When I first set out on my trip I was a bit scared but my friend Roger offered some great caravan survival tips, which included matters concerning security, but over the years while on the road I’ve picked up some juicy tricks myself. I’ll throw them off my head as they come up.
First of all a good alarm system would be advisable, even though I haven’t bothered to use mine in the safe countries I’ve been traveling through. In particular because I’m always sleeping inside! Or I’ll park the truck in a safe place.
But an alarm system can definitely be an advisable backup. Not only do the new systems have incorporated GPS units which can help you track down your vehicle if it ever gets stolen, but you can activate your alarm in times of peril to help scare away attackers. Even the blinking red light on the dashboard can serve a useful purpose. For activation in times of peril, I glued a Velcro strip onto the movement sensor and generally keep that in the glove box. If I plan to sleep elsewhere and am worried about security, I can pull it out and stick it into its place, activate the alarm and leave. If I am under attack while inside, I can turn on the alarm (or keep it running if I am uncertain about my surroundings) and pull open the glove box to activate it.
Otherwise, in such times of peril, a scruffy and scary face with bulged out eyeballs can go a long way. Many times I would be sleeping quietly in the back when I would hear someone blatantly try to open the door. Because I like to park anywhere without being harassed by the police, I designed my caravan so that it does not look like one but rather like a regular delivery truck, and most such curious persons would never think someone is actually sleeping inside. Which is when I stealthily sneak up towards the front, and as they are talking to their friends trying to figure out how to get inside, my scary scruffy face slowly appears in the side window, appearing out of the darkness like some ghost. You can be assured that the assailants are often a hair short of a heart attack and would rather just get the heck out of there as fast as they could. If you combine this with the alarm, perhaps some harmless fireworks or a flare gun (as Roger suggested – I even keep a long kitchen knife handy for extra show), and a well practiced and crazed look, you should be pretty safe.
But what if it’s not some thief who’s trying to break in but yourself, seeing your keys fell out of your pocket while swimming in the ocean? For such a case it is advisable to get some duct tape and store an entrance key in a carefully concealed place somewhere outside the vehicle. But you didn’t hear me mention that, did you? Obviously you should have several spares inside the truck, especially if you have visiting friends, and keep the originals carefully stored away, in case you need to make more copies.
Besides storing extra copies of your keys somewhere hidden inside your caravan, you should use your secret hiding place to also store all your important documents, such as your passports and credit cards, and a reasonable amount of cash and/or traveller’s cheques in case you lose your wallet, damage your credit card, or other such calamity. Sometimes my card is blocked just because I use it in a geographic location other than my permanent residence, and it can take a few days to get it reset, so make sure you do not have to sell your bumbum to survive!
I generally try to avoid carrying my credit cards with me, and for that matter, any other important documents, such as my health insurance card. If you happen to lose your wallet, how are you going to replace such valuable documents when so far away from home? On the other hand, what is the point of having health insurance if you are not carrying it on you in time of need? To solve this I simply took a digital picture of such important documentation and went to a print shop and got laminated copies made. Before bringing the files on a usb memory stick, I like to add the text “This is a copy – the originals are in my truck”. Unless you are in cut-throat capitalistAmerica, most hospitals will not turn you away in emergency situations, especially if you have something like this on you. They can always use the ID number and verify something over the phone.
And speaking of printing out copies of originals, I did the same for my license plates. Sure, technically illegal to be driving around the world with printed copies of your license plates, but I find that the police are not the most intelligent lot, under a layer of dirt it really does not look that different (the license plates, not the police), and if they do happen to catch you (the police), you simply show them the originals and explain to them my story, how I had a roommate in university who loved collecting vehicle license plates and had about 30 of them pinned up on his wall from all over America. Great and authentic looking collector’s items, but certainly not an interesting matter to arrange a replacement, some several thousand kilometers from home.
And what if you are a drunken dork and get all your credit cards stolen while on a binge around town? I suppose you can keep important credit card cancellation information somewhere in your caravan, but what if that is one the items which were stolen?! I already do this as a rule for my business, since my work is internet and computer based, but generally I like to store all such information somewhere on the internet. If you are not as savvy as I am, with a secure server and login webpages where I store all my backups and sensitive information, you can do something simple like write all the information in a Word file, perhaps zip/compress that into an archive if you are extra paranoid, and send it to yourself or from some other email account, to your Hotmail or other address, and store that incoming email in some obscure folder. The subject of the email can be “here is a picture of my little kitten”, or something else which would seem totally uninteresting to a criminal, if they did manage to break into your email account. If you ever access your account from an internet café, always make sure to clear the passwords from the browser. Many internet cafes are momma poppa dime operations who don’t have a clue how to set up a network and their browsers could be set to automatically store passwords. Or better yet, set yourself up a second email account and use that only for security purposes, keeping your regular account for general mail and regular logins at internet cafes. Otherwise you might once forget the tedious process of clearing the password, or the internet café can have some malicious software installed as explained in my internet connection while traveling page – no need for unnecessary security breaches.
For a scary and suspenseful story you might like to read how I managed to stave off attacking criminals while in Croatia.
I don’t like to deal with the added responsibility, but even the most laid back rottweiler fastened by a thick chain to your front entrance will stop most from even considering. Even an annoying and yapping little dog left inside while you’re out partying can act as a great alarm system.
Keeping your truck modest looking, a little dirty and no visible bells and whistles would less likely generate any interest. Such as keeping the visible front driver’s seat a little untidy. I like to keep a roll of toilet paper on the dashboard because I’m constantly blowing my nose, but from the outside, it seems to make the entire truck appear worthless and uninteresting.
And a good attitude can easily tip the scales. By being humble and nice to locals, they might warn you about something or suggest better places to park. On the other hand, if you’re a cocky son of a bitch who likes to throw money around the bar, you will certainly attract attention and might find at least one person following behind you in the darkness while you stagger your way back to your vehicle.
If you are extra paranoid and traveling through some dark and scary places, keeping a bible visible on the front passenger seat could also tip the scales. Even desperate criminals can have a conscience, or be just plain ol’ superstitious. Or consider you a modest and good brother and they’d rather save their desperate attacks for the cocky sons of a bitches.
If you are going away for a longer period of time, or are super paranoid, I like to keep all my expensive electronics and other gadgets in a super treasure safe located under (and the size of) my bed and which has been bolted firm through the undercarriage of the vehicle.
Following these various tactics, I’ve found myself fairly safe over the past two years, while many of my friends have reported their homes being robbed right from under their noses, while sleeping! Houses can be a much more lucrative and attractive target than a beat up old truck, out of which a scruffy, unkempt, modest and amiable individual crawls out every morning.