Latest posts by Sara @ Off The Map Travels (see all)
- Top 4 Reasons to Visit Colombia During Christmas & New Year’s - September 5, 2016
- The Caribbean Islands: A Vacation Full of Adventure and Local Culture - November 26, 2012
- Off the Map Travels’ Founder, Sara Nakash, interviewed by Global Goose. - November 7, 2012
Anyone who has traveled much has probably had an unfortunate experience while “on the trail.” Perhaps your wallet was lost while you were hiking trails in The Andes or you broke your wrist while trying to learn to surf on Kauai. As much as we want our travel experiences to all be good ones, the odds are that if you travel, you’re eventually going to have a bad experience.
The question is, what do you do when that moment arrives?
Some years ago, I learned a lesson the hard way. I’ve always had good luck with my travel plans. For a long time, I traveled and nothing ever really went wrong. I had heard of travel insurance, but I really thought that it was another money making scheme dreamed up by the travel industry. That was before my fateful trip to Queensland, Australia.
One of the “must-do” items on my list while living and working in Australia was seeing the Great Barrier Reef. It was December 2010—the middle of one of the worst rainy seasons that had been seen in years. I watched the news and knew how bad the weather was, but I knew it was going to be my only chance to make the trip, so I booked my travel anyway.
My plan was to fly from Sydney to Townsville (a town in Queensland). I would stay two days on Magnetic Island, just off of Townsville, for two days, and then take the bus up to Cairns to spend one day on the reef. I would fly back to Sydney from Cairns. Unfortunately, that isn’t what happened. I left Sydney, arrived in Townsville and Magnetic Island. Then, Cyclone Tasha decided to visit for the holiday.
As I sat in my hostel, preparing to leave the next day for Cairns (and the Great Barrier Reef!) the rain started to pour and the trees began to sway. The power went out for most of the evening, but I was still optimistic—after all, I was going to see the Great Barrier Reef the next day. However, as I got ready to check out of the hostel at 5:30 the next morning, I received the unwelcome news that the Bruce Highway (the main road to Cairns) had collapsed in the storm. There was no way I would make it to Cairns by bus. I scrambled to find an alternate plan, but only one airline was flying and their rate was astronomical. Plus, the Reef was inaccessible due to the inclement weather.
Disappointed, I decided the best decision I could make was to stay where I was and wait for the conditions to improve. And here is where I learned my lesson: My $30 bus ticket was non-refundable, as was my $350 airline ticket from Cairns to Sydney. Plus, now I also had to purchase an additional airline ticket from Townsville, back to Sydney. If I had travel insurance, so much of this unnecessary expense could have been prevented.
Needless to say, now, I buy insurance whenever I travel, no matter how long or short the trip. Happily, I was able to make the most of the bad situation I found myself in during my trip to Queensland. Though I never got to see the Great Barrier Reef that trip, I was able to have some neat little adventures. I visited the aquarium in Townsville, took a nice walk along the beach, and saw a movie. The most incredible thing, though, was seeing a koala and her cub while taking a walk on Magnetic Island. I was very grateful for that positive outcome to my unplanned situation, but I still learned a very hard and important lesson about the real value of travel insurance.
My preferred travel insurance is through World Nomads. They specialize in travel insurance for travelers who are independent and looking for adventure. They cover flights, lost and stolen property, and medical care. However, make sure to look around and compare different companies and plans that are most appropriate for your particular area and type of travel. Take my word for it and learn from my experience—no matter which company you use, insurance is one thing you do not want to travel without!
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