Today is the one-year anniversary of one of the biggest scares I’ve experienced, and the day I learned how vital it is to have a bailout plan.

My family was traveling and we had an all-day layover in Hong Kong. These long hours ended up being some of the most harrowing in my life to date.

As we arrived in Hong Kong we spent a delightful time together in the city. Next we decided to take the ferry to Kowloon—the famous, and very crowded, shopping district. Like most visitors we wanted to see the Kowloon Ladies Market, so off we went.

As my family of six started to load into a cab, the driver started waving at us madly, indicating that he could legally only have four passengers, not six. Thinking quickly, I knew exactly what to do. I said, “Okay, no problem. We’ll take the very next cab and the three of us will follow right behind the three of you.”

We loaded my beautiful wife and two of our boys into the cab and sent them on their way. I turned to climb into the next cab and was dismayed to discover that not only was I not in line anymore, but the line had grown. I nervously looked down the street as the first cab sped away.

Well…my other two sons and I did eventually get into a taxi, but by this time it was clear that we’d lost my wife and sons. When we arrived at the market there were ten bazillion people running every-which way—and that was just at the drop-off point. It appeared nearly impossible to find them.  We spent the next three or four hours in a heartsick panic, attempting to find my wife and my boys. 
The thing that made me ultimately sick was that I had all the passports and all the money. Furthermore we had made no contingency plan should we get separated. 

After almost five hours, I contacted the Hong Kong Police. Every vision of tragedy was running through my mind, and I realized that there was no way we were going to find my precious family in Kowloon. I submit it is easily the busiest place on earth. There were literally hundreds of thousands of people bustling around, shoulder to shoulder.

In absolute dismay and grief I realized that the only option I really had was to go back to the airport and hope. At the airport I called the U.S. Embassy, I called security, I checked email, I did everything I could possibly think of to find my family, with no success. At this point my two sons and I were literally in tears and out of options. So we sat there in a panicked state and waited.

About an hour and a half before our plane was scheduled to depart, in walked my wife and our boys. They had walked a mile or two, boarded a bus, and using American currency, somehow managed to pay, and find their way back to the airport safely.

We had a warm embrace and continued on our journey–a little worse for wear–but none the less, very grateful for each other. At a moment like that, you define what is most important. Now when we travel internationally we always make sure that we have a common rescue plan. We always make sure that we spread our resources wisely.

This lesson can easily be applied to other areas of life and business. Today, one year after this scary experience, I’m recalling the importance of having a bailout plan.