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“Am I safe?” ; travelling alone (as a girl) with a van

“It was then that I realized: The world is only a scary place if you let it be.”

“Am I safe?”  That is a question, I think off every night before going to sleep in my van. Where did I parked? Am I in a good area? Do I trust the surroundings? Who or what are my neighbors? And how did I parked the van in case I need to quickly leave? Do I think I could I get blocked in? …. What is my gut telling me?.. 

The truth is that sometimes I don`t think about it. After being away for months and to so many countries, Europe, Greece, Northern Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania….But I remember myself to take care of those questions, because they are important. Being save and the fear of being a woman alone on the road is something that I get asked about a lot.  Because of that actually something that is on my mind constantly – not only in the night, but also during the day.  It can be an uncomfortable question, because I wish it isn`t necessary to ask about. 

Especially before the first real trip alone: Should I be carrying a knife?… a gun? What kind of weapons and defenses did I have? What would I do when something happens? What security do I actually need:  It was a scary moment, and I wasn’t even on the road yet. 

Once I started camping with my van every night by myself the reality of being a woman alone set in.  I was terrified, the first night alone.  ( I didn`t have any experiences solo road trippin` and my skills where clearly not that good yet, especially in European surroundings instead of the wild nature with no- one but wildlife). More often than not I did not sleep soundly. Waking up, tossing and turning around, listening and analyzing for the tiniest noise, staring into the dark seeing things that are not there.. waiting for anything to happen, that never will, weird isn`t it?   Every night I sleep with the breadknife from mum, a can of bear spray from my brother and a knife my Dad bought me next to my bed.  Additionally, I always keep a run way open and the pathway to the seat clear. All just in case I need to make a quick exit – somehow.

While trying to park somewhere in a small town near the highway for the night, fear got the best of me. Everywhere I considered parking, looked potentially dangerous in the dark – a creepy old church, abandoned car, an old trailer. Certain that I was: I will be abducted and never heard from again. I eventually settled on a parking spot with lots of other campers by a streetlight, triple checked my doors are locked up, curled up in my bed as a ball of worry. I even thought about driving another day, straight to the place I wanted to go…

In the daylight however the reality and my perceived surrounding.. could not have been more different. Friendly people all smiling at me, invited me to that “scary” church, got breakfast from the farmer of the small old town, owner of the abandoned car which was not more than a house for the animals……..and the old- trailer used for his kids to sleep over – they did as we speak. The sheep’s walking around…. An old lady giving me a flower as a welcome to the village..telling me I could have just walked in for some drinks – the door is always open.

“It was then that I realized: The world is only a scary place if you let it be.”

 One thing that really gave me some comfort (or at least strength in difficult moments) was the realization that if someone is breaking into my car, my home, for whatever reason, without knowing that it’s just me in there, they mean me serious harm. From that moment I knew it would be a fight for my safety and potentially a greater consequence. At that point  I knew that if that happened I would fight with everything I had. 

Fear is  a choice! If people ask me if traveling in my van (as a woman) solo is scary: I answer I choose not to be afraid. But if I say I have never been afraid in my van, I would be lying.

And yes, of course there have been some scary moments, where I woke up in the middle of the night and didn’t feel something was right, so I just moved on. (like this night).

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