Risk Management

Like many people in the U.S., I awoke on November 9 to surprise at the outcome of the presidential election. That morning I saw co-workers sitting at their desks quietly stunned, and at lunch I wandered through the grand opening of the local Whole Foods, where the mood seemed almost like a funeral.

Meanwhile that morning, the value of the Mexican peso plunged to an all-time low, dropping 11 percent to 20 pesos to a U.S. dollar. U.S. voters had elected a president who was openly hostile to Mexico throughout his campaign. Donald Trump had called Mexicans criminals and rapists, and had vowed to deport illegal immigrants and build a wall along the Mexican border to keep them from coming back.

By the end of the day, another reality hit me: In 10 days I would be traveling to Mexico. It was the first time in many years that an upcoming trip made me uneasy. This was a big risk I hadn’t accounted for.

Risk professionals, such as auditors and risk managers, talk about risk in terms of the likelihood of an event happening and the potential impact if it does. People tend to think of risk as a bad thing, although sometimes it has an upside that creates opportunities.

Before election day, my biggest concern was about health.Risk is a big part of travel. There’s crime, health emergencies, travel delays and cancellations, political unrest, and losing your credit card, among other worries. When you buy that plane ticket, you’re hoping you’ll be able to deal with anything that happens. But you’ll probably take steps to manage the risks that concern you the most.

Before election day, my biggest concern was about health. Specifically, I was worried about whether I would be able to carry needles for my allergy shots and how I would keep the serum refrigerated. I’d never traveled with my allergy medicine. I spent far more time researching how I would keep the serum cold on the flight down to Mexico, in my various hotels, and on the long bus rides between destinations than I spent on all other plans combined.

I found out that the U.S. Transportation Safety Administration and its Mexican counterparts are fine with people taking medical supplies on airplanes. You just have to show it to them first. The hotels where I stayed agreed to keep my serum in their refrigerators. And I discovered this freezable lunch pouch that can keep things cold for up to 24 hours — it was like a wallet-sized refrigerator.

As for that other risk, the one about the election, it turned out fine. The subject of the new president-elect came up only once, as a joke from a group tour guide. I sometimes saw Trump on the news in a restaurant or bus station waiting area, but people weren’t watching. Overall, everyone I met treated me well. Most were friendly and put up with my out-of-practice Spanish. I had a great time.

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