We all have terrible travel stories about times where everything just went wrong on holiday. But some stories are definitely worse than others.
Mine starts idyllically enough, with a dream-like two-week trip to Kenya – one of those unforgettable, exotic, once-in-a-lifetime holidays. Before leaving on vacation, my travel partner and I were prescribed antimalarial pills, a standard recommendation for any traveler heading to Kenya. Antimalarial drugs are known to cause strong side effects, often triggering vivid dreams and sleep disturbance. Here though, the side effects were of another nature.
It turned out that my travel partner had a particular sensitivity to those pills which caused her to suffer from severe diarrhea for the entire duration of our vacation. And so the whole trip ended up being a manic search for the nearest facilities. Whether on a bus, in a jeep driving through the savannah, whale watching on a boat, or visiting small local villages – I was constantly and quite obsessively trying to locate trees big enough for my partner to hide behind, holes in the ground that could function as a toilet, or hidden spaces that would provide her with at least a semblance of privacy.
Imagine being forced to suddenly jump into the sea to avoid the embarrassment of soiling yourself in front of the rest of your cruise group. Or being stuck on safari, unable to get out of the car for hours, because you don’t want to get gored by a rhino or eaten by lions while relieving yourself.
People always have a good laugh when I tell this story. But the truth is, that kind of experience can be pretty horrifying and sometimes have long-lasting consequences.
Needless to say, both my and my travel partner’s trip were ruined. Thankfully, her condition quickly improved after getting back home and stopping the antimalarial treatment. But quite honestly, it would have been great to speak to a reliable local doctor and get prescribed another medication with fewer side effects. At least it would have enabled us to spot animals instead of lavatories…
Frankly, no one should have to go through that kind of experience; certainly not at a time when digital technologies are transforming healthcare and its provision. As travelers, we can and should expect easy access to excellent local medical care. It is not acceptable that our only option should be visiting the ER to get a consult, which is both highly inconvenient and often involves long waits, poor treatment, and expensive bills which are then passed on to our insurance company, or worse, translate into high out-of-pocket expenses. Instead, we should be given access to a network of qualified and vetted medical professionals who speak our language. Think about the economic gain that insurance companies and other providers could realize by bundling such an offering with their traditional services – and the additional customer satisfaction they could generate.
Bottom line: next time you go on holiday, make sure to check beforehand where to get good medical assistance in case of an emergency, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance with decent medical coverage. The point of an exotic trip is to create special memories – but you want the right kind of special memories!