The Value of Unpredictability and Having Alternatives

Driver at the wheel
Change up where you drive, what you drive, how you drive and the route you take to be less predictable.

When I lived outside a city, the direct route to or from my job took about 15 minutes. Then there was what I called the “side route,” which took two minutes longer, and the “back route”, which took 18 minutes. I made a point of taking different routes to and from work, mixing it up so I didn’t fall into a routine that someone might easily track.

There were other, longer routes, but I rarely took them. The key is that I knew about them and could take one of these additional routes if I needed to.

I also would depart to or from work at different times and arrive at different times. Occasionally, I would go home in the middle of the day. Sometimes, I would make stops along the way or take detours. If you drive through a shopping center, you can often go behind the stores where the unloading docks are, and avoid all the traffic and pedestrians. This allows you to zip through it quickly and either spot or lose a tail.

I did this to be unpredictable and make it difficult for anyone to predict where I was and when I would be at home. It would also be difficult to rob me if I avoided repeatedly taking the same path at the same time.

Did I think people were following me? No, but when you work with law enforcement, you learn there is value in being a bit paranoid.

Dead Ends

Now that I live in the country, there are no alternate routes home. I live near the end of a long dead-end road. I can’t come home the “back way” unless I have a four-wheeler, a chainsaw and a bolt cutter. The lack of roads cuts down on my ability to inject some randomness into my travel routes.

The advantage of having one route with farms and homesteads spread apart is that you learn the vehicles you see along the way. You know where the guy with the black Jeep lives and who drives the red Ford Ranger, and you wave to each other. You recognize the older woman in the white Subaru and the hippies with the beat up Outback that must be 20 years old. I also know who owns heavy equipment, tractors and trailers, and where they park them and the guy who occasionally drives his 18-wheeler cab home. I know where the game warden lives because he often brings home his official truck. So when a strange car or truck appears on the road, not only do I notice, but others will as well. There is some security in that because bad guys do not want to be noticed. Andin the country, we notice.

Now that I working for myself on a job that is not very demanding, I have greater flexibility to make my schedule and can be unpredictable. Instead of needing to be at work by 8 a.m., I can schedule appointments at 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m. or leave the house on a whim. There are some weeks when I leave the house once and others when I leave three or four times. Not having a set schedule makes me unpredictable.

Try It

Even if you don’t want to add unpredictability into your travel and schedule, I recommend you practice it. Develop some alternate routes. Learn the back roads. Memorize these routes so you don’t need GPS or Waze to drive them. You want to be able to take a turn without thinking about it and immediately know where you are, where the road goes, and what lane you need to be in.

Inject some randomness into your life in other ways. If, for example, you work from home every Monday and Friday, mix it up. Go to the office on Monday and stay home that Wednesday. The next week, switch it up again. Go to a different grocery store from time to time and shop at different times of the day. You want to avoid being the predictable person who grocery shops the same day of the week at the same place, at the same time.

If you find this mixed up schedule is a pain in the neck, then do it only one week a month. That’s not optimal, but it will keep the idea fresh in your mind and if someone is trying to track you, it might throw them off.

No matter what route you take, it’s a good idea to make sure you are not being tailed.

Why do It?

So why would someone be tailing you or trying to track you and your movements? It could be any number of reasons: Maybe they want to serve you papers for a lawsuit. Perhaps you owe someone money or they want to repo your car. Maybe you told the wrong person how you just bought some silver Maple Leafs and now someone wants to burglarize your home when you are not there or plan a home invasion when you are. An old flame could be stalking you. Perhaps someone saw you make a big withdraw at the ATM and they want to follow you home and rob you. Maybe they spotted your expensive watch, jewelry, phone, car, or whatever.

In the end, it doesn’t matter why, so much as it does that you are aware of the possibility and alert to your surroundings. But there are other reasons having alternate routes is a good idea. Maybe you need to get home without going near some police activity that has blocked traffic, or the interstate you normally take is closed due to an accident. Knowing the alternate route and being able to seamlessly slide over to it without raising your anxiety level is a win.

Keep in mind, this kind of unpredictability and the use of alternate routes may help if you are trying to avoid an amateur stalker or someone who is an inexperienced, but if law enforcement or a professional investigator (possibly hired by a spouse who wants to divorce you) is following your movements, they will rely on drones or electronic tracking, and all your alternate routes won’t matter.

Flexibility and Adaptability

Finally, getting used to unpredictability creates a degree of flexibility in your mind that can be important. Some people get up at the same time every morning, take the same route to work, stop at the same place for coffee, and arrive at the same time. They tend to panic or freeze if something changes their plan. These people feel protected in a stable environment where nothing changes and don’t have the skills to react appropriately when it goes to hell in a handbasket.

But those who expect the worst are not thrown off when it strikes. They think to themselves, “I knew this could happen!” and they take the appropriate action. If they have practiced said action, or even rehearsed it mentally, their chance of success is even greater.

Remember, when under stress, you act according to your training. Train yourself so you don’t freeze up when the SHTF. Train yourself on taking alternate routes, on taking cover when you hear gun shots, and on how to use a defensive handgun. Have a friend follow you home and see if you spot them. Practice how you can break contact if someone is following you.

I’m not suggesting you gain the skill set of a CIA agent, but learning some basic precautions can’t hurt. Learning to act, rather than react, can also help you write your own story and avoid being caught up in someone else’s narrative.

There are other ways of being unpredictable. Change things up and don’t always go to the same restaurant or bar. Pay be cash sometimes and credit others. Take mass transit one week and ride share the next. Look at your habits and change them up.

Bugging Out

Having alternate routes and even alternate methods of travel is also important when it comes to bugging out. In other words, have a Plan A, a Plan B, and maybe a Plan C, D and E. For example, if an earthquake disables the bridge you need to take to get from your home to your bugout location, you need to have an alternate route or a friend with a boat.

The best thing to do is to evacuate or bug out early, before crowds of like-minded people choke the roads, but if you miss that opportunity and the highways are jammed, you need to know an alternate route. You might also have an alternate travel method, like flying. Can you charter a plane to fly to a small airstrip near your bug out destination? Can you take a train to that general area, or maybe even hop a ride on a freight train like the old hobos? Once you get to the airport or train station, is there someone you can call to take you the last few miles?

I used to think that bugging out in an SUV or pickup truck with a couple of mountain bikes mounted on the back might be a good plan. Today, you might look at electric mountain bikes if you have the funds.

To summarize: avoid repetitive behavior and be unpredictable in your travels and schedule. Remain flexible, embrace change by adapting to it, and have a Plan B.