Let’s talk about van safety. Traveling to new and unfamiliar areas means that you have to be constantly aware of the risks and dangers of each location. While it can sometimes be difficult to keep up with all of the area’s specific threats, there are a few general things that you can do to protect yourself and your van anywhere you go. Here are a few ways you can ensure your personal safety and avoid being stuck in a dangerous situation!
One of the top rules of van safety is to never, ever post your campsite or location until you have already left. With van life growing rapidly on social media, anybody can see your posts and can very easily identify your exact location – even if you think it can’t be identifiable, I assure you somebody can still figure it out!
If somebody is able to recognize you from social media, they immediately know exactly who you are and what you have in your van, which can be especially dangerous if you’re traveling alone. It’s important to make sure you don’t give any of this information away while you are still at your site so that you can keep your location private and avoid being a target for any danger.
Another common precaution to take is to not open your side or back doors in public spaces that aren’t campsites or otherwise fairly safe or secluded areas. You never want to show people that you’re living out of your vehicle, since they will immediately understand that all of your expensive personal belongings (laptop, iPad, camera, etc.) are in there.
Try to be as stealthy as possible with this, especially when leaving your van for any period of time. I always make sure I exit my van from the front cab and never the side door when I am leaving my van somewhere to try not to draw any attention to myself or what I might have in store. Window covers and curtains can be extremely helpful with keeping the back private. I also always make sure to never leave a spare key inside my van, unless it is extremely well hidden or only accessible by me.
2. Always lock your van
Next up: LOCK YOUR VAN! It is too common that people forget to lock their van when they leave it somewhere, stop on the side of the road, or even sleep for the night. You never know who is lurking around waiting to find an unlocked door.
I have had multiple experiences of men walking right up to my van and trying to open the door when I was sitting right inside. Luckily, I always had the doors locked and was able to get out of those locations fast. Some Vanlifers have installed deadbolts or other extra locks on the inside of their doors for double protection.
It’s also common to take other extra safety precautions, such as build a security wall between the cab and the back, or even just looping a seatbelt around the door handles. No matter what your personal safety method is, it is vital to always be aware of your surroundings and have an escape route in mind, even in situations where you think you might not need it.
Ensuring your personal safety at night is extremely important since you are more vulnerable. When you are going to bed at night, make sure you have your windows covered, any privacy curtains up, and all of the doors locked. It’s also important to have your keys easily accessible and a weapon nearby.
If anybody is going to try to break into your van in the middle of the night, you want to make sure you have everything within arm’s reach to immediately be able to protect yourself. Some Vanlifers are able to deck their vans out with full alarm systems and security cameras, but for those of us who don’t have that, you can easily set off your car alarm from your key or have another alarm nearby (even a smoke detector can work!).
You also want to make sure you park so that you can easily pull out from where you are. I tend to back into spots for the night so that I can easily start my car and hit the gas if I am ever in an emergency situation. I also make sure that there is more than one escape route so that if I am blocked in for any reason, I can find another way out.
With our nomadic lifestyle, it is almost guaranteed that we are going to have some uncomfortable and potentially dangerous experiences. Be aware of your surroundings, check reviews of every place you stay, and always leave if you have any type of weird gut feeling.
This lifestyle isn’t something that you have to fear! Anything that can happen in your van can happen in a home. As long as you keep an eye out for any trouble, you have everything you need to stay safe and get through any bad experience!