FINCA TATIN, Rio Dulce, Guatemala- A flashlight or headlamp does you little good when traveling if you don’t know exactly where it is when the lights go out. It is far rarer in my travels that I have planned to use my headlamp than when I unexpectedly needed it. 95% of my days I do not use a flashlight — there is no need for it — but every once in a while I wake up and night and the lights don’t turn on, I am in the dark in a strange place with no electricity.
The municipal electrical supplies of most of the world cannot be relied upon, in some places the electricity is only on for a few hours a day and is intentionally cut at a specified hour, in other places the electricity just goes out at random throughout the day. It is in these places where a light source is needed.
To any traveler who has waken up delirious in the middle of the night with a full bladder, in a pitch black hotel room, and a lack of remembrance of where the door is, this travel tip with come as obvious common sense. A traveler will only feel around the walls of a dark room looking for a door a couple of times before they begin sleeping within range of their flashlight. Believe me when I say that removing the contents of your bag in a the pitch black of a room whose lights fail to turn on in search of the flashlight that you know is packed in there — somewhere — is not too much fun.
A flashlight does you little good if you don’t know where it is. I have found that I use my flashlight more in times of necessity than in times of preference. I rarely say, “I am going out in the woods, I need to carry my flashlight,” no, I most often say, “Oh shit, the lights are out, where is that flashlight.” And I am often able to feel around through my bags and find my headlamp at a moments notice, because I know exactly where it is. I keep my headlamp in the front inner pocket of the messenger bag that I keep my electronics in. Even in a pitch black room, it is easy to locate this bag by feel, open it, and find my head lamp.
If I know that I am in a location with intermittent electricity, or in a place where the power is cut at a certain time in the night, I keep my head lamp strung up on my bed post by its elastic band. In this way, I can access it easily if I wake up in the night.
I am staying in a small plank board and thatch roof hut at the Finca Tatin in the jungle of eastern Guatemala. There is only electricity here for four hours from 6 to 10 PM. This is a dark place for most of the night. I awoke from a deep dream last night to a pitch black room, I had forgotten where I was, who I was with, I could see nothing. I had to pee. I remembered that I had put my headlamp over the bed post, I grabbed it and had light.
A ridiculous circumstance was quickly averted.
This was not an emergency situation, but having the head lamp within easy reach made my life a little easier. Though if I had been in a more hasty circumstance — if an animal had gotten into the room, if Petra somehow got hurt, if Chaya got up, tripped over a bag on the floor and fell down (she is far too cool to make preparations like her more anal half) then having that light in immediate grasp would have been absolutely pertinent.
I point, a flashlight does me little good if it is stuffed in some undisclosed location in the bottom of my bag. I know that if I need a light, I am probably going to need it quick — so I always keep my headlamp in a place where I can get to it quick, or, if I know that there is a good chance that I may need it in the night, I keep it slung over the bed post.