Luke Armstrong | Feb 4, 2021
I will give an overview of three potential travel plans going awry and arm you with strategies to survive them from expert advice, hard data, and tips from my own ragged experience traveling here, there and everywhere over the last 10 years.
How to Survive an Earthquake
In my expat home of Guatemala, we get little tremors all the time. Sometimes we get big tremors that lead us to think it's "the big one." This has caused me to become a bit obsessive in reading up on what to do in the event of an earthquake. It also caused me to sleep with a motorcycle helmet on my nightstand, my reasoning being that if the big one struck, it would be better to go into it helmeted than not. So far, no one seems to doubt this logic, and I recently learned on a visit to Tokyo that in Japan earthquake helmets are a thing. Leave it to the samurai!
Some expert advice about how to survive an earthquake goes against my own natural inclinations. If the big one struck when I was in a building, I would want to get out of that building immediately, but apparently trying to move during an earthquake puts you at increased risk. If you are in a modernly engineered structure, the expert advice to survive an earthquake is to drop, cover, and hold on.Drop on your hands and knees before the shaking knocks you down. This position protects you from falling, and it allows you to move if necessary. Cover your head under a sturdy table or desk. If there is no such shelter, stay in a clear and open area. Hold onto your shelter or your head and neck until the shaking stops and move with your shelter if the shaking shifts it around.
When dancing a dance you don't know, don't worry about your feet. Look at other people’s arms and torsos and imitate what they are doing. If you focus on the step and beat and feet in time, you will only trip yourself up making you a laughingstock to the locals.
Fake it with your feet and make it with your smile. Put all your energy into your upper half. For those who smile at you with that knowing grin, the one that says, "I'm-onto-this-farce-you-call-our-local-dance," give them that signature smile that says, "I'm sorry, I am a stupid gringo, and everything confuses me." (Nomads Nomad, 2015).
People mull around dazed after a disaster because of a phenomenon called normalcy bias. Wikipedia's quick and dirty definition of normalcy bias is, "A mental state people enter when facing a disaster which causes them to underestimate both the possibility
of a disaster occurring and its possible effects."
Avoid normalcy bias by not avoiding thinking about potential dangers or disasters (something you're already doing just by reading this article).
Before taking off, know where the nearest exit is and think about how you will sprint to it in the event of a crash. Actually read the safety card in the seat pocket in front of you each time you fly. I don't care how many times you've heard the spiel
before, listen to the safety information flight attendants provide before takeoff.
Be proactive by wearing shoes, not sandals, since escaping a crash might involve you sprinting over flames. Avoid getting drunk before or during a flight (I'm talking to you Lori).
We are socialized under the assumption and with the education that in a disaster there is someone we can call. If there's a fire, we call the firefighters. If there's a break in, we call the police. Who are you going to call if there's a ghost? You're going to call the Ghostbusters obviously.
But life doesn't work so cleanly. Often in a disaster or emergency, it's you and your wits and your reaction time against the situation. What research on disasters and emergencies of all sorts has shown is that a little bit of preparedness goes a long way. The best thing you can do in life, as on trips, is to hope for the best, be aware of the worst-case scenarios, be prepared for those scenarios, and face things head-on.If you've made it to this site and are looking into purchasing travel insurance, then you're already well on your way to being a travel ninja ready for anything.
Important information from the United States Fire Insurance Company.
Luke Maguire Armstrong is the author of "The Nomad's Nomad." He has spent the last decade traveling, writing and designing, and funding philanthropic programs around the world.