What I Learned From Handling a Crisis (or 3) Overseas

As soon as I had purchased my Eurotrip flight in May, I had been lusting over June 17 to come so I could finally see some cities I had been dreaming about.  It was officially the furthest I had ever been from home and also the longest time I had been away from the States.  I was extremely excited, but a part of me was anxious about an emergency happening while I was gone that I would have no control over.  Unfortunately, it took place a couple of times, directly and indirectly.

I am going to discuss three situations that made my chest hurt and my stomach drop.  They put a sour taste in my trip for a few days and while I am normally bold and confident, I felt helpless. I am going to be transparent with what I could have done within my locus of control and what (if anything) I would do differently the next time it occurred. 

The Indirect

The July 2016 Dallas Shooting

July was a hard month for the mental state of Black America.  Call it selfish, but part of me was relieved to be out of that environment and gain some moments of peace.  Literally, day after day, people were being slain for no reason, and it was taxing.  I even had made a quick video on my Snapchat in response to so many people telling me to "be safe".  To sum it up, I thanked everyone for their prayers but they needed to be just as careful if not more careful back in the States. And then it happened.  The tragedy hit my own city.

The beach always clears my head, so I retreated to The Hague, Netherlands prior to going to Amsterdam. I needed the quiet time to get my thoughts together and my happy back after the shooting in Dallas.

The beach always clears my head, so I retreated to The Hague, Netherlands prior to going to Amsterdam. I needed the quiet time to get my thoughts together and my happy back after the shooting in Dallas.

I felt sick to my stomach to see Dallas in a state of panic.  It is never comforting to see cities "fall" for a brief amount of time (natural disaster, shootings, etc) but when it's where you sleep, it touches your soul in a different way.  I was worried about some of my friends that were in that very vicinity at the time of the first shot.  I got chills because if I had been back home, I could have been there myself.  I also did something stupid (i.e. reading internet comments of ignorant folks) while reading news stories and just kept to myself for two days. 

I did not know how to process what was going on.  Earlier in the day I saw a group of Muslim men peacefully protesting and in that moment, I just cried and prayed.  I empathized with them.  I wanted to run home and hug my friends.  I felt guilty for being in Europe while home felt like a battlefield. I was angry at the world and just wanted to be alone.  It sucked pretty bad.

The ISIS July 2016 attacks

Aside from attacks back in Dallas, Europe was not exempt from the danger.  I had written a post about terrorism not curbing my travels in April, and I am glad it didn't, but there were still levels of discomfort. 

It seems as though each time I left a country, drama would soon follow.  My coworkers even joked around with me about how I was escaping the danger, but to be truthful, it was mildly chilling.  I cannot count how many times when I prayed that I would just thank God for covering me and keeping me from harm's way.  To know that I was sometimes only 100 miles away from an attack wasn't a peachy feeling.  I knew in my gut that a terrorist attack free summer was next to impossible to expect, but I did my best to just operate as "normally" as possible on a day to day basis.  Yes, I had thoughts that brought some nerves (i.e. choosing to sleep in a hostel inside of a train station, continuously relying on subway systems, being in large crowds, etc). but I knew I had to keep living

Peaceful protest in Brussels, Belgium.

Peaceful protest in Brussels, Belgium.

The Kicker

As if July wasn't already enough of a buzzkill, I got a slap of reality towards the end of my trip.  Insert: Identity Theft. I was too through.  I was livid at Bank of America because I caught it before they did.  I was upset because I only had 8 days left of my trip left when it happened. 

I had been very diligent in not taking out more than 120 euros at a time out of an ATM because if I had ever gotten robbed, I didn't want the criminal to get all of my coins.  I had given Bank of America a travel notice and the dates I would be abroad.  Shame on me for expecting them to do their job, you know, monitor my card usage. 

Now, normally in my daily routine, I monitor my account just in case I see anything weird (Hey Airbnb, I'm talking to you too).  But since I was abroad, I wasn't as diligent.  It was only until I was checking my balance before selecting a new hostel, I noticed a significant amount of money was missing from my account. Aside from feeling robbed, I felt helpless and defeated.  I kept a good face for the first 36 hours of knowing what was going on, but about two days in and short on euros (since they shut my card down), I was feeling defeated and just wanted to go home. Thankfully, after a [not so] friendly conversation with Bank of America, they allowed me to make my final transactions on the card and take out a lump sum of Euros prior to permanently cutting the card off. Mild victory, major frustration.  I think the worst thing about it was the fact that the fraud was taking place in New York, while I happened to be in Europe. Grrrr. 

Because, when you are handling a crisis overseas, gelato makes EVERYTHING better. Photo taken in Florence, Italy. 

Because, when you are handling a crisis overseas, gelato makes EVERYTHING better. Photo taken in Florence, Italy. 

How I Attempted to Prepare for the Worst

I had sent my mom and close friends some "preparations" in an email that prayerfully would not need to happen. Between some passwords, funeral wishes, contact information, and life insurance, I felt like I had done a decent job.  The only thing I need to get squared away for my day-to-day affairs as well is a living will.  It's pretty chilling to plan for something tragic happening to you, including your death, but it is a responsibility that we as adults need to take.  I realize that even though I am a young 27 years old, I am not invincible.  

What I Would Have Done Differently

I should have traveled with a backup card in case a monetary emergency occurred (which it did).  I was also pretty adamant about only relying on wifi to get by.  Between iMessage, What's App, and my temporary Facebook messenger usage, I was alright.  It wasn't until I needed to call home, that I could've kicked myself for not having the smallest amount of data available to me.  I had even gone about attempting to buy a sim card, but because my iPhone was unlocked, it wouldn't work.  StruggleBus.com 

What I Learned from These Experiences

Your faith must be your foundation, there is still good in the world, and trip guilt is a real thing. I prayed a lot throughout my trip throughout the good and the bad, and I ultimately decided that if He can bring me to it, he can bring me through it.  When I got out of my feelings and looked at things from a different lens, I was able to realize everyone isn't bad.  Just because we have racial tension in the States does not mean that experience will be mirrored in Europe.   I also realized that even though things were bad back home, I was still having the best moment of my life and I needed to soak it up.  I would be able to do my part when I got back to Dallas.  I decided to continue to spread light through my Instagram in a time when I would scroll and see slain men on my feed. 

When the various attacks took place in Europe, I was able to see the resilience of its people.  It sounds crazy to say, but they continued on with their lives, almost as if nothing had happened.  They maintained their normalcy and went about their business.  Yes, it was weird seeing men carrying rifles in bus stations, but other than heightened security in some cities, I realized I had to simply keep pushing.  There was no point in me getting anxious every time I took a subway because that would do nothing aside from steer me away.  I prayed for God to keep me covered and the rest was in His hands. 

I was surprised by people reaching out to me to help me when I was not expecting such kindness at all.  I also learned that sometimes you can plan your tail off for certain things, but it will still throw you off when you finally experience it.  Sometimes you have zero control and need to let situations be.  Would spending $500 to fly home really make a difference in the long run? Probably not.  Lastly, I learned to simply appreciate every day for the good and the bad, because there is a lesson in every struggle.

What I Learned From Handling a Crisis Overseas

It is never fun to have to deal with crisis while you are abroad and it can rip the euphoria away instantly.  However, I'd encourage you to evaluate the situation, take a deep breath, and still try to enjoy yourself.  As always, I am praying for your safe journeys wherever you are headed.  

Related Post: Three Ways to Cope With Being Frustrated Abroad

Have you ever had to deal with a crisis abroad? How did you manage? Let's chat.