“August is hurricane season, isn’t it?” I asked myself, before booking the flights to Grand Cayman Island. “It’s okay! There won’t be a hurricane while we are there.”
The year was 2004. It was my first international trip in a dozen years and I was excited! Grand Cayman was such a wonderful destination that my parents had chosen to go twice and my dad is not keen on flying. They hadn’t taken me, being that I was in college and all. I wanted to go someday and that day had finally come!
The week started out with beautiful weather. We snorkeled daily and went diving a few times. Mid week, there was talk of a hurricane headed our way. There wasn’t much news about whether it would hit Grand Cayman Island or not. The news coverage was US based and focused on whether the hurricane would hit Florida and where.
The locals started hurricane preparations, because Grand Cayman was expected to be hit. We were nervous. While travel insurance wasn’t on my radar yet as a must have, we did have dive insurance (I believe it may have included some trip coverage, too). We decided we would stay unless ordered to evacuate.
We were able to get in some great diving at Ghost Mountain and Stingray City. Stingray City was on my must dive list. It did not disappoint, even when a stingray got up close and personal with me!
I was nervous about the hurricane. My youthful optimism was sure we would be fine. I’d been through evacuating before a hurricane before. However, it was the Outer Banks of North Carolina and we were driving. It was rather unpleasant; I was a teen and my parents were the ones making the decision to stay or leave. Traffic was the worst I’d seen and our 14 hour drive home was at least 20 hours.
There was so much wind. The rain wasn’t hard like a Midwest thunderstorm. It felt soft, at least early on. We didn’t venture out after dark. It was nerve wracking. We were expecting it to be bad enough to lose power, maybe for days. However, Charley was kind to the Caymans. It changed course and we only experienced the outer edge of the storm. It was later in the season when Hurricane Ivan swept through and caused considerable damage to the Caymans.
Florida wasn’t so lucky. The damage was pretty bad as far inland as Orlando. In fact, the only time that Charley affected my traveling party was on our return trip. We’d originally been scheduled to fly through Orlando. We were rerouted and ended up getting home a few hours earlier than we were originally scheduled.
Nowadays, I wouldn’t consider traveling without insurance. I’d also never dive without dive insurance (I used Divers Alert Network or DAN). Thankfully, during my dive certification class, they drove home the point that you needed dive insurance or you could end up paying for a $30,000 trip to the hyperbaric chamber. I’m sure the cost of that has gone up in the last 15 years.
We woke the morning after to a calm day. My traveling partners and I toasted surviving the hurricane unscathed with a bit of kahlua in our coffee, thankful our hurricane experience was mild.
What has been your most harrowing experience while traveling?
*all pictures included are scans of prints.