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mother of josh, richard, and mutt. lover of books, yarn, and the quiet places. spinner, knitter, kayaker, survivor, vandweller, warrior.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

fear and traveling

any of you that know me know that i am basically a coward with courage. not too many things i'm afraid to do or try, but more often than not, i need to get past some bit of fear or hesitation. i am not what i would consider reckless, though. i often need a little (okay, a lot) of encouragement when doing new stuff.

the subject of safety has surfaced in a few places again lately. there are so many positions on safety and protection, all across the board. so many different life experiences that can shape our perspectives. as a victim of a violent crime and a person with an anxiety disorder, my evaluation of risk is very personal. it most likely won't be yours, and that is as it should be. we each need to take the time to study the broad base of information available in order to make choices that we are comfortable with.

the united states scares me, sometime scares the bejeebers right outta me. awhile back, there was a couple in an RV murdered and found in the burnt out RV, most likely by those escaped prisoners in the southwest. what i found very striking is that there was so little mention of it, in the press, or in my vandweller circles. did anyone else find that disturbing? the murders, i mean?

i could not help but wonder how that whole scenario went down. was this couple kidnapped in a truckstop parking lot? approached with a smile while stretching their muscles at a rest stop? bushwhacked while boondocking in the desert? i've thought of that many times. i thought about the fact that their weapons were possibly used on them....they certainly didn't protect them. i understand that the prisoners were in possession of the victims guns, at any rate. how would i have fared if i had been the one approached by those prisoners? where would my weapons have been? would wasp spray, a machete, a 9mm have helped? would my intuitive alarm have gone off? would it have gone off in time? or would i have answered some smiling stranger inquiring about my dog with the cute stripe on his nose, oblivious to danger.....

i am no more afraid than i was before. i still intend to get back on the road as soon as i am able. i will still stay at truckstops and reststops, and way up in the hills in the desert all alone. i will continue to hone my awareness and my intuition, and try not to lose the joy of spontaneous meeting as i travel. i will tweak my weapons and the skills of using them, as i practice ways to avoid that need. i will still operate on a faith that everything in the universe is exactly as it should be.....

a big debate with strong opinions is regarding the dangers of traveling to mexico. i hear and read alot about killings there related to the drug war. if you are messing with the wrong cartel, you are liable to lose your head. that almost goes without saying. i just read a link about 20 people being killed at a home in mexico. that sounded more intentional than random, not something i am likely to encounter while traveling there. that happens everywhere in the U.S., even near my hometown.

so how do you sort it out? where do you find your safe zone? in your weapons? in your mindset? by staying home? (i can promise you that isn't always safe.)

some links here regarding state department warnings.

this guys blog is very interesting reading.

i would love to hear your thoughts on this. especially why we heard so little about this RV couple that was killed, right here on our own soil.



Brian ManyWheels said...

Hi Katie....good post.
I would just add that it is an impossible job to make sense out of insanity.
I think there are some very serious flaws in our collective psyche in this country and way we perceive reality.
They are reflected in how we see the world.
As you know I travel a lot and I am always amazed at how few US citizens I see abroad....there is no shortage of other countries represented but the US is rarely seen. It is not because of the economy because it has been this way whenever I have traveled. I think it is because of xenophobia, fear of foreigners or strangers.

Nearly every person I meet, here and abroad, are just like me...another soul trying to get through this crazy life as gracefully as they can. They aren't out to hurt me....

I am 66 and have only once in my life been held at gun point and once at knife point and I think it is fair to say that I have been in many, many places most folks wouldn't or shouldn't ever go....

I really think it is what you put out that is returned....if you put out fear and that you are a will be. If you put out that you are a loving, kind and confident soul, that is what will return....

We are terrified of fanatical Muslim terrorists...who killed 3,000 people in the WTC.
Are we terrified by between 8,000 and 14,000 handgun deaths per annum in the states,,,,or the between 38,000 and 45,000 innocents killed in motor vehicles in the we have our heads up our tell me....

Rob said...

Where to start?

Everybody dies, in a RV by the hand of escaped criminals or in Mexico by someone fighting over the obscene profits we allow on recreational drugs or by the kid who glances at her cell phone and "T' bone's you at the Main Street intersection in Anytown, USA.
Everybody knows this stuff, people die all over this county every day, that RV couple was not 'special' except to them, their family and others in that lifestyle.

Bad things happen.
My wife & I were in Las Vegas, we were leaving. I saw a 7-11 just off the strip before we got on to the freeway and pulled in for a bag of ice and an Icee. This was 11:30 in the morning and there were 2 guys casing the cars coming in, one was trying to see what we had and the other was watching the street for cops, this is the middle of the day half a block off the strip. I parked in front, left the car running, the doors locked and went to take care of business.
The 7-11 guy inside was watching what was going on outside closely, the 7-11 girl behind the counter was watching me, the guy in the parking lot was trying to see what was in the van of the tourist who came in after me as he looked for something in back of his van, his partner was still watching for cops... I got my Icee and bag of ice and went out to the car and we left.
That part of Las Vegas was not a safe place to be, the same can be said of many parts of Mexico if the news stories are to be believed. I ended up at Burger King in Washington DC after dark one February night, I'd never seen bullet proof glass at a fast food place before... All I wanted was something to eat and find a bus that was going to take me back to Andrews AFB. I did find the bus that went back to Andrews AFB and it was an interesting remembrance, could have been different as bullet proof glass is not something a company wants to spend money on if it's not needed.
I have spent some time in places in the day time that I would not go after dark (downtown St Louis, all those broken 40oz bottles everywhere told a story).

I suspect that 'we' here in the USA are living in the Golden Age right now. We have enough to eat, are reasonably safe, safe fresh water and electric power almost everywhere and all the 'stuff' we could want. It's not like this in a lot of the world...
Traveling in a LOT of the world is a very big thing, expensive and dangerous, not something to be taken lightly. I can't say that about the USA today.

I think you have to pay attention all the time, life is ALWAYS dangerous, a weapon can be handy if you are willing to use it, there are no safe places just spots that are more dangerous than others. says that in the year 2000 341 people drowned in the bathtub...

I think it comes down to "you". "You" live your life like you want to, "you" take risks (or not), "you" pay attention or don't. Anyway you do it it's going to came down to something Bug Bunny said in a cartoon, "You can't take life to seriously, your not going to live through it".

Live your life, pay attention & have fun.

-Heidi said...

We'll be staying the night not too far from "one of the world's deadliest cities":
We calculate that we'll be safe because we are on the US side of the border. Where does one draw the line? It's a very personal choice. If we were murdered just outside of El Paso, someone would say we were being foolish. I guess for me the answer is to collect as much information as possible, calculate the risks as we see them, and then make the choice we are comfortable with. For us, we won't go to Mexico, but I'll sleep like a baby tonight just over the border.. knowing I've prepared to the best of my ability. And anyone who thinks I live in fear doesn't know anything about me!
Good post Kate!

Paladin said...

Wonderful post, Katie. Lots to think about. Great comments, too. I don't have a lot to add, but I'll throw in my .02.

Its true, you can find yourself on the receiving end of trouble anywhere you are. There's no such thing as a "safe place". However, a very valuable survival skill - potentially the most important one - is having the wisdom and forethought to tilt the odds more in your favor.

I think traveling into Mexico, or anywhere near the border, right now is taking an unnecessary risk. I think you shouldn't have to live your life in fear - but by the same token its hard to argue that traveling in those areas isn't flirting with disaster. If something bad did happen, I think my last thoughts wouldn't be "Well, at least I went where I wanted to." I think it would be more along the lines of "Crap, this was one hell of a mistake."

Situational awareness, the ability to defend yourself and a willingness to do so, and the common sense to avoid needless risk can go a long way toward uping the odds that you'll continue to be able to freely wander and explore the world for many years to come.

NOLA's Lost Son said...

I totally agree with Paladin. When I was young, violence was as much the norm as not at times. But in all fairness, part of that was me being on testosterone overload as a teen, lol. I have, however dealt with more than my share of violence. But that said, I haven't had to deal with much in the last 15 or so years, even when being in places that should have warranted it, one way or another.

As a general rule, I don't put myself into positions where it is likely to occur these days and I pay attention to both what is going on around me and my intuition and try to avoid issues as the various signs of them arising show. In addition to that, being confident, or at least appearing so, often helps dissuade violence. Predators prefer the weak, not the strong when possible. But your best be is to simply pay attention to what's going on around you and deal with it apropos.

I think everyone should have some level of realistic self defense training, but should also hope to never have to use it. As a general rule though. Paying attention and common sense can keep you out of most bad situations and those that it can't help with, well, there is a good chance the outcome would have been the same no matter what, but that verges on philosophical, lol.

With the issues in Mexico, I'd stay away if I don't want to take the risk. That said, I agree with Heidi. The U.S. side isn't gonna be as bad. Of course, how many folks are killed by accident or in some northern smallish town in ways that have nothing to do with Mexican cartels in this country on a regular basis? An exponentially higher number, so I won't worry too much about travel on this side and common sense tells me it might not be too bright with the current climate to go driving through old Mexico, course I wouldn't go hiking along the border either at a time like this. Again, asking for trouble.

Sorry if I'm rambling here Katie, bad migraine and my thoughts aren't translating well to a normal english. But I'd say, don't worry too much, you seem to be more than competent and rereading about things you've done, your interests and such, I really don't think you need to be worried. I don't see you spacing out in a bad place in a way that invites such things. You got too much sense in you for that, I'd say ;)

swankiewheels said...

Very very good dialog here. This past week I have been in the Norfolk, VA area. I've travelled and lived in many places that were racially mixed, including Indianapolis, IN where I grew up and Liberia West Africa where I lived for a year. I am NOT prejudiced. But I have been unnerved by the heavy population of African Americans I have observed here and have felt uncomfortable "parking" in many places. I have been perplexed as to why I am feeling this way. There's a little childhood history that might have some deep-seated reasons... but whatever the reason... it disturbs me. I searched around for laundromats and seemed each I found have a group of black men standing outside the door... and my warning bells went off... saying 'this does not feel comfortable/safe'. I drive through area looking for a Walmart... and only see black faces. I wonder... do they think I'm thinking something bad about them? Do they hate white people regardless of who they are? Are they gonna hurt me cause I'm white? Only other time I was in the minority was in Liberia. Went with my ex and two babies to tour one of the military ships in dock... and got so crowded in on by the locals I had a panic attack and turned and pushed myself and my two babies out of the crowd. It was frightening.

Normally, I've felt very safe everywhere I go. I have no guns and only kitchen knives. I don't think about danger much. But I have not felt free or safe in this area. Now I'm in Durham, NC and the feeling lingers. We keep telling each other "if a situation makes you uncomfortable... get out of it!" I don't like feeling this way. It's not "black" people... it could be Hispanic or any other "non-white" group... I'd still be ill at ease. It should not be this way... and I'm ashamed to have these feelings. If the whole S.W. has this effect on me... I'll probably never return. No one has hurt me or insulted me or threatened me. I've live with/worked with/ dated people of other races... so am still sure it's not "prejudice" just the feeling of being in the "minority" and the possibility of being misunderstood because you are.

That didn't settle anything... but there it is.

hoboknitter said...

dropping in to say that i am reading and appreciating the comments here. i have had a couple off the blog also. i have a few thoughts that i will share in a bit, hoping to hear a few more comments.....thanks everyone!

D said...

Safety is a mind set. I personally feel safe in most places unless I see something that sets off warning bells, pure instinct I guess. When watching the news, I got overly anxious. My grandma spends to this day afraid that the boogy man is coming. There is indeed real danger but as long as there is an out, you know who you are with and don't open the door for strangers, in many cases, we will all be okay. However fate will have its way and when its our time, we will go. So why sit and worry. There is common sense and what we see as triggers to our personal safety that sends us fleeing is individual and can't be measured. Less news and more common sense, give yourself somewhere to run and keep the lines of communication open.

Pam Aries said...

It can be a scary world out there..especially when you are on your own. Take extreme care and be cautious.

swankiewheels said...

In my earlier post here... I meant to refere to the S.E.... not the S.W. I never had those feeling in the S.W. unless I was close to the border.

Kimbopolo said...

Hi - just discovered your blog today!

Have you read "The Gift of Fear" by Gavin de Becker? I'm reading it now and it's very enlightening. All about calculated risks. Most importantlu, the focus is a woman's perspective which is very different from a man's.

Happy Travels!

Barb. said...

I am in Australia so I don't think we have the same amount of danger here but I don't know. This issue is what I am trying to overcome so that I can get out and explore my state of W.A. People have been murdered here in Western Australia and my imagination scares me. But there are thousands doing it and not being killed. They are the ones I need to focus on I think.

A lot of good thoughts here.


A Gypsy's Child said...

it's been almost a year since this post was written and it's still so applicable. other than test runs in my region, i won't be hitting the trails permanently until july 2012. while maku, with my cat, is a great comfort, he sucks as security unless he trips an attacker while rubbing up against his/her legs. however, other than taking reasonable security measures, i have to leave the rest up to my intuition, my connection with God and universe. women, and men, are attacked in their homes every day, every night. if anything, being a vandweller should be safer, since the perpetrator normally won't have the opportunity to learn your routines and/or your weaknesses.

hoboknitter said...

wow. i lost track of this post. what a great bunch of comments, in re-reading. i decided that there was nothing i could contribute that would add anything of value. i recieved much good information and perspective from you all. thank-you again.

kimbopolo- Gavin DeBecker's book helped me enormously, not only in overcoming my fears related to a past attack, but in developing the intuition i had lost touch with. i am grateful for the reminder, as i think the book is due for a re-read, and then passing on....

gypsy's child, my attack took place in my home. i do feel much safer in my van. being in a house blunts my awareness of my surroundings.