Why a sceptic still buys travel insurance

Why a sceptic still buys travel insurance

Death and taxes, they say, are among the few certainties of life.

Paradoxically, for some, its unpredictability is another absolute.

Of course, no one is immune to the vagaries of life.

However, I think it is a little peculiar when we pay to protect ourselves with a string of insurance policies, but still pray hard that nothing unfortunate happens anyway.

Economists will tell you that we just hate the idea of losing, whether it be our belongings or control over our lives.

But I dislike the notion of monetising these fears and uncertainties and, so, have never warmed to the idea of paying to protect myself against an infinite number of unfortunate possibilities - be it sudden death or sickness.

The concept of insurance originates from the idea of redistributing risk from the individual to the wider community.

So the converse means that I would effectively be chipping in for someone else's hospital bills - and the insurance agent's bonus - if nothing ever happens to me.

I have not always been such a sceptic, but an incident while I was on a study trip at the University of California, Berkeley some years ago left a bitter taste in my mouth that still lingers today.

After stuffing months of happy memories into my bags, I headed for Miami to begin a month-long tour of the East Coast.

With the folly of youth and last-minute packing, I carelessly forgot to secure one of my suitcases properly.

As I stood by the carousel in Miami International Airport, impatience morphed into anxiety when one of the suitcases went missing. I was later told by the American Airlines staff that it had been mistakenly loaded onto another flight.

Don't worry, they said, your luggage will be transferred to the next domestic flight to Miami and will reach you tonight.

But my relief was short-lived when it turned up with a broken zip. A pair of expensive shoes I had snagged on a shopping escapade had been pilfered. (Whoever took them, you sure have good taste!)

Upset, I lodged a report with the airline, only to be given a flimsy slip of paper as proof of my reported loss.

All is not lost, I thought, as I still had travel insurance as a backstop. Wisdom - also known as my mother - had told me it was the smart thing to do if I was going to be away for an extended period.

Throughout the next four weeks of gallivanting from Orlando to New York, that piece of paper represented the warped satisfaction I had from knowing that the travel insurance I bought was not useless after all.

But that glimmer of hope that I would eventually recoup my loss was snuffed out when I had to fill out an exhaustive form that asked for the most inane details.

To add insult to injury, the company asked for a copy of the receipt that came with the shoes.

Why, I said, I believe I would not be able to give it to you because it was in the box with the said stolen shoes.

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