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Nomadic Independence: Am I safe?

Jennell Jones-profile-image
Jennell Jones
June 20, 2024

TL;DR: Jenell Jones shares her journey of embracing a nomadic lifestyle, selling her home, and traveling in an RV. She reflects on safety, solo travel challenges, and practical tips, emphasizing the importance of preparation, community, and trusting one's instincts. She encourages others to overcome fear and pursue adventurous, fulfilling lives.

Nomadic Independence: Am I safe?

Through a series of intentional events, and for the first time in my life, I was unencumbered, with no child to care for, no partner to consider, and no demanding job tying me down. The sweet taste of freedom enveloped me entirely. With a desire to explore and just be free, I sold my house and dramatically downsized my belongings. Armed with two large suitcases – one with clothes suitable for warm climates, the other for colder destinations – I embarked on a nomadic journey that saw me living out of airports for the next six months.

This gave me plenty of time to reflect on the next steps for my life. I loved traveling but craved the comfort of my own house, my own bed. Getting an RV would solve this. In turn this decision created a new daunting element—the uncertainty of the unknown. It was this ambiguous future that whispered doubts and fears, reminding me that even with my sense of adventure, the journey ahead remained an enigma waiting to unfold.

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Soon enough I was embarking on the journey of a lifetime as I steered my new RV off the dealership lot, exhilaration and anxiety riding shotgun. I was doing this! As dusk fell, a real wave of panic swept over me, casting doubt on my bold decision. I was going to be driving a 36 foot motorhome and towing a car- a combined 60 feet of vehicles. I was leaving everything I knew. I was suddenly very scared and doubting myself.

The source of stress often stems from the "what if" scenarios we entertain. The majority of us have experienced a daily regimen since infancy, initiated by our mothers to synchronize our sleep and feeding schedules with their own. This routine may be monotonous but at least it’s familiar. Throw an RV in the mix and everything is new, there is new terminology, new skills. Remember when someone had to explain the difference between black and gray water? Or my favorite: GVW, GVWR, and GCCC.

Research can be a beacon in moments of uncertainty. I sought solace in facts, delving into information that could calm the grip of fear tightening around me. What I discovered echoed a familiar truth: much like the irrational fear of flying despite its safety compared to driving, RVing emerged as a remarkably safe mode of travel.

Empowered by internet knowledge, I found reassurance in statistics, calming my first fear of actually driving the motorhome. Several factors play a role in RV accidents. Elements such as lack of experience, driving at high speeds, fatigue, overloading the RV, misjudging turns, and struggling to come to a stop were within my sphere of control.

Jenell oil change.jpg

Embracing these internet finds felt like clutching a lifeline, reassuring me that I wasn't embarking on something entirely insane. I expanded my search to include safety specifically for women traveling solo. Amidst the logistical worries of breakdowns, (I’ve never changed a flat tire!) and wrecks and the labyrinth of unknown roads, (could I really trust the GPS?), another fear gripped me: the vulnerability of traveling alone. What if I got lost? What if someone followed me? What if someone knocked on my door? The weight of these uncertainties bore down on me. Safety concerns, particularly among single female campers, often loom as the paramount reservation when embracing the RV lifestyle. Once more consulting the all-knowing web, I stumbled upon a trove of useful tips, and among them, I found these particularly relevant for the solo female traveler.

Tip #1: RV Savvy: Nailing the Ins and Outs of Your Ride

Mastering the art of driving a motorhome, camper, or traveler trailer demands respect more than fear; it's a skill to cultivate, not a daunting task. Initially reminiscent of the tentative moments behind a car's wheel, maneuvering an RV may provoke similar feelings. Yet, as familiarity blooms with time, so does confidence—it's a matter of practice. Learning basic RV maintenance can be a confidence builder and cost effective game-changer. I've slowly learned new skills like changing the engine and generator oil, swapping filters, and even carrying spare parts like a water pump—an unexpected savior during a Pennsylvania parking lot pit stop. Swiftly swapping it out was a breeze. Essential tools like a portable battery jumper pack and portable tire air compressor have been invaluable companions. Additionally, I've found that channel lock pliers and rubber gloves with extra grip make tackling tight caps a whole lot easier.

Tip #2: Find your tribe

The moment you opt for the RV life you're seamlessly embraced into the camping community. Countless forums exist where questions find eager responses, and an abundance of websites house lots of insightful information. For solo campers, FB groups such as the manufacturer of your camper and the Wandering Individuals Network offer camaraderie, support and group travel opportunities. I follow the FB pages of Tiffin RV Solo Travelers, Fulltime RV’ers and Dreamers, and Solo Women RV. There are also some great podcasts. I listen to RV Life, RView and Travel Adventures, and the RV Entrepreneur.

3: Know where you are sleeping each night

One of the reasons we all love and use Harvest Host is the security of the properties. It is a great relief to pull into a safe and often beautiful spot knowing you are done for the day and are safe. It's crucial to plan your travel stops strategically, especially if you're without a reservation, by aiming to reach your resting spot before late afternoon. When I'm simply moving from point A to B, I will stay in a rest area for convenience. Once parked for the night, I remain in my RV, ensuring a peaceful and secure rest. In my experience, sticking to this routine has kept me trouble-free during my travels.

4: RV Fortify: Beefing Up Your Wheels for Peace of Mind

I feel very safe and secure when I'm in my RV. It's been my haven in rest areas, truck stops, and parking lots countless times. Those high-set windows act like a natural barrier—the bad guys would have to carry a step ladder to breach them. As for the front door, it's a fortress; it would take a crowbar and effort to open it. I'd likely catch the noise before anyone could get in. The market is also brimming with a wide array of affordable security products tailored for RV safety. I also use a Ring Doorbell and motion sensor lights.

However, creating a secure perimeter around the RV isn't just about physical measures. Being alone on the road demands a heightened sense of self-sufficiency, where one must anticipate and be equipped to address a range of potential issues, from minor inconveniences to more significant hurdles. Every motorhome should have the standard list of first aid kits, flares, and a battery charger. I also encourage you to create and keep a backpack of essentials; keep it separate from the RV, if possible or at least easily accessible. I have mine stocked with food and water for three days. I also have a pair of comfortable walking shoes, pants, shorts, medical supplies and copies of important paperwork. I want to be ready if I ever have to leave my RV in minutes or on the side of the road. Of course I hope to be Uber or Lyft close to a fabulous hotel that has an immediate vacancy.

4: RV Street Smarts: Trust Your Gut, You've Got This

This should really be the #1 tip for safety. That gut feeling, that subtle alarm bell signaling discomfort, should never be ignored. Women are generally pretty attuned with this. In a world where women often face unique safety concerns, listening to that inner voice can make all the difference between a smooth journey and a potentially dangerous situation. I removed myself from a camping spot once, and to this day I can not tell you why. I looked around, I walked the area and didn't see anything unusual. I just knew to move. It's essential to trust our instincts and prioritize our safety, even if it means inconveniencing ourselves or seeming overly cautious.

Mastering the mechanics and safety is two thirds of the preparedness for solo RVing. The mental game is just as vital. Uncertainty can be stressful and many people underestimate how they will be affected by being so disconnected. When you start a full-time adventure, you trade the familiar in for the unfamiliar. In your RV life daydreams you tell yourself this is exactly what you want, the newness and adventure! You see yourself, metaphorically, standing on a beautiful cliff embracing everything before you. I know I did. But what we fail to consider in the dreams is the mental challenge of finding that spot, getting there before the trail is closed, finding a place to park, and then hiking up two miles to stand on that cliff. Again, metaphorically, that is a lot to accomplish with no experience, input or suggestions from others. That requires a considerable amount of readiness and mental prowess. Get yourself ready.

Tip #5: Roll with it: Staying Chill and Keeping Cool

Life on the move means embracing daily surprises. If this life teaches you anything it is that flexibility must be your constant companion. The notion of adaptability often carries a positive connotation, suggesting a willingness to embrace change and diversity. However, the reality is that our capacity for flexibility is often tested when faced with the unknown or the unfamiliar. It's during these moments of uncertainty that patience becomes our greatest ally. Like a well-worn road, patience smoothes out the bumps and navigates us through the twists and turns of life on the move. So, as you journey forward, recognize and lean into the moments you need to be flexible and patient, for this is key to unlocking the treasures along the road less traveled.

Embracing this lifestyle inevitably fosters patience, a trait not typically synonymous with my personal strengths. I can absolutely point to my impatience for the times I made major mistakes with my RV; off road four wheeling, hitting a tree and unfortunately more. Maneuvering through narrow spaces and bypassing gas stations due to tight fits become routine occurrences. Planning a grocery store stop only to find it closed or inaccessible to RV parking adds to the challenges. Yet, amidst these frustrations, the essence of this lifestyle reveals itself: to decelerate, to appreciate the journey rather than rush through it. It's a reminder to slow down, observe, and savor the moments that unfold along the way.

Embracing the full time life or a months long trip means making a serious adjustment to your mindset and lifestyle. You will not live the same as you did in your house or apartment. You can not control your environment. But I can promise you a life of adventure, fulfillment and an open invitation to incredible memories. If the prospect of this lifestyle is a dream, take the initiative and begin to make it a reality. Resist the influence of naysayers or well-intentioned friends and family who may seek to dissuade you. To echo the sentiments of Barbara Bush, consider that, in the final chapters of your life, regrets are more likely to stem from unfulfilled experiences rather than unrealized achievements. Don't let fear hold you back. You will regret it.

Look at the following questions and respond to them reflecting your current state, rather than projecting how you anticipate you will act once you embark on your journey:

Are you content with solitude and capable of going days without meaningful conversations with others?

Do you have the desire to live truly independently?

What is the last thing you did that was adventurous?

Are you ready to learn new things? New terminology?

Can you adapt and overcome?

Can you eat by yourself in a restaurant, the one with white tablecloths and napkins?

Do you look forward to what is next or do you dread it?

About Harvest Hosts
Harvest Hosts is a unique RV camping membership that offers self-contained RVers unlimited overnight stays at over 5,657 small businesses across North America with no camping fees. Boondock at farms, wineries, breweries, attractions, and other one-of-a-kind destinations throughout North America, and you’ll get peace of mind knowing that a safe place to stay is always nearby!
Jennell Jones-profile-image
Jennell Jones
Jenell has traveled full time in her RV since 2019. She has faced a moose, a hurricane, a tornado and recently an earthquake. In her 40K plus miles, she has had a flat tire, backed into a tree and educated many people that she does in fact drive the RV by herself. She is the CEO of Wandering Individuals Network, an RV Club for the Solo Traveler.