Obviously people worry about women who decide to travel (or do anything…) alone. And hey, we worry about ourselves too. The worst part though, is that most people worry less and lecture more. They tell these women (me) that they’re crazy, and ask what are they thinking? And they suggest we shouldn’t do it. Then we do it anyway. Here’s why: Horrible, unthinkable things happen to women while they sleep in the comfort of their own homes. Even when they’re not alone, and their doors are locked, and their alarms are set, and their dogs are there, and their neighbors are home. It doesn’t matter. It still happens. So, if something bad can happen to me in my own bed, in my own home, I may as well travel.
That being said, I am rightfully paranoid and afraid. Every woman is, every minute of every day. Our hamster wheel of worry is never not spinning, always humming along in the back of brains, on high alert when we do things known to cause women harm (go for a run, leave the house after dark, sleep outside, you know). Despite my fear, I refuse to not live my life how I want to. When you start refraining from doing the things you really want to do just because there’s a chance a man might hurt you, that’s how evil wins. I don’t advocate for being reckless or naive, but I do advocate for doing whatever you want while being smart.
Things I’ve worried about when planning to travel alone as a woman
So that brings us to being smart. Here are some the worries I’ve had while planning my year-long road trip where I’ll live out of Airbnbs and camp by myself most weekends:
- How will I protect myself if my car breaks down and I’m stuck on the side of the road?
- How can I make it less obvious that I’m camping/hiking/living alone?
- What lies will I tell to someone who has noticed I’m alone?
- What weapons do I need?
- What if I’m in trouble while hiking and I don’t have cell service?
- What can I do to make sleeping in a tent safer?
- Do I need to worry about my Airbnb hosts knowing I’m alone? (Some places I stay at for a month…)
- Is getting a private room in someone’s house more or less safe for me? Can I trust that the host is really who they say they are?
- How can I protect my belongings, which will all be in my Jeep?
- Will I be able to make friends and not feel like I’m putting myself in danger?
- What do I need to look for at gas stations and rest stops? (Places where women and girls are increasingly being trafficked.)
- Should I buy a $600 – $1,200 satellite phone?
- Am I really supposed to get a gun?!
Safety tips for women traveling, camping, or hiking alone
After thinking about all that and more, here are some ways I am keeping myself safe while traveling and camping alone. If you’re going to do something similar, maybe this can help you too:
- When possible, I’m carefully studying the campground maps of National Parks I’ll be staying at so I can choose a spot that’s not too remote, but also not too visible. Generally this means being somewhere near a bathroom but not right on top of other campers (maybe the spot on the end!). I do this so that people are around to see me and hear me, but so that I can also control who may see and hear me. I want to be near help, without everyone being able to see I’m alone.
- I have a 4-person normal tent, and a 2-person backpacking tent, and I plan on only using the 4-person tent unless I decide to camp in the backcountry and hike out. I figure this way, if you never actually see me but you do see my belongings, you’ll assume multiple people are staying at a site with a bigger tent.
- I’m making privacy window covers for my Jeep so that people can’t see inside and think about stealing my stuff, but also so that I can sleep in my car if I ever feel unsafe sleeping in my tent. Always nice to have doors that lock and an alarm!
- I have two stun guns and a pocketknife. The knife will be open and near me while I’m sleeping, both at Airbnbs and camping. I cover the knife with something so that if anyone were to break in, they wouldn’t see it and take it before I’ve had a chance to wake up. The knife and a stun gun will also come with me on hikes.
- I plan on getting up early every day to get in some sightseeing or hiking while most of the people around me are still asleep. Having the parks to myself will make for better pictures anyway.
- I’ve also gotten everything I need to take pictures myself, namely a tripod and a remote control for my DSLR. This way, I don’t need to approach people to take pictures and point out to them that I’m alone.
- I also purchased an old GoPro off one of those resale apps and the backpack clip for it, so I can wear it on my chest hands-free. This is meant to be recording my trip for memories, but I will also catch anyone who bothers me on camera, which could come in handy if I’m attacked.
- I plan on meeting up with several friends during my travels and being connected to friends of friends as well. This way, I won’t always be alone!
- I heavily research the Airbnbs I’ll be staying in and the areas they are located in. Luckily, I can afford to pay more for a place that’s in a safer area and that I trust.
- I have a detailed excel sheet of my travel plans that will include links to every Airbnb and campground I’m staying at and when. My phone location is shared permanently with multiple people, including both of my parents. So several people should always know where I am and when I’m supposed to go someplace new.
- Every new city I stay in, I will first locate the police and fire stations when I arrive so I know where they are in an emergency. I won’t be traveling internationally, so I won’t have to learn any special numbers – I’ll be able to call 911 in any emergency.
- I’ll have pre-downloaded maps of any trails I hike so I don’t get lost, even if I’m without service.
- I’ll be able to travel with my own food, so I’ll only have to stop to get gas and use the restroom. I never go inside to pay, so my stops should be very quick, but I’ll be on high-alert at these stops in case someone is watching me or follows me when I leave. I also get back in my car and close/lock the door while I getting gas to keep myself from getting abducted while I wait.
- I’ve already mapped out my travel days and what time I’ll need to leave each day, so I won’t ever be driving too late or making an unexpected stop (unless I break down).
- I’ve built an extensive backpacking kit / emergency kit and won’t be even remotely unprepared when hiking or camping. I won’t need to ask anyone for help or to borrow anything, and I’ll have the ten essentials (plus some) every time I hike.
- Overall, I know exactly where I’m going and where I’m staying for the entire year, so I won’t ever have to figure something out last minute and end up in any compromising situations.
I think that’s it for now!
Am I missing anything important, or is there something you do to keep safe when traveling or camping alone?
Let me know!