The Smart Traveler
Purchase travel insurance before venturing to a new destination. The more remote you are, the more expensive and time-consuming it will be to transport you to proper care. Check your basic insurance to make sure it is valid for the regions to which you are traveling and the activities you plan to do. It pays dividends to read about the country and familiarize yourself with the language, unique customs and general facts. Learn at least a few cordial phrases, and avoid social faux pas that could lead to an awkward situation or even violence. In Asia, refrain from touching a person's head (the most sacred part of the body) even though it is a congratulatory gesture to Westerners. Do not show anger or even raise your voice, as it is a sign of personal weakness.
Sometimes you might have to taste food that you might find disagreeable but is important to local culture, such as kava and betel nut in the Pacific Islands and Asia. However, if it is potentially dangerous, pass on it. A few years ago a large grouper in Baja poisoned a dozen people who ate its entrails, a local tradition.
Obviously, you should avoid sharks and other dangerous species. The teeth of wahoo, barracuda and others, and the sharp hooks that go along with them, are best dealt with by clearing the cockpit before you bring them on board or at least by giving the mate plenty of space until things settle down.
Renting a vacation home can certainly add to your enjoyment, with views of the ocean, remote setting and private pool often available. Be aware that isolation and privacy combined with a lack of telephone communication (verify before you go) and the perception of wealth prove very attractive to thieves or armed robbers. Make sure you have reliable radio, cell or telephone service to call designated people in an emergency. If there is on-site staff, ask them about any potential problems and precautions to take. Unfortunately, some rental agencies and owners are reluctant to provide information about crime. Consider hiring a security-guard service; after all, guards may be protecting other properties in the area, so why not yours too?
At one time I trusted unfamiliar crews and operators regarding my safety and well-being - but no longer. I discuss safety first and may ask questions that an experienced, competent crew may find insulting - but so be it. I don't hesitate to tell a captain to back off from a big shore break or to run from a lightning storm if I feel it's warranted. I give the crew the same tip whether I catch fish or not. I know of some ego-driven crews who catch trophy-class Central American black snook from the ocean side of treacherous river mouths by waiting for a brief lull in the huge waves, running in, dropping their live baits and hoping to get out before the next set starts. One day a boat didn't make it out. Fish just aren't worth that type of risk, and if you think they are, be sure to buy plenty of life insurance.
The vast majority of traveling anglers enjoy safe travels with little more than a sunburn. But you should always be aware of the existence of potential dangers, all of which can be mitigated by careful planning, common sense and awareness of your surroundings.