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What To Do When Disaster Strikes

21 Sep
Private Jet in airport. disaster strikes

What To Do When Disaster Strikes

The thing bluewater sailing teaches you… is that if something goes wrong on a boat, you are all alone. The sensible person always has a backup plan, a Plan B.

In my 20s, I sailed a small yacht, mostly solo, three-fourths of the way around the world. This journey took seven years. (My sailboat is currently stored in Greece, ready for more adventures.)

On a boat, sinking is the worst thing that can happen… so a sailor must have a suitable lifeboat or raft complete with survival gear. I had a high-quality inflated dingy with two 5-gallon jugs of water and 10 days of canned food, always ready to be thrown into the ocean in the event my sailboat sank.

My sailing journey taught me early in life that you need to be prepared for worst-case scenarios… and I’ve tried to apply that lesson to every aspect of my life since then…

Disaster Strikes: When “Plan A” Becomes “Plan B”

Everyone has a “Plan A.” It’s typically what they want to do with their life, and, hopefully, how they are already living it. My Plan A is simple: I live in the forested suburbs of San Francisco with my wife and two young daughters.

We want to give our kids a happy childhood, letting them thrive in school and sports before they venture off to college or trade school.

Professionally, my wife—a medical doctor—and I want to move up in our careers and hopefully do some good for the world. Right now we’re succeeding on all fronts.

But I know from hard-won experience that this might not continue without disruption…

I originally established my reputation reporting in conflict zones for National Geographic—and I don’t mind admitting that I’m a prepper and something of a doomsayer.

I’ve seen too much fighting, carnage, and conflict to believe the world will end in some Disney fairytale for humanity.

But I do have hope. I think there are ways to preserve the best of the life many of us currently possess. But it’s not going to be through Plan A. You can forget about that. It’ll be through “Plan B.”

I’ve always had a Plan B. And in fact, I’ve tried to develop different Plan Bs for different doomsday scenarios…

Using my sailboat as a metaphor, we are all sailing alone in the deep sea. And each of us needs a Plan B in case a storm or a pod of killer whales or a giant freighter sinks our boat…

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Disaster strikes every generation in some way. Whether it’s war, a plague, an earthquake, terrorism, or something else.

What’s more, given the increased tension and political polarization in the world right now, disaster might strike in ways that that few anticipated even just a few years ago.

Civil war in America seemed unimaginable eight years ago. Now major news organizations, politicians, and even my friends and colleagues discuss it openly.

A Plan For Every Disaster

So, how can you prepare for the end of the world as we know it?

My Plan Bs are all based on context. A giant earthquake in San Francisco that leaves looters and gangs roaming the streets is very different than World War III between China and America. The global pandemic was a very different experience than the tidal waves that wrecked Indonesia and Thailand in 2004. You need different plans for different situations.

Having said that, there are always a few core things we all need. For starters, buckets of nonperishable food and water must be easily available in storage, ready to be immediately moved along with your family during an emergency. Second comes medicine, guns, and some type of easily tradable monetary value. I prefer cash, but it’s always good to have gold, jewelry, and maybe some crypto, too. Next, have a good all-wheel-drive vehicle with extra cans of fuel nearby.

These core things are just tools to get you out of the immediate impact of a disaster. After this comes the hard part: actually rebuilding your life in a way that doesn’t look like you stepped back into the Dark Ages.

My Plan Bs have centered around two things. First, there’s my real estate scattered around the globe, carefully acquired over 20 years. Second, there’s my skills.

Let’s start with skills. In the case of a true breakdown of modern civilization, everyone should know the basics of hunting, fishing, growing food, and home building. Knowing about medicine, how to use ham radios, and fixing combustion car engines are also super important. Specialty skills like how to use a sewing machine or fiberglass a hole shut on a damaged boat will also be highly important. I consider myself an expert in all these—and many more.

Let’s hope a disaster of epic and unlikely proportions—like a large asteroid hitting Earth—doesn’t happen, and our Plan Bs just involve getting away from where we lived to somewhere else…

In this case, nothing is better than owning a second home somewhere, preferably in a different country with a dependable government.

My go-to in North America is my uninhabited 68-acre island in Nova Scotia. It’s got a small cabin, lots of timber, and even wild game to hunt—as well as abundant lobster off its shores. There’s fresh water on the island, and while the winters are cold, it’s not unmanageable. Plus, my island is 100ft high, so only the largest tsunamis could ever hit it.

My go-to in Europe is my small chateau in Bordeaux, France in the rural Entre-Deux-Mers region. Perhaps even more useful than the numerous bedrooms of the stone house and gite is the attached seven-acre vineyard. Grapes and wine can be valuable commodities to trade in the event of a long-term disaster for humanity.

In South America, I have another vineyard. It’s in Mendoza, Argentina, at the base of the Andes—which could be another sanctuary from world troubles.

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I’ve long believed that every prepper should own property in the Southern Hemisphere, or near the equator. If the climate changes significantly… owning property in different geographical locations could be the wisest decision you’ve ever made.

It’s quite possible an ice age could hit the northern parts of Earth but not the south, or vice versa. The best plan is to own in both regions.

Another wildcard to consider is a super-volcano eruption in Yellowstone Park, spread between Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. This could annihilate the western half of the United States. In this case, I’d probably head to my oceanfront property in the Bahamas, where the fishing is good and the people are friendly.

How Do You Get There?

The biggest problem during a disaster could be getting transportation to your international properties. I wish I was rich enough to own a jet so I could just hop in my plane with my family and safely cross oceans. Maybe in the next 5 or 10 years I will achieve this. But right now I’m reliant on commercial flights and non-air transportation. The best way around this is to own a seaworthy sailboat or powerboat (or to have enough cash, crypto, or gold to quickly be able to buy one).

I own a small but sound sailboat in Greece called The Way II that my family and I could theoretically cross oceans with, but again, it’s the getting to Greece from where I live in America that is the hard part.

In the end, I think a major goal for every prepper must be to have their own plane that flies across continents and oceans—or at least have their own boat that’s always accessible wherever they are.

Catastrophes, disasters, and watershed human events don’t obey any timeline—they strike when they strike.

For this reason, the proper prepper is never done preparing for coming disaster.

You should always be looking for better ways to survive and new properties to acquire in order to safeguard your way of life.

One last thing…

Even if none of the “backup assets” I’ve acquired—international properties, boats, guns, and gold—ever gets used in an emergency… I will still be able to pass on these assets to my loved ones when I’m gone.

Hopefully, those nearest and dearest to me will be wise enough to keep in place a strong “Plan B” for when the world falls apart.


Zoltan Istvan

Contributor, Simon Letter