Not to be the voice of doom, but someday we are all going to die. Hopefully, when we are old, grey, and withered with at least 95 years of memories and, while lying on a chaise lounge in the South of France, surrounded by loved ones and soused on really good red wine. But the fact is, it is one of the few certainties in life. Why do I bring up this topic on a gorgeous Friday? It’s not to harsh your weekend vibe, I promise. It’s because travel is uncertain, wonderful, educational, scary, exhilarating, and soul-changing and we should do as much of it as we can AND we should make it as stress-free as possible. Part of that is to plan and I don’t mean your itinerary.
I am a planner and travel planning is a favorite pastime. Planning things to see and do, what to wear, and even who will take care of things while I am gone.
I think it’s because I spent much of my early 20s as the grasshopper from Aesop’s fable. Playing the proverbial fiddle and singing (actually, it was dancing and staying out too late) and not really planning for the future. Around age 25, I snapped out of it but then my pendulum swung the other way and I became a bit obsessed with ensuring my life was organized. These days, I’ve relaxed and appreciate a good plan with the understanding that if it falls apart it is not the end of the world. It is a good place to be – controlled, but not controlling (and if anyone who knows me reads this, you better not disagree with me 😎).
By having a solid plan I know that if the wheels DO come off (my trip goes awry), I won’t go careening into the ditch (my finances/house/dog will be safe). Anything can happen while I am on the road so I follow the old adage “expect the best and plan for the worst.” Part of that plan includes the right legal documents.
With that in mind, here are some documents you may want to have on file (both hard copy at home and e-copy on your device)
- Temporary Will (like a regular will but includes the specific dates of your trip)
- Durable Power of Attorney for Heath Care (this gives your designee the legal authority to make health care decisions for/about you when you can (including life or death)
- DNR (do not resuscitate) order (this ensures that your wishes are respected should you not want extreme life-saving measures taken on your behalf)
- HIPPA authorization (this is written consent that lets doctors and health care professionals discuss your medical situation with family members)
- Travel insurance policies
You may also want to consider getting a Living Will and Living Trust documents, depending on your situation. Keep in mind, these cover you and your concerns in the US. When you are in a forein country, your documents may not offer you a lot of help should you be hospitalized. It is always good to sign up for STEP, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. This is a free service that allows American citizens (traveling or living abroad) to enroll with the nearest American embassy or consulate.
(NOTE: I am NOT an attorney and this is NOT legal advice. Do your homework and consultant an attorney to be sure you have a plan that works for you.)
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s enjoy some photos and a story that punctuates the importance of having your affairs in order. 😁 Spoiler alert: Everything ended well, but It could have gone another way.
During my time in Cambodia, I spent an afternoon visiting Tuol Sleng and the memorial/museum at the Killing Fields. After a profound afternoon, I hailed a tuk tuk back into Phnom Penh. It was a quiet afternoon and we were the only vehicle on the road. The air was heavy and damp and the drone of insects was almost hypnotizing. It was of those drives where the heat and rhythm of the tires slides you into a languor that only happens in far-flung desitnations. Sleepily, I enjoyed the blur of the scenery; flat fields, dotted with the occasional palm tree or cow. Without warning, my tuk tuk slammed into a motorcycle that appeared from nowhere!
Now, if you’ve ridden in a tuk tuk you know there are no safety features. No seat belt or side curtain airbags. Just an open box, towed by a motorcycle, with a (maybe) padded bench seat. So, as we made contact with the double-passenger motorcycle, the bike-part of the tuk tuk came off its back wheel, the body of the tuk tuk bent at a right angle at the tow hitch and I went sliding into the bar over the towing pin. On my hands and knees, my first thought was “Is my camera okay?” It was and I was. Just some scrapes, bruises and a good story.
Below is a photo of the cows that arrived in time to watch the shenanigans of roadside medicine sellers, driver arguments, and a very pale foreigner (me) hide start to pink in the afternoon sun as I waited for another tuk tuk.