One of the best travel emergency stories I’ve ever heard was told to me at Botanica bar in New York over some whiskey.
A friend spent a good portion of his life as a mountaineer, and participated in an Everest expedition in 2003.
Things didn’t go as planned and he soon was involved in the highest mountain rescue on record, successfully getting a fellow climber, Conan Harrod, down from the North Face. For all the slow burning drama of the story, the kicker was in how they managed to get a medevac. They, wait for it, called their Amex Platinum line, where they had signed up for adventure travel insurance. They had a plan in advance, vetted it, and it ended up saving the day. Chopper included. How that didn’t get turned into a commercial is beyond me.
High mountain rescues are an extenuating circumstance to be sure, but anyone that has logged time on the road and in different countries surely has their share of terrors. That food poisoning and hospital visit at 3AM in Hong Kong during a monsoon, that ill-advised midnight scooter ride in the islands, etc.
Following are some tools to keep you you safe and sound on the road:
Founded by Dr. Jay Parkinson, Sherpaa is an app that allows one-to-one communication with a MD. They help with issues that a primary care doctor would care and treat, prescribe medication refills and tests, and also connect to local specialists. What’s nice about this app is, while traveling, you can get an opinion as to what is going on before actually having to set food in a hospital or ask for a doctor to make a painfully expensive house call. They ask a series of rigorous questions and then give advice based on the information. It is profoundly reassuring to have in a travel context, and saves a lot of anxiety. The app was formerly only available via your company, but now it is available for individuals to use at $40/month. I use it and love it.
For those traveling to remote, far flung locales, Global Rescue is a service that tries to mitigate travel risk by offering travel insurance, as well as field rescue and security/extraction services. In their words, “if you are faced with a security emergency, natural disaster, terrorist attack, government ordered evacuation, or civil unrest while travelling, our teams of military special operations veterans will get you to safety and bring you home.” Cue images of being plucked off rooftops fall of Saigon style.
The service also offers detailed destination reports that go far above and beyond the typical embassy advisories, providing updated information about risk, immunizations needed, and local medical facilities. Travel memberships start at around $329 a year, and go up in price with the more bells and whistles needed. Extraction from a dicey spot by a former Green Beret doesn’t come cheap, after all.
For the solo traveler, apps called Companion and React Mobile have apps that both have a “follow me” feature that allow you to share GPS location with friends and family so they can follow your whereabouts in real-time. Perfect for the female traveler running alone in a new city, or anyone that is security conscious. It is a simple, mobile and ambient layer that should give some peace of mind.
It’s not as life and death as some of the earlier examples, but data hygiene is increasingly important when you’re on the road. And still constitutes safety in a way. Unsecured wi-fi and dodgy hotel connections can mean that sensitive information is compromised in transit. I recommend Cloak, a great VPN for mac, that is incredibly easy to use and configure.