Or, more specifically: Aren’t you afraid to spend the night alone in a parking lot?
As a solo traveler who happens also to be female, I get this question a lot. My answer is No, not since I started doing it.
But I understand the question because it’s the precise one I asked before I hit the road.
Considering the sad reality of violent crime against women, we have to think about the dangers of spending the night in a vehicle in an unfamiliar parking lot in an unfamiliar place.
|My first Wal-Mart overnight in Layfayette, LA |
Can you tell I was nervous? I knocked on this neighbor's door to ask about the safety factor. He assured me it was a safe area and I could let him know if I ran into trouble.
In this post, I’d like to take a cold logical look at the issue of overnighting in a parking lot.
I know violent crime is a reality. I’m not unaware, nor am I fearless. I just play the odds.
According to the FBI, there were over a million violent crimes reported in the U.S. in 2012. That’s a lot. But the numbers from the U.S. Department of Commerce (2009) tell us that there were over 10 million vehicle accidents in the U.S. That’s a lot more.
Consider, though, that the U.S. is home to about 318 million people (2010 U.S. Census). Do the math and you will see that the probability of being the target of an assault is pretty small. Stay in a low-crime area and the risk drops further. Much less than the risk of being involved in a vehicle accident. But we confidently drive every day. We play the odds.
And, frankly, if violence is going to occur, it’s as likely to happen at home as on the road.
Even more likely is a mechanical break-down. In my experience, the fear of this occurring - especially in a remote location - is a common one for women traveling alone. In the past 18 months, this has happened to me. Three times. One failed transmission, one bent rotor, and one flat tire.
|The transmission went out here, on one of the loneliest and remote stretches of road I've ever driven. I had just left Devil's Tower National Monument in sparsely populated northeastern Wyoming.|
But each time I received the help I needed from good people. If you get stranded on the side of the road, call for help. If you can’t call, someone will come along who can. Just keep the doors locked and stay inside. And, for god’s sake, never leave home without a trusted roadside assistance plan!
Note: In the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that I have had an intruder. One who crept into the van while I was sleeping in this Ft. Davis parking lot.
Eeeek! A mouse in the house!
The next 48 hours were unpleasant for both of us. I still have flashbacks.
So, back to blacktop boondocking. Following is my patented overnight parking calculated risk appraisal in 3 easy steps.
1. As the numbers above indicate, it probably won’t happen.
The media unceasingly creates an atmosphere of fear in order to sell airtime and newspapers. Crime reporting reminds me of all those times as a kid when my older brother loved to jump out of the shadows just to see me startle.
I’ve also learned that everyone, for some reason, automatically assumes you are part of a couple. I get this a lot: Where are you guys from? How long have y’all been on the road? I consider this is a good thing.
2. If you are targeted by a sinister someone, never forget that you have the advantage.
Most people imagine a scenario where someone breaks into your RV while you are sleeping.
My reasoning: if someone decides to forcefully enter your home-on-wheels, it won’t go far. First of all, don’t stay in isolated areas. My overnight stops are well-lit, with plenty of witnesses around, often other RVers.
If you don't have neighbors, sleep next to a security camera or two.
|The view out my window - St. Louis, MO|
But, even with all that advantage, if someone still wants to get to you in your RV, he will make noise. This will wake you up.
I always sleep with my cell phone and keys in the same place, within easy reach. Hit the panic button on your key remote, then call 911. If you don’t have a key alarm, use an air horn or anything else that makes a racket. Shining a light in the intruder’s eyes is also effective.
3. If all else fails …. drive away from the trouble.
I hope this exploration of an emotional issue will help someone who really wants to travel but doesn’t because she fears for her safety.