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Lessons Learned

From a 20-something adventurer

June 3, 2010
By Ashley Weber

Risk & AdventureI’ve always lived life in the present, not thinking about consequences. On a trip to Costa Rica last summer, I hiked four hours through a rainforest known for poisonous reptiles—wearing just a bikini and sandals. As I foolishly flip-flopped my way through the jungle, I remembered warnings from the locals:

“Wear hiking books. Snakes attack bare ankles,” they said.

But sensibility didn’t open my eyes until I tripped over one of the gigantic, wriggling black monsters in the path, and I hurriedly scurried back to camp.

My “live for the moment” mentality has led to many great adventures like this one—and plenty of 20/20 hindsight for my 20s. I haven’t always made the brightest decisions.

My greatest “what was I thinking?” moment came when I was residing in New York City after college. While living in my claustrophobia-inducing Manhattan apartment, I fell victim to tenacious, indestructible intruders…bed bugs (remember the outbreak a few years back?). 

These blood-sucking pests entered my home uninvited and settled in my bed and floorboards. I was forced to throw away any clothes that couldn’t be tossed into the washing machine (which meant “buh-bye” to my dry clean only, hot pink cashmere sweater). The laundry and exterminator fees totaled about $1,000.

To top off the ensuing nervous breakdown, I tripped over my computer cord while I was vacuuming traces of bed bugs off my mattress. It sent my laptop crashing to the floor, thus endings its life.

The lesson these bugs taught me? It’s pretty easy to lose just about anything to unforeseen calamity. This thought was reinforced just a few months later when my friend Chris went to see a movie and came back to a ransacked apartment. Chris, blessed with foresight I never had, managed to reclaim the value of his belongings through renters insurance he’d purchased.

Chris’s misfortune got me thinking. It truly was luck that kept my apartment from catching the eye of a burglar. (According to the Insurance Information Institute, the burglary rate for renters is about 50 percent higher than for homeowners).

Still, while living in the Big Apple, sometimes the idea of getting renters insurance popped into my mind and I said, “be responsible!” But I would always shrug it off and put the task on my infinite “to-do” list (right under “find the man of my dreams,” and “save money,” which also never happened).

I suffered from the “bad things can’t happen to me” attitude. I thought that my landlord would be financially responsible if thieves or natural disasters struck, but I was wrong; I'd be the one footing that bill.

I ended up leaving New York for Erie and moving back in with my family, so momentarily— while I mooch off of my parents—I don’t need renters insurance. Soon, though, I will have to do the whole adult thing and rent an apartment. The first task on my “to-do” list will be to call my Agent for renters insurance.

From Chris’s experience, I learned that renters insurance will protect belongings against damage from fire, smoke, lightning, vandalism, theft, explosions, windstorms and many other things that can go wrong. (Unfortunately, not bed bugs—but I’m looking into other ways to guard against them).

Basically, I’m starting the conversation with myself early. “Renters insurance is less expensive than cable or Netflix,” I’ve said. It often costs around $100 per year, a small price to pay in the event that my apartment property is stolen or sabotaged by Mother Nature. Plus, if I have auto or life insurance through the same carrier, it may cost even less than that $100. 

These kinds of revelations—dressing for the activity, guarding against disasters—have made me a more prepared adult (or a 27-year-old child, according to my mother). I will never again go without renters insurance, especially because it covers my possessions no matter where I am in the world. Thus, if I take my new laptop on my next trip to Costa Rica —it’ll be protected. With hiking boots in tow, my feet will be, too.

Ashley WeberAn Erie, Pa., native, Ashley earned a fellowship with the International Radio and Television Society that took her to New York City. Life on the red carpet was very exciting, but she missed her family and her two black Labrador retrievers. So in 2008 she returned to her hometown to be a Spanish teacher and freelance writer.