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I Spent Years Chasing Adventure and Almost Ended Up on the Doomed Titan Submersible — Here's What I've Learned About Staying Safe

I Spent Years Chasing Adventure and Almost Ended Up on the Doomed Titan Submersible — Here’s What I’ve Learned About Staying Safe

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“No, no, no!” I screamed frantically while lying on the ski-patrol exam table, as a first responder prepared to pull off my boot. “It’s going to hurt,” she warned me, “but we have to do it.” I’d broken my leg, and I was in for a long, lonesome night. Soon enough, I’d be shuffled from the mountain to a local ER and onward to a larger hospital where I’d undergo immediate surgery for a tibial plateau fracture.

Prior to that accident in the Kootenays of British Columbia, I’d always found travel to wild places both thrilling and rewarding, and I admire those who push their limits. In fact, I gave serious consideration to joining a June 2023 trip organized by OceanGate Expeditions to view the wreckage of the Titanic. That trip, which I turned down, ended with the loss of five lives, along with the Titan submersible. 

Illustrations by Marcos Montiel

The near miss, coupled with my injury, forced me to reckon with risk. Things like evacuation plans and travel insurance are now top of mind, no matter where I’m headed. Still, I’m not giving up my adrenaline-pumping trips. I’m just approaching them with a new mindset — and embracing this advice.

Dig for details.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions before you book, says Shannon Stowell, CEO of the Adventure Travel Trade Association. “The good operators will have a risk- and crisis-management plan,” he says. “Ask them, ‘What’s your plan for getting somebody out?’” 

Get covered.

Standard-issue travel insurance policies don’t cover all scenarios. A souped-up Explorer Plan from World Nomads, on the other hand, is broadly inclusive, even if you’re doing things like paragliding, rock climbing, heli-skiing, or cage-diving with sharks.

Be your own backup.

Getting certified in wilderness first aid can give adventurers peace of mind. Organizations including NOLS and Wilderness Medical Associates International offer multiday, hands-on training in the basics of life support as well as more advanced first-aid techniques.

Carry critical communications gear.

Most off-the-grid operators will pack a satellite phone as part of their emergency kit. Individuals can also carry their own SOS beacons, such as the Garmin inReach Mini 2.

Know whom to call.

In some parts of the world, simply reaching emergency services can be a challenge. The U.S. Department of State has a list of country-specific corollaries to 911 on its website. In Chile, for example, the number for emergency medical help is 131; Australia’s line is 000 — or 112 if you’re calling from a cell phone.

Keep your contacts in the loop.

Share emergency-response plans and the phone numbers for search and rescue services in the area you’re visiting. “Update everybody with all the phone numbers and details,” says Matt Mosteller, one of Canada’s top adventure and outdoor experts. And don’t forget to check if your emergency contact will be in reach during your travel dates.

Rethink your goals.

“Things go wrong when people venture out on their own, beyond their experience level,” says Saveria Tilden, founder and CEO at AdventurUs Women. “People get too focused on their goal,” she says, whether it’s reaching a summit or making a difficult passage by sea. “The goal should always be to come home.”

A version of this story first appeared in the July 2024 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline “7 Ways to Prep for Your Next Big Outing.” 

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