Some of the ways that travel restrictions have recently affected peoples’ attempts to bug out and lessons learned.
Many in the preparedness community had things they needed for them and their families already in place to weather out the many complications brought on by our current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic as it began showing itself in early 2020. They typically had plenty of food, water, or ways to filter and otherwise obtain potable water, fuel storage, medical preps, self-defense options, and possibly communications and threat intelligence capabilities. Some even thought to have places established to where they and their families could bug out to. It came as quite a shock to many people fleeing their densely populated areas for, they believed to be safer, less populated areas when they began running into literal roadblocks.
One of the early stories to hit the national news was the Outer Banks islands of North Carolina. Property owners from all over, especially from the DC, NY and NJ areas, had previously purchased and owned many of the properties on the Outer Banks and were attempting to flee to their second homes to try and ride out the early stages of the pandemic as rumors of sheltering in place and store shortages were beginning to dominate the news. On March 17th of 2020, Dare County, NC, announced that it was shutting down the two bridges onto their island to all visitors. On March 20th, they extended that to all non-resident homeowners as well. That quick change was brought on by the locals realizing that their island population was growing by leaps and bounds in their “off-season” which they were not prepared for.
The few grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, and service stations were overwhelmed by sudden demands that they had also not planned for at that time of year, stressing their small islands’ ability to maintain essentials for their normal population. The blockade resulted in the non-resident homeowners doing a different variety of things to gain access to the island as well as a lawsuit against the county, which is still awaiting an outcome here in May of 2020. Some people were paying island residents or people working on the island to smuggle them and their families onto the island in vehicles as passengers and by boat before local law enforcement began watching for that as well. The slower, but ultimately more effective technique became the non-resident homeowners changing their addresses through the DMV to the addresses of their second homes. They would then return to the blocked bridges with a paper copy of their addresses on the island and be allowed on since it clearly showed them having a state-recognized address on the island, one of the county’s requirements.
It also made the news quite early on that Louisiana was having large amounts of confirmed cases of COVID-19 and that it began to worry the surrounding states. Texas’s governor dispatched state troopers to all roadways entering Texas from the Louisiana border to begin in late March. It mandated that Louisiana residents provide an address where they would be quarantined for the following 14 days, to be followed up by State agents during that time. At the same time, the governor of Florida had also set up roadblocks along I-10 targeting motorists with Louisiana license plates entering their state as well. They, too, were requiring the visitors to self-quarantine for 14 days, just like Texas. The risks of those violating those state’s self-quarantines were large fines and jail time up to 180 days. There were different jurisdictions in many states that came up with ordinances that had hefty fines related to violating travel restrictions and some cases of threats of arrest.
Nearly every state in the United States saw some form of travel restrictions or had problems with “visitors” or the non-resident property owners arriving in the “off-seasons” in the usually rural area of their respective states. Local ordinances were created to prevent people from using AirBnB and similar house sharing or rental services after the outset. Many places began developing the “Us versus Them” problems that resulted from the influx of people fleeing from the high-density population areas. Like the Outer Banks islands, those small communities began to see above-normal stress on their medical systems, grocery stores, and other necessities. This problem is not unique to the United States as there are many similar stories from all over the world about small communities being overwhelmed by people fleeing to the less populated areas. We also saw early on the flight restrictions being placed on country after country, causing some people to get stranded in foreign lands or unable to take advantage of their passports to flee to safety in some distant location.
I remember that James Wesley Rawles in “How to Survive the End of the World as we Know it” book, highly recommended that instead of people trying to play the guessing game of trying to figure out when to bug out, to instead find a way to live and work from your bug out retreat. Followers of John Mosby at Mountain Guerrilla blog and many cornerstone preparedness manuals know that he and his family have done exactly that. And not only has Mosby moved into a rural mountain area near family and friends, but he has made it an important point to build a community there through helping neighbors, providing training and garden produce from his property, making sure to use local businesses for their family’s purchases and making himself available to call on for help if need be.
He has established himself and his family as locals to the community and has their trust and, maybe, more importantly, their support when need be. Mosby also recently wrote a Patreon article concerning “Ratlines,” where he had to come up with a series of people that were either friends, former students or friends of friends which he had to trust enough to help get his wife and a family member back home from the west coast as some of the travel restrictions were starting to be put in place across the US.
Many of these travel restrictions were directly related to the pandemic to prevent or slow the spread of the virus, but there could be similar restrictions put in place due to economic conditions or social unrest in the near future. From the few real-world travel restriction stories mentioned above, you can see that each one might require a different response to how to overcome the problems presented. The things they all seemed to have in common though was timing. When is the right time to bug out and already to have enough supplies stored up or brought with you so that new problems aren’t created in those smaller communities that you are fleeing to? It would be best to already be established as a “local” where you are going, but you definitely don’t want you and your family to be viewed as a new burden. These recent lessons provided around the country should help fine-tune many bug-out plans by emphasizing more thought being placed into the planning part of your bug out plan. Not only having additional routes to arrive at your destination but also how you might go about either avoiding, circumventing, or defeating some sort of travel restrictions before you get turned around.