There is a tendency in cases of missing adults (other than Alzheimer's patients) to blame the victim, especially if they disappear in an exotic region. The two most common presumptions are that they either engineered their own disappearance and are now sipping an umbrella drink on a beach somewhere or that they were somehow involved in something they ought not to have been and it backfired. This is a convenient narrative that lets its purveyors off the hook of their humanity: "Yeah, I feel bad for the guy, but, you know...."
Having said that, some common themes have emerged among the few cases I've become familiar with that suggest some simple rules to help you stay out of trouble:
1. Buddy system. In all three cases I'm familiar with, the men who disappeared went off on their own in ways that did not seem dangerous. My brother Joe took a small catamaran into the shallows off the West End of Roatan, an area he knew well; David Gimelfarb, though he signed into Rincon La Vieja along with 300 other tourists, did not have anyone along with him to be a second set of eyes or to miss him if anything happened; Ron Scheepstra, though fly fishing with several buddies, went off by himself to walk a half-mile to his car. None of these things would normally be considered dangerous activities, but clearly, in Honduras, Mexico, and the jungles of Costa Rica, they are. Even if you aren't traveling with a partner, it's a good idea to be sociable and buddy up with others.
2. Use technology. Joe and David both had cell phones, and neither had his with him. Even though phone reception can be nonexistent in these places, law enforcement and search and rescue teams can ping your phone -- even if it is turned off. Don't leave it in your room or car - keep it with you. Likewise, if you're going to be traveling in remote areas, you really should have a personal locator device
. They are not terribly expensive and could be the key to being found if you get lost in the mountains or at sea. Furthermore, in an age of connectivity and social media you can usually text people back home before you head out for the day or "tweet" your whereabouts on Twitter
3. Prepare by having essentials with you. Food and water; a sharp knife; a lighter or matches in a waterproof container; a strong flashlight and a whistle for signaling. Such simple preparation can buy you time until you are found.
I'm sure there are loads of other rules of the road for the person traveling in remote areas. Any that you can share here might save a life.