Why Spring Water and Electronics Don't Mix
"My most memorable travel mishap occurred inside an electronic store – which doubled as a bank in Puerto Escondido, Mexico.
I needed cash to use in the local market, and since safe ATMs aren't readily available in certain parts of Mexico, I decided to head into the superstore to pull cash out – I'd seen many locals use this type of ATM during my trip.
It was pushing 95ºF (35ºC) that day, and I was sweaty, anxious, and dehydrated. I pushed my way through washing machines and computers to get in the long line, and waited.
Parched, I decided to pull out my water bottle from my pack. It all happened in slow motion. Without acknowledging the bumpy ride my water had taken throughout the day, I opened the bottle and it exploded all over me, and the brand new computers lined up alongside me.
I stood there in shock, covered in sparkling water, too terrified to look at how many computers I'd just drenched – all while 50 or more customers stared at me.
I was quickly descended upon by store security and retail associates. After a long parlay of broken Spanish on my part, and angry rapid-fire Spanish on the part of the store owner, I agreed to pay 7,500 pesos (roughly US $350) for a brand new laptop I could not afford, nor did I need.
After signing my contract, I walked out of the store and burst into anxious, uproariously laughter. The entire scenario was terrifying at the time, but looking back there are a few things I've gleaned from the situation:
1. Learn the basic language of the country you're visiting. It’ll benefit you both socially, and in times of trouble.
2. Carry cash on you in foreign countries, depending on ATMs is sometimes risky.
3. Learn your rights in the country you’re visiting. In my experience, I wasn't sure if I was protected by "the cost of doing business" as I might've been in the United States.
4. Stay calm. Getting angry or overly upset will not help your case when you're the underdog in any given situation overseas. Show humility.
5. Carry ID on you at all times. Without my ID they would have called the authorities to verify my identity.
6. Learn which banks and ATMs are commonly used among tourists and locals, and learn how far or few they are in regard to where you're staying. This way, you know when and where you should take out money to avoid scrambling.
7. Hydrate, sleep, and take care of your general health while traveling. You're far more likely to let your guard down, have an accident, or be subject to theft or vulnerability the more fatigued you are.
8. Look up hospitals, safe modes of transportation (i.e marked taxis, buses), and the location of your local embassy.
9. Have a sense of humor. Most travel mishaps that seem traumatic in the moment, heightened by foreign language and settings, make for great dinner conversation years and years later.