8 Lessons I Learned from Bugging Out Three Times
Bugging Out

8 Lessons I’ve Learned from Bugging Out Three Times

In the preparedness community, we talk about bugging out with regularity, and we should.  If you’re not prepared and ready to leave at a moment’s notice, you may make a wrong life or death decision; however, those cases are the absolute minority.

In preparation for writing a different article, something hit me.  I’ve actually bugged out on THREE occasions.  We left our house twice during the Ferguson Riots and once due to a tornado.  I’ve learned several lessons during my different ‘bugging out’ adventures that I want to share with you today.

8 Lessons I Learned from Bugging Out Three Times(1) Bugging out doesn’t always look like you think it will.

What picture do you get in your head if I said: “You’ll have to bug out in thirty minutes.”  Does your mind go to you walking down the road with your family?  Everyone will be carrying their bug-out-bags on their back.  Your trusted pet will be on a leash beside you.  You’ll have to find a place in the woods to rough it because if you have to bug out, it will be TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It).  This also means that you’re going to have to build a shelter for your whole family with your bare hands.  Fishing and hunting will be the only ways to provide food for your family.  You’ll have to boil water over a fire to purify it enough for drinking.

Well, give up that notion right now.  While in EXTREME circumstances it could possibly look like that, in reality, it will almost never will.

Most bugging out will be done in a vehicle.  You PROBABLY won’t need to leave your vehicle behind at any point.

Most bugging out will still take you somewhere where it’s relatively safe and comfortable.  We stayed in a hotel once when we bugged out.  Twice we stayed with friends in a comfortable house.

You and/or your spouse will probably still have to go to work.  My husband had to work two of the three times we bugged out.  The third time we bugged out, it was over a weekend.  We left on a Friday evening and returned on a Sunday evening.  There was no reason for him to have to work at that time.

More than likely, you’ll still be able to eat regular foods.  You’ll probably still have access to your bank accounts.

Don’t get this preconceived notion into your head that all bugging out takes place because of TEOTWAWKI.  You’re probably just going to be inconvenienced for a few days.

(2) Sometimes it’s HARD to decide when to bug out or not  8 Lessons I Learned from Bugging Out Three Times

Life is not always cut and dried.  Don’t I wish I were.  I like to operate the world of black and white, right and wrong, but life’s not always like that.  When we lived through the Ferguson Riots, there was a lot of back and forth between my husband and me as to if we were going to leave.  For those of you who don’t know, the riots were only televised for about a week but really went on for more than six months.

We actually did decide to bug out twice during this event.  Each time we decided to leave, it took a lot of discussion between us before we could come to the conclusions that we did.  There may be disagreement between you and your spouse as to when to leave or if you should even leave.  Be prepared for it!

8 Lessons I Learned from Bugging Out Three Times(3) Sometimes, you have no choice, but to bug out.

Then there was the other time we had to bug out.  Our house was hit by a tornado, and for a while, we couldn’t even live in it.  This time there was no decision, but to “bug out.”  If you read my “About Karen” page, you’ll find out that I started my journey toward preparedness with couponing.  At this point in my preparedness journey when we were hit by the tornado, I couldn’t have told you what bugging out was, why we should be ready to go at the drop of a hat, or even what I needed to have ready to go.   All I knew at that point was that our house, in its current condition, was unlivable and we needed to get out.

(4) Leaving is EMOTIONAL!

When you leave your house, there is no guarantee that you will get to come back to your house.  Even if you believe 8 Lessons I Learned from Bugging Out Three Timesyou’ll get to come back, you have no idea what condition your house will be in if you do get to come back.  Maybe some of you guys out there can separate yourself from the emotion of leaving a home – but for us ladies, it’s a hard thing.

Besides emotions running high between myself and my spouse just in the deciding it was time to leave for a few days, the emotions of ‘what will happen to my home and possessions’ while I’m gone was a lot to process.

(5) But those emotions might not hit you right away.

There was more emotion up front in the actual decision to go because we needed to keep our family safe, but we also didn’t want to impose on our friends unless we really felt that we HAD to.

The interesting thing is that the emotions of what was going to become of our home and items in our home that we treasured didn’t hit me until AFTER we had bugged out.  In the midst of preparing, getting items together, making sure all my I’s were dotted and T’s were crossed, I was super focused.  It wasn’t until I was sitting in my friend’s living room that all of the emotion of it hit me.  When it did hit me though, it really hit me.

8 Lessons I Learned from Bugging Out Three Times(6) Being ready to leave is much easier than…………well, not being ready

You say, well DUH, Karen.  Hold your horses for a moment and let me explain.  When we left right after the tornado, we weren’t ready.  Preparedness wasn’t on my radar as “preparedness” yet.  Because of that, I had nothing together.  It was helter-skelter, I grabbed ‘stuff’ hoping it was the right stuff.  I forgot things that would have been helpful and grabbed some things that weren’t helpful at all.  Since we homeschool, I had all four of my kids (ages 9 and under) with me all day every day that we were displaced which posed challenges of its own.  As an organized person who could put her hands on just about everything at a moment’s notice, thinking of everything at the moment you are going through a crisis is HARD.  I did a poor job of it on the fly.

The Next Time

When we bugged out of Ferguson twice during the riots though, that was a different story.  By this point, I had really discovered preparedness.  I’m an organized person by nature (when I’m not in a huge time crunch) and having started really learning about preparedness, I knew much more about what to have around ahead of time and when we did leave, I knew much better what we should bring.

Being prepared to bug out doesn’t take rocket science.  Simply know what you need and put together a bag with those things in it.

Because we did have several hours notice of when we were going to leave, this meant that I didn’t just have to do with our Bug Out Bags – which we did have by this time, but I could pack suitcases and make sure we had other important items.  Because I knew the nature of our emergency, I knew I wouldn’t have to take food.  We were able to take time to prepare our home to leave it in a way that we had the best chance of coming back to it intact.

(7) You never know what you will be coming home to.8 Lessons I Learned from Bugging Out Three Times

Or for you grammarians, “You never know to what you will be coming home.”

When I was very young, the area around my grandparents’ house was hit by several tornados.  We drove almost an hour to go see them.  On the way, the devastation was amazing.  In some places, the trees were uprooted along one whole side of the road.  On the other side of the road, everything looked like nothing had happened.  This is the problem with bugging out.  You never know ‘which side of the road’ your house was on until you get there.  This is probably the hardest part of bugging out.

While we had to ‘bug out’ because of the tornado, we already knew what to expect.  But the Ferguson Riots were a different story.  Each time when we left, we didn’t know what we would be coming home to.  The riots wreaked so much havoc on businesses in our area.  Many, many businesses were burned and looted.

According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch:

28 businesses were reported to have been burglarized on Aug. 10, the first night of unrest after the Brown shooting. Many had glass windows shattered: Sprint Store, McDonalds, Beauty Town, STL Cordless |Taco Bell, Walmart, Walgreens, Toys R Us |The Original Red’s BBQ, Family Dollar, St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store, Ferguson Laundry| Metro PCS, Shoe Carnival, Zisser Tire & Auto, AutoZone, Foot Locker, Ross Dress for Less, Hibbett Sports, Kmart, DTLR Inc, Phillips 66, Meineke, Nu Fashion Beauty, Boost Mobile, Party City, Princess Beauty Supply/ Sam’s Meat Market and Liquor.

Most of these places were within a mile of my home.  Those that were further than one mile away were less than two miles away from my home.  Everyone who lived nearby was concerned about property damage to their houses including us.  And we had a right to be.  While we were still in our home, we had protestors outside our house IN OUR FRONT YARD as they traveled from the memorial of Michael Brown to the Police station.  We had police helicopter lights in our yard watching the protestors, making sure the protestors didn’t get out of hand.  That’s how close we were to the action.

If these things happened while we were at home, what could happen to our home while we were away?

8 Lessons I Learned from Bugging Out Three Times(8)  Things you don’t normally think to take with you when you bug out

Because our view of bugging out is often skewed toward survivalism instead of returning to a normal life at some point in time either sooner or later, there are things that we don’t often think about taking with us when we bug out.

Make sure that you bring

  • Financial papers, deeds, insurance policies etc.
  • Your pictures or your pictures on a flash drive.  Stuff can be replaced.  Sometimes pictures can’t.
  • Pictures of your house and its contents both on the inside and on the outside.
  • Boredom Busters for your kids AND for you while you’re bugged out in a hotel or at a friend’s house.
  • That ONE thing that cannot be replaced because it’s an heirloom or because of sentimental value.  Be reasonable though, you shouldn’t take all your mom’s or grandmother’s china with you.  For me, it would be the correspondence between my husband and I that I saved from when we were courting and a very small tote with sentimental items from our daughter who died.

What About You?

Have you ever had to bug out?  I’d love to hear your story.  Are there any other lessons or tips that anyone else would like to share?  Let us know about them in the comments.

Together let’s Love, Learn, Practice, and Overcome

There are links in this post.  Some of the links may be affiliate links.  Some of the links may not be.  My promise to you is that I will only recommend the most economical version of the best quality of items to serve you. These are the items that I have bought for my own family.  You can feel free to use my affiliate links, of which I will get a small amount in compensation (without you paying any extra), or you can choose to search out your products on your own.






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  • FLAPrepper1

    For pictures, People have tons of pictures. Get those scanned to a digital format. Have it on a CD/DVD or Thumbdrive. Even upload them to the “Cloud.”
    Even important papers, like that heirloom letter. Get it scanned to a digital format.
    My business does this BTW.

  • shiloh1973

    I was given 10 minutes to evacuate due to a wildfire. I had a BOB with a thumb drive of all my important papers and pictures of just about everything I owned. I grabbed the bag and my dog. I left in 8 minutes. I have since re done my plans. I now have a camper shell on my pick up. I stock it every spring, prior to fire season. I have everything I need to restart my life if my home is gone. In the Winter time, I add cold weather supplies.

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