Friday, March 1, 2013

An Open letter to Jamie Neal and Garrett Hand

This is an open letter to Jamie Neal and Garrett Hand. This couple from the California Bay Area in the United States decided to go off the grid in January while in Peru. They were out of touch with everyone for over a month from January to February of 2013. Their "disappearance" sparked all sorts of awful ideas that they had been kidnapped or killed. Peru has not had the best PR lately and it is so important that this couple address the severity of what their naiveté and irresponsibility caused.

Dear Jamie Neal and Garrett Hand,
 First of all, I am glad that you guys are safe and that you are enjoying your trip through Peru. It will obviously be unforgettable especially now that you two are somewhat of celebrities both here in Peru and in the United States. I am sure that you have gotten reprimanded from your parents and family members who were worried sick about you during the past month. It would be really easy to laugh the whole thing off because you guys are OK but the problem is, what you guys did was not something that only affected you and your family and friends. It affected two countries and many peoples' perspective on Peru. It did nothing to help the image of Peru. As a world traveler you are automatically and ambassador for your country and you must always be conscious of that. 

It is so important that you acknowledge publicly how your mistake in not letting anyone know where you were going was a big error and that you hope that the people of Peru and the United States forgive you for being so irresponsible. As and avid outdoorsy person myself, I like to be off the grid sometimes too but I always let someone know where I am going. That's just simple safety. It might have been that you did let some people know but they didn't really understand the implications when you fell off the grid. I find that hard to believe since not a single person knew where you went. The amount of publicity and frenzy it caused brought something else to light. It brought to light how privileged you are as Americans traveling in another country. The majority of people in this world couldn't even dream of being able to go on a trip like the one that you are on let alone be sent for by the officials. It is sad that there are so many missing Peruvians and you guys are the ones that people went searching for. Everyone deserves to have family and friends that care as much as yours do and everyone deserves to be treated equally. Unfortunately, that is not the case. As Americans you were going to be found no matter what it took. The average Peruvian doesn't even have the privilege of going to our country. Lots of money and time was spent on finding you and while it is easy to say that you had no idea that going on a trip would ever cause this kind of reaction, your ignorance of how others perceive you caused problems. 

The problem is that now, without a public apology, people will assume that you are a selfish Americans and it will not help how Peruvians (or other countries for that matter) view you or Americans in general. Humility and admitting you made a mistake is something that everyone will commend you for. You have a responsibility to yourselves, your fellow countrymen, and the rest of the world to do so. We are global citizens and it is time to start acting like one. With privilege comes responsibility. Please apologize. If you brush this off and do nothing you will be an embarrassment.

I hope the rest of your travels are safe and enjoyable.

Amy Royse Brown
American Citizen
Resident of Peru

Update: After reading this article I would like to address the mother as well in this post. I understand you are worried about your son when he travels and that is normal but if he told you he was going to be out of communication you have to trust him! What a massive miscommunication! Overprotective mothers take heed! If your adult child go on vacations to places like the jungle of Peru you will not be hearing from them for a while. 


  1. Words like irresponsible and negligent are the first to want to come out. But I really understand the want/need to immerse oneself completely into that beautiful culture. Actions have unintended consequences.
    You were very diplomatic. I just feel angry and hurt - both of which I am letting go of with this note. It will take a whole lot more people like you, Amy, to help Peruvians to see all Americans are not alike. Thank you for writing it.

  2. I started reading this and thought well how nice another person who is showing support and concern for my sister Jamie Neal and her boyfriend Garrett Hand. A public apology? If im correct they did speak publicly in a press conference (my sister however does not speak Spanish) im sure if she was able to she would have clearly said how much she enjoys south America and is very thankful for all that has been done in their search. They have been more than apologetic but i do understand your concern for the reputation of your country.

  3. Stacy,
    Thank you for your comment. As you can tell, this letter was written a few days after they were found and they had yet to do a press conference. Is there a copy or transcript of it somewhere? I am glad to hear that they spoke. Obviously, I am most glad that they are happy and healthy and have learned their lesson.

    1. I have been searching for the conference online, being that im in and from USA i have no clue where to retrieve this. Wish i could if u could point me in the direction to obtain it id be more than happy to.

    2. I have only found this article and it just says that Garrett is really happy to have a family that cares for him so much but the missing person flyer shouldn't have been put out so soon. No apology was cited though. I am not going to go crazy over it because what is done is done. I just hope they realize the big scale effect that their miscommunication had as well. That is all.

  4. I COMPLETELY agree with you, Amy. The fact that the news coverage indicates that they "laughed off" the situation and are posting on social media about staying in five star hotels on the Peruvian government's tab indicates to me that despite their lengthy stay in Peru they do not grasp the seriousness of what happened and the implications that kind of expensive search has on a struggling country. Precious time and resources went into searching for and "rescuing" them, and countless trips were canceled by foreigners who bring much-needed revenue to the local economy. This alone deserves some sort of acknowledgement. The onus is on us as responsible travelers to inform people who care about us where we are traveling, and if we will be out of contact. I understand that they mentioned it to their family at the beginning of the three month trip, but then they proceeded to be in constant contact for two months before going completely dark - for a full MONTH. Anyone's family would have freaked out. It would have been so simple for this costly mess to be avoided if they'd taken one minute to send an email. An apology or acknowledgement of culpability won't fix the situation, but it would certainly help.