How do you prepare for travel? What if you’ve been doing it wrong all along?
What comes to mind when you think of the word, “adventure”? For me, my mind wanders off to the thrill of new sights, new smells, new sounds, and the unforgettable experiences of traveling to somewhere different and unfamiliar. For most of my life, I have traveled on a whim without putting too much thought or effort into planning out a detailed itinerary. Many of my most memorable travel adventures have happened by going with the flow and letting the day unfold naturally. I recall the time in Iceland when I raced through the night on less than 3 hours of sleep, with my adrenaline pumping high, to make it to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon for one of the most breathtaking sunrises I’ve ever seen. I lost track of time watching the puffins hop around on the side of a cliff in Vestmannaeyjar and didn’t realize until it was almost too late that I needed to catch the last ferry back in order make it to the Glacier Lagoon at a decent hour.
Another time was when I was fully immersed in filming a family of wild monkeys in Manuel Antonio National Park and didn’t notice that my tour group had left me behind.
I didn’t set strict plans when traveling and am more of a “go with the flow, be in the moment” type of person.
However, my way of traveling and preparation for travel came crashing down when I heard a cautionary tale about one of my friends. For the sake of anonymity, we’ll call him “Brian.”
Meet Brian, one of the many unknowingly unprepared solo travelers
Brian booked a quick 4 day, 3-night trip through the mountainous region of Sa Pa, Vietnam in the northernmost territory of the country with a 12 hour stop in Hanoi before taking the 8-hour night bus. Brian’s always been extremely adventurous and active, and he harbored ambitions to summit Mount Fansipan.
Everything was going well on the hike for the first few hours until suddenly, he felt an intense pain in his abdomen and keeled over, violently throwing up the contents of his stomach. Unbeknownst to Brian, one of the meals he ate in Hanoi contained a stomach virus that made him really sick, in combination with the change in altitude from being at such a high elevation. And as luck would have it, the clouds then unleashed a torrential downpour at the same time. With the threat of being caught in a flash flood, Brian and his Sherpa ended up turning back as he continued to feel very sick on the descent and into the night. Brian wasn’t staying anywhere near electricity, let alone the internet, and though his first night was horrible, he eventually did improve.
Why travel insurance simply isn’t enough
I thought about his situation long and hard. What if it turned out to be more than a stomach bug and he had to go to the hospital? Then what would have happened? I, for one, would NOT want to be stuck in a far-off hospital in Vietnam…
As I began to research and prepare for my next trip, understanding a situation like Brian’s could happen to me as well, what I found out about travel insurance and medical evacuation insurance surprised me. The typical travel health insurance I could purchase before my trip usually covered a trip cancellation, lost baggage, and basic emergency medical expenses. If you are injured while traveling, local emergency services would likely take you to the nearest ER. If that facility could not treat you, your insurance would likely get you transported to the next nearest “acceptable facility” if that’s what is “medically necessary”, but that’s likely where you’d remain. Stuck in a hospital that may or may not be an “acceptable facility” to you. At any rate, you’d likely be stuck far, far from home. I found that more than scary.
Solo travelers should consider air medical transport and medical evacuation insurance
I’ve found a solution. Medjet is an air medical transport and travel security company offering membership-based air ambulance and repatriation services. If you are hospitalized, their MedjetHorizon membership will get you all the way back to your own hospital at home, regardless of whether the facility you are in is “acceptable” or not, and regardless of whether transport is considered “medically necessary” or not. People enroll in Medjet for much greater control on where their medical transport takes them for treatment, and to make sure that it is THEIR choice, not some insurance company’s decision.
Furthermore, although no one wants to have to even think about being in a situation where political strife in a country could cause an attack or wrongful detention, or to think about horrible realities like kidnapping and violent crime, etc., it can and does happen. You do NOT want to be in that situation and not have any options to get help. Medjet offers its members access to a 24/7 travel security network, medical transportation, and crisis response service covering a wide range of safety concerns and threats while traveling that does not depend on hard triggers, like government-issued evacuation mandates to act on your behalf.
I also know that with the amount of travel I now do as part of my full-time job, I cause a lot of stress and anxiety for my parents, especially when I go on solo trips as a female. With MedjetHorizon, my parents have the security and comfort of knowing that if something were to go wrong during my travels, they would have someone to call and that I have access to 24/7 crisis response, security evacuation and repatriation services to get me home safe and sound in even the worst case scenarios. And while it sounds very (very) fancy, it’s actually very (very) affordable.
Don’t be like Brian. Cover your bases before you travel
Brian’s first-hand experience trying to summit Mount Fansipan changed my approach to travel preparation. He eventually connected to the internet once he was back at his cabin, self-diagnosed his symptoms, and used Google translate to ask the local pharmacy for medication. He fortunately eventually made it back home safely. But the last thing I would want after being extremely sick on a trip of a lifetime would be to have to worry about the expenses associated with my medical transport, hospital stay, the quality of care I may or may not receive, and the potential language barrier and miscommunication that would likely happen in a foreign country.
Next time I take a bucket list trip or expedition to a new destination, I will definitely be keeping medical evacuation insurance and Medjet in mind. Having a MedjetHorizon membership card in your pocket while traveling overseas provides assurance and peace of mind knowing you can always find your way home, even under the direst of circumstances.
This post is written in partnership with Medjet. As always, my opinions are my own.