Being Prepared for Emergency While Traveling: Anthony Bourdain’s Beirut Episode

Every Monday I will break down one of my favorite Episodes of No Reservations and talk about what I learned from it and why it is my favorite.

Then you’ll definitely want to join in the conversation on Tuesdays as we talk about what happened the night before!

Also, you’ll want to follow me on twitter @sojournerabroad so that we can talk live during the new episodes!

“They’ll destroy our country and we’ll pay for it.”

Tonight Tony goes to Rio which I am excited for, but I don’t think there has ever been an episode of television quite like the Beirut episode of No Reservations. Tony visits Beirut because he wants to show how much Lebanon has changed from what it used to be.  Unfortunately that change was short lived.

When Tony arrives in Beirut he meets up with his local guide.  The guide talks about living through horrific civil war times and the many issues that Lebanon had faced in their history.  He characterizes Beirut as a section of the country that is past the conflict and for the most part he is correct.  The people (despite great diversity in language and religion) put aside their differences and live together well.  Unfortunately this part of the world is so scared by conflict over thousands of years that it is hard to believe that any sort of lasting peace is possible.

Just hours after Tony has arrived and after only his first meal in a Lebanese Cafe, Tony and his guide begin walking through the streets of Beirut.  They visit a memorial to a murdered former Prime Minister and talk about how the times have changed.  We then hear gun shots.  Automatic weapons not a couple of blocks away.  Hezbollah supporters begin storming the streets, parading their flag, and firing off weapons.  Tony and his crew quickly return to the hotel for safety.

The next morning they wake up to find out that the airport, the very one they arrived in just hours ago, has been bombed.  They call in a fixer, Mr. Wolf (obvious Pulp Fiction reference), and he moves them to a safer hotel.

Now, I won’t pretend to know everything about the 2006 conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, but it seems that they are avoiding kidnapping and hostage situations more than the bombs themselves.  Tony and his crew wait over a week before they are able to be taken out of danger by the marines.

This episode illustrates something important for all aspiring travelers to keep in mind: BE PREPARED!

When things deteriorate, they deteriorate quickly!  You never know when an emergency situation will arise, so it is best to be prepared.

Here is my list of 5 things to keep in mind for emergencies:

  1. Always have your identification (passport, drivers license, etc.) on you, but in a safe place.  Don’t put it in your back pocket where people could get it.  Keep it hidden and close.  Also keep a photo copy of it separate but equally safe.  This is what we did in Haiti.  We hid our passports and carried photocopies.  You need identification and you don’t want someone else to end up with it.
  2. Be prepared and willing to hide.  Again to use my experience in Haiti… we were walking up the street to a hardware “store” when a large group of people came down the street protesting the presence of former president Bill Clinton.  Now I don’t know what they were saying (I don’t speak Creole) and I am not sure why they don’t like the help that someone like Clinton brings to Haiti.  But our guide (a huge 250 lb muscular Haitian guy named reggie) looked at us and said “hide!”  So there the three of us we were (a united states police officer, a man nearly as large as reggie from Chicago, and me the 5 foot 8 skinny guy) huddled in the back of this hardware store hoping nothing bad happens.  I don’t know if it would, but I trusted my guide and I was willing to hide!
  3. Have an emergency list.  A hard copy of contacts as well as allergies you may have or anything else you may need in an emergency.
  4. Create a emergency flash drive.  This can serve as a back up to your hard copy emergency lists.  It also needs a hidden folder where you can keep a scan of your passport and other IDs.  You can put bank account info or anything else you may need in an emergency, but want hidden, into this hidden folder.  You may also want to denote that the contents are for an emergency, in the case that you are unconscious. Put white tape around the flash drive and put a red cross on both sides.  Most everywhere in the world will recognize it as ’emergency’.  After writing this, a commenter on reddit added this advice for the flash drive: “You could create a partition on your flash drive with TrueCrypt, or even simpler, compress your files to a zip or rar file with password protection that also includes encryption.”  I agree with him (or her) that either way you should take precaution to keep that information safe.
  5. Tony mentions that his fixer told him that a kidnapping takes three days to set up.  I don’t know how accurate it is, but if you are traveling to a place where kidnapping is a real possibility, don’t make yourself an easy target!  Mix up your routine and don’t stick in one place too long.

What are some of the measures that you take for safety when traveling?

3 Responses to “Being Prepared for Emergency While Traveling: Anthony Bourdain’s Beirut Episode”
  1. vyvacious says:

    Great post! My friends joked with me for weeks before I left for Europe about not getting abducted like in Taken or Hostel. I would always just laugh it off but it was in the back of my head at times. I’m glad you pointed out the very chilling truth that we have to be aware of when traveling a foreign country. Not sure where I plan to go next year but I’ll definitely heed your emergency tips. Thanks!

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