As most of the world knows, Hurricane Sandy pummeled the East Coast last week, debilitating one of the strongest cities in the world, and in an unprecedented event, lower Manhattan was without power and completely dark for five full days. How did New Yorkers react during this crazy time? Some wandered the streets aimlessly, many camped out with friends who lived in NoPo (North of Power), but many chose to remain in their own homes in the eerily pitch black, post apocalyptic feeling downtown. I was one of those people.
And although I escaped several times to take a hot shower uptown or eat something other than Triscuits, I realized while washing my face with a wetcloth that preparing for a blackout was very similar to preparing for the unknown in travel. And so I bring to you the five reasons travelers were likely to fare better than others when living for almost a week without power:
- We have non-perishables: As travelers board a plane to an unkown destination, we don’t know where our next meal is coming from or whether or not it’ll be edible. And sometimes we’re afraid to eat the food served to us in these unknown lands, so we keep a supply of our favorite granola bars on us at all times. Plus we likely have some stocked in a cabinet from the last time we traveled and didn’t plow through our excess supply of larabars.
- Our toiletry bag is at the ready: Since we travel often, we have our clear plastic case (full of TSA-approved three ounce bottles!) pretty much at the ready and fully stocked, in case we decide to hop a plan at a moment’s notice (I really wish I did that more often.) So when friends came and rescued us to go have a hot shower at their apartments, we just had to grab our toiletry bag, a clean pair of clothes, and get the hell out of that cold, dark apartment.
- We have gear: If you’ve ever gone camping, you likely have a headlamp and/or lanterns. If you’ve ever gone hiking or traveled to a rainforest area, you probably have waterproof shoes and/or boots for walking through puddles and getting through unexpected weather. All of these items came in handy when we were walking around in the dark, sometimes in nothing but our headlamps and all-weather boots. Just kidding! Sort of.
- No cell service, no problem: I’m one of the few people who still does not have an international cell phone, and aside from when I traveled solo to Guatemala, I don’t usually rent one for international trips. Which means the only internet access or communication with loved ones, friends or any part of the outside world comes in the form of a daily trip to a hotel lobby with wifi (or if you’re camping, a trip to the nearby diner.) Last week was pretty much like that, but instead of being out all day doing interesting things and then coming home to check email, it was sort of reversed: we sat in the cold apartment all day trying to entertain ourselves until we ventured out to get wifi, cell service and communication with others.
- The water thing isn’t SO bad: Last week was not the first time I brushed my teeth with bottled water or had to go to the bathroom without flushing. In many parts of Asia and Africa, there isn’t running water, and toilets are basically holes in the ground. While others complained about the issue of not being able to flush, I was at least happy to be in a comfortable “first-world” bathroom. Although I can’t imagine how tough it was for people who were living for five or more days in their homes without running water, let alone those in third world countries who never have access to running water, ever. I was lucky enough to be weathering the storm with my apocalypse ready boyfriend, who was able to flush at least once a day by dumping gallons of water into the tank.
But in all seriousness, these minor inconveniences we had to deal with for a few days was absolutely nothing compared to the devastation some people in our area are still facing. We’ve resume our normal, everyday lives, and for many, that’s not going to be possible anytime soon or ever. My dear friend Jon has done an amazing job organizing a group called the Sandybaggers, comprised of various organizations and volunteers looking to donate supplies and lend a hand to those in need as the recovery efforts begin. If you want to learn more, or find ways you can help out, check out their Facebook page.
Hopefully now that the lights have come back on, we can appreciate the modern conveniences we use everyday and not take them for granted. Now let’s give back to those who need it, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and to those around the world.