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Question: As a 49-year-old single man, I often travel alone, mostly domestically. I would love to travel abroad, but I am hesitant because of growing concerns about hospital care in case of a medical emergency. I feel perfectly healthy now, but you never know. Would a group travel vacation be more prudent for me? Are my concerns overblown?
Answer: Whether your concerns are overblown is less a question than an indication of comfort level. And a vacation is all about comfort level. It is not a time to think about whether you might die or get sick . . . alone . . . in rural Mongolia. So let's evaluate those fears.
Will you die or get sick on a trip? It's possible. The leading cause of death for a person in Tulanian's age range is cancer, according to the National Vital Statistics System's 2006 report, followed by heart attacks and accidents.
Fear of dying: valid, but sudden death while traveling is not statistically likely.
Next, what happens if you get sick as a solo traveler? What then?
If you're like me, you can leave a note for the hotel maid on what to do when she finds your body. But if you're smart, you will have done these things:
* Registered with the State Department if traveling abroad.
* Bought trip cancellation or interruption insurance that includes medical evacuation.
* Rented an international cellphone for emergency calls (or carried your own if it works abroad).
* Placed in your wallet and in your luggage a list of any medications you take (the generic names), doses and how many times a day.
* Researched local doctors and/or healthcare facilities, especially if you're in a country where the native language isn't your native language.
For these suggestions, a tip of the hat to Dr. Christian Davis Furman, vice chair of geriatrics at the University of Louisville School of Medicine; Dr. Nathan Wei, a rheumatologist in Gaithersburg, Md.; Carolyn Fox, director of marketing and public relations for Country Walkers, a provider of small-group walking adventures; and Tammy Weiler, who operates Singles Travel International.
Fear of getting sick alone: valid but manageable if you're prepared.
Finally, to the question of Mongolia, it seems unlikely that if you're new to foreign travel, you'll take on a difficult destination the first few times out. Start with a destination, perhaps, where you speak the language and can build your confidence.
Fear of getting in over your head: valid, but you control this.
Which brings us to the question of group travel. There are downsides to group and solo travel. In a group, there will always be one ultra-annoying person. As a solo, you'll find a tension in having to keep your wits about you at all times. But there are upsides too: In a group, you will never be alone. As a solo, you are governed only by you .
Bottom line: Take baby steps first. For those who love travel, it is a marathon, not a sprint.
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