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Come Back Alive: The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Disasters, Kidnappings, Animal Attacks, and Other Nasty Perils of Modern Travel
The Art of Survival
When people head for parts unknown, there seems to be no shortage of survival guides. Today, many well-prepared adventurers get succor and life-sustaining courage from carrying around a small paperback book that carefully explains how to get out of any deleterious or baneful situation. In my opinion, this is the literary equivalent of wearing a helmet when skydiving. You'll look good going down, but if things get ugly, your beanie won't help you when you get to where you're going.
I am not a big fan of survival guides. I don't care how good beaver tail tastes and I don't know why I need to see daylight through the anus of my freshly cleaned and gutted deer. Do I really need to master semaphore? Will I ever need to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together or should I just use my BIC? Do I need a three weeks' or a four weeks' supply of food in case of a nuclear attack? Should I jump up and break my assailant's neck with a flying kick, or should I just assume the Angry Crane with Hemorrhoids position to scare him off? The truth is, I really don't know. And after a lifetime of scrotum-shrinking adventures and close calls, I still don't know.
If you need to be taught very simple things or if you think that you can master a lifetime of military, navigational, and bush skills in one good toilet read, then you are probably better off left in the woods with a survival guide to die, blissfully but erroneously confident in your ultimate survival. Such is the esoteric and delusional world of survival guides.
The majority of survival books--brought to you by barrel-cheated, strong-limbed, granite-jawed experts who live in a world of remote forests, foaming waves, blistering deserts, and frozen wastelands--are great sources of vicarious entertainment and stern warnings but frighteningly disconnected from real-world scenarios. They instill pure terror by harping on esoteric conditions that perhaps affect 40 percent of the population, only 5 percent of the time. In other words, they all blithely ignore real life.
True survival means knowing the risks, weighing the benefits, and then taking responsibility for your actions. It's the stuff they forget to put in tourist brochures and nature shows. Survival also demands being versed and comfortable with the basic principles of navigation, emergency procedures, and wilderness skills.
Most people enter into adventure with the same confidence as a drunk who steps into an open elevator shaft. There isn't a whole lot there to warn you before you get into trouble. Too many of today's travelers have been raised in a Naderesque, consumer-cocooned society where the dangers are all printed on the label, slippery spots are roped off, and an attendant is always on duty in case the amusement park ride breaks. When we screw up, there's 911 to call, and when someone else screws up, we can sue them or get a free year's supply of whatever they make. In other words, it's always someone's fault and problem if things go wrong.
How to, Not What to, Survive
What the world needs now is a manual that disseminates the psychology of survival rather than another tome that misleads folks into thinking that there is a simple survival tip for every nasty situation. I actually have a survival guide (thankfully long out of print) that offers survival tips in the event you're paid a visit by extraterrestrials. Their advice? "Remain calm, make no threatening moves." ("Remaining calm," of course, is the single most repeated tip in every survival situation.) Even the well-credentialed "Lofry" Wiseman has penned an urban survival guide that explains (on page 250) how to read and understand warning signs, including how to read a sign that prohibits your dog from defecating. Hey, what about a book that tells you how to survive survival guides?
Why This Book Is Different
You're not going to see a lot of drawings of some fifties-era guy in a baseball cap trying to trap rabbits or right a flipped navy life raft. There won't be any paranoid pontifications about New World Order and I won't explain how to make a bazooka out of your neighbor's drainpipe. There will be no instructions for tying knots or wilderness recipes for cooking grubs. This book won't tell you how to build a seaworthy vessel Out of Popsicle sticks or give you lyrics to campfire songs. We are going to dig into odd and esoteric things most survival guides tiptoe around, and we're going to learn how to survive with style.
Inside, you'll encounter survival philosophies and models for the third world, adventure travel, urban jungles, remote regions, war zones, terrorism, crime spots--even your own house (the place you're most likely to get into trouble). You'll learn how to make the relative and appropriate transition required from the gray drudgery of day-to-day living to white-knuckle terror-- imagined, real, sought-after, or completely unexpected.
We'll look at the obstacles you can overcome and those you may as well straighten your clothes and leave a good-looking corpse. You'll understand why the choices on a restaurant menu are statistically more dangerous than climbing a mountain.
We'll talk about adventure, fear, bravery, and just how fast you can die (or survive) when you least expect it.
We'll spend some time learning how to keep from getting lost. You'll find out why maps, compasses, altimeters, and even satellites can get you into serious trouble.
You'll find out where to sit (and sleep) on an airplane and when you should eat with your fingers. We'll talk about the world's deadliest animal, what to do when a grenade rolls under your bed, and even how to piss off a crocodile. You'll learn how to survive five-hundred-pound bombs, gangsters, punks, and the cops.
You'll learn a few tricks to impress your friends: navigation and distance using birds, telling the time with your fingers, using bees to find water, why there are sixty seconds in a minute, finding remote islands with your testicles--all the neat tools your long-lost ancestors used before they became civilized.
Then we'll visit some dangerous places, like your home and office, before calling on some safer spots like war zones and xenophobic dictatorships.
When you finish this book, you will begin to understand why some people survive and some don't.
You'll get it.
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