Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Back on Track off my Back after a Hack

Dear Readers,

I'm back. The inspirational travel post of photos and stories from my recent travels to Bhutan can wait. What I am writing now is far more important and I hope that you will read through to the end.

Had you come to visit this blog between October 3rd and 23rd, you'd have found a giant "ERROR - page not found" message. Had you sent me an e-mail between those dates, they'd have bounced back and I would not have received them nor been able to respond. And, if you are a facebook friend, you would have seen some abnormal posts and links on October 3rd which were completely out of character for me.  My closest friends were quick to alert me by text that my account had been breached. I am grateful to those friends who knew right off that those posts and links were not my tone and not from me, and I am sorry for any others who watched in judgement and did not know what to think,  perhaps assessing my character negatively.   I limit my private, personal facebook page to actual friends and colleagues I know in person and those whom I know well enough that I am comfortable sharing family photos with (usually of my dogs).  I also maintain a public facebook page for Mira Terra Images on which I share images and articles and have followers (fans) comprised of both familiar friends and complete strangers. Thankfully, this page was not breached, so publicly, no one would have seen the odd links and posts that continued to stream on my private page throughout October 3rd. Again, I appreciate those friends who texted and called to alert me. Unfortunately, I would not know for another 2 days.

Meanwhile, I had been on assignment leading a tour in Bhutan and had fallen ill to (what I later learned was) acute gastroenteritis coupled with a rare viral strain of flu, the symptoms for which I would pass off as being something else - i.e. sore throat from talking, mild headaches from altitude, and well, I was dropping weight so fast I could not keep my pants on.  Yet each day I would drift from perfect functionality to sudden onset of symptoms and back again, so each time I would contribute it to altitude, road sickness (long mountainous drives), or a mild cold that would eventually run it's course.

The tour finished with a flight back to Delhi, India, and that day I was functioning under par, feeling under slept, and thinking I was just downright exhausted. But it was almost over and I managed to get through our farewell dinner, packing, and prepping for what was to be my next assignment in Africa.  I ran the water in the tub, as I always do to finish out a busy day and help send me to sleep.

Next thing I knew I was waking up in ICU in a hospital in Delhi.  I asked for and was handed my phone - I saw the many texts from friends about my facebook hack, and posted:

"Dear friends, I don't know what was going on with my facebook page with those link statuses, but I'm in a hospital in Delhi right now and will be back soon."

Many suspected this was still a hacker, but my closest of closest contacted my husband and confirmed that I was, in fact, hospitalized in Delhi.  And I learned, sadly, that I was too sick to go on to Africa for my next assignment and would instead be sent home once I was well and stable enough for the long flights (we're talking over 20 hours total).

I had stopped getting e-mails to my phone and assumed it was an iphone/e-mail server issue related to the facebook breach.  I did not have the strength to deal with calls to servers and Apple, and my apps still functioned, so I resorted to texting, facetime, phone calls and skype (with my closest), and using my social media apps to share posts with everyone else. I learned that the apparent breach had come from inside India, and thus my server would not verify me as ME while in India anyway, which makes sense on a security level. I was frustrated at first but then relief set in as I realized I could just focus on my health and recovery without having to answer to any e-mails. My health was more important than anything.  E-mails could wait.

So I passed the days and weeks in hospital ALWAYS keeping a positive attitude, and I continued to share photos and posts from Bhutan and India to my facebook phone app (both private and public pages) in my usual manner.  I wanted people at home not to worry, to know that I was alive and well and recovering, and besides, sharing my travel experiences is something that brings me great joy.  I believe that being in a joyful state of mind is essential to good health. I wanted nothing more than to heal as quickly as possible to relieve family and friends of worry and fear. When I had moments of doubt, I reached out and my personal facebook community was quick to answer with prayer, positive vibes, and well wishes, and this had a tremendous impact on my attitude. I so rarely reach out and ask for anything, but when fear set in and I needed forces to go to battle for me, there they were.  I was, and am, truly blessed with loving and caring friends and family.  So I was further motivated to get well in order to thank each and every one of them in person.

I was able to facetime or skype almost daily with my husband, daughter and the dogs (despite the 12 hour time difference), and I received calls from friends near and far which brightened my day (or 3:00AM mornings, rather) more than you might imagine. I had several guide colleagues and friends in India, Bhutan and Nepal who offered to come if I needed anything. My local ground partner agents stopped by daily, after hours on their own time, with picnic baskets and smiles and reassurances. I was checked in upon regularly by text from fellow Travel Director friends on their assignments all over the world - Bali, Tokyo, Dubai. Finally, I was incredibly blessed with a visit from a fellow Travel Director colleague (whom I now consider family) who came straight from the airport to see me in hospital (several times), bearing chocolates, a book to read, and most importantly, warm loving hugs as if she were my own mother. Honestly, I believe those hugs did the trick. Within 2 days of her visits I was walking out the door on my own two feet and getting on a plane headed home.

As I stepped into my Doctor's office on the way out, I hugged him and thanked him for saving my life. His reply was "You saved your own life.  We learned a lot from you as a patient. "

I thought about this during my flight. I thought about how every step of the way, I had a choice to make: to fear or to trust; to complain about the bad or to appreciate the good; to live in the moment, or to fret over the past and worry about the future; to be anxiety-ridden, or to stay calm. Above anything else, I chose to count my blessings for every moment of the here and now and strove to maintain a positive outlook and attitude.

Beyond that, details are unimportant. The fact is, I'm home now, fully recovered, have hugged my family tight and given the dogs their belly rubs, have dealt with website and hacker issues and obviously have my blog back up and running, am receiving e-mails again, and am slowly getting around to personally thanking everyone along the way.  But great and valuable lessons were learned (sometimes the hard way) which I will share with you here in closing. These are as much a reminder for myself as they are anything else, so perhaps you can learn from my experience:

* DRINK WATER, and KEEP DRINKING WATER. DRINK EVEN MORE WATER when traveling in high altitudes. Listen to your body - if your lips start to chap, then you are dehydrated.

*REPLENISH ELECTROLYTES including SALT so that your body actually retains the water.

*BE PRO-ACTIVE for your health. If you are suffering odd symptoms, treat yourself the same as you would if it were your mother or child with the same symptoms. If you would tuck them in bed to rest, then do so for yourself.  If you would take them to a doctor, then do the same for yourself.

* If it is your job or duty to look after others, regardless of their needs and demands, be sure to LOOK AFTER YOURSELF FIRST. (The airlines have it right when the oxygen masks drop - "secure your own mask first before helping others").

*BE KIND, even, and especially, to someone who is being unkind.

*KINDNESS GOES A LOT FARTHER THAN COMPLAINING. I've known and I practice this as a Travel Director, but it bears repeating and reminding (myself and) others, especially when dealing with airlines, hotels, and those in a business position to make a difference.  It IS possible to be KIND and FIRM. Speak softly and carry a big stick - sound familiar? Save the song and dance theatrics for theatre and simply get the job done.

*A Travel Director's job is more about DIPLOMACY than anything else. Leading Americans abroad and balancing cultural and language differences with expectations and comfort, not to mention political and safety considerations.....there's much more to the job, and more to me, than meets the eye. Those who have never travelled with me think I lead a glamorous life; while those who have seen me in action, handling a crisis, have said "I wouldn't want your job if it was the last paying job on earth!"  Travel Directors are known to "move mountains" and I won't admit or deny it, but it's especially hard work when mountains arise unexpectedly.  Still, I love what I do and I learn something from each destination, each guide, and each and every person who travels with me.

*STAND FIRM in the TRUTH.  Sometimes that means walking away from discussion and letting the other person be right; sometimes it means speaking into ears that only want to hear good news; and other times it means simply letting rumors run their course - people love gossip so let them gossip. Truth always prevails in the long run, and you'll sleep in good conscience if you have truth on your side.

*HONOR every person who serves you, whether it be a waiter, a doctor,  or a janitor, with respect and appreciation.  Nobody is perfect, and they may fall short of your expectations, but they are doing their job and their day is likely a lot longer and harder than yours. Gratitude goes a long way.

And finally...

*BE COMPASSIONATE to others who are suffering, scared,  or ill - for some day, you may be in their shoes and need a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, or simply, a hug. What comes around goes around.

Thank you for reading my thoughts and I hope that by sharing my experience I've helped or inspired you in some way.  Namaste.

5 comments:

  1. So, so, so glad you are back on your feet. You are such a special part of our lives... xo!

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  2. Wow, what a story! Thank you, too, for sharing these important reminders of how we all should approach life and our challenges. So glad you were well taken care of, but with your great attitude and always smiling face, it would be surprising if you weren't well cared for, anywhere on earth. Welcome home!

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  3. What a great reminder! I have to share with my friends....and I have to say, I am guilty of not always remembers things you have on your list. They are essential for health, happiness and joy. Glad your home safe and with your loved ones.

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  4. I admire your attitude! Glad to hear you're feeling better!

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  5. Very inspiring story.. Glad you make it back....

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