Notes From My Residency Journal
I had a request from a reader for suggestions on safety for residencies. Most of my residencies are as a single traveler. Here are a few suggestions for painters who travel alone.
Plan ahead- I always plan my adventures ahead, knowing the directions and location of my residence in advance. I study the area where I will likely paint, looking for nature reserves, state and national parks, or county parks where people and boats will be coming and going. Privately owned land is usually safe as well. Many farmers and ranchers give me access to their lands. If you know where the safe places are located ahead of time, you will feel more secure.
Arrive and check in before dark- I always get checked in and moved in before dark the first day. It's better to explore a neighborhood first in day time to see how safe it seems to be. I check out local restaurants, parks, gas and grocery stores the first day, before dark.
Carry a cell phone- Check on whether there are cell towers close enough for your phone before you go out in wilderness areas alone. Think twice before hiking too far from your car without a working phone.
Sometimes the scenery is not worth the risk. There may be other places which will offer you good scenery which are safer.
Ask questions and look at the maps- Most of the nature reserves have a map at the entrance or park rangers on duty. Check your route first. Know the difficulty of the trail and whether you are prepared for a hike. Tell rangers where you are going and how long you expect to be there in advance.
Follow your instincts- if it doesn't seem right to you, leave.Learn to be aware of what's going on around you. Keep your eyes open, your cell phone on you and stay within shouting distance of civilization. Don't wander too far from your car. if you have a dog and are allowed pets, bring them with you. Animals have great instincts about potential danger.
Look around on the ground- Bad people aren't the only dangerous animals. I never step out into wild places without carefully looking around. Snakes, bugs and Alligators are a serious danger in Florida for painters. I have had several close encounters in 30+ years. This is their world. If you invade their space carelessly, you are asking for trouble. When I take photos or paint in the wild, I constantly check around me for critters.
Be Armed- Some painters choose to paint with a gun handy. Depending on your view, it can be a deterrent, but never buy a gun without getting proper and professional training beforehand. As my Daddy always said, "Never pick up a gun unless you are willing to kill with it if necessary."
Some good locations for safe painting and photography:
Upscale Shopping Districts
Always ask permission for painting on private lands first.
Having written the above advice, I add that in the 30+ years as an outdoor painter, I've never been hurt. I have been harassed once or twice by idiots in cars, but that is to be expected I suppose. If you are careful and plan well, you should have no worries in traveling alone.