In the previous article I discussed ways you could keep yourself safe on a more macro level. I discussed things like learning about crime in the areas you’re going, knowing the location of important places like hospitals or embassies, and making sure you have a contact back home who knows what you’re up to and where you are. If you haven’t read it make sure when you’re finished with this article to go back and read that one.
In this article I’m going to be talking about some things my wife and I have done to ensure we have what we need to get by if something happens in the country we’re staying in, like the collapse of local government, unrest, or a natural disaster.
Have Cash on Hand For Emergencies
As they say in the business world ‘cash is king’ and the same is true during emergency situations while abroad. You may not always have time to hit the ATM, public transportation doesn’t accept checks, and the man with spare seats in his car may not be able to process a credit card. Having cash on hand is vital to ensuring you have options if something were to happen.
I recommend having enough cash in your possession to pay for basic transportation, food, water, a night in a hotel, and maybe a plane ticket if feasible. This should cover almost any scenario you might run into in any given emergency situation.
I’m not saying you should carry all this money on your person at all times, as that creates different risks, but having pocket money for a bus or meal and then keeping the rest in your lodging would be sufficient.
And I’m not even saying this will be used in life or death scenarios, it could be something as simple as you missed the last train out of an area you were visiting and need to spend the night. It could also mean you didn’t pack enough water on a hike and you have some cash to buy water from a local vendor who doesn’t take cards.
24 Hour Kits
Whether you’re traveling for a few days or you’re in it for the long haul I strongly recommend having a 24 hour kit. A 24 hour kit is a bag, preferably a backpack, that has enough water, food and other supplies to give you the tools you need to survive for 24 hours.
There are numerous sites that list what you can pack in a 24 hour kit and we’re more then likely going to post our own article of what we pack in our 24 hour kits so stay tuned to the website for that. Generally speaking you want water, food, medical supplies like bandages and medicine, something to keep you warm, and a multiuse tool. This isn’t a comprehensive list it’s just something to get you on the right track.
You could also repurpose your carry-on as a 24 hour kit. Having a few changes of clothes, bathroom supplies and the supplies for survival can get you through whatever crisis you might need it for. I would still strongly advise having a backpack, but a small piece of luggage or a duffel could do in a pinch.
For those spending a longer period of time abroad, like my wife and I did when we lived in Costa Rica for a month, having a small cache of supplies can mitigate a lot of problems that might happen in disaster scenarios.
We like to build up a supply of clean water and food wherever we’re staying for more then two weeks. Having that peace of mind knowing that in the event of a natural disaster or civil unrest we could hunker down in our Airbnb and have the supplies to keep us going for a week or two is very comforting.
When I was in El Salvador serving a religious mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints my companion and I were stuck indoors for a few days because of tropical storm Agatha. Roads were washed out, homes were destroyed and lots of places were flooded making travel impossible. Fortunately we had plenty of food and water in the apartment and could stay safely inside without any problems. We heard horror stories of people venturing out to find food only to be swept into storm drains and never be seen again.
You never know when natural disasters will occur, store workers will go on strike, governments will raise prices on commodities, or water purification systems will fail. Having the supplies you need to hunker down for a few days to a few weeks can turn a potentially life threatening situation into a minor inconvenience.
Again these tips are not meant to discourage you from travel or to make you paranoid. The amount of catastrophic things that have happened to my wife and I while traveling are rare and those times it did happen were no big deal when we implemented the above steps.
Author: Benjamin Baker
After serving abroad in a religious capacity for two years Ben has felt the pull to travel and explore ever since. This desire was further fueled by his wife Maddie and the two have traveled to many places over the last few years. Ben’s hope is that by sharing his knowledge and experiences obtained while traveling that others can improve their lives and the lives of others through travel. Check out additional articles written by Benjamin.