At the end of September, I walked to the grocery store in the Honduran capitalâ€™s outskirts. Â The next day I sat for a few hours in a port-city.Â That week I put a few miles on my shoes on one of the countryâ€™s Bay Islands. However, most of what I know about Honduras I learned from a guidebook.
Because five days into a minimum five-week visit to Honduras, the unexpected happened.
Did You Know…
September through November is hurricane season in Caribbean.
Even before my trip, tropical storms had been brutalizing the eastern seaboard and Caribbean islands.Â Due to past experience, I know the havoc storms can wreak on a trip.Â I dug deep into the policies Insure My Trip (an insurance search engine I always use for trips 3 months or less) proffered.Â I read fine print, being sure I found every mention of the word â€œhurricaneâ€ or â€œstorm.â€
It took awhile to find a policy that covered â€œtrip interruptionâ€ a la hurricane.Â Even then, it only covered you if the policy was purchased within a few weeks of the trip.Â Purchase too far in advance?Â No coverage.Â Purchase after a storm has been named?Â No coverage.Â We all know insurance companies work hard to cover as little as possible, and this situation was no exception!
Quick interlude: yâ€™all know travel insurance often covers both medical issues abroad as well as things that ruin or cripple your trip, right?Â If not, check out Travel Insurance 101: Do You Need It?
So anyhooâ€¦ thirteen days before the trip, I wiggled into the tiny window of hurricane insurance protection Iâ€™d found.Â I took out a policy with Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, the best compromise between quality (good reviews) and price.Â Also, I was quickly sick of reading insurance company fine-print, and they were the first company that had what I was looking for.
A few days before I took out the policy, I met someone at the Tiny House Workshop I attended who had also been to Honduras.Â He brought his Lonely Planet for the country to a coffee date, and I gratefully devoured it.
Doin’ Me Some Book Learnin’
(If you don’t want to learn about Honduras, skip this section.)
Turns out colonialists have been taking what they pleased from Hondurans since at least the days of good olâ€™ Chris Columbus.Â Here’s what I learned:
- â€œHonduransâ€ is kind of inaccurate.Â Apparently citizens identify first with their ancestry, then maybe religion, and thenÂ Honduras.Â E.g. Itâ€™s said that Hondurans in the Bay Islands and Miskitu coast sometimes have more affinity for the UK (who controlled parts of Honduras through 1860) than Honduras itself.
- When Columbus finally managed to land in the Americas, it was a Honduran Mayan he kidnapped to act as his local guide.
- The conquest years decimated 95% of the indigenous population.
- When a local man â€“ Lempira â€“ successfully organized a resistance to forced servitude, the Spanish colonialists responded by importing African slave labor.Â To this day the county honors Lempira with its currency: Lempiras are what you spend in Honduras.
- Although Honduras declared its independence in 1821, hard times didn’t end.Â Some of you know â€œBanana Republicâ€ as a mid-scale clothing brand.Â However, the term was first coined to describe a tropical country where bananas dominated exports to the tune of 80% – controlled, of course â€“ by companies based outside the country.
- Two fruit companies â€“ Dole and Chiquita â€“ built a duopoly in Honduras.Â In their bid for industry domination, they picked sides politically.Â The face-off led to dirty deals, a promised railway that never materialized, and land grabs that left Hondurans without access to food.Â Years later, they would succumb to pressure to return the landâ€¦ but only after they realized it would make the companyâ€™s life easier.Â Why deal with the problems and risks involved in owning and caring for land when you can convince a farmer to give you an exclusive contract and deal with the hassle?Â Score!
- As the workers absorbed banana pesticides that were banned in the US for causing migraines, vision loss, infertility, cancer, and birth defects 1for god sake, people.Â If youâ€™re going to buy bananas at all, please pay the tiny bit more for organic.Â Itâ€™s better for you and for thousands of farm workers, they endured a few decades of dictatorship, a few decades of rebuilding democracy, then another few decades of dictatorship.Â In 1980, the people finally prevailed, getting back a congress and electing a president.
- That didnâ€™t stop the banana pesticides or change the fact that only 11% of the land in Honduras is arable (suitable for growing crops).
- It also didnâ€™t get rid of their super-poor neighbors with even bigger problems.
- It also didn’t keep child refugees whoâ€™d escaped to the U.S., internalized American entitlement, hit endless barriers in their quest for the American dream, and turned to the only lucrative life available to them â€“ crime – from finally being deported back to their relatively lawless homeland.Â The gangs for which Honduras and El Salvador are now famous, the gangs that give the Honduran capital the moniker, â€œMurder Capital of the World,â€ were born in Los Angeles.Â An aggressive deportation scheme from 2000 to 2004 saw the return of 5,000 criminals per year, bred on U.S. soil, and dumped back into Hondurasâ€¦ a place where the average daily wage might cover a restaurant meal..
Acts of God?Â The Unexpected:
Right before the astronomical influx of criminals in Honduras, a hurricane named Mitch destroyed the foundation in which Hondurans had been investing.Â Itâ€™s said the storm erased 50 years of progress, taking out every single bridge in the country and destroying 70% of roads and crops.
I didnâ€™t find out about Hurricane Mitch until after Iâ€™d already purchased my hurricane protection travel insurance..
On my fifth day in Honduras, I woke to clear skies.Â Another hot and humid 85 degree day brewed on the eastern horizon.Â The storm that would hit later that morning ended up being a personal oneâ€¦ also covered by travel insurance.
While I sat on a shady porch swing getting a few hours of work done, I got a message from my little sister â€“ a registered nurse.Â She was sitting in a hospital emergency room waiting for damage evaluation.Â My grandmother had just had a stroke, future unknown.
The point of this whole trip to Honduras was to spend some quality time with my mother â€“ the first ever mother-daughter trip of our lives.Â It was the first of seven trips I hope to add to my bank of Mom-memories over the next several years â€“ seven being the number I think we can reasonably fit into the remainder of her mobile life.Â (If that doesnâ€™t make you starkly aware of just how short life is, maybe this will.)
I cried when I explained to the SCUBA school owner what was happening back home.Â My mom cried when I pulled her aside on the SCUBA training dock to tell her what had happened to her mother.Â She teared up again as we drove to the ferry, passing all the island attractions we had just added to our bucket list.Â Sheâ€™d been looking forward to this trip all year.Â The grief of facing her motherâ€™s mortality and the loss of our trip hit her in wave after wave as we made our way to my grandmotherâ€™s bedside.Â I was numb from too much travel and focused on logistics.
The biggest irony: on the flight home I watched airplane TV.Â The final scribble in my Honduras trip log is a note-to-self to try and find a song that caught my ear on a TV show:
I guess the universe has a sense of humor?Â Or maybe itâ€™s a yin-yang thing, my attention being caught by an uplifting song on a day that was definitely not â€œThe Best Day Ever.â€.
Do I Still Hate Travel Insurance?
Regular readers knowÂ Â I donâ€™t love insurance.Â Of any kind.Â It seems like such a scam.Â A ploy.Â A way to profit off of peopleâ€™s fears.Â My adversaries call me an idiot.Â (And I am, technically, an idiot.)Â They say that insurance is the best thing to happen since sliced bread.Â They say itâ€™s an incredible first-world privilege to be able to take the risks involved in home ownership, travel, driving a car, and being alive and pay to have the potential consequences mitigated.
In my late teens and early 20â€™s, as a relatively healthy person who had narrowly escaped several calamities, as a person who painstakingly grew her savings account by less than a hundred dollars each month, I found the idea of insurance and its associated cost downright offensive.Â Nothing bad was going to happen.Â I had proof – i.e. two decades of life unscathed!Â And in spite of my extensive proof, you want basically the entire amount I manage to scratch together each month for my savings account?Â Go. Take. A Flying. Leap.
Now, with more than ten years of travel under my belt, after a busted ankle in the Philippines, after an emergency hospital visit in Cambodia, and now after being able to race to my grandmotherâ€™s bedside (vs. anxiously awaiting flights in my out-of-pocket price range)â€¦ Iâ€™m a little less vocal about the down sides of travel insurance.
Itâ€™s true that I havenâ€™t made a claim on the majority of insurance policies Iâ€™ve taken out over the years.Â Itâ€™s also true that they few times I didnâ€™t take out a policy and something happened, I was able to pay out-of-pocket without much financial pain.Â But the biggest truths are that:
- Iâ€™ve now broken even in the travel insurance department
- time has worn me down: I now buy travel insurance for almost every travel segment.Â For 90 days or less, I find a policy through Insure My Tripâ€™s search engine.Â For anything longer, I go with World Nomads since True Traveller is only available to to UK and European (EEA) residents.Â (More on all thatÂ here).
Do â€œhappy travelsâ€ mean traveling insured?Â You decide.
Safe Travels, yâ€™all! ♣
|↑1||for god sake, people.Â If youâ€™re going to buy bananas at all, please pay the tiny bit more for organic.Â Itâ€™s better for you and for thousands of farm workers|