I was only 15 when I watched Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale suffer one of the biggest nightmares that can befall a traveler: getting thrown into a foreign jail for a crime they didn’t commit.
It was a terrifying movie for me to watch at the time.
Surely, I thought, this sort of thing must happen all the time in Thailand to innocent young women. What if this happened to me and my best friend?! I’m NEVER going there.”
I am happy to say I got over that fear.
Thailand is now at the top of my travel wish list. I can’t wait to visit the beautiful beaches, eat the food and hike the mountains of the north. Getting thrown into jail for a crime I didn’t commit is highly unlikely to be on the agenda.
Unfortunately, this sort of stuff can happen when traveling.
Sarah Shourd and Laura Ling are two recent examples of travelers jailed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. While Brokedown Palace may be a sensationalized Hollywood movie, there are some things we can learn from watching it.
Warning! Major spoilers ahead!!!!
- We first meet Alice (Claire Danes) and Darlene (Kate Beckinsale) when they have just graduated high school and are planning their senior trip to Hawaii. Alice decides that Hawaii is too boring and convinces Darlene to lie to her dad and go to Thailand instead.
Don’t let your trip become another Hollywood movie!
This should be obvious but please: tell someone where you are going.
In fact, tell two people because what if something happens to the one person you told? It’s best to let a couple of people know your whereabouts when traveling.
- Once arriving in Thailand, the girls meet a handsome Australian stranger who immediately puts the moves on the both of them. Typical.
Doesn’t matter if he’s a hunky Australian or not, if he hits on you and your best friend, dump him. Even in a foreign country: a player is a player.
- While waiting in line to board a flight to Hong Kong, their carry-on bags are seized and searched by angry customs officials. Unbeknownst to the girls, or so they say, one of the bags is stuffed with an insane amount of heroin. Uh-oh.
It’s easy to become accustomed to a country’s lax drug laws when traveling, but think twice before attempting to bring a stash of narcotics back home as a “souvenir.”
Leave the illegal stuff behind.
- Darlene is tricked into signing a confession written in Thai. They are sentenced to 33 years in a Thai women’s prison. Alice, on the other hand, had the right idea when she refused to say anything.
Lesson learned: When arrested abroad, be careful of signing or admitting to anything, especially if you don’t understand.
- When waiting in line for a bowl of cockroach soup, the girls see baskets filled with fresh fruit that no one is eating. Thinking it is okay to have some fruit, Alice tries to grab some but ends up beaten by a prison warden instead.
It was pretty obvious since no one was eating the fruit, it was off limits. This is a good example of: do as the locals do, even in jail.
- The American Embassy tries to get the girls released but alas, they cannot help.
One of the best travel tips I ever received was to always know where your home country’s closest embassy is located.
I’ve never experienced a situation as serious as the one in Brokedown Palace but I’ve had to visit my embassy a couple times when traveling abroad. Whether it’s a stolen passport or an arrest, your country will try and protect you.
If you are arrested abroad, you are legally entitled to call your embassy.
Have you ever faced a serious problem while abroad? What did you do? And can we talk about how good Claire Danes performance is in Brokedown Palace?