Travel is an exciting, enriching experience that millions of people around the world enjoy. It’s not always puppies and rainbows though, sometimes disaster strikes when we least expect it. With a little preparation and information though, you can make the best out of these true travel disasters.
1. All money/passport stolen – This is one of the greatest fears we all have when we travel. Whether it happens by accident or as a result of a robbery, being stranded in a foreign country without any cash, cards or ID is a frightening idea. I’ve never had my passport stolen, but I was cut off from access to money while traveling in Israel thanks to identity theft. In retrospect, I should have had a plan in place, it would have saved me a lot of angst. In that situation, Western Union came to the rescue as my partner wired money from home. Now whenever we travel we make sure we have a Travelex preloaded card in case our debit cards are frozen. We also make sure we never carry all of our cash/cards in the same place. In order to prepare for a lost or stolen passport, make sure you make copies of the photo page before leaving on your trip. Either carry these copies with you or email them to yourself. If you don’t have any identification, visit the nearest consulate or embassy for assistance. Even though it seems like the worst thing in the world, State Department officials are pros at verifying your identity and issuing temporary travel documents.
2. Charged by a grizzly bear – Don’t laugh, this happens more often than you think. In fact, there was a recent occurrence in Alaska when tourists on a sightseeing trip in Katmai National Park were surprised by a charging grizzly bear. Many of us love getting out in nature and exploring the amazing places graced by Mother Nature, but we do so at our own risk. So what should you do if a grizzly bear attacks while you’re on vacation? First, always make sure to carry bear pepper spray with you whenever you head out into the backwoods. In the event you don’t have pepper spray, or if it doesn’t work experts all agree that there are certain things you should and should not do. First, don’t run, the bear will just think you’re prey. After not running, drop to the ground, curl up into the fetal position and cover your head. Lastly, play dead and do not move, no matter what. If the bear doesn’t perceive you as a threat, it should leave you alone. It will be hard to fight human instincts to scream and run, but if you can keep your wits about you and follow these steps you’ll have a much better chance of surviving a grizzly bear attack.
3. Plane crash lands in the Andes – You’re traveling around South America when the unthinkable happens; your plane crash-lands in the Andes Mountains. Assuming you survive, there are some key tips you should heed in order to stay alive so you can sell your story to HBO. First, do not eat your fellow survivors. It’s rude and adds a rather morbid component to your story. Before your plane even takes off, you should acquaint yourself with the aircraft, always taking note of the closest emergency exit. I always glance around on every flight, just in case. Also be sure to wear comfortable but sturdy clothes. This means no pajamas; you won’t last long in the Andes without pants. Once you’ve crash-landed, stay calm but evacuate as quickly as possible. After you’ve escaped the plane, get as far away from it as possible in case of fire or explosion. Once you’ve gathered up the remaining survivors, build a camp complete with fire. This will be important to attract the attention of rescuers. While it will be important to forage for food and water, stay in a centralized area. Hopefully first responders will know that your plane went down and will start searching for wreckage. You don’t want to be too far away once they’ve located the damaged plane.
4. Paris runs out of Nutella – This may not be everyone’s greatest fear, but for those of us who love Nutella it certainly is. I can’t imagine visiting Paris without even having the opportunity to order a hot Nutella crepe, or to lather the choco-hazlenut spread over a baguette. Don’t worry, there are precautions you can take in case this ultimate worst-case travel scenario happens. First, always carry with you a small jar of Nutella as a backup. Not only is it great just in case Paris runs out of Nutella, but it’s convenient to have for random snacks while traveling. If it’s too big to include in your carry-on bag, then buy some of the smaller, single serving packages available throughout the world. Be careful though, if Paris does run out of Nutella, people will start to get desperate and you will be in danger. Never take it out in public for fear of mob attacks.
5. Cruise ship runs aground – My day job involves water safety, so this is something I know a lot about. Cruise ships have to abide by the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). Among many other details, the convention mandates that vessels must take certain safety precautions (like having appropriate number of lifeboats and life preservers) and that passengers must receive appropriate instructions for what to do in the case of extreme emergency. Even though many cruisers take these instructions seriously, many do not and that indifference could cost them their lives. As with most things, precaution is important in making sure you stay safe during an emergency at sea. Know where your life preserver is located and how to put it on quickly. Make sure you know the quickest route to your assigned lifeboat muster station. Be sure to walk it a few times so you don’t get lost in the chaos of an onboard emergency. If an emergency occurs, pay attention to all announcements and above everything else, follow crew member instructions. They are professionals and will know the full extent of the emergency and how to best protect you. Once you’ve successfully (hopefully) escaped the cruise ship via lifeboat, stay calm and continue to listen to crew instructions. Depending on your location, you shouldn’t have to wait long until rescue by the Coast Guard or other first responders.
These are my tips on how to deal with some of the worst case travel scenarios imaginable. Do you have any tips for dealing with disaster on the road?