On the beach at Pulau Tiga - home of Survivor : Borneo

Everything Happens for a Reason

I’m a silver linings person. I always have been. I don’t know why I’m wired that way, but I think it just makes it easier to live with all the crappy situations we have to face through life. But, even I of the “glass is half full” school of thought had to work hard to see the upside of what went down today.

See, today has been – on one hand – one of the best days of my trip to Malaysia so far. Along with about two dozen Chinese tourists, I joined a group tour to Pulau Tiga – also known as the home of the very first season of Survivor. I’m a TV and media geek, so to be able to say that not only have I watched the reality show, I’ve been to where it’s shot… it’s a merit badge I’m proud to wear.

Spoiler alert - the guy in the middle wins.
Spoiler alert – the guy in the middle wins.

The price of the tour was something I was unsure of at first – RM280 or about C$92. But, I had to remind myself that this trip is about more than just packing up my bags and moving around every few days. I stuffed my life in to a backpack for unique experiences. And – in reality – I’m not sure if I’ll ever be back to Malaysian Borneo (not because I don’t want to come back, but just from a logistical perspective it may be the only time in my life I ever make this journey).  So, I booked it.

This morning arrived and I made my way to Jesselton Point, the terminal where about 20 or so tour companies launch boats for their various tours. After a bit of confusion as to who was taking me on their tour, we got things squared away and I got ready to head down to the boat. I had my portable audio recorder in hand because I wanted natural sound to help set the scene for an upcoming episode of my podcast.

I walked down the pier – first person in line – and got to the boat. There was about an eight inch gap between the boat and the dock, and it necessitated me climbing up to get in the boat. As I did, my balance started to falter and I felt my right hand get lighter as I wobbled.  A chorus of gasps rang out behind me as I looked down to see the portable audio recorder was no longer in my grasp. It was on its way down in the water.

Let me pause for a moment to point out how crap situations seemingly happen in slow motion.  It’s like a fight scene in high frame rate slow motion.

“Noooooooooooooo…” was all I could muster.

With a lineup of people behind me waiting to get on, no space to maneuver, and dockside water that is littered with gasoline and trash, diving in to chase after the my quickly sinking audio recorder wasn’t an option.  The man who ran the tour company promised me someone would go down to fetch it later (although I couldn’t find him when we got back after the trip – I’ll try tomorrow).

Defeated and in disbelief, I sat down in the last row of the boat as a parade of Chinese tourists walked past me as they boarded. How could I be so stupid? How could I possibly have let myself drop what is such a critical piece of gear to my blogs, videos, and podcasts? I am so screwed.

Happier times with my Tascam DR-40 and its troll doll-style windsock. Only the troll doll's hair survived today's dip in the South China Sea.
Happier times with my Tascam DR-40 and its troll doll-style windsock. Only the troll doll’s hair survived today’s dip in the South China Sea.

As I sat back on the boat, I started to think about the cost of replacement – about C$250. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but on a backpacker budget it’s easily a week’s worth of hostels and food in a city like Kota Kinabalu. Then, I remembered, I bought travel insurance.

If You Can’t Afford Travel Insurance, You Can’t Afford to Travel

From all the reading I’ve done before this trip, while you can pack lightly and leave a lot of stuff at home, the one non-negotiable is travel insurance. You need to have some sort of security blanket in case you end up deathly ill in a foreign hospital and don’t want to go bankrupt in the process of having your life saved. That’s why, before heading out to Japan in September, I bought a six-month policy with World Nomads. Their price was competitive, and their policy had really good medical coverage (which is really the primary reason why you want to buy it).

As I read through my policy documents on my iPhone (thank goodness I didn’t lose that!) as the boat started to jet away from the pier in Kota Kinabalu, something struck me as concerning in my policy.

Trip means the period of travel stated in the Confirmation Letter. It begins on the effective date as stated in the Confirmation Letter and ends when You return to Your normal place of residence in Canada, or when the period of the Trip set out in the Confirmation Letter ends, whichever happens first.

That’s when my jaw dropped.

I went home to Saskatchewan – my normal place of residence – for Christmas.

Despite having purchased a six month policy from World Nomads, did I screw myself over by going home to celebrate the holidays?

I tried to push the thoughts of what happened at the dockside and the possibility that I might be currently uninsured away from my mind as the day went on so I could be in the moment and enjoy Pulau Tiga – and as a worry wart, I’m relatively proud of the fact that I was able to do just that. But when I got back to the hostel later tonight, I started to dig in a little deeper.

Trying hard not to think about the crappy events leading up to this moment.
Trying hard not to think about the crappy events leading up to this moment.

I dialled up World Nomads’ Canadian insurance partner, Travel Guard, and talked to Joe – a really good guy who was patient as I asked my Christmas break query. (I can sometimes get a little like Monica from Friends when I get flustered about something, so Joe’s patience deserves a gold star.) Joe confirmed that – indeed – I did screw myself over (my words, not his – he was way more diplomatic about it) when I stepped back on Saskatchewan soil for Christmas, effectively ending (early) my six month travel insurance policy.

"Pardon me..."
“Pardon me…”

How could I be so stupid?  Why didn’t I read the policy more closely?  How did I miss this important detail in all the planning I did?  Failure felt like not only an option, but the reality I was facing.

What really made my heart sink (faster than my audio recorder in the water – hahaha) was that this also meant since coming back to Asia on the 30th of December, I’ve been travelling without any valid insurance. (Insert expletive.)

Expensive Mistake Prevents Even-More-Expensive Mistake

No sooner did I hang up the phone with Joe, I was on the World Nomads site to book another policy – this time for five weeks, because that’s how far I have planned out for my trip here in Southeast Asia. Total cost – just shy of $200.

But not being insured isn’t an option. I need it. If anything (ANYTHING) happened to me while travelling, I’d be so screwed without proper insurance.

As I related the story to my parents tonight, I set their mind at ease that I was indeed properly insured now (well, 48 hours from now, since I bought my coverage while abroad and World Nomads has a holding period until it activates as a result – so I’ll be the one living in a bubble for the next two days).

But, in looking for the silver lining, I had an epiphany while talking to both Chris and my Mom.

Had I not dropped that audio recorder in the water…

I wouldn’t have gone in search of my insurance policy…

And I wouldn’t have realized that I’ve been trouncing around Malaysia without valid travel insurance.

I might be out a $250 audio recorder (for now), but I’ve saved myself so much more potential grief down the road. Everything really does happen for a reason – you just have to look past the crap to realize it sometimes.

3 thoughts on “Everything Happens for a Reason

  1. I’m sorry about the loss of your portable recorder. I’m glad that it brought to light your “Insurance-less” status. But I still hope that something even more positive will come out of this frustrating situation for you. I am really enjoying following along with you in your travels. Stay safe, journey on!

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