I received an e-mail recently about a story that was in the news over the last few years. You may or may not have heard about it; I can honestly say that I hadn’t up until this e-mail came through. I promised the sender of this e-mail that I wouldn’t blast those involved with the company, but I would instead help bring awareness to travel safety. First, I’ll give you some background on what was supposed to be a great experience for one teenager and how it went horribly wrong. I have NO affiliation with the tour company involved or the Madoff family.
Tyler Madoff was a teenager from New York. He was on a trip to Hawaii with a teen adventure tour group. According to the articles that I have read, Tyler was hiking along a cliff side by the ocean with the tour group. Although under supervision, he and another boy in the group were swept out to sea, and unfortunately, Tyler was ultimately never recovered. You can take a look at some of the articles by clicking here, however, remember that the media isn’t always 100% factual so I’m only going on what the media has written and the letter I read, written by Tyler’s father.
I can’t even begin to imagine the pain the Madoff family has endured. I’d think they’ve been experiencing insurmountable sadness, anger, and frustration. I can’t say exactly what happened or why Tyler couldn’t be saved that day, however, it just so happens that I spent about a year living in Hawaii (Oahu) and I spent a “vacation” on the Big Island in that time frame. Hawaii is gorgeous, but it is wild. By that I mean there are tons of natural phenomenon that people on the main land may not be adjusted to. I know I wasn’t prepared for it when my family and I left Maryland to live there. We learned quickly that it was a VERY unique environment.
So instead of speculating about what could have gone wrong in this specific event, I thought I would put up a few safety tips for people planning to travel.
1. DO YOUR RESEARCH – KNOW WHERE YOU’RE GOING!
Of course you’ll know where you are going, but make sure you really KNOW where you’re going! A place like Hawaii, for example, can be deceiving. It is incredibly beautiful but it can also be dangerous if you aren’t careful. As most people know, the surf can be dangerous around any ocean, but in Hawaii you have to worry about things such as high/jagged cliffs and powerful waves. Not only that, but the wildlife is very different in a tropical environment. It’s best to know what you are getting yourself into and what to look out for.
2. IF YOU’RE GOING WITH A TOUR COMPANY, INVESTIGATE THEM.
Find out beforehand what kind of things you’ll be doing, what safety equipment will be provided, etc. It’s best to know what you’ll be experiencing ahead of time so you can properly prepare yourself. If they have a policy that makes you uncomfortable, you can find out in advance. Find out if the company is knowledgable about the areas they will be taking you. Do they have proper training? Certifications? etc.
Let people know what you’ll be doing. Call a loved one at home beforehand and share your itinerary with them. Better yet, give them a time frame that they can expect to hear from you again. If they don’t hear from you around that time, they will know to be concerned.
4. LEAVE A TRAIL.
Make sure plenty of people at home have the proper contact info. If you’re with a tour group, leave phone numbers for the company, leaders, etc. If you’re traveling alone, leave friends and family your cell number, hotel name, phone number, etc. The more who know your itinerary, the better.
5. USE COMMON SENSE.
This goes without saying, but common sense is key. If something seems unsafe, it probably is. Use your gut and know when to avoid a potentially harmful situation. Unfortunately, you can’t know everything that is going to happen, but if something doesn’t feel right, speak up or avoid it completely.
6. PACK WISELY.
Every place will require different things to pack. Knowing the environment you’re getting into will help with this. Always leave with a cell phone. Going somewhere alone? Bring a map. Going hiking? Bring the proper shoes, food, etc. Little things like this will help you along your travels.
7. BE SELF SUFFICIENT.
While someone may have some degree of responsibility over you, there is no promise they will be able to help when disaster strikes. Preparation is key. You can’t always predict a dangerous situation, but you can prepare for the possibility.
This post is no in no way intended to be the perfect guide to a safe travel experience. There are risks associated with everything, and when you go somewhere that you aren’t familiar with, you’re maximizing that risk. The best way to be safe is to research, research, research!
That being said, I would also like to send my condolences out to the Madoff family. No one should have to bury their child and they’ve had to endure a parent’s worst nightmare. Hopefully these tips can help prevent future mishaps for adventurers of all ages.