.
Change the locks on your RV compartments. Did you know that a majority of RV storage compartments share the same exact locks and accompanying keys? One of the best ways you can protect your possessions is to change those locks. If your keys have the code “CH751” inscribed on them, consider getting a new set of locks and keys for each compartment.
Read RV LIFE Campgrounds. Whenever we’re looking for a new RV park, I always consult a variety of websites like campgroundreviews.com to get a feel for the park’s atmosphere and surrounding neighborhood. While reviews should be taken with a grain of salt, when you notice a recurring negative experience for a specific RV park, look elsewhere.
Don’t broadcast your stuff. Jim and I were so proud of ourselves when we first hit the road. We felt as if we were breaking new ground with our ability to be online through our mobile satellite Internet system, so we put our website URL on the side of our RV and published a “Gear” list on the site that included every single gadget, device and tool that we put together for the rig. After realizing that doing so was an open invitation to thieves, we quickly deleted that gear list.
I hope these tips help you feel more secure and safe when you’re out there on the road. If you have more tips, or want to share any experiences with crime while full-timing, please write to me. I’d love to hear more. n
Rene Agredano is a full-time RVer who lives and works as a writer, jewelry designer and animal advocate. She and her husband, Jim, publish their travel experiences on their website,liveworkdream.com.
Often called “The O.G. of full-time RVing,” Rene Agredano and her husband Jim Nelson hit the road in a fifth wheel trailer in 2007, after their dog Jerry lost a leg to terminal cancer. Sixteen years later they are still traveling and sharing their nomadic adventures at LiveWorkDream. As a self-employed wordsmith, Rene shares her expertise for many RV industry videos, publications such as the Escapees RV Club Magazine, and has authored numerous books, including the Essential RVing Guide to National Parks, and Income Anywhere, a guide to earning money on the road. She has been featured in global media outlets including the PBS documentary “NATURE: Why We Love Cats and Dogs,” The Guardian Sunday Edition, and the Dan Pink book Free Agent Nation.