Hurricane-in-my-office

The night when hurricane Odile struck Cabo San Lucas was (so far) the worst night of my life.  The only other time I felt this frightened was during the Slovenian Independence war in 1991.  The siren has just announced air raid and we were hiding in the basement.  This night, on September 14, 2014, we were hiding in a 3 m2 bathroom with my fiancee, my dog, our computers, photo equipment, and some of the most important documents.

So many things were going through my mind that night and the following 14 days when we had no electricity, water, phone, cell phone or internet connection.  Events like this make you start seeing things in a different perspective.  I knew that in theory, but I never thought I would have to test them in real life.  Here are some of the things I realized during and after the hurricane, which I believe apply in life and business as well, not just in times of hurricane crisis.

  1. Always over-prepare.  Better be prepared more than it’s needed, than too little.  Our vacation was supposed to start on September 15, 2014, just one day after the hurricane.  We have been living in Cabo for 7 years now, and hurricane warnings until now were luckily just that – warnings.  And so we thought it will be this time as well.  That Sunday morning was surprisingly quiet, sunny, with no wind.  Just to be on the “safe” side, we went to the store to fill up our tank with gas and buy some groceries, cans and water, but we didn’t want to exaggerate, as we were about to go on vacation and didn’t want the food to go to waste.  Luckily we bought enough for one week’s supply, because the hurricane devastation got us cut off from the rest of the town for a week, and we lived off of what we had in the fridge and storage.  It happens often that we don’t prepare well for events in our life, but I believe being well prepared applies for any meetings, business negotiations, or even personal events as well.  It’s always better to be better prepared than too little.
  2. Back up all the important files and documents.  Keep your documents and important files backed up at all times.  If possible, have them stored on two or three different places, your computer, hard disk and a cloud service like Dropbox, iCloud, GoogleDocs or Evernote.  If you are a photographer, upload your files to any photo storage website (I use Photoshelter and Smugmug).  That way you can access them if they get lost or wet in the natural disaster.  Even in day to day life your computer or hard disk can brake down, get stolen or misplaced.  If your files are backed up in a cloud you can access them when needed.
  3. Protect your work equipment.  Before the hurricane hit Cabo, we were convinced we would only get some heavy rain, that’s why we put our computers and photo equipment in a safe, waterproof space.  All of our equipment survived the hurricane, and we were ready to get back to work immediately after the electricity arrived.  But, the thermo generators, with which we are now receiving the electricity, are providing an unstable power, which at the end broke down my Mac and I was forced to buy a new computer (a cost not welcome during this hurricane aftermath, when most of the economy is on halt and we would need those funds to repair the office instead…)  After this experience, we will prepare next time for the hurricane, tropical storms and vacations.  We will also:
    1. Have plastic sheets on stock to cover bookshelves.
    2. Unplug all electricity devices and store cables in a safe place as well (even though I saved my 4 GB hard disc, it doesn’t work because the cable got wet).
    3. Buy a no-brake regulator.
  4. Be a team player.  Even if you prefer working by yourself, if you are a freelancer or are your own employee.  More hands can accomplish so much more.  It was amazing to see how our community of neighbors got together after the hurricane.  Before we hardly knew our names and our relationships were based on Hola and Buenos días.  We knew more our dogs names then our own, but this misfortune bonded us together, we helped each other and looked after each other more then ever.  The best thing out of this is that we keep connected now as well, although we don’t see each other that often any more, as everyone is back to work.
  5. Lend a hand to people in need.  You never know when you’ll be the one in need of help.
  6. Over-deliver.  Always try to go the extra mile in everything you do.  Be it in business or personal relationships. In times of crises or when you will need it the most, your business partners and friends will stand by your side, understand you and support you.  I am very grateful for our clients Capella Ixtapa, Pisces Real Estate, Luxury Villa Collections, Madison Lake, Captain Tony’s, Acapulco Chairs Baja, Pink Palm Photo and other business partners and friend for all the support during the hardest times.
  7. Discover who your true friends are, and the values of people around you.  
  8. Tell people what they mean to you before it’s too late.

The hurricane aftermath was equally if not even harder.  We survived the hurricane, but the hardest struggle was to survive the following days of repair and recovery.  Cabo San Lucas and Baja California Sur are based on the tourism, and no tourists and visitors here means a stop in economic growth; and not even growth, a regular daily life is obstructed as well.  For example, because of the hurricane my client receives cancellations for vacation rentals, and thus has no money to pay my services, with that I have no money to pay my house, my bills, my cleaning lady, pilates classes, and so on; with that my cleaning lady has no money to buy groceries and the circle goes on and on.  Things are slowly turning to the better, but I believe we are still several months away from the complete recovery.  Our office is destroyed, we have windows missing, the walls are covered with plant pieces (even though we cleaned the most of it), walls and ceiling are still full of water, and we will need to do big renovations to fix that, the writing desks are ruined because of the water, bookshelves are moist and will need to be replaced…

So while trying to push forward in the most positive and optimistic way, despite facing the reality of the destruction aftermath, these are some of the things I’m trying to do every day:

  • Face the reality, acknowledge it, and see what it makes possible for me to do every day to make it better
  • Don’t get discouraged
  • Take one step at a time, and one day at a time
  • Never give up
  • Be patient, flexible and adjust to current (daily) situation
  • Support local economy
  • Strive to rebuild better, stronger and more beautiful.

Thank you all for reading this.  Stay strong.

On the photo: my home office the morning after hurricane Odile hit Cabo San Lucas.