I travel alone and have been on the road nearly five years now. During that time, I have overnighted at Walmarts, truck stops, rest areas, and Cracker Barrels all over the country.
I personally have never had an incident in the dozens of times I’ve done it, and I’ve stayed at Walmarts from Atlanta to tiny country towns you’ve never heard of. Some of these locations have been in highly developed commercial areas, some in residential neighborhoods, and some have been surrounded by cows and corn fields. I even overnighted at a Walmart in South Carolina once that offered lakeside parking (score!).
I’m friends with a couple who experienced harassment when overnighting at a Walmart in Nevada. They were awoken late at night when a man started knocking on their RV and talking loudly. He didn’t try to break in but was disruptive for quite a while. It was in a small town, and my friends learned later that the individual had problems and was likely under the influence.
I’ve occasionally heard similar stories of harassment from people online, although never about anyone being directly attacked or having their RV broken into. But I also know many, many more RVers who’ve overnighted at Walmarts or other businesses and like me, never had a problem.
So what’s the takeaway? There IS a slight risk that something could happen at a Walmart. But it’s important to remember that there’s also a slight risk that something could happen in a campground or when parked at a friend’s house too. A lot of fear stems from the unknown, so it’s natural that people (and especially solo women) feel more fear when overnighting in an unknown neighborhood in an unknown town… instead of a campground which we expect to be safe.
And yes, I’m not immune to this. But in a way that’s a good thing. That heightened awareness that comes from not knowing keeps you sharp and thinking clearly.
I assess a location when I arrive, and if it looks or feels off, I don’t stay. I park under a light, within view of a camera whenever possible. If there are other RVs or semis in the lot, I park in the same area as them. I put valuables in my tow vehicle out of sight and close the blinds on my trailer. And of course I lock the doors. I avoid walking around outside after dark, and check before exiting my RV. Common sense is really your best defense. My friends still overnight at Walmarts, and so will I.
You’ll just have to weigh that slight risk with the benefit of having a free place to stop in the middle of a long haul, and decide if it’s worth it to you.
Want to know more about safety when solo RVing? I’ve written a related article about boondocking safety, and one about ways to manage fear around RVing. And lastly, my e-book Solo Full-time RVing On A Budget has a whole chapter devoted to safety issues for single RVers. Happy reading!
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