Keeping Your Beach Safety Around the World
The workplace becomes a fairly dull, frustrating place come the middle of winter. I would often catch myself pretending that my desk wasn’t buckling under the pressure of endless stacks of files, and that my email inbox was becoming emptier and emptier, instead of more full. If I closed my eyes long enough, I could drum up visions of palm trees, sugary white sand, and turquoise waters lapping at my feet. Who doesn’t love a beach escape in the middle of winter, or anytime for that matter? Though spending a week on a beach in paradise can be just what the doctor ordered, if you’re not prepared, frolicking at the ocean’s edge can be a dangerous. So before you hit up the boss for some much needed time off, and book that all-inclusive deal on Expedia, there are a few things you need to consider to ensure that your beach holiday is everything you want it to be.
Practice Water Safety
In the United States alone, it is estimated that ten people die every day from drowning in the ocean. These deaths, for the most part, are completely preventable. It is believed that something like 37% of North Americans are unable to swim and well over 50% of individuals world wide never learned to swim. Startling statistics right? The good news is you don’t have to become a statistic yourself, so first things first, if you plan to spend any time in the water, how good of a swimmer are you? Sure, we all love the idea of stepping off of a plane, dropping our luggage on the beach, kicking off our flip flops and running full speed towards the ocean. Most of us have no idea what awaits beneath the water’s edge. I’m not talking about sea monsters, I’m talking about rip tides and cross currents. Depending on where you are in the world and how diligent the locals are about water safety, rips and strong currents are often indicated by signage. Most major beaches around the world have a color system that indicates whether the water is safe to swim in. Pay close attention to these signs, it could mean the different between life and death. So brush up on your swimming skills, and pay close attention to signs before you go wave dancing.
Attain Lifesaving Skills
The next thing to consider when going on a beach holiday, is keeping you and yours safe, meaning, if you’re on a beach that is devoid of life guards, having the skills required to help someone if something goes wrong is a gift. When a drowning does occur, several factors are at play, and I’ve witnessed the tragedy myself while vacationing on a beach in Bali. A tourist went wading too deep into the water, in spite of flags warning against it, and took too much water into her lungs. When other tourists on the beach realized she hadn’t returned, it was too late, and no one was on the beach had the lifesaving skills that were needed to bring her back. Don’t let this happen to you, or your loved ones. Taking a basic CPR course before you travel is one of the greatest favors you can do yourself, and one of the most important gifts you can give someone else.
Sun Worship the Right Way
Now that we’ve covered some of the more serious points, let’s talk about general safety. Sunscreen. Those of us who live in the northern hemisphere consistently flock south of the border for a little sun worship, all with hopes of coming back to become the envy of all our coworkers with that sun-kissed glow. That all sounds well and fine, except, more than half of us will end up spending the better part of our precious vacation time nursing a blistering sunburn or a nasty bout of sunstroke in the confines of your hotel room. Trust me, I am speaking from experience. I once spent the entire day out on a speed boat whipping around the karsk peaks in the south of Thailand. I was having the time of my life, watching dolphins play amidst the waves, ducking in and out of secret coves or jumping off the back of the boat for a bit of snorkeling. Sounds wonderful doesn’t it? It was, until I woke up in the middle of the night with a soaring temperature and skin so hot, you could have cooked an egg on it! If I had just remembered to reapply sunscreen after getting in and out of the water, kept myself hydrated and spent a bit more time in the shade, I wouldn’t have spent the next two days getting room service, dragging my sorry self back and forth to the bathroom.
Staving off Sunstroke and Burns
Sunstroke and sunburns are no joke, and if we’re talking about it in a purely esthetic sense, there is nothing sexy about coming home looking like a cooked lobster. Take note that the sunscreen you may use back home may not be strong enough for those countries that hug the equator or fall below it. Make sure to purchase sunscreens that are at least SPF45 and if you know you’re going to be getting in and out of the water, choose ones that are designed specifically for that purpose in case you do happen to forget to reapply. Also, there is no shame in spending time in the shade. Think of it this way, if you can find yourself a beach dotted with giant umbrellas, you can spend half the day playing in the ocean, or catching some color, and the other half getting lost in a good book under the safety of good shade. Doesn’t that sound like more fun than burning to a crisp by high noon?
One of the number one reasons that individuals have to cut their beach vacations short is simply because they forget to hydrate. I can’t tell you how many times I watched young vacationers drink the day away only to find them absent from the beach for days on end because they were nursing themselves back to health. While vacationing in the south of Morocco one summer, I remember one group of young backpackers who all had to fly home early because they had all dehydrated themselves so badly, they had to be hospitalized. Having a cocktail or two on the beach sounds heavenly, but it’s also the quickest way to bring on rapid dehydration and a whole host of other problems. When you decide to spend the day at the beach, ensure that you’ve packed a couple of liters of water per person, or, make sure that there is a vendor near by that will be able to provide you with water. If you’re really concerned, consider bringing along isotonic drinks, or sports drinks, that way not only will it help your body properly rehydrate, but such drinks help replace important salts and minerals lost while the body is sweating it out in the hot sun.
Now that we’ve got your health all wrapped up, your swimming skills are up to scratch, you have first aid skills under your belt, you’ve taken care of your skin and you’re properly hydrated, now it’s time to talk about the ugliness that can go on any public beach. The beach is one of the most common places that individuals lose their belongings while on vacation, and while it has yet to happen to me, I have seen it happen to a number of tourists. While vacationing in Portugal, I remember watching a couple march up and down the length of the beach in search of a camera bandit. They had left their expensive digital camera beneath their towel while they went for a dip in the ocean. I must admit, while I sympathized, I also knew that it was a perfectly preventable theft, and far too many tourists entrust their expensive personal belongings to no one while they spend their afternoons at play on the shore. Common sense says that bringing anything expensive to the beach is a mistake. Unless you are traveling in a large group, and you can ensure that someone is able to stay with your belongings at all times, it is likely that when you return to your lounge chair, or blanket, anything of value will not be there. So avoid a costly mistake, and only bring what you absolutely must to the beach. Don’t bringing money, cameras, or anything else that you are not prepared to part with prematurely.
It is inevitable that wherever you go in the world, if you spend the day on a public beach, you are going to face the onslaught of vendors that seem to run the same game whether they’re in the Mayan Riviera in Mexico or in Ao Nang, Thailand. They all schlep around with a suitcase or armful of wares, and float from tourist to tourist seeking a sale. Before you have time to say no in whatever language you can scrounge up, they’ve already unloaded their goods onto your towel, slipped a bunch of bangles onto your wrist and done their best to convince you that you need not two pieces of faux silver, but fifteen. We all know the deal, we’ve all been there. We’ve all haggled, and sometimes we’ve been successful and other times, the entire transaction has gone down in a blaze of glory. I remember negotiating over the purchase of a bag of fresh mango on a beach in Sumatra a year ago. I was approached by a woman and her gaggle of coworkers, it was practically a swarming. I noticed that while the main woman was trying to persuade me to buy the mango, the others were eyeing up my belongings, probably trying to determine how wealthy I was and how many mangos I could actually afford to buy.
When To Haggle
Don’t feel pressure into buying anything. If you’re not interested, firmly decline and keep an eye on your belongings if several of them approach you at once. It isn’t about assuming the worst, it’s simply about preventing temptation, so either keep expensive items hidden, or, as I mentioned before, don’t bring them to the beach. If you are interested in something I have a few pointers for you. Don’t buy anything at the beginning of the day, this is when vendors are trying to gouge you the most. It’s when their margins are at their highest and it is in their best interest to offload as many of their wares as possible so they’re not having to drag them up and down the length of the beach. Instead, consider making purchases at the end of the day for what they often call “sunset pricing”. These prices are deeply discounted, and the selection will be just as varied, so don’t worry about slim pickings!
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