General Question

FluffyChicken's avatar

What are some safety tips for a young woman traveling alone?

Asked by FluffyChicken (5459 points ) May 21st, 2011

In August, I plan on buying a camper van, and going on a road trip across the United States by myself. I am a 24 year old woman, and I realize that there are a lot of dangers out there. What are some good ways to stay safe on my journey?

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42 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Leave an itinerary with someone.

Have people that you check in with every designated number of days.

Do not befriend any men traveling alone or catch the attention of any.

FluffyChicken's avatar

It’s my intention to call my family daily, as well as keep a blog so that friends can keep tabs on me…

@marinelife would it not be a good idea to beware of women as well?

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Wow! That will be an adventure! Just a few ideas:
* Learn how to maintain the camper van, like how to change a tire, etc.
* You may want to consider investing in an AAA membership.
* Plot out an itinerary with where you can park each night that will be safe.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Trust your intuition. If something feels hinky, get the heck out of there! Be aware of your surroundings, and carry yourself wherever you are as if you belong there. Criminals prey on the unsure and the inattentive.

janbb's avatar

Have you thought of bringing a dog?

Also, have you thought of having a frined with you at various times during the trip. You will be safer if you have someone else along with you. I hitchhiked around Europe in my 20s with a friend and at tiems alone. I did feel and was safer with the friend there. When I was alone, I did get in some ticklish situations, but a firm no extricated me.

marinelife's avatar

@FluffyChicken Women traveling alone are usually pretty harmless. The statistics show that more than 95% of crime is perpetrated by men.

FluffyChicken's avatar

@janbb I was thinking of it, but because I’m allergic, have never owned a dog, and would need to own it for a while before leaving, and don’t have a place to do that, I’ve decided against getting a dog.

@marinelife I might not be harmless :P

LuckyGuy's avatar

Buy two, let me repeat, two! Pepper spray canisters. You should practice outdoors with one of them and leave the other for actual use. Consider it insurance. Don’t tell anyone you have it and only pull it out if you are going to you it.
Tell people where you are going but resist the temptation to do it via Facebook. Send Emails to your real friends.
Bring extra water and food -even though this is America and you’ll have to work really hard to find a place that does not have food within 30 minutes.
Keep a separate bag with one night’s clothes and leave it in the vehicle.
Bring a good Leatherman or similar multitool and a good Buck knife. .
Before yo load up the van learn where the spare tire, and jack are located.
Bring lots of empty plastic bags for stuff you collect along the way.

Have fun. This will be an unforgettable experience.
If you geocache try to find one in every state.
Look for jobs along the way. Years ago, in another life, I was offered a job at a radio station, a university, and a night cruise tour service all while roaming for 2 weeks. I still smile when I think of it.

You got me thinking. Maybe I should add another road trip to my bucket list.

FluffyChicken's avatar

@worriedguy Nice! This is all excellent advice! I’ve never gone geocache-ing, but I do intend to, as well as letterboxing.

janbb's avatar

I added to my comments above (and apologies for the typos.) One more hint – you might not want to call yourself “FluffyChicken” while out on the road! :-)

john65pennington's avatar

If you are going alone, do you have a cellphone with GPS, so that you can be located?

This may seem a little overboard on the safety situation, but being alone and in camper van, could be a life-saver, if someone can follow you with their cellphone.

Always be aware of your surroundings and know your location(mile marker 103 as an example) in case of a breakdown on the interstate.

Do not carry a weapon, unless you have knowledge of the weapon and how to use it. Many times, a weapon is taken away from a victim and the victim is assaulted with their own weapon. Carry xtra gasoline and make sure you van is road worthy, before taking off. Have the oil changed and have a mechanic friend lookover your van to make sure its ready for the open road.

Good luck and be careful and trust no one.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Wear modest clothing and sensible shoes to avoid attracting attention to yourself.

snowberry's avatar

On Star sounds like a good plan -you know, the outfit that gives you a call if you get in a wreck to check on you and call for help if necessary. If you’re not already a black belt, enroll in a self defense class through the police department.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Ugh… I hate typos! (See my answer above.)

I meant to say ”...and only pull it out if you are going to use it.”

Sorry.

WasCy's avatar

Check into Fluther now and then when you want a home-cooked meal (made by someone else). But avoid lucillelucillelucille’s meatloaf.

Luiveton's avatar

Concentrated pepper spray. This is more sane
Swiss army knife.
Electrocutor however it’s spelt.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@john65pennington It’s actually fairly rare that a weapon is taken from and used against a victim. Particularly when that weapon is a twelve gauge. :P

Get a twelve gauge pump gun. And definitely learn how to use it. They can be bought for cheap, and the sound of racking one alone is enough to send people running. Make sure you know the laws of wherever you’re going through.

And pepper spray is a pretty crappy weapon. I carry a bottle, but it’s definitely a backup to my backup. Wind has too much of an effect on it to be reliable, and it’s likely enough that you’ll end up spraying yourself at least a bit.

Have a whistle, too.

As for activities, I really like letterboxing. It’s a great way to explore places you might otherwise not get to explore. I use it as a way to find new foraging areas, since so many of them are out in parks at particularly nice areas.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Don’t stop overnight in remote, isolated areas.

jonsblond's avatar

@worriedguy even though this is America and you’ll have to work really hard to find a place that does not have food within 30 minutes.

Actually, there are many places across the west and midwest where you need to travel much farther than 30 minutes until your next stop. Good suggestion though for bringing extra food and water!

Only travel during the day, and make sure you know how long it will take you to get to your next destination. I wouldn’t let the gas tank get below half-full.

MRSHINYSHOES's avatar

Don’t go to places that look like they could put you in danger. Use common sense and trust your judgement. Always be aware of what is happening around you, and aware of who is around you. Don’t go out too late, and don’t wear provocative clothing unless you’re going to be with a group of people you know and trust. If you wear the wrong kind of clothing in the wrong place, you will likely attract the wrong kind of attention and are asking for trouble.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

If you go into a restaurant, like a Cracker Barrel, where they often take names to call out when a table is ready, do not give out your real name. Some creepy person may hear it, follow you back to the camper, and then knock on the door and ask for you by name. This happened once to a hotel guest. She opened the door because the person knew her name. It was another restaurant though…I just used that one as an example.

FluffyChicken's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer good thinking! I almost always make up a silly name anyway. :D

@worriedguy…That’s what she said.

Bellatrix's avatar

How damn exciting and good on you for doing this. What an adventure. I do hope you will check in and give us updates on your trip. We (I am sure) all would love to hear from you.

Some great advice here and I can’t add much but to reiterate… listen to your instincts.

I really think in terms of protection, that is one of the best tools we have, our instinct. If it feels even the tiniest bit wrong, listen and act. If you are driving along and feel you are being followed, go somewhere safe. If you are in a place and don’t feel comfortable, get to somewhere you feel safe.

Can you do some self-defence lessons before you go? I would feel safer knowing I have had a little training?

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

And consider using the Fluther Map If you are going to be in any of the areas where we are and want some safe company, just send a PM before heading our way.

FluffyChicken's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer That’s freaking awesome!

@Bellatrix I shall certainly continue posting questions (maybe even location specific ones) and I also intend to keep a blog, which I’ll put a link to in my profile (if that’s allowed?). I’ve had a small amount of self defense training,but it’s probably a good idea to brush up… since that was 12 years ago.

choreplay's avatar

To add just a bit to some of the above. A satellite phone as apposed to a regular cell phone works just about anywhere (OnStar suggested above is satellite based) so do try to get OnStar or a satellite phone.

With regard to gun or not I would defer to @john65pennington considering he is a retired police officer, sorry @incendiary_dan just think the credibility leans toward John on that one, unless you want to provide an opposing source for your opinion that holds as much or more credibility. Your choice though @FluffyChicken

OMG, love the unofficial Fluther Map. Its odd but even though some Jellies go nose to nose often, we’d probably stick together like a family, a dysfunctional one but a family just the same, lol.

Oh and if your in a very remote location and the police want to pull you over, I believe it is within your rights to put your hazards on and continue to drive slowly to the next public or well lit area. If the police insist you stop than do it. @john65pennington, may want to chime in on that note.

Here’s a book you might enjoy: link

incendiary_dan's avatar

@Season_of_Fall Here: “The techniques required for “weapon retention” are not
all that difficult to master, but the greatest risk for being disarmed
by an attacker appears to be from open carry in a holster as police
officers do. Some ten to fourteen percent of law enforcement officers
who are killed are shot with their own guns. By contrast, an average
of 1% or fewer of armed citizens end up disarmed by their attacker,
no doubt in part because criminals_expect_police to be armed, but are
mostly unpleasantly_surprised_to find their intended victims are.”

And I’m sure Fiddle_Bastard could add a lot more stats on that.

choreplay's avatar

@incendiary_dan, please understand, I dont give a flying flip about this subject but I did question the credibility of your opinion so will be a gentleman and consider your points.

“By contrast, an average of 1% or fewer of armed citizens end up disarmed by their attacker,”

Where does this come from? I’m sure you and fiddle are adept at this and above average on both the handling of fire arms and knowledge of them. I don’t have stats and don’t purport any expertise, but the way I have seen someone dis-armed is when they stupidly hold the gun straight out in front with arm fully extended. Saw in a self defense course, I’m no expert on the subject. Still would give a retired police officer more of my confidence. Maybe that’s ignorance on my part but thats where I land on the subject.

I really mean this in humility so please don’t read any other attitude into anything I have said.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@Season_of_Fall No worries dude, just following up. :)

That link mentioned Gary Kleck, who is a well known Criminologist working (I think) at the University of Florida. I’ve seen his name attached to a lot of gun related research.

FluffyChicken's avatar

I have no intention of carrying a gun, mostly because interstate laws could make that a little hairy, but also because I have no training in using guns and have only ever shot bee-bee guns. I’m pretty sure it’s more dangerous to have a gun you don’t know how to use than to not, and be able to run.

FluffyChicken's avatar

Durn! I wanted to edit that last post. I apologize for the double post.

I just wanted to say @Season_of_Fall I shall certainly take a look at that book, as soon as I’m done with Jack Kerouac’s On the Road!

WasCy's avatar

Actually, a good self-defense object that’s not “weaponized” and therefore legal to carry nearly anywhere you’d like to go, and available for purchase at reasonable cost in supermarkets is… wasp and bee spray.

The stuff shoots a visible and concentrated stream up to 27’, so it is its own “tracer”. If your aim is bad on the first shot, just hold down the trigger and keep aiming for the face of the person who is in your face. If you shoot someone in error, it’s non-fatal and not permanently injurious – you’re not likely to blind anyone permanently. You won’t shoot through walls to hurt anyone not involved. You won’t kill or blind yourself.

If the need arises to use it (and you have a can handy), then you use about half of it in a shot to the face, and get away from that place. All it does is buy you some time to escape. Keep the half-can you have left in case the person keeps coming.

I’ve never had to use the stuff yet, but I keep several cans of it handy (including a can on my desk at work (bad times at work recently, and you just don’t know any more) and one just inside the door of my car) and no one has ever commented on them.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@WasCy Good call. That sounds better than pepper spray, in fact, because the jet is more powerful and less likely to be blown around by winds. If you’re feeling meaner, oven cleaner. ;)

@FluffyChicken Yea, definitely don’t go carrying a gun unless/until you’re comfortable with it and trained. That really goes for any tool.

snowberry's avatar

Regarding any sort of spray other than a pump bottle, if it sits in a heated car it could explode. And driving around in a car perfumed with exploded bug spray is not anybody’s idea of fun. Keep the stuff on your person where it will be cooler and you can use it anyway.

FluffyChicken's avatar

@incendiary_dan “If you’re feeling meaner, oven cleaner” should definitely be part of a song! Mind if I steal it?

Ah goodness. Such violence. I think I’d much rather use pepper spray as opposed to risking causing permanent damage to a would be assailant. I want to stay safe, but I’m not interested in maiming anyone!

MRSHINYSHOES's avatar

@incendiary_dan The best defense for any woman against trouble is not a weapon, it’s being sensible enough not to ask for it. And that means using common sense, dressing conservatively, and not engage in any risky behaviors. Prevention is always better than trying to get yourself out of a mess.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES Bring that victim-blaming bullshit elsewhere, friend. Statistically, 550 rapes a day are prevented in this country just from a woman presenting a firearm. And since we know all rape statistics are understated, that means a lot of rapes prevented.

@FluffyChicken Make sure you have a fully stocked first aid kit as well, and at least a few gallons of water stored.

MRSHINYSHOES's avatar

@incendiary_dan It’s just common sense. Don’t go out alone at night, don’t go to high risk areas, and avoid drawing attention to yourself. This pertains to women even more. If a woman dresses provocatively and goes out to a strange and dangerous area while on vacation, and she gets sexually assaulted , she basically got herself into that trouble. Just don’t do dumb things at the wrong time and place, and a woman will be safe. If a woman does decide to do that, then go with a group of people, not by herself. It’s just common sense buddy.

FluffyChicken's avatar

Well it looks like I’ll not be going alone. I now have a young man who will be going with me on this epic adventure! I heartily believe all this excellent advice still applies though!

MRSHINYSHOES's avatar

@FluffyChicken Good for you. Stay safe. ;)

MellisaTurner's avatar

But be vigilant. Always try to stay in hostels, because you will meet lots of other people there. Don’t be shy about making friends BUT be wary of locals who try to befriend you , especially older men. Do what you can to blend in, although sometimes that’s impossible. Never get in a car with a stranger, unless it is other young people you have met at the hostel. Walk with confidence, even if you are lost. Do not be out alone at night in Asia, or southern Europe, although northern Europe is absolutely fine.
Be sure to write down the address of where you are staying and have it with you at all times, and be sure to have enough cash for a cab with you at all times. Believe it or not, after traveling all over the place and having a drink or two, it’s easy to forget where you left your stuff! This is really crucial. Bring photo copies of all your documents: passport, credit cards, train and plane tickets, etc. Be sure to make use of lockers, and lock your luggage to the seat on the train. Because you are alone, you will have to make caution your routine. Also, carry the numbers and addresses of local embassies in your money belt. Pack very lightly. Make sure you have at least one credit card PLUS your atm card. The more options for payment, the better.

If you find yourself in a scary situation, do not worry about offending anyone, GET OUT. Run if you have to, use force if you have to. Always follow your gut.
With all that said, traveling alone is immensely empowering. I have loved my solo travels and have no regrets. You will meet tons of great people along the way. Stay flexible about your travel plans and have a great time!

snowberry's avatar

@MellisaTurner said it, but most places in Japan are safe for a young woman alone.

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