Photo: Joe St.Pierr
Travel lesson 1: Living without power
When I lived in Ghana, the electricity shut off every other day due to an ongoing drought in the Volta Region. Consequently, I got in the habit of using a gas stove to boil water for cooking and cleaning. A headlamp came in handy because it freed up my hands to do other things. I also went to bed earlier than normal, since I didn’t have the distractions of television or internet.
Hurricane application: Blackouts
Living without power isn’t the worst thing in the world — it’s just inconvenient. I used my headlamp and hung flashlights from the ceiling, to more easily play drinking games and flip through magazines. I usually never have time to read, but with Facebook and Twitter out of the way, I managed to finish seven books.
Travel lesson 2: Always carry a water bottle
Ever since almost passing out at the pyramids while on a trip to Egypt, I always keep a source of clean water nearby, as I get dehydrated easily. Reusable water bottles cut down on waste, and not buying bottled water every five minutes saves you money that you can spend on things like sampling fried grasshoppers at a Japanese market.
Hurricane application: Water contamination
I filled up every container I could find in my house — empty Coke bottles, margarita pitchers, even Gladware — with water so I wouldn’t have to worry if this resource was shut off. If the thought of keeping tap water in Ziploc bags is unappealing, start early: Buy a Brita filter and dedicated containers and fill them all before the storm hits.
Travel lesson 3: Refrigerator triage
I had a baller apartment when I lived in Slovakia — two bedrooms, a sweet furnished living room, a balcony, views of the Tatra Mountains, and cable TV — except it didn’t have a refrigerator. Since I was only there temporarily, I learned to live without and used the “smell test” to determine freshness (i.e., if it smells bad, it is bad), and usually did my shopping day by day.
Hurricane application: Stocking up on non-perishables
Just because you can’t use your microwave doesn’t mean you have to live on processed junk. Surprisingly, foods like eggs, certain cheeses, fruits, vegetables, and even butter have longer shelf lives than we think. And never underestimate the power of pasta and peanut butter — the meal possibilities are endless.
Travel lesson 4: Embracing public transportation
One of my favorite things about travel is getting to use different public transportation systems around the world. Zoning out to my iPod instead of watching the road feels awesome, and I always meet cool people in my subway car or next to me on the bus.
Hurricane application: Gasoline rationing
Only using my car when absolutely necessary, after the storm I got a lot of exercise walking around my neighborhood to get things I needed. I had to buy locally since I couldn’t get very far, and I learned to use the bus system on Long Island, which is surprisingly efficient.
Travel lesson 5: Layering
Many countries keep their thermostats to a minimum in the wintertime, relying instead on heavy blankets and clothing to keep them warm at night. When I lived in the Czech Republic with no heat in the dead of winter, I learned how to layer to effectively retain body heat.
Hurricane application: Lack of heat
After the storm, I went around and made sure my neighbors had enough warm clothing / blankets to get them through the colder nights. Hot water bottles are also a great way to warm up — just boil water, fill up an empty Gatorade bottle, stick it at the foot of your bed, and you’re set.