When to bug out… and where?

Hi y’all,

I’ve been trying to manage my fight/flight impulses recently, but I find my fear at a constant idle of anxiety. We have the food, defense, and energy preps we might need to shelter in place in our home for a few months, I think. We have good relationships with our neighbors. But home maybe doesn’t feel like the safest place?

I live in a town recently mentioned as a potential target for Federal Troops coming to quell civil unrest, in a seismicly active area, a town with great wealth disparities and a large population of folks living pretty marginally. As times get worse, crimes of desperation will surely increase.

We’re trying to decide, in this very uncertain and potentially pre-cataclysmic economic time, when the best time to bug out is. Certainly, if we were to try to sell our house and investments it would be prudent to make those moves before housing and stock markets falter. That’s super hard to predict.

Advice sought: what triggering event/events would you use as economic indicators/triggers to make you pack it all up and move it on out? 

Further: where would we go? If we can keep our jobs and schooling running remotely, what are the best options? Should we stay within driving distance of our work HQ and friends, or should we try to immigrate to another country? Hunker in the woods or near a Costco or on a tropical island?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these matters. It’s OK to call me overwrought, or to say you’ve had similar thoughts, or hear about your bug out locations and triggers. I seek a variety of opinions.


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  • Comments (15)

    • 6

      When you don’t feel safe in your home anymore, then your home is in the wrong place.  I am in the process of selling off 4 businesses and leaving NY state, which has been home for me my entire life, with the exception of when I was in the Air Force.  I started the process a little over a month ago and will be mostly done and out of here within a month or slightly longer.  The political climate and ideology here is drastically different than mine, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.  I don’t feel it is safe for me to be here, nor for my family, so that was my trigger.

      In my case, I am moving to Tennessee, where I expect my ideals to be more in the majority.  I am moving from a village location in NY to a rural location in TN, with space for a garden and maybe some chickens, on a secondary road, near “the world”, but still out of the way a little bit, and a driveway long enough that nobody will accidentally drive up.  In short, it is a nice “just leave me the hell alone” spot.

      I’m glad I made the move.  It is a LOT of work to unwind 4 businesses, sell off properties, and pack up a household and move it 11 hours away.  However, doing so now gives me a lot more control and allows me to take more than just a backpack if things continue to go the wrong way here.

      You aren’t overwrought.  We all have different levels of comfort.  Life is short enough, make every day the best you can.  If you don’t feel safe in your current location, change locations.

      • 5

        No way! Did you read our post about moving to the country? (Written by someone from Tennessee!!) 

      • 4

        I actually just read it after seeing the link!  I did really enjoy the post, it actually helped reaffirm that we have made a wise decision.  My wife and I grew up in the “other” NY, not NYC.  Our area has cities and the related BS that goes along with it nearby, but we grew up in the rural part of NY.  After reading your post, along with our recent trip to Tennessee to get to know the area we will be living a little better, I’m sure we made a wise decision.  I’m curious, what part of Tennessee are you in?  We will be moving to Bluff City in about 3 weeks

      • 4

        I wrote the guide above and I’m in Macon County, which is about four hours from Bluff City. It looks like you’ll be around the Tri-Cities area. I highly recommend Pals!

      • 6

        What is Pals?

    • 4

      i agree with @adam j. you’re not overwrought. and he kinda hit the nail on the head. if you feel unsafe in your home or in your neighborhood, that’s a big red flag. it doesn’t mean you need to ditch everything and go, but’s it’s a sign that you need to really explore your options.

      • 5

        I don’t feel unsafe *yet*. What I’m trying to do is figure out how to make plans for when I do. I want to know if I should sell stock and buy off-grid property now so that I can run away when the shit actually hits the fan. Gah! It’s such an uncertain time and I’m trying to plan on shifting sands. So say we all, I guess

    • 8

      To me, bug out means a temporary absence, with eventual return.  Ona recent bug out, after loading our vhicles and driving far enoug away, w parked and slept a bit.  In  the morning, we decided to driva a bit further and get a room.  Thanks to a relative’s kind offer, our total bill was $15.  Others affected by the same incident got a room or stayed with friend or relatives.  Red Cross had activated a shelter, which did not fill up, which is typical of our area.

      Don’t overplan.  Different disasters will merit different responses.  What works foe situation will not work in another.  We will probaly have to make decisions, hopefully good ones, on the fly.

      One thing.  I keep a loded money belt handy.  It was comforting to leave with a stash and usable credt cards

      • 5

        That’s a good point. It seems like stocking up on a little extra cash each time we visit the ATM would be a smart idea…unless we hit hyperinflation or something! It seems like perils of poor decisionmaking are everywhere when every direction feels threatening.

    • 5

      Oh man you’re talking about just what I’ve been feeling for a while now! I’m in Minneapolis and wrote about this for The Prepared a little bit back in June. In the end, I was so glad I didn’t leave. I wanted to be here with my community and give back to the people who were hurting. But it’s so hard to make that choice — and maybe if I’d had fewer resources or lived alone I would have made another choice. Not a lot of recommendations to make here, but I feel what you feel! 

      • 8

        I like what you wrote about prepping to assist folks during peaceful and potentially riotous protests, and I think the Go Bag you IDed for this situation makes sense. I guess I’m thinking of a more macro situation than a temporary unrest and more like a general collapse of the town I live in and perhaps our country in general.

        In my town we have a lot of smash-and-grab-type crimes of opportunity. With the terrible economic outlook, I really fear an increase of crimes like armed robbery. 

        I’m trying to plan in advance for things like financial crises, increases in crime, a significant earthquake, or a contested election resulting in further unrest and potential unlivibility.

        I really feel like everything is going to get worse before it gets better, and it will take just one of these things to truly destabilize life, but I don’t know how to plan.

    • 5

      Well I would pick a climate that you can grow crops year round, has wild game and has city but not too big. Big enough to meet any emergency or items you might need. But not jam packed elbow to elbow city. There over one million wild hogs in our state along with deer, turkey and bear. Fishing all you want, climate warm that you wont freeze to death but cool enough to enjoy. Plenty of woods if you want hide. Plenty of small town and farms.  Islands are a death trap, want the freedom to move quickly if I have to. Out of this country, no way.

      I would not like to survive in a 3rd world country. Canada is too cold, out west is mix bag. I like the south. Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Missippi, Lousiana, Texas.  Each state has pros and cons but there is no perfect state. 

    • 6

      Hey there, Runcible (and everyone). Sorry for the delay. Here are some thoughts I have about your situation:

      First and foremost, you’re not alone in your anxiety. I feel it, too. Whether we all admit it out loud to each other here (or not) is another matter. The nervousness you feel is the natural result of our individual feelings of uncertainty -and there’s plenty to be uncertain about, seemingly moreso now than before.

      From the sound of it, you have yourselves relatively well prepared. So, take a moment to take stock: You’re already ahead of the curve, perhaps even to the scale of an hour (or more) ahead of the majority of people.

      The first thing I want you (and everyone!) to do is to take a moment right now and acknowledge all you have done. It might sound cheesy or hippy-dippy, but I want you to take a moment and be grateful to yourselves. Be grateful to yourself and those that have helped you prep to the extent that you are prepared today. What you have done thus far is no small feat. Every item you have procured; every plan you have made; every moment you have invested is a gift to yourself and your loved ones. Trust your preps. Trust your plans. Trust yourself. Trust your team. Take a quiet moment inside your own head and be grateful. Go on. Do it. Yes, now!

      And, yes, we’ll wait….

      Okay. Moving on.

      The decision to bug-in or bug-out is something some of us are going to struggle with to one degree or other; and, in some cases, that’s going to be dependent on our subjective threat levels, rather, threat tolerance/sensitivity. Yes, there will be situations in which we might all agree that we would bug-out and those are scenarios in which there is a significant, obvious threat to life; and, at this level, we’re basically talking about natural disasters or war.

      Some of us may feel the urge to BO or question that urge because we what we see, read, hear, feel, or experience on a daily basis; or, because of rising tension, pressure, fear, anxiety, threats of violence because of our race, color, ethnicity, religion, lack of religion, atheism, sex, sexual orientation, sexual identity, political affiliation, thoughts on abortion, stances on healthcare, the pandemic, maks, etc. Every single thing that defines us as individuals can be a variable that won’t affect us all the same. Each of us is going to have something that will kick our amygdala into high gear that may not be as triggering for others. We all have reasons to BO or BI.

      Social unrest and financial instability certainly feel like looming threats (more and more each day), so, perhaps you’re already ahead of the curve by just thinking about them. And while I know this isn’t the proverbial answer, but acknowledge this as another positive step in your favor puts you ahead of the game. 

      Frankly, I am at a place. I am in research and planning mode. And there are things you and I (and others) will want to consider before acting -just as you outlined in your post. If you’re potentially considering selling your home (or moving), where will you move? Another country, state, town, buy a house, live on the road? 

      I won’t be revealing my plans, BO locations, protocols, or ideas. Because, OPSEC. I will, however, throw some thoughts out there for you (and all) to consider.

      If you’re thinking another country is an option, you’ll want to begin looking into the official process now and begin the application process (eg, if November is a foreseeable event you expect to respond to). The official processes can be long, depending on the goal country. As a fallback, go on a fact-finding mission to research emergency/humanitarian immigration qualifications and procedures. 

      Some might have, as an additional fallback, a plan to cross a border illegally (if it comes to that point!). Make sure to do you research and understand the consequences and the process in advance. Make sure you understand the consequences of travelling across borders and being armed. You want to know what will happen to you and family members -and whether or not that country has a means of addressing illegally crossings in an emergency or humanitarian crisis.

      If you’re potentially considering a more nomadic life wherever you are now (RVing, boondocking in a skoolie, etc), consider what many nomads experienced earlier in the pandemic: parks shutdown. Many suddenly didn’t have a place to stay or go to. As parks closed across the country (closings varied and depended on the individual state’s pandemic numbers), options began disappearing. Some ended up parked on a family member’s or friend’s property. Even then, some still ran into unfriendly neighbors who got the police involved. That said, consider purchasing land (even a small one!) as a fallback you can bug-to and hunker down.

      Considering selling your home? Unless you have a relatively recent appraisal, look into getting another one done before you decide to sell. Check the comps in your area. You want an idea of how much your house is worth and how much you can potentially get when you sell.

      You’re eventually going to want to liquidate the contents of your home before you sell it. Look into businesses that run estate sales or specialize in liquidations. Make a list of those businesses, reach out, understand their terms and what you can expect in terms of return. 

      Set aside unique, collectable items (family keepsakes, collector’s items, coins, jewelry, antiques, etc) get them appraised and begin working that angle, too. Hold onto whatever you can use for barter OR sell them and invest in previous metals.

      I was fortunate back in 2008. I was in California and I sold my first home just as the housing market was in the initial stages of downturn. Although the housing market wasn’t the initial impetus for the sell (there was a death in the family), a big indicator (especially at the time) was the skyrocketing property values and the easy availability of credit for buyers (which would, as the crisis progressed, resulted in many homebuyers being underwater with their mortgage lender).

      I’m not really a finance hawk, so, I can’t really respond to what big indicators to look for. I’ve noticed the value of gold rising. I’ve recently seen news of a coin shortage. I *think* (I’ll have to double check) there’s been news about ATM limiting.

      That’s all I’ve got for now.

      Be well. Be safe. Be healthy.

      • 8

        Matt, thanks for the thorough reply! I am grateful for the preps we’ve made, and thinking of those gives me some peace of mind; thanks for reminding me to be grateful. 

        I imagine that its already too late to seriously consider emigrating. Further we have family obligations that make leaving the country seem unfeasable for now. Further, we like our home and don’t really want to leave it unless we have no other options. I suppose in that case, it might be difficult to find a buyer. 

        What is really drawing me is, as you mentioned above, a secondary more rural property we could bug out to. Something within a few hours drive from our population center that would be less drastically affected by earthquake or war. I just don’t know if I can afford to take on another mortgage for a “what-if” scenario. 

        If we wait for further financial collapse resulting in people defaulting on their mortgages, potentially we could afford such a property, but thinking about that feels morally icky and opportunistic.

        I appreciate your thoughtful post. I know for security reasons you’re not interesting in sharing the specifics of your preps with a stranger on the internet, but perhaps you’d be willing to point me to some publically available resources or thoughts that you’ve felt were admirable or interesting? Who have you been looking to for inspiration, and what specific things have they done that you thought a wise prepper might emulate?

      • 6

        If the situation gets really bad, all the money in the bank, stockmart won’t buy you a knife, gun or bow to use. The items that you have in your home will be it. The items your group has will be it. Money will be worthless. If your stock is in ultlities and consertive mutal funds, if that goes we are all in trouble. That would mean a total collapse of the sytem.   

        No I dont think thats going to happen. In short term fires, earthquakes, and hurricanes  are of concern. There is 80 million gun owners in our country. Thats a comforting thought. As we all know what keeps the bad people out of your home is knowing they will be walking to home armed to the teeth.

        I get tested every year with hurricanes here. I’ve seen the panic over gas, plywood and food. Collecting the essential takes time unless you have a bucket of money. Even to get food that last 25 years takes 6 months to get.  So it all depends are where you live, the event you are preparing for and what survival item you have.   It is different for everyone. But there are basic essestials. That is what this site is about.