Stranded on an island, in the middle of the Atlantic. I looked around and realized… holy crap… what if the s#!t had JUST hit the fan? What do I have on me? Where is my family? How is my mental state? How do I get back home?
The questions swirled around me like a hurricane at the Hard Rock Cafe… burning pleasurably going down, but like the hardened hurricane drink, its dizzying effect was what tantalized my psyche more than I had gambled for.
Having just exited a 5-star luxury cruise ship with nothing more than a Cressi-brand backpack containing some miscellaneous items, it was time to really test myself for the coming apocalypse. Was I ready? Would you be ready? After all… nobody knows just when it will happen. This was the perfect impromptu test.
Thoughts swirled through my head more in that moment, than they did when it was announced that Barrack Obama was elected as the two-time dictator-in-chief of this once prosperous and great nation. Should I slit my wrists now and melt away the pain, or sit back and watch the slow agonizing death of my friends and family while suffering along with them? Clearly, I chose the ladder.
Fortunately, for homeland security’s sake, my thoughts didn’t include the fate of our Dear Leader, but rather they focused inward and made me question, quite literally – everything…
- What did I have on me that had a real-world practical use?
- How much water did I have?
- How could I carry water?
- Where was my family?
- How could I protect myself?
- Did I stand out?
It was the last question that really hit home.
I’m not new to the world of international travel, violence, or self pleasure; which helped immensely in my decision making process. I looked around and saw 12 people. The woman to my immediate right was holding a cruise-line specific hand bag and an oversized poncho that screamed, “I’m a tourist!” to anyone who wasn’t raised on common core edjumacation. Her husband was clearly oblivious to fashion of any kind, as he wore his Curacao shirt in Bermuda… soooo not trendy.
However, the man to my immediate left, and slightly behind me had been walking too close for comfort, and his skin tone matched the local motif. His right hand was in his pocket, but he wore his watch on his left; indicating that perhaps he was yielding a weapon, or simply practicing public self-fornication. Either option creeped me out, so I stopped to tie my shoelaces, and let him pass on the left as I kept a watchful eye.
Three other locals were hailing taxis for the all-too-willing over-payers, and blended in perfectly. There was an elderly couple on the bench about 15 yards ahead of me to the northeast; she was fanning herself with a map, while he was huffing and puffing from the disembarkation process 30-yards ago – obviously they were tourists that posed no credible threat. Under the slight overpass directly in front of me stood another 4 young men kicking a hackie-sack, and smoking weed, oblivious to the real world around them. I chose to make a wide path around the Cheech and Chong-onians to avoid getting hit up for a “gooood time maaaan”.
In less than 5 minutes, I made it to the café at the beach, and sat in the far corner so I could watch everyone without anyone passing behind me. This has become a habit at this point. I opened my bag and did a quick check to see if I could make it in a worst case scenario.
This item had traveled with me to Amsterdam, through Greece, Italy, Turkey, Spain, Canada, US, and now Bermuda… it was the first item I always packed, and I always make sure it is with me. It can stop handgun rounds as well as knives, yet blends in so discreetly that not a single TSA agent stopped to inquire about its purpose since I acquired it.
Next was my Kershaw pocket knife. The ship had told me to leave it in my room, but when I discovered that I could have it hidden in my waistband as I walked through security without tripping the alarm, I never went shoreside without it. I wasn’t breaking any international laws or anything, as the blade was only a couple inches long. Those inches could mean life or death in a grid-down situation… not to mention I hate being told what to do.
I also had a few rations of Cliff Bars, a “rite in the rain” tablet and pen, mask, snorkel, rain cover for my backpack, iPad mini, 12 one-ounce silver coins, one 1/2 ounce gold coin, $112 in U.S. Cash for toilet paper, a small compass, small flashlight and a stainless steel 1-liter canteen with “Caribbean” painted onto the side of it. I was wearing flip flops, swim trunks, and a lightweight t-shirt. Although this wasn’t suitable for some situations, it suited my unique situation just fine since temperatures in this area didn’t drop below 80 degrees very often.
Just as I was sitting back, feeling relatively confident about my immediate preps, should I find myself having to get back to the ship to catch up with my family in an emergency, a passenger came up to me and said, “Hey, great show last night!” Although usually this would be a great compliment to any entertainer, I was completely destroyed. My James Wesley Rawles survivalism fantasy bubble had just been popped and egg was running down my face; there was nothing I could do. I had overlooked the biggest prep of all… being the grey man. I humbly thanked them, picked up my bag, and sulked back to the ship to think about what I had done.
Many could argue that I had a very good “every day carry,” or that it was ill-equiped to handle any real situation. Surely someone is thinking that I should have “had this” or “had that” to get me through… The argument would be warranted from both sides, and carry on well past the rapture. But the biggest thing I learned was this… Always be the grey man.
Chance Sanders had cautioned me about this during our Survival Summit, and I clearly didn’t get the message. You see… I’m 6’1”, 175lbs, dark hair, distinctive facial hair, a few piercings, and carry myself with confidence. I am, after-all, an illusionist by trade. This played against me, and got me spotted faster than Hitler at Sabbath.
Reflecting on the situation, I needed to change some things. I learned some lessons that day, and hope to pass on a few quick “grey-man” tips for you.
- Your every day carry bag should have enough basic survival items to get you back to your family, and/or other supplies.
- You should always have some kind of protection against bullets or knives, especially if you’re in a state or country where it’s illegal to carry a gun (or knife) for personal defense. Unless you declare it as body armor, it’s just a fabric lining to your backpack I guess… I’ve also started to pay particularly close attention to international law enforcement. If I had to generalize my observations, I’d surmise that they are not as well trained as American Law Enforcement or citizens for that matter, and it would therefor be infinitely easier to acquire a weapon from someone less qualified to carry than a well trained patriot if your life depended on it.
- Your every day carry bag should blend in with your surroundings! For me, on an island, disembarking a cruise ship daily… a scuba-brand backpack blends in. My Caribbean-tourist bottle blends in. My clothing blended in. My hair, facial hair, and piercings did NOT. I should have had some sunglasses, and a hat at bare minimum, and taken out my piercings. Schedule depending, I would have shaved completely for a clean unrecognizable look. If I was in the states right now with a 7 year old son and a minivan, I’d keep an Easton Baseball Bag with an AR15 in it, a little league coach jersey with some grass stains to wear over my body armor, and some beat up Nikes in my car at all times. For those of you in your 40’s, keep a golf bag in your car with some golf shoes, a polo shirt, and khakis. An AK’s quite easy to conceal with your 9-iron… so do it where it’s legal.
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Rather than checking facebook, twitter, Instagram, email, facebook, twitter, Instagram, email, facebook (you get the point…), put your phone on airplane mode and get your head up. Experience real life for a change. See who is around you. I’m 100% confident that in one very specific situation in Costa Rica 9 years ago, I would have been mugged, beaten or killed. Keeping my head up and thinking on the fly kept me safe.
- You should have a primary bug out bag within distance of your every day carry at all times. In other words, if you have nothing on you, you better be close enough to your primary bug out bag to get it fast. If you have several smaller items, as I did, you can be farther away from your bug out bag since the items you have will help you get there quickly and safely.
- Don’t drink. Seriously. Situations are hard enough as they are while you’re sober. Can you imagine how hard thinking on the fly would be if you were singing like a frat boy on a Friday afternoon? You would never see the signs, and even if you did you couldn’t react quickly enough or efficiently enough to do anything about it. Stay alert, stay clear.
To quote a friend of mine, James Yeager: “Your responsibility to be ready for the fight never ends.” Be prepared.
Stay safe, stay legal, stay lethal.
Yours in Survival.
PS – A great tip for planning your “grey man bug out bag” is to create a PRIVATE wish list on Amazon. Purchase one or two items a month for a year, and by the end of the year, you have a bulletproof, invisible-man bug out bag.
PPS – Here’s a great video from my friend SouthernPrepper1 giving some more specific ideas for what to bring on a cruise ship if you’re a prepper. Enjoy!