When the topic of “getting home” comes up, the conversation typically focuses on gear, bags, weapons, food, shelter, fire, etc.
But one thing that most people overlook is cash! Cash can get you out of a lot of jams. This world is run by currency, and cash is almost always accepted.
In the plastic world that we live in, not as many people carry cash anymore. Take just a second right now, and put your hand into your pocket or purse…do you have any cash? If not, you are vulnerable.
Just ask the thousands of people that rush to the bank every year as hurricanes make a beeline towards Florida. Why? Because they want to make sure that they can purchase items if the power is out, or credit card machines are not working.
Unfortunately, most don’t think to carry cash at any other time. This is a mistake…you don’t always get a warning when an emergency is on the way.
Seventeen years ago, on September 11th a good friend of mine and his wife were visiting New York City on vacation. They had planned on spending a nice long weekend together to celebrate their anniversary. They had a flown in the day before, and were enjoying their morning coffee when suddenly they started hearing sirens from every direction.
Not knowing what had happened, they quickly flipped the news on to see that the World Trade Center had been hit by a plane. They were far enough away that they never heard the building fall, but they quickly found themselves in a city with no exits.
Both Chris and his wife grabbed their cell phones, but neither could get a call out. They saw on the TV that all planes had been grounded, and nothing was going to be in the air for days to follow.
Next, they tried to get a rental car to drive home, but every rental car in NYC was gone. The city was on lockdown, and they could do nothing but sit and wait it out. With only a little cab fare money in their pockets, they went down to get some food and a few supplies.
At the small convenient store, people were going crazy, wondering what was going on and if there were going to be more attacks. When it was Chris’s turn to pay, he pulled out his VISA card and was quickly told that the credit card machines were down, and they were only accepting cash.
Chris left everything on the counter and went outside to find an ATM. He thought it was odd that no one else was trying to get cash, until he walked up to the machine to see that it was also not working. All that Chris and his wife could do was to go back to their hotel room and wait to see what happened.
They ended up being stuck in that room for three days until flights started up again. After hearing this story, I made it a point to always have cash with me. I travel a lot for work, and having cash is always comforting.
Place yourself 300 miles from home. If a major event happened right now, would you have the ability to move or get the supplies you need to make it home?
Do you have a car? Cash gives you the ability to rent a car.
Do you have enough gas to get home? Cash can help get you gas even if the credit card swipers are down.
Do you have enough food for you or your family? Cash lets you barter for supplies that you might need.
In the beginning of a bad situation, cash will always trump gold or silver. If a major event were to happen right now, everyone will accept cash in exchange for goods or services in the short term, but not many will trade for gold.
It doesn’t have the same value at that point in time. Sure gold will always be a currency known around the world, but cash has an immediate value that every person knows. This is why you should carry cash in your GHB.
How much cash should you carry? I always give the same answer — as much as you can. Now I am not saying to walk around with $100,000 in your pack, but you better have enough get be sure that you take care of yourself.
Do you carry enough for a hotel room for a few nights in case you are stranded in another city? Do you have enough to rent a car and get home if you are far away? There is never an exact amount, so that’s why I answer with as much as you can.
Also don’t get too wrapped up in what denomination of bills you should carry. There are people that think you should only carry $10 bills, or divide the amount into $1s, $5s, $10s, and $20s, so you don’t have to make change when purchasing.
Again, just make it simple and carry what you can. I like to carry a few $1s, and the rest in $20s. If it came down to it, yes, I am going to pay $20 for a gallon of water. Carrying larger bills allows you to carry more cash in a smaller footprint.
When packing my bag, I also like to spread my cash out into 4 areas. This way not all of my eggs are in one basket.
First, I will keep some in each front pocket of my pants. The largest portion of my cash will be in the main compartment of my bag.
Lastly, I always keep some cash with my passport, and some in a “secret spot” of my bag. Most bags have a covert area to store things that aren’t readily available at first glance.
Spreading your cash out also allows you to pay for items without letting anyone see how much cash you actually have. In a barter situation, it’s good to hold this information close to the vest.
I know people are going to say, “I don’t have the extra funds to put a couple hundred dollars in my bag,” and that’s fine. Every month try to put $10-20 in your pack, and over time it will build up. Take the small steps now to make sure that you have the cash you need to get you home is disaster strikes.