#BTReads: The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook
Fending off sharks, escaping from bears...getting through Y2K? The world looks a bit different today than it did at the turn of the 21st century, when The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook was originally published, but according to authors Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht, the book’s premise is more apropos than ever. “It’s odd,” Josh says. “It seems like once again, the timing is perfect. In 1999, it was Y2K. Now it’s…everything!” In honor of the bestseller’s 20th anniversary, the two are releasing an updated and expanded version of their survival manual (on sale April 30; worstcasescenario.com) for the new millennium. With tips ranging from how to hot-wire a car to how to deliver a baby in a taxicab, the authors’ sense of humor was a hallmark of the first edition, and two decades later, it’s still front and center. (How do you know if a clown is murderous? Is he wielding a weapon? Sharp teeth? Blood on his costume? Probably dangerous.) Covering an array of topics travelers will find handy—in-flight emergencies like extreme turbulence, flagrant seat-recliners, and tantrum-throwing kids, plus man-made emergencies like car crashes, train derailments, hijackings, and hostage situations, natural disasters like wildfires and tsunamis, and tech problems like navigating without GPS and what to do if your phone catches fire— the updated sections provide a comprehensive guide to dealing with our most pressing dilemmas. We emailed the authors to discuss the new info, the travel tips they rely on personally, and the backstory on that whole creepy-clown thing.
Choosing 'WorstCase Scenarios'
How did you decide on the topics for the new chapters? Did personal experiences influence those choices? (...Please tell me the murderous-clown section was completely hypothetical.)
Josh: All the clowns I know are happy-go-lucky types; Dave must know all the murderous ones!
Dave: Thankfully, my personal disasters have been more domestic and less life-threatening over the past few years! I’ll have a lot more to share when we write The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Mid-Life (that’s a joke—but only sort of!). Worst-Case has always been about providing people with both real information and entertainment—about making people feel like they can face their real fears and their irrational ones—so that’s where things like clowns fit in. Basically, we looked at what fears felt most topical and relevant in 2019 as opposed to in 1999.
Josh: There were some obvious situations we felt were timely and we had to cover. From news reports of autonomous cars injuring (and in one instance, unfortunately, killing) people, that was an obvious choice. Drones were another, since they are becoming ubiquitous, and, again, there are news reports of them causing havoc at airports, so we kind of just extrapolated from that. Tech emergencies was definitely a section we had to address.
Did anything feel different when you were writing the scenarios this time around?
Dave: We are living in tense times—these are times of intense disconnectedness from each other, of global unrest, of extreme imbalance with nature, of political and economic imbalance—way more than when we were writing back in 1999. That’s what really made us want to relaunch the book and the brand.
Josh: In general terms, the writing wasn’t that different since the process was the same: Do the research, find the expert, do the interview, and so on. Of course it took awhile of the two of us brainstorming to come up with the new sections that we liked, and that were “actionable.” On some of the specific entries, it was a little different because we had to be cognizant that now people rely on their phones to get ALL information, survival or not. So, clearly, in some circumstances you might be able to use a phone to get help (or instructions), but in some, you still really can’t, because you won’t have time. Or the alligator will have swallowed it.
Ha! For plenty of people, losing their phone would be an all-time worst-case scenario, never mind the gator. Given that you’ve added sections on identifying fake news, surviving a protest, and dealing with out-of-control smart homes and autonomous cars, it seems like you gave equal consideration to the current political climate and the tech industry. Was that your intentional focus for the new chapters?
Josh: Yeah, tech was 100 percent something that was on the radar—flaming phones, phones in toilets, getting doxxed. The book wouldn’t be a 21st-century survival manual without those kinds of entries.
Dave: Most of our fears come from a feeling that we lack control over our lives, and sadly, most people feel like we have even less control than we did twenty years ago—I would suggest mostly because of the mini super-computers we carry in our pockets and the constant barrage of “news” and social media and distractions they bring us. Our phones can been a great tool, but they can also be one of the most dangerous items we have.
Josh: I think there’s the (dangerous) political climate, and then also the climate-climate, as in disasters that are clearly climate-related, or getting worse due to climate change (How to Survive a Wildfire, and so on). We’ve always tried to tackle some of the fears that we think are common, or at least commonly held if not commonly occurring. Personally I think the issue of the lack of trust in journalism is very worrisome, so we wanted to address that in our usual way. (I’m a journalist, so do the math…)
Survival Tips in Action
Have you been in situations where you’ve had to put any of your travel-related tips to use? I'm particularly curious about the section on how to survive in-flight emergencies—the Snakes on the Plane segment was a nice bit of comic relief (though also very useful, and I will definitely be pulling my feet up on the seat if there are rattlers on board!), but the advice for landing a plane and surviving a hijacking felt especially charged.
Josh: Not the most extreme ones, thankfully. I have purified water, and I have used some of the navigation techniques. (I had my phone, but only as backup, of course!) And I’ve had an extreme seat recliner in front of me on way too many flights. For budget travelers, this is probably a regular occurrence.
Dave: I have used our own worst-case scenario advice when dealing with flight delays and crying babies on planes. I once had to get back into my rental car via the trunk because the key was inside, and I did once stowaway on a train back to Philly because I had lost my wallet and had no way to pay.
I mean, who hasn't done that? So what’s your favorite scenario in the book?
Dave: I loved writing the “How to Tell If You are Being Gaslighted” chapter—I think that’s happening a lot these days, and it’s important to recognize what you can and can’t do when someone believes they are infallible and can’t see the bigger picture. Sadly, there isn’t much you can do to change the attitude of an absolute gaslighter, so it’s really about recognizing it and moving on, but if the gaslighter seems a bit more moderate and is willing to actually listen to you, then trying to model the more open point of view the gaslighter needs can work.
Josh: I continue to like the classics (shark, bear, alligator, quicksand), but in terms of the new ones—and ones I’d want to remember, if it came down to it—are How to Survive a Flash Flood, Tsunami, Wildfire, and Grid Collapse. Not coincidentally, I think we all need to get used to a world where some of these extreme survival situations may become more common. The advice in the books is both timely and timeless—it sounds totally corny, but I really do feel that way.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Flying Tip: How to Guarantee an Empty Seat Beside You
We all love when the seat beside us is left free on a flight, but one airline has introduced a new fare that guarantees an empty middle seat beside you on a short-haul trip. There will be no elbows encroaching on your space with AerSpace, the new fare offering from Irish airline Aer Lingus, and this new premium travel experience can be booked now for flights commencing on September 1. A Roomier Flying Experience AerSpace guests flying to select destinations across the UK and Europe will be guaranteed an aisle or window seat on the first row of the aircraft, with the middle seat left unoccupied for a roomier travel experience. They will also enjoy reserved cabin space in the bins directly overhead, as well as complimentary lounge access, Fast Track security, and priority boarding. They will get to bring a free bag up to 44 pounds, and enjoy a complimentary snack and beverage from the in-flight menu. The new fare offering promises a seamless travel experience for those who require more space and comfort, whether it be for business or leisure purposes. “We are proud to launch AerSpace in response to feedback from our guests seeking a more premium and spacious travel experience when flying short-haul with Aer Lingus,” says Susanne Carberry, Aer Lingus’s director of network revenue and loyalty. Book Now AerSpace is available to book now for travel from September 1, and you can visit Aer Lingus.com for further information.Get inspired to travel everyday by signing up to Lonely Planet’s daily newsletter.
How to Have a Tick-Free Summer
Long sleeved shirts, long pants, hats, sprays, frequent body checks, and full-on inspections of kids before bedtime. Is that the summer you’ve been looking forward to? Unfortunately, the risk of tick bites - which can lead to Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI) - has made those rather un-festive rituals a necessity in much of the U.S., where ticks are especially active during the warm months between April and September. But a new government study, published in 2018 in the Journal of Medical Entomology, suggests that insecticide-treated clothing may be one of the most effective tick-fighting tools out there. In lab tests, clothing treated with permethrin (interestingly, a synthetic compound similar to the insect-repelling compounds found in chrysanthemums) was shown to cause ticks to fall off the clothing or make the ticks unable to bite the person wearing the treated clothing. Permethrin is found in tick-repelling sprays, creams, and shampoos, but the new study underscores that permethrin-treated clothing is effective at all stages of a tick’s life, causing the ticks to fall off “vertical” clothing such as pants and, after a few minutes, rendering the ticks unable to move normally or bite. Further, the amount of permethrin used in insecticide-treated clothing is quite low, and that the compound is “poorly absorbed” through the skin of the wearer, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. If you plan to spend the next few months hiking, camping, gardening, or other activities that most of us simply refer to as “summer stuff,” follow these important steps from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov/ticks): KNOW YOUR RISK You’ll find ticks (or, more precisely, ticks will find you) in grassy, brush, and wooded areas, including parkland, forests, and even your own backyard, garden, or tall grass. Avoid high grass and “leaf litter,” and walk near the center of trails rather than near brush and grass beside the trail. TREAT CLOTHING AND GEAR Purchase permethrin-treated clothing such as the clothing tested in the recent government study mentioned above (rei.com is always a good place to start shopping for outdoor gear), or spray clothing, boots, and camping gear with .5% permethrin, which will hold up through several washings, then require retreating. USE INSECT REPELLENT Look for compounds such as DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone. Important: Don’t use insect repellent on babies younger than two months old and do not use oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children under three years old. CHECK YOUR CLOTHING AFTER TIME OUTSIDE Check your clothing for ticks, remove any ticks you find, or tumble dry clothing on high heat for at least 10 minutes to kill ticks. (If you wash clothing that may be infested with ticks, use hot water.) SHOWER Well, this is always a good idea after a summer hike, but your risk of contracting Lyme disease from a tick bite can be reduced by showering within two hours of coming indoors from a tick-infested area. DO A BODY CHECK Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to check your body for ticks, including under your arms, in and around your ears, inside your belly button, the back of your knees, in and around your hair, between your legs, and around your waist. While checking for ticks is serious business, it doesn’t have to be done alone and it doesn’t have to be a total drag. For inspiration, check out Brad Paisley’s hit song (and upbeat public service announcement) “Ticks.”For travel inspiration, know-how, deals, and more, sign up for Budget Travel's free e-newsletter.
TSA Summer Travel Tips: 5 Things Every Traveler Must Know
Are you planning to fly this summer? Join the club—millions of us will be taking to the sky. The only potential downside to all that flying is the dreaded TSA security line. You know the drill: You get to the airport two hours before your scheduled takeoff and spend much of the time standing in line waiting to be wanded and asked about the contents of your bags. The good news is, the TSA has assembled a checklist to help your summer travels go as smoothly as possible. Here, 5 TSA tips every traveler must know. 1. Stay Hydrated The problem: Summer heat makes you thirsty, but you’re not allowed to carry water through security, and the bottled water sold at the airport is overpriced. The solution: TSA allows you to bring your favorite water bottles (empty, made of metal or plastic) through security and fill them up when you get to your gate. Just make sure your water bottle is completely empty before it goes through the X-ray screening. 2. Don’t Get “Hangry” Don’t let overpriced airport food make you fly hungry, which can make it difficult to manage any flight anxiety or the inevitable minor (or major) irritations that come with the flying experience. TSA says you’re allowed to bring plenty of food on the plane with you, including “burgers, chicken, pizza, pies, cakes, bread, donuts, fruit, vegetables, etc.” When passing through security, TSA officers may ask that you separate foods from other items so that your items can be screened properly. 3. Know the Rules for Flying with Beverages, Sunscreen, and Deodorant TSA shares some simple rules to cut through some confusion about flying with liquids. Liquids in your carry-on must be 3.4 oz or less (this includes toothpaste, by the way, something I learned the hard way on a recent flight; it also includes gel or spray deodorants and all sunscreens). But stick deodorants are not limited to the 3.4 oz rule, and neither are beverages or toiletries packed in your checked bags. A note about beverages packed in your carry-on: You are allowed to carry on alcoholic beverages in containers that adhere to the 3.4 oz rule, but you are not allowed to open them or consume them on the plane. (Only alcoholic beverages served by the carrier are allowed to be consumed on the plane.) And we always recommend packing carry-on toiletries and other liquids in a separate zip-lock bag for ease of inspection. 4. Get Through the Line Faster With TSA PreCheck TSA PreCheck allows eligible travelers to get through security screening faster, in some cases really fast. PreCheck travelers get through security in an average of under five minutes, and do not need to remove shoes, laptops, liquids, belts, and light jackets. Yes, you should apply for TSA PreCheck now. 5. Know What’s in Your Bag For experienced travelers, “know what’s in your bag” may seem a little obvious. But typically travelers are much more stringent about packing for the start of their vacation than they are for their return flight, where souvenirs and other items can complicate the screening process. It’s best to check out the TSA’s “What can I bring?” feature. We also recommend downloading the MyTSA app to help with all of the above concerns. TSA has a team of employees who are ready to answer your questions via Twitter at @AskTSA or via Facebook Messenger 365 days a year from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET daily. Or just pick up the good old telephone and call the TSA contact center at 866-289-9673.
"Flight Shame" Takes Off as the Buzzword of Summer
There are entire websites devoted to foreign language words that have no direct English translation. Shadenfreude—taking pleasure in others’ misery—is perhaps the most familiar example. Or consider cavoli riscaldati, the Italian term for attempting to rejuvenate an unworkable relationship (literally: reheated cabbage). When a person from the Philippines has the urge to pinch something adorable, he has gigil. Now there’s a new term making its way into the lingua franca, the Swedish word flygskam. Translation: flight shame. A record of climate change activism The term—and concept—is the product of increased awareness of the environmental impact of flying. Considering the conscientiously eco-minded behavior in Scandinavian countries like Sweden, it’s become slightly taboo to board a flight. This is the culture, after all, that gave us Greta Tintin Eleonora Ernman Thunberg, the activist who made international headlines when, in 2018, at the age of 15, she camped outside Sweden’s parliament building with a sign that read “School strike for climate,” an act that inspired her peers to get more engaged in activism around climate change. Sweden has instituted an aggressive plan to be carbon-neutral by 2045, a fact that puts its history of frequent air travel in stark relief. According to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, the nation’s aviation sector accounted for 1.1 tons of emission per person, five times the global average. It’s not a habit that’s easy to break, either. According to the United Nations, if initiatives to cut other CO2-emitting industries come to fruition, aviation will be the single largest culprit within 30 years. The impact of social media When it comes to drawing attention, few tactic work better than social media. On Instagram, @aningslosaininfluencers (translation: “clueless influencer”) chronicles the activity of celebrities who fly too often and too pretentiously. The account has more than 60,000 followers. However, unlike so many disparaging trends on social media, this one has an equal and opposite positive movement. Another new term, tagskryt, has taken hold as a response. Literally “train-bragging,” it’s Swedes’ way of broadcasting their pride in their green effort to opt for the train over flying. The Facebook group Tågsemester.nu has almost 14,000 members who post tips and tales of their train travels. Its Instagram account is packed with photos of people enjoying nature at eye-level, certainly something you can’t enjoy at 38,000 feet.