In the course of many months of travel, I have switched up my travel gear several times. In Australia, I settled upon a Tatonka backpack that came with a nice mesh backpanel (so a sweaty back didn’t automatically translate to a sweaty pack) and a bonus safety whistle on the chest strap. While not a factor in my purchase, that whistle proved invaluable in the coming months.

Here’s how:
Middle of the Ayeyarwady, Burma

When our boat died in the middle of the Ayeyarwady river, sputtering its last, diesel-fueled breath somewhere between Sinbo and Bhamo, we were (so to speak) up a creek without a paddle. As in, the boat had no oars, no lifejackets and dusk was upon us. Oh, and we were smack in the middle of the largest river in Burma. Time trickled by. The mood of our group (mostly Burmese with a few of us tourists) started out optimistic, but as the last rays of sun disappeared behind the banks of the river, so did any positive thoughts.
Through the English-speaking guide of a photojournalist, we tried to figure out what our options were. Turns out, we didn’t really have any. For hours, we drifted in inky silence without a clue about what to do next, the captain sitting and glaring at the motor in disgust. I heard the motor of a boat in the distance and warned everyone to cover their ears. Inhaling deeply, I sounded the whistle like there was no tomorrow.

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  • Jodi Ettenberg

    Born in Montreal, Canada, Jodi Ettenberg is a former new media and technology lawyer who quit her job after 5+ years of working…

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