On March 15, I was reminded of the night the boat sank.
I fell asleep on a bench and woke up at 2: 00 a.m. with a jolt, crawling to the floor before a crew member came in and said, “Everyone, put on your life jackets.”That night I cried and panicked on the same bench, clinging to a Canadian friend. At night, I stabilized on the deck as it became more and more inclined, and then turned overboard into the surprisingly warm water as the rain fell. At night I jumped into the black volcanic rocks on the coast and climbed safely.
I was shipwrecked during a night trip to the island of Komodo in Indonesia.
I don’t look as often as I live. The wreck is part of me. I think about it every day.
Now that these five years have passed, I thought it would be an opportunity to look back and talk about the impact of this event on my life.About gratitude
“You realize that you have done well in relation to the wrecks, right?”a friend once asked me.
Yes. He was right. I pretty much had the best matter scenario.
In 2014, there was another shipwreck during a similar trip from Lombok to Komodo. It was much worse than my experience and my heart goes out to everyone involved. It was another reminder that we were lucky in many ways.
I am grateful that none of us were finished or seriously wounds in the wreck.
I’m grateful we were close enough to land so the crew could land quickly before they had to leave the ship.
I am grateful that there were enough life jackets for everyone on board, although there was not enough for a full boat.
I am grateful that I slept next to a dry bag with my debit card, phone and camera and that I was able to put on my sports sandals before jumping.
I am grateful that a crew member kept us calm and helped us as we jumped off the boat.
I am grateful that I landed in the rain on a part of an island where there were no Komodo dragons.
I am grateful that a dive boat nearby sent its dinghy to rescue us from the island after only 30 minutes of climbing.
I am grateful (and surprised) that my passport was recovered from the wreck.
I am grateful to my parents for supporting me and accepting my decision to continue traveling even if they wanted me to come home.
I am grateful to the friends, family and readers who have sent me donations to replace my belongings in Asia.
On boats and fear
I still action today, five years after, on boats. I tend to constantly think about the wreck of the boat when I’m on board. No matter how safe and professional the boat is, my default is always what it does when it comes down? until we are back on dry land.
And it can be very bad-like on the” small ferry ” from Ometepe to return to the mainland to Nicaragua, where it creaked loudly and hit so hard that it had to be constantly rescued. I was frozen in fear and closed my eyes as people around me threw up.
And on my wild night ferry from Aberdeen to Shetland in Scotland, the North Sea hit hard and I slept for maybe two hours. In a leaked interior cabin, Titanic scenes played out in my head all night. I could only sleep on the ferry because I had partied at Up Helly Aa until 8: 00 the day before and decided to get through the night.
There were all these long-tailed boat tours in Thailand, where I fixed myself on the bottom of the wooden boat and on the water, which slowly, slowly entered, waiting for it to catch the attention of the drivers.
And on my first visit to Guatemala, with a fully loaded lancha (small boat) on the Atitlan Lake of Jaibalito in San Pedro. I had the feeling that the boat was a bit crowded with the 14 of us and our bags. Frozen in fear once again, I closed my eyes and put my head all the time to warn one of my guests (“Kate. What’s happening? ARE WE ALL RIGHT? WHAT’S HAPPENING?” “I’m fine, we’re fine, I was already shipwrecked”) and then vomited in the privacy of the bathroom.
After five years, I think I have to live with it in the long term.
That said, there were times when I improved. Sailing in Belize was a big step in my healing process-it was a catamaran (and therefore more stable than a sailboat), we were in calm water, we only sailed during the day and slept on dry land. That and the fact that it was incredibly fun made it an overall fantastic experience. That even made me want to sail more!
On The Crowdfunding Platforms
When I realized that I was safely ashore, reality began. I had lost all my clothes except for four items, all my toiletries, my expensive orthodontic mouthpiece, and all my electronics and work equipment (except phone and camera) were ruined, including my laptop, which I needed to make money. I didn’t even have any underwear.
And I had extremely little money. A travel insurance payment was not guaranteed and it would take some time.
As soon as I announced the shipwreck on Facebook, many friends came and asked me if they could send me money. I sent them Paypal donation links and they generously helped.
Then came the difficult decision: would I ask my readers to do the same? Would I actively promote donations?
I was struggling whether to do it or not. I was in a privileged position and traveled around the world, although at the moment I had little money. In no matter was no one obliged to make me a donation. But many people liked my site and had read it regularly and they wanted to help me in my need.
Back in early 2011, GoFundMe and similar sites are not the hotbeds of power they are today. The way to collect donations back then was through a Paypal button. So I put it up, and also asked readers if they could donate, making it clear that just would be very much appreciated (most people donated more), it was absolutely no obligation, and it would not impact our friendship whether they did or didn’t donate.
It worked. I raised enough money to buy new tech gear, new clothes, new toilets, and keep me afloat until I got home a month after. The first things I bought were some awful inexpensive dresses. Then a laptop. Then underwear. (Priority.)
Everyone who gave a long, heartfelt, personalized email from me. (Except for the one who donated 17 cents. My email to him was equally grateful but significantly shorter.) After, I was able to get a travel insurance settlement, but it only covered a small amount of what I had lost.
Months after, a blogger friend was robbed of photography equipment while traveling. He sought out my advice and decided to go about it the same way I did. He also had the advantage of having lots of merchandise for sale, and he encouraged people to buy that stuff if they wanted to support him.
My intention was always to pay it forward-and I have and continue to do so. I have two regular charities I support on a monthly basis (Planned Parenthood and Doctors Without Borders), I have a few hundred dollars constantly being lent out on Kiva, and I make one-off donations to other charities, but today I also contribute to friends’ fundraising endeavors. Friend running a marathon for AIDS research? I donate. Cousin looking to adopt a new baby? I donate. Friend of a friend’s husband this suddenly, leaving her with two very young children? I donate.
And, more recently, another blogger friend was in a similar situation, robbed of her laptop while traveling and wondering whether to ask for donations. I donated. And even after the laptop was found and returned to her, I told her to keep the cash and spend it on backup software like Crashplan.
Now … how does this play into a world where people try to crowdfund their vacations?
That’s a completely different subject and one that could be its own post. If someone is soliciting donations so they can take a trip, I don’t donate to that. If someone is soliciting donations for a service trip, I don’t do that, either. I feel like money goes further if you donate to an actual organization, not for an unskilled worker to volunteer there.
I feel like my position after the shipwreck was different because 1) I had been providing my readers with free, valuable content for quite some time and 2) I had been hit by an unexpected disaster and has lost nearly all of my belongings.
I’m sure some people will read this as justification, as ” do as I say, not as I do. “That’s good. You are entitled to your opinion.
Even so, if this exact situation happened today, I wouldn’t ask for donations. I’m more financially secure and my site Now earns passive income in the background, so I would have survived far more easily.
On Visiting Komodo Island Safely
Since the shipwreck, I’ve had car from a dozen people sending me to say they made the same trip with Perama Tours and it was fine, so people should do it anyway.
Now that I’ve voted for over 3,000 words on this defining moment in my life, What’s the message I want you to take?
Please take safety seriously. I know a lot gets said about ” Don’t let fear keep you from traveling the world! “and” You could be hit by a drunk driver if you don’t travel! “and” It’s even safer than being at home! “and” Most of the time it’s totally safe!”
I get the purpose of those statements, but they’re overly simplistic. Travel can be risky. It can often be more risky than stay at home. And when you add traveling by boat in the developing world, you’re adding even more risks.
You could luck out and have nothing happen to you, like most people. Or something could go wrong while you’re traveling with a company like Perama Tours that is completely unprepared for any problem.
Please follow the safety advice I listed above. And if your intuition is screaming at you, that’s a sign to just say no. Even if you already paid.
If you want to visit Komodo Island, don’t take an overnight sailing trip. Do a day trip from Labuanbajo like I mentioned above. I’ve made it a mission to spread this information and I hope the overnight budget sailings eventually become obsolete.