Why I Don’t Travel With Health Insurance -
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Why I Don’t Travel With Health Insurance

Why I Left My Fancy Life - 43

 

If you’re like most Americans, the thought of not having health insurance probably seems absurd. Perhaps even terrifying.

 

It may seem so terrifying that the fear keeps you in a cushy day job that doesn’t really fulfill you. It has full medical and dental after all. Without it, how would you pay for doctor’s visits, medications, flu shots, and all of the other potential emergencies that could happen at any moment?

 

In fact, one of the most common hesitations people tell me they have when it comes to quitting their day job and traveling the world, is not knowing what to do about health insurance.

 

What if I told you that it’s not only possible to travel the world without health insurance, but that you will probably even become healthier as a result?

 

I’ve been traveling the world for nearly four years and I don’t have health insurance at all. Further, I’m healthier now, traveling across the world, than I was for most of my life.

 

If you’re looking for advice on the best healthcare plans while traveling abroad, I can’t give you that answer. What I can offer you is confidence in knowing that health insurance should not be what keeps you in a job or a life that you don’t want to be living.

 

I don’t travel with health insurance, I don’t plan to travel with health insurance, and here is why:

 

Run Like a Girl - 25

 

I’m Not Down With Western Medicine

 

No disrespect to my lovely doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other Western medicine practitioners out there, but I have not found Western medicine to be effective, and in many cases I find it detrimental.

 

Why? It focuses on the symptoms of an ailment rather than the cause. Its goal is to simply relieve the symptoms as quickly as possible. Kinda like draping a blanket over a massive pile of trash. At first you don’t notice it, because you can’t see it. But over time it starts to smell. Then the rats come. And before you know it, your entire house is infested with cockroaches.

 

Growing up with health insurance, I was prescribed antibiotics for anything under the sun. Cold? Antibiotics. Flu? Antibiotics. Infection? Antibiotics. Cut? Antibiotic cream. I’ve taken more antibiotics in my life than I could possibly remember. In fact, when I first left to travel to Costa Rica, my doctor gave me a prescription for antibiotics to take with me “just in case.”

 

I took so many rounds of antibiotics that I had seriously disturbed my immune system. With each white pill I made my body less and less able to fight infection. For my first year of travel I had all kinds of problems as a result. This is how antibiotics work, and this is why it’s so important to ONLY take them as a last resort.

 

Western medicine has its place in extreme circumstances, but by no means should it be our “go to.” Personally, I’d rather rip the blanket off of the pile of garbage and pick up each piece one by one, than to take a pill to pretend it’s not actually there.

 

IMG_6758

 

I Take Responsibility for My Health

 

Not having health insurance doesn’t mean not doing anything. In fact, it means that you need to be even more proactive about your health. You need to take responsibility for your health, rather than expecting a doctor to give you the solution.

 

Since I stopped having health insurance, I’ve invested in all kinds of holistic practices to take proper care of my body.

 

I stay active and practice yoga every day to keep my blood circulating, my muscles strong yet flexible, and my joints supported. I travel mostly in natural places where I can breathe clean air and be active in nature. I eat a very clean, mostly organic diet with lots of dark green vegetables, healthy fat, and high quality protein, and I avoid all processed foods and most grains. I regularly consume probiotic food and beverages to build my healthy gut flora to combat bacteria (read my post How to Travel the World and Never Get Food Poisoning for more info). I do periodic cleanses to remove accumulated toxins from travel, environmental conditions, and “modern life.”

 

Perhaps most importantly, I lead a low stress lifestyle, where I feel generally relaxed. I smile more often than I frown, I keep a positive attitude, and I don’t sweat the small stuff. Choosing happiness is the best decision you could ever make for your health.

 

Taking responsibility for your health is both enlightening and empowering. It tunes you in to your body’s individual needs and teaches you how to respond to them. Which is, in my opinion, the only sustainable health solution.

 

Ultimate Guide to Puerto Viejo - 089

 

I Use Natural Remedies When I am Sick

 

Since adding probiotics to my diet and laying off the chemicals, I’m sick far less often than I used to be. However, there are still times when I get a cold or a stomach bug or a nasty cut. Rather than head to a doctor for a “quick fix” I use an ultra effective natural remedy. Below I’ve listed my go-to recipes, but I also recommend asking locals about plant medicine. In Costa Rica and Indonesia especially, many locals are familiar with the best natural medicine that you can literally pick out of your yard. 

 

For congestion, sore throat, cough, and other cold/flu symptoms, I swear by this ultra medicinal all natural tea used by grandmas in the Caribbean, elders in Indonesia, and my own mother in the USA. Making it is simple. Get a big glass jar and place a big knob of smashed ginger root, a piece of smashed fresh turmeric (if you can find it), two cloves of smashed raw garlic, the juice of two lemons, a few shakes of cayenne pepper, and a big tablespoon of local raw honey. Pour boiling water up to the top and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Drink this tincture constantly, and whatever you had should clear up within 24 hours.

 

Food poisoning and other stomach problems can usually be solved with some activated charcoal mixed with water. The charcoal works because it absorbs the toxins and allows you to flush them from your system quickly. Important: activated charcoal is different from normal charcoal, so be sure to get the food grade kind from the health store.

 

Essential oils are extremely effective for any kind of ailment. I use tea tree oil for cuts, scrapes, burns, and even blemishes. Frankincense is great for rashes. Once on an airplane I felt myself getting a sore throat and stuffy nose, so I asked the flight attendant for hot water and I mixed in a few drops of lemon and peppermint essential oils. My cold cleared up by the time we landed simply from inhaling and drinking the liquid.

 

For more natural remedies, check out what I pack in My Travel Wellness Kit.

 

Pave Paradise  - 04

 

Medical Care is Often Cheaper Abroad

 

I know what you’re thinking. How is lemon juice and tea tree oil going to help when I’ve fallen off a motorbike, been attacked by a wild monkey, or contracted dengue fever?

 

While I do believe that nature has an answer for everything, there are times, especially when you’re in a foreign setting, where it just makes sense to go the Western medicine route. I’ve been there, and I get it.

 

First let me say that for me these times have been rare. In four years of travel, there has really only been one time that I’ve actually NEEDED to see a doctor. That was when I was bitten by a stray dog in Thailand. I went to the emergency, tourist, 24 hour clinic (much more expensive than the normal clinic). After a doctor’s visit, some immunizations, and six follow up appointments for more immunizations, I paid a whopping… $250. Seriously? I’ve heard the immunization for rabies in the states (which only delays the spread of rabies, you STILL have to go and get the shots) costs far more than that, and most medical insurance doesn’t cover travel immunizations.

 

Other times I’ve gone to the doctor while traveling it’s also been extremely inexpensive. In Indonesia, I stepped on a sea urchin and my foot became so infected I couldn’t walk. I tried to treat it holistically for two weeks, but then again I also danced on it barefoot in a dirty beach bar, and it didn’t get better. The local doctor’s visit and a course of strong antibiotics (last case resort, remember) cost $45.

 

While I don’t recommend doing this, before I went holistic I bought antibiotics over the counter in Costa Rica for $10 without even needing a prescription.

 

What about dental? Since I stopped using conventional toothpaste (instead I do oil pulling and use a natural paste made from activated charcoal and baking soda) my teeth have never been healthier or whiter. People ask me almost daily if I’ve had them professionally whitened. I do still enjoy a good teeth cleaning, and when I was in Cambodia I had the best, completely fluoride free, teeth cleaning of my life for $20.

 

Run Like a Girl - 27

 

I Don’t Worry About Things That Haven’t Happened

 

Call me idealistic, but I try not to worry about things that haven’t happened yet. I don’t focus on the worst-case scenario and I don’t think about all of the things that might go wrong. I’d rather focus on the things that I can control right now that will ultimately lead me to a healthier happier life. To many people, that may seem stupid or naïve, but for now, it works for me. If it stops working for me, then I’ll do something else.

 

Puerto Viejo

 

Travel Insurance is a Better Option

 

Alright so maybe you’re more responsible than me. Maybe you need something more practical and guaranteed. In that case, I recommend travel insurance over health insurance.

 

Not only does travel insurance cover incidentals like stolen valuables and emergency travel, but it’s more likely to be accepted by clinics overseas than your health insurance from back home.

 

If you want to get travel insurance, my friend Matt knows far more about this practical stuff than I do. Check out his article, How to Buy Good Travel Insurance.

 

Would you consider traveling the world without health insurance? Why or why not?

 


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Comments

  1. I finally called around and found out about emergency medical travel insurance. I have Medicare Part A & B and VA Medical Center privileges. I travel internationally. Medicare Supplemental Plan N covers emergency international medical care. I pay $110 USD/mo. It is worth it. I don’t have to worry about catastrophic medical bills. This international travel coverage is available to all U.S. Medicare recipients and sold by numerous insurance companies.

    • Camille Willemain Says: July 1, 2015 at 11:51 am

      Hi Luna, thanks so much for sharing that info! $110/month is very reasonable if you’ll be needing the coverage consistently.

  2. Traveling without insurance is a scary idea for sure just like you said! I do opt for holistic remedies on a day to day instead of going the antibiotic route all the time because I agree, it trashes your immune system and typically creates bigger problems down the road! I know when I was in Spain that I was absolutely amazed at the non cost to see the doctor and then the estimated cost for hospitalization. Practically pennies. I think it’s definitely worthwhile to look into the healthcare systems in place in countries one is traveling to as the just in case measure as well as packing the natural essentials. Essential oils are the next thing to add to my roster- there’s just so many options out there. Do you recommend picking them up from a health store?

    • Camille Willemain Says: July 1, 2015 at 11:50 am

      Yes, you make a great point. Research how much the out of pocket costs are where you’re traveling, and if they’re expensive, travel insurance will definitely be a good idea. For essential oils I recommend either ordering Doterra or Young Living oils, they’re much higher quality than the typical oils you’ll buy in a health store. I believe Pharmaca may carry some Doterra oils too.

      • I’ve heard good things about Doterra and Young Living just came across my radar. Thanks for the suggestions!

        • I buy essential oils almost exclusively from these two Minnesota companies:
          Wyndemere http://www.wyndmerenaturals.com/
          Veritas http://veriditasbotanicals.com/

          I especially love the product quality and story behind Veritas organic oils but sometimes I can’t afford the price tag and I’ll opt for Wyndemere instead! Wyndemere has organic oils as well as conventional formulas. My local co-op has done a lot of ground work to ensure that they meet our standards of sustainability and natural or organic standards, so I feel really good about buying from them!

          • Camille Willemain Says: July 8, 2015 at 8:04 am

            Thanks so much for sharing!! I’m about to invest in a set of essential oils and have been looking around. I like DoTerra and Young Living but don’t necessarily want to be part of the pyramid scheme lol!

  3. I am a worst-case scenario, but I definitely wasn’t expecting to get cancer at 27, and boy was I glad to have awesome health insurance. Not having health insurance is like playing Russian roulette, in my opinion. There are environmental factors that influence disease and genetic things, too, that we can’t control. I can appreciate your desire to live on the edge, but when you’ve never been sick, you don’t understand how precarious health is.

    • I agree, it is a young person writing this and really does not have a clue on reality. It seems like all her articles are hope and prayer which is all nice and dandy but does not cut it in the real world. But sometimes i guess its good to be young and naive. One major health incident could bankrupt you for life. One should get basic coverage if you cannot afford full coverage…. at the absolute minimum.

      • Camille Willemain Says: July 1, 2015 at 11:38 am

        Hi Mike, we each have our own definition of what is “the real world” and the good news is that we also have the freedom to live however we feel is best for us. I’m simply sharing an alternative lifestyle.

    • Camille Willemain Says: July 1, 2015 at 11:48 am

      Hi Suzanne, I appreciate your comment and where you are coming from. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had this challenging health experience in your life. However, from what I’ve seen in my own family, the way that Western medicine treats cancer is terrifying to me. I have family members who I believe died due to the way that their cancer was treated by doctors. If I were to be in that situation, I would go to specialists in the holistic field (for example Dr Greg Damato in Costa Rica) which insurance wouldn’t cover anyway. But I do agree, having some sort of finances for emergencies is important.

      • Christie Says: July 3, 2015 at 8:58 pm

        Hi Camille,

        I trust you have some sort of training or experience to have made the judgement that it was the treatment which result in the death of your family members?

        I completely agree with the earlier posters that although obviously it’s each to their own, living without health cover is playing the odds that you will not need it.

        While I respect your right to publish your own opinion, I do hope that there are not too many young people who listen to you and then come to regret it later if they do become seriously ill.

        • Camille Willemain Says: July 4, 2015 at 6:54 pm

          Thanks Christie. We come from very different perspectives on this. However, what we have in common is a care and concern for our wellbeing. Thank you for respecting my different expression of that.

          • I think the main thing to consider is if you have money worth protecting. If not (and if your family doesn’t either, as they would be responsible for covering you) then def don’t pay for coverage. But if you have significant savings worth protecting, then it makes sense to have some sort of basic emergency coverage, IMO. A trip to the hospital could bankrupt you in the states. Obamacare has changed a lot of this now, and all US citizens are required by law to have coverage ….:-/

          • Camille Willemain Says: November 3, 2016 at 6:12 pm

            Thanks for your thoughtful insight :)

  4. You should at least get travel insurance and have catastrophic health insurance back in U.S. No one wants to pay for something they’ll rarely use, if at all, but if you can afford to eat, you can afford these coverage. The costs aren’t that much, and as with all insurance, they’re meant to protect you in case of a disaster. If you came down with something serious which doesn’t discriminate between someone with healthy or unhealthy lifestyle such as appendicitis, a serious injury, etc, holistic medicine won’t help much.

    • Camille Willemain Says: July 1, 2015 at 11:45 am

      Hey James, I hear you. However the way that Western medicine handles some of these serious things, like appendicitis and cancer scares me way more than not having health insurance.

  5. While I myself haven’t been to a doctor in over a year, and my son only goes for checkups, we would (at the very least) need insurance for my husband. He is a type 1 diabetic, and his insulin isn’t cheap. Cheaper than our monthly pay in? I’m actually not sure. But he’s also more at risk for other complications.

    Before diabetes, we would probably consider it.

    • Camille Willemain Says: July 1, 2015 at 11:43 am

      I hear you Sarah. Have you guys looked into holistic remedies to help with the Diabetes? I don’t mean going off of the insulin, rather seeing what natural things you could add in that would improve his health and then re-evaluate?

  6. Hi Camille!

    I love reading your blog, I find it so inspiring and very practical! I too have adopted a holistic lifestyle and I wanted to ask you what is your recipe for your natural toothpaste? Mine could use a little upgrade :)

    Thanks so much!

    • Camille Willemain Says: July 3, 2015 at 7:45 am

      Hey Marie, try out 1/3 cup activated charcoal powder, 2/3 cup raw unrefined organic coconut oil, and if you’d like add a drop of peppermint essential oil and grapefruit seed extract. Test it out and adjust the oil and extract. :)

  7. At 57, and 7 months into a round the world trip, I did choose to purchase a year of travelers insurance, and it’s a fraction of what I would have to pay if I’d stayed in the U.S. The day I got laid off from my job when the owner put the company up for sale, I lost my health insurance. When I looked into buying my own, it would have cost $900 a month (kind of hard to pay for when you just lost your income), so I went without. This meant my $30 co-pay for my migraine rx turned into $2400 for the same 3 month rx, out of my pocket. It’s hard to believe, but traveling I pay less than $100 a month for health insurance, $1100 for a year, and that includes helicopter lifting me off a mountain if, God, forbid, something should happen. And even harder to believe, is that my migraine pills, which cost $40 each in the U.S., were only $5 each in Thailand! Yes, they’re the exact same brand, made by the same U.S. company. So as long as I keep traveling, I can have affordable healthcare!! Now if I can just figure out how to earn a living on the road before my savings runs out…bottom line is, don’t let this one thing keep you from following your dream. Best of all, happy & healthy traveling, I get less migraines!

    • Camille Willemain Says: July 3, 2015 at 7:49 am

      Thank you so much, I really appreciate your story. My experience has been similar. My mom gets migraines and has noticed a huge shift by adding green smoothies into her diet. I’ve also heard that coffee enemas can instantly get rid of migraines. As a Reiki practitioner I’ve helped people get rid of migraines within 10 minutes, so you may want to look into doing a course (2 days, $200) so you can practice on yourself :)

      • Thanks Camille :) I’m a first level Reiki practitioner, but it unfortunately won’t knock out a killer migraine. I tried every all natural remedy I could find before resorting to prescription meds, although I haven’t tried coffee enemas. Caffeine is a migraine trigger for me, so I avoid drinking or eating anything with caffeine in it, especially coffee. I wonder if the caffeine would be absorbed that way? Green smoothies are great! Maybe I’m just not drinking enough of them.

        • Camille Willemain Says: July 4, 2015 at 6:59 pm

          Do some research on the coffee enemas. I’ve read that the caffeine is not absorbed the same way. I personally get really jittery from coffee if I drink it, but not from the enemas.

    • Hi Lynn,

      What kind of travelers insurance did you buy?

      • World Nomads. It was through the link on Nomadic Matt’s travel blog. It not only covers me outside of the U.S., but on domestic trips in the U.S. as well, as long as they’re 100 miles from home. It cost me $1050 for a year. If you’re planning to do any “extreme sports”, like scuba diving, ice climbing, bungee jumping, etc, you can opt for a little more expensive upgraded policy. I fortunately haven’t had to use it, so I don’t know how responsive they are, but it looks good in print.

  8. I live in the States and do have health insurance through my employer, but in 5+ years I’ve pretty much only used it for a few routine physicals. I agree 100% that prevention is the best medicine, and will go the holistic route for most things except something catastrophic. Since I changed my diet years ago I’ve not gotten sick, the few times I felt a cold possibly coming on a good night’s sleep kicked it. I even work in an office where people are constantly coming through with their colds and coughs, but I stay healthy. I absolutely attribute it to clean diet and prevention, since I’ve been eating mostly organic, whole foods my immunity is totally different than it used to be, no more sore throats, winter colds, etc. And I do believe that given the right tools, our bodies can rid themselves of most ailments, I’ve read a bunch about people reversing diabetes, cancer and more through juicing and raw diets. I still love the occasional bar snack and beers, but since my diet is clean overall it’s never been an issue. I love reading stuff like this, it validates the what I’ve learned and applied in my own life!

    • Camille Willemain Says: July 3, 2015 at 7:56 am

      Thank you Russ! So happy to hear that you’ve taken control of your health and are seeing wonderful results :) I 100% AGREE the body knows how to restore itself back to balance, we need only LISTEN :) xo Pura Vida!

      • That’s great! I’m going to start taking control of my health!

        “Alright! Listen up Body, now I know you are attacking my cells due to genetic disease, but I want you to stop. I want to travel the world without having to constantly get evil western medicine and scary hospital infusions every 4 weeks just to survive the debilitating effects of your silly troublemaking. K Thanks”

        • Camille Willemain Says: September 30, 2015 at 9:49 pm

          What if you said, “Body, thank you. I love you. I know you want to protect me. I know you want me to be safe. I trust that whatever is happening is here to help me. And I don’t know when this is going to stop, but I will keep loving you through it, so that you don’t feel so alone.”

  9. Hi Camille! I’m preparing to leave for long-term travel come January (India & SE Asia), and I’m finding so much valuable information in your blog it’s mind-blowing! I don’t have health insurance for many of the same reasons you list here, but what are your thoughts on travel vaccines?

    • Camille Willemain Says: July 3, 2015 at 8:07 am

      Hey Sarah, that’s a tough one. Some countries do REQUIRE certain immunizations, so definitely look into that. For the rest, do your research on each one individually and go with what feels right. In my experience, unless you’re going somewhere VERY remote the immunizations are unnecessary. For instance, my doctor insisted I take Malaria pills before going to Costa Rica, and when I got down there all of the locals said I was crazy and there was NO Malaria there. That said, if I was going somewhere remote in Africa, I’d have to do some more research to decide what i wanted to do. Hope that helps!

  10. You should have travel health insurance for one simple reason: Life flighting you out of the country WHEN needed. For instance, I was just last week deep in the mountains of Guatemala near the Mexico border and quite frankly the healthcare in that country is not to the level it is in the USA. In case of injury or catastrophe, it is nice to have it as a back up and it is not that expensive. (here is a travel writers annual policy: http://www.etravelprotection.com/travelwriters/Product/?psId=001003385 I also met you in Costa Rica and I don’t think their healthcare is the same either. Believe me, I am a Chiropractor and Travel writer and I also use naturalistic healthcare, but when you fracture your spine or get hurt in a car wreck, the only Doctor I want to see is an ER physician!

    • Camille Willemain Says: July 3, 2015 at 8:08 am

      Thanks Cacinda, I hear ya. I’m not sure how the healthcare is in Guatemala but it’s actually top notch in Costa Rica. It’s one of the biggest reasons why Costa Rica is one of the #1 places in the world for North American retirees. Thailand as well.

  11. Travelers often have the misconception that travel insurance is for small stuff (a cold, a stomach bug or a nasty cut – or even a stolen camera), it’s not… it’s meant for big and nasty stuff, like complicated fractions, emergency operations (appendicitis), and serious life threatening infections. For yes, all travelers can afford a visit to the Int. SOS clinic, but not many can afford helicopter transport, medical operation, and weeks of hospitalizations. Sure the risk is small, but that is exactly why insurance exists – to take care of those small risk situations, which you can’t afford to happen.

    • Oh, and in addition to a travel insurance, you need to have some kind of health insurance in your home country, since travel insurance companies will only cover for medical treatment abroad. If you get seriously ill, they will repatriate you (as soon as your condition allows), but not pay for the ongoing treatment in your home country.

      • And even if you have evac insurance, if you don’t have health insurance (only applies to US), you’re going to have a hard time finding a hospital to take you. I’ve seen families bankrupt themselves trying to get a loved one home on an evac and for follow-on medical care. It’s a pretty desperate situation. Also, there are countries that ask for the £££ up front for any catastrophic issue. If you don’t have the cash or a credit card, you won’t get treated. No one wants to pay for something they hope they won’t need, until they need it.

        Always best, at the very least, to carry evac and catastrophic health.

  12. Hi-

    I fully agree with you that a holistic medicinal approach is ideal for day-to-day, for those in good health and for many cases, for those with chronic conditions. I avoid antibiotics, and choose to focus on preventative health though solid nutrition, mind-body alignment, yoga, natural cures etc.

    I will say though, that all of this goes out the window if you happen to fall suddenly ill with cancer or another serious disease that requires western treatment. I urge you to think hard about the possible long term consequences of not having coverage. Two examples:

    When my brother 33 years old, he was diagnosed with a random and rare small intestinal cancer. For months, he had stomach pain and saw several specialists, from holistic nutritionists to traditional gastrointestinal doctors. All of his tests came back inconclusive, and he was otherwise young and healthy. He was a vegan, a non-smoker and non-drinker, and a regular exerciser. Everything escalated when he was in severe pain one night and went to the ER. Exploratory surgery was done and a cancerous mass was discovered. The survival rate of small intestinal cancer is extremely low. Everything changed for him in an instant, and chemo was the absolute best chance at survival. The medical bills were outrageous. I cringe to think what would have happened to him financially had he not had health insurance.

    In the grand scheme of possible catastrophe that can occur, and the medical fees you might rack up if something rare and random happens to you, the relatively low monthly Obamacare fee is not all that expensive. Also consider a scenario where you have troubling symptoms that aren’t responding to holistic treatments, and you require scans and tests to rule out more serious diseases. Tests can be incredibly expensive. Obamacare, especially for those in a low income bracket is not that expensive. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish.

    • Camille Willemain Says: July 3, 2015 at 8:10 am

      Hi Sandy, I understand your concern, however I believe in something different. I do not believe that Western treatment of disease and cancer is the best way to handle it. If I were to get a serious illness I would use other methods and other natural doctors, which health insurance would not cover anyway.

  13. Thanks for this, Camille! I, too, don’t travel with health insurance and I haven’t for over fours now. Some people think we’re crazy, but I think it’s crazy to pay thousands for something that “might” happen. Again, like you, I travel in cheap countries. I’m moving to Aus soon and I have toyed with the idea finally getting it since everything there will cost me an arm and a leg. But after four years of being on the road without, I don’t know if I can bring myself to do it. I try natural remedies first and antibiotics if absolutely needed which, like you mentioned, costs a whopping few bucks at any pharmacy here. It’s really not a hard choice to see that insurance is pretty unnecessary. I saw your fb post about getting some backlash on this post. Whatever. I love that you are so honest here. People ask questions, and you give answers, this is your answer! Accept it or not. Why ask and then be upset when it’s not what you wanted to hear? Good for you. Keep up your good work and keep on enjoying life! :) <3

    • There is no right or wrong here, it’s a comfort level thing. I think the older you get, in some cases, the more likely you are to have health issues – that’s why health insurance costs skyrocket as you age. And the more you’ve been through over the years, the more you’ve seen what can happen. I too eat well, mostly whole foods, and seek natural treatments before resorting to western medicine, and am lucky to be very healthy. But when my friend recently fell off her bike in Thailand and split her chin open and it wouldn’t stop bleeding, she was very thankful to have an emergency room doctor to stitch her up, clean out the dirt & put her on antibiotics. For me, it’s peace of mind. If I were 27 instead of 57, maybe I’d make a different choice. Maybe not.

      • Camille Willemain Says: July 3, 2015 at 8:12 am

        Hi Lynn, I absolutely agree. When I’ve been in situations like your friend, I too have gone to Western Doctors. However, my experience, for example in Thailand, is that it was WAY cheaper without having insurance and very affordable out of pocket.

        • Absolutely true, Camille! I think her bill totaled $125. It probably would’ve been a thousand in the U.S. But that was for a minor accident. Had she been hit by a car & more seriously injured it would’ve been much more. It’s a gamble – less than $100 a month for insurance you hopefully won’t need, or the possibility of thousands in medical bills, even in the “cheap” countries…

    • Camille Willemain Says: July 3, 2015 at 8:11 am

      Thank you Nina, I totally agree and it’s nice to be reminded that there are others who feel the same way as me <3

  14. I’ve actually haven’t had health insurance since I was 18. When I did a year in Australia, I had travel insurance for the first 6 months but then didn’t renew it.

  15. Do you ever stay in U.S for more than a month, for example? If yes, then ask yourself what you would do if you got into a serious accident or a life & death medical emergency scenario which can cost into hundreds of thousands of dollars. In US, laws require hospitals to treat all medical emergencies regardless of the patient’s ability to pay. People without insurance or ability to pay who aren’t independently wealthy and accumulate soaring medical bills will either file bankruptcy or just won’t pay, thus sticking the bill to society. That’s probably why you’re getting some negativity with this post, because many people will view your decision as irresponsible.

    • Understandable. It’s a crap shoot, none of us know if we’ll be in a serious accident or become unexpectedly seriously ill. My 24 year old daughter last year was hit by a car on her bike in LA. The driver sped off & her employer at a restaurant (who provided no health insurance and as a waitress & student she couldn’t afford any) rightfully insisted she go to the doctor as she had cerebral spinal fluid coming out of her nose. The hospital insisted on 3 CT scans, thankfully it turns out she was fine, a concussion, they said go home & take aspirin, but a year later they are still constantly harassing her for thousands of $’s, which she doesn’t have.

      • Camille Willemain Says: July 4, 2015 at 6:58 pm

        Hi Lynn, very happy to hear that your daughter is ok. I appreciate the point you’ve brought up here, which is that the real problem is with the system. We shouldn’t have to have healthcare that’s so ungodly expensive that no one can afford it. I’ve also heard stories of people going into incredible debt who DID have health insurance, but their coverage wasn’t very good.

  16. I work at a hospital in the Caribbean and have weekly issues with expats traveling abroad without health insurance or proper vaccines. NOTE: IF YOU ARE INJURED ABROAD AND REQUIRE A MEDIVAC (MINIMUM 10K US) US HOSPITALS WILL NOT ACCEPT YOU AND ARE NOT REQUIRED TO ACCEPT YOU FOR CARE. I have been on the phone with many a sad family member trying to scrape together funds for a medical evacuation to save a travelers life while also begging for hospitals to accept patients without insurance. The information in your article is dangerous. If you do not care your your own well being at least don’t stick your family with 100k worth of debt. Travel insurance is very affordable.

  17. Ah! I’ve been waiting to see a post like this! I totally agree with you. I think antibiotics are killing us and I always try to go the natural, chemical-free route on everything. I’d been toying with the idea of health insurance and finally decided on travel insurance, but probably mostly to cover the loss of my electronics more than anything else. (Ugh, how sad is that?!) Anyways, thanks for writing this! I loved it!

    • Camille Willemain Says: July 4, 2015 at 6:55 pm

      Thanks dear, nice to hear!! I may get travel insurance the next time I go somewhere far away and unfamiliar, just cover all the bases.

  18. No offence, but I think that’s friggin mental. It’s not about having a cold or getting the flu. No offence, but what if you fall out of a boat or something, smash your head on a rock and need immediate surgery. 300 grand or you’re dead, see ya. It’s not expensive to have insurance either.

  19. Hello, I am a bit concerned by the way you portray western medicine. I respect your pov and yes it is better to prevent disease by having a healthy lifestyle. However, once disease manifests itself, how would you go about of diagnosing it without looking at the symptoms to find the cause? Also, I don’t where you were treated but no doctor should prescribe antibiotics for the common cold and flu. These are caused by viruses and not bacteria which are the targets of antibiotics. Again, people seem to misunderstand this concept and think antibiotics cure everything which is false and should be used only in certain circumstances because they can kill off the good bacteria too like the ones in your gut and vagina (sorry but I had to there). I’m glad you were reasonable enough to seek medical attention abroad when being bitten by a stray dog. I do believe in prevention and try to avoid turning to pills for everything little woe but again I wouldn’t turn down modern medicine in case of an emergency. People have studied the human body since the dawn of the age to properly understand how it functions in order to prolong life. Let’s not disrespect all of those who have and still do put so much energy time and passion into demystifying the human body. I’ve traveled with and without travel insurance and didn’t really care in either instance but I do realize that might an accident occur I’d be glad to have my butt covered. Not one, to think of the worst that could happen, the probability is there.

    • Also, Toxins in this context don’t exist. They are usually proteins synthesized by anaimals and plants to protect themselves and are what makes them poisonous. Trust your body! It is beautifully designed and does a great job of “cleaning up”! kind of like a car, maintain it, keep it well oiled and don’t overwork it and you’ll be find. In other words, adequate nutrition, exercise without forgetting proper rest will keep you in shape.

      • Camille Willemain Says: July 4, 2015 at 6:50 pm

        Hi Julia, I absolutely agree, the body definitely knows how to keep things in balance and stay clean. However, like anything, it can get overloaded with toxicity from the modern world, and I find it very helpful to sometimes help it do some cleaning up. But I strongly encourage that each individual do whatever feels good for his or her body. Personally I find that cleansing now and then feels amazing.

    • Camille Willemain Says: July 4, 2015 at 6:51 pm

      Thanks Julia, I hear you. I know many holistic health experts and doctors who do an excellent of diagnosing disease from a natural perspective. :)

  20. Yes to all of this! When I was still living in Canada and had free health care, I still never used medicine. It honestly scares me, and I feel like it weakens the immune system. My go-to remedies usually include a lot of garlic, ginger, tumeric and lemon juice, and honestly nothing makes me feel better. However, considering all the ginger in the world won’t save me if I get hit by a bus, I do like having basic travel insurance (especially considering I don’t have enough savings to pay for something extreme happening) but for minor health issues, holistic remedies all the way!

  21. Fernanda Says: July 6, 2015 at 12:52 am

    Hi Camile,
    I assume all these people who are freaking out about this post and telling you and the rest of the world what you MUST and must not do are americans. I understand health care in the U.S is a big issue but I find it mind blowing how strongly they feel about this post. I am Brazilian living permanently in NZ and in both of this countries emergency health care is free, so the the whole bla bla bla doesn’t apply to everyone in the planet.

    Also I have been in insurance my whole working life and I do have travel insurance because I am traveling at the moment but the whole idea of insurance is transferring to the insurance company a risk that you cannot afford to have or cant manage, and in my opinion the way you manage your risk is completely acceptable, you look after your health and travel mostly to countries where you can pay for health care if comes down to it. My professional opinion is you are doing fine!

    Also we have to accept that there is not just one right way of doing things. I have been trying to work at acceptance and you are my biggest inspiration, thank you.

    Much love and light to you, may you never need to rely on traditional medicine again.x

  22. Reading your blog & also others comments got me thinking about the topic and I was just wondering if you or any readers have advice on traveling from Canada? Obviously I have healthcare here at home, but what is recommended for travel abroad as a Canadian?

    • Hey, fellow Canadian here! You’re not covered when abroad unfortunately, so the situation is the same as for Americans (or, if you’re from Québec or Saskatchewan, worse because for some reason many companies won’t cover you). I just get basic travel insurance (for emergencies) and try to stay healthy while on the road (and off it). Hope that helps!

      • Camille Willemain Says: July 6, 2015 at 1:32 pm

        Thanks Nikita, do you have a recommendation for travel insurance and how much do you pay?

    • You can get really cheap insurance through PC. I’ve used then and Blue Cross often. You’re Canadian health care barely covers anything if you’re out of the country. But, if you’re out of the country for over a year you need to find a different option after the year mark, because a lot of companies won’t insure you once you’re governments health care stops covering you, which I believe is a year in most cases.

    • Camille Willemain Says: July 6, 2015 at 1:32 pm

      Thanks for raising the question Lia!

  23. Hi :) I am 100% there with you about Western medicine and focusing on the here and now, the good and relying on herbs and just getting to know your body. I have been traveling for 9 months and I also have found that quitting my job and doing what i love, following my soul’s desires makes me a stronger and more healthy person. Additionally I should mention though, that I am a very good ‘body reader’. I know what my body and mind need, what harms them and what I can do in cases of ‘not feeling well’.
    However, i have purchased a travel insurance from germany, my home-country, at around 30Euros a month (worldwide without USA/ Canada) for the following reason: you mentioned the motorbike accident, and there could be far worse accidents that we don’t have control of. Of course we don’t want to focus on something like this to happen. However, my cousin, who has lived in Thailand for many years (no health insurance) had to go to the ER once for something like food poisoning. And he had a huge bill of 800$ for just one night. I agree that treatments are extremely affordable here. I had my skin examined in Chiang Mai and only paid around 18$ for a great exam. However, I guess I just don’t want a hole to be ripped into my pocket in case something severe might happen (knock on wood it won’t) and I might not be in control where they take me etc…
    BUT still, I agree with you 98% – I think focusing on health care and insurances and retirement plans takes up all of our energy and takes away the attention from the here and now… causing us more pain, suffering and illness. Thanks for your great blog!

    • Camille Willemain Says: July 7, 2015 at 5:57 am

      Totally! 30 euros a month sounds completely reasonable for emergency coverage :) On my next “big adventure” I’ll probably go and get travel insurance.

  24. Stumbled across your blog today and it’s so nice to find some posts about all natural remedies while traveling! I’m about to go overseas to Asia and will definitely be trying some of these out. Love the blog!

  25. Great post! I’ve been saying it for years. Stress is the #1 killer. Break free from the norm, and stop chasing after the American Dream, and you don’t really need insurance as much as you think you do. I’m not travelling yet, but I escaped the cubicle years ago, and I haven’t had health insurance since much after that. The only thing I have is DAN in case of a dive emergency.

  26. I’ve been travelling and living abroad for over 18 years now. I have taken travel insurance for my entire time abroad as you can get it for very little. I pay around $30 a month. Back in early 2007 I began thinking about not getting insurance anymore as I never had to use it. But then on a beach in Southern India my body went numb and I collapsed, had massive seizures/stroke, and woke up with amnesia. In hospital they scanned my body and found a blood clot in my brain that had spilled blood all over it. I was fucked up. Bottom line is that it was serious and after 2 weeks in hospital and having various tests I had to be sent back to England to see a neurologist and get an MRI scan which is when they discovered I’ve had it in my brain since birth. Long story short is that without insurance it would have cost me tens of thousands of dollars to pay for what I had done, and it needed to be “western medicine”. I continue to travel to this day but always make sure I have insurance. I never used to think about it before it happened but you never know how bad things could get.

    • Camille Willemain Says: July 29, 2015 at 3:22 pm

      Thanks for sharing Jonny. Glad to hear that you’re alright! So even when you got back to the states, your travel insurance covered all of the medical expenses?

      • I’m actually from England and we have free health service there on NHS so didn’t worry once there, so I guess it’s relative to where you come from. I forgot that the U.S.A. doesn’t have the best health service (yet). But the expense from India with the first class flight back with a private doctor with me ( I was still having brain problems), 2 weeks in a good hospital in India with various tests being done and internal flights moving me from the south to Delhi with a doctor etc would have cost loads for a budget traveller. Honestly if that hadn’t happened to me I would have not taken insurance anymore. For $30 a day you can get health coverage, so over ten years of paying that it was reimbursed, and then some, by the treatment I received. Sadly it’s the unknown that I never worried abot until it happened!

        • Camille Willemain Says: July 29, 2015 at 10:25 pm

          I hear ya! Thanks for your advice :) And btw I think you mean $30 a month, not a day right? xx

          • In my travels these past 8 months, I’ve been in lots of health care discussions with fellow travelers from other countries. From what I’ve heard, people from European countries can get super cheap travelers insurance, UNLESS they’re traveling to the U.S., in which case the cost goes up quite a bit. Being from the U.S., my travelers insurance is $1100 a year, so close to $100 a month, anywhere outside 100 mile radius of home. I did have to disclose which countries I would be visiting (since I didn’t know for sure, I listed every possibility), and if you’re doing any what they consider extreme sports (diving, mountain climbing more than just hiking, sky diving, bungee jumping, etc) there’s a more expensive policy you can buy. Compared to the $900 a month I was quoted for health insurance at home, $100 is still cheap.

          • Camille Willemain Says: July 30, 2015 at 4:45 pm

            Thanks Lynn, totally agree with you, it’s still way cheaper than health insurance at home xx

          • Hahahaha. Yes $30 a MONTH! 😉 And Lynn you’re right, my travel insurance covers the world but not U.S.A., that costs extra. Damn U.S.A. need to get there insurance shit sorted out already!

  27. As someone who has travelled a large amount of the world and has ended up in hospital countless times for things natural medicine wouldn’t help I can’t describe the importance of travel insurance enough. I’ve used it every year almost in the last 6 years. The medical cover is often decent enough not to need separate health insurance, but you should always travel with some insurance! It can be life threatening in cases if you can’t go to a hospital not to mention scary at the hospital bills!

  28. First, let me just say that I am not young or naive. I am a college professor and have spent significant portions of my life traveling/living outside of the country. It is remarkable to me the number of people who felt entitled to reprimand you for not adopting their fears as your own. Shame on them and you should be commended for your ability to think critically and realize that each place is not the same! The idea that someone should pay for something they would never use is ludicrous – she will not use Western medicine everyone! I am not particularly interested in holistic medicine but take my vitamins. I also am dependent on a prescription that I must take daily. Yet I have spent years of my life overseas without health insurance. These were safe and informed decisions based on the health care available in the places I was residing. Insurance is a racket. Plain and simple. In the US, I always carry insurance as the medical industrial complex will absolutely ruin someone. But let’s be clear, in less you are going to Duke or the Mayo Clinic, the US is far down on the list of places you should go in the event something goes seriously wrong with your health. In the US patients fight insurance companies for the services physicians know are best. Claims are rejected. Processes are redundant. Don’t believe me? Then look up US health care rankings, life expectancy, and other international data. I am not saying all people should cancel their health coverage but this decision is personal and must be made considering a variety of factors. Attempting to elicit fear in others who do not share your own beliefs in shameful. The condescending, patronizing tones were inappropriate.

  29. Genevieve Says: August 20, 2015 at 10:13 am

    While I agree that Western Medicine is not always the best way to treat illness, sometimes it truly is your last resort. I respect everything you said and you have made some great points. I’ve always been super into going the natural route for everything and I firmly believe many diseases can be cured through diet (like diabetes, heart disease, thyroid issues) but there are times when you have to just give in and do the Western route. I had non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and by the time I was diagnosed it was already stage IV. Had another week gone by, I wouldn’t be alive right now. I had to do emergency chemotherapy (like legit took my doctors instructions to show up in the ER and lie about having chest pain to cut through the insurance red tape and get a biopsy immediately to confirm which type of chemo I would need). I’m really just writing this in defense of chemotherapy, because without it I would be dead. There was ZERO time for me to seek out any kind of holistic approach because my type of lymphoma is incredibly fast moving (not all are though!) I’m four years out from chemo and I’ve never felt better and have dealt with no long term side effects as of yet. The only side effect I had from treatment was losing my hair, I didn’t even throw up once ;). I do think it’s all about the $$$ and the pharmaceutical industry is pretty terrifying, so don’t get me wrong – I was pissed to have to do chemo, but in the end ain’t all that bad, and I’m alive because of it. Also, thanks to my health insurance my chemo cost me a measly $25 per visit (one single dose of Rituxan is over $1,000 without it).

    • Camille Willemain Says: August 20, 2015 at 2:17 pm

      Hi Genevieve, I totally hear you and I’m very happy to hear that you’ve healed without side effects. That’s beautiful. Yes, I too have gone the traditional medicine route in serious situations (as described in this article, like rabies in a foreign country). I hope I don’t sound like I’m saying Western Medicine is the devil. <3

  30. Did you take any vaccine shots before you went there? As in Hep A, rabies, or malaria tablets? I don’t have insurance and I plan to go to Central America in February but don’t have these shots. It’s so expensive without insurance as well. What did you do?

    • Camille Willemain Says: August 31, 2015 at 11:23 am

      Hi Kathryn, the first time I came down here, I had health insurance and I got sooooo many vaccines and packed Malaria pills (even though all of the side effects sounded awful). Then I got here, and all of the locals laughed and said I was crazy. EVERYONE agreed that there is no Malaria here, so no one took it. Regarding the rabies vaccine, personally I find it useless unless you’re going somewhere so remote that there’s no way you can get medical attention for days. The reason is, even if you have the vaccine, you STILL have to go and get the shots after you’re potentially exposed, it just delays the progression of the rabies itself. My advice, honestly, would be not to worry about it, unless you plan to be really really really off the grid.

  31. I totally agree with you on the failings of Western Medicine and that it’s so much better to just treat yourself naturally. I do! And if you can get cheap healthcare abroad, awesome! I resent many Western Medicine processes and am a bit salty about having to have insurance at all, especially when I feel like a lot of the cost is just me paying for other people to receive equally useless treatment because no one knows any better.

    But even so, for those traveling within the United States, I would stress the importance of AT LEAST a catastrophic temporary plan or some kind of accident/illness insurance. As a very healthy person, I was hospitalized while traveling with a life-threatening infection for a week (after it blew out of proportion after self-care) and the bill was around 70k. I cannot imagine what this would have done to what little savings and money I have had I not had insurance. I do not want to be in debt for the rest of my life. Plus, if you’re self employed, the premiums are tax-deductible as a business expense, which really helps. I believe ObamaCare includes a cheaper catastrophic option for those under 30 (which sadly I no longer am!).

  32. Sometimes I get travel insurance, but it’s nearly always useless. I think it’s better to just keep some money back for emergencies (in theory…)

  33. While I respect your own decision to pursue this alternative lifestyle, I feel that I am obligated to respond in case your article does convince someone to ditch their health insurance.
    Not having health insurance is a huge gamble on your health. I’m assuming that when you refer to the dangers of Western medicine you are talking about US medicine. Yes, the SYSTEM is very broken, but the treatments and basic healthcare behind it aren’t. It is because of this broken system why health insurance in the US exists and why it is necessary. The same treatments you see done in the US are done in any hospital around the world. The holistic and natural medicine you refer to is only still used in areas where access to modern medicine is limited. Were it not for that, natural remedies would quickly be replaced because it isn’t as effective as modern treatment. This is because the concept of western medicine is built around evidence-based results. Treatments are given because they have been proven to work scientifically. Your doctor prescribes the same medications over and over because they work (Your concern with antibiotics is warranted, however. There is a serious problem with over prescription of antibiotics in our healthcare system. But this alone shouldn’t be the reason for moving away from insurance).
    Natural remedies are, for the most part, placebo treatments. The few that do work very effectively are basic copies of modern treatments (oil pulling with baking soda is literally commercial toothpaste without the flavoring and additives for improved consistency). Many modern treatments have their derivatives from natural remedies but they have been perfected and standardized over the years to give a precise and safe result (Rifampin is a drug acquired from mushrooms that kill infections. It was long used beforehand in its native form). Holistic medicine won’t work with burns, trauma, chronic diseases, or anything else life-threatening. I understand your frustrations with treatments for day-to-day illnesses like colds, allergies, and fevers. For the most part, a trip to a western doctor won’t really even help in the first place with these things because your body will fight the sickness on its own before the prescribed medicine can have an effect. But this alone isn’t grounds to prove that natural medicine trumps modern medicine and it definitely isn’t an argument for getting rid of our insurance. We need insurance for the serious, life-threatening conditions that can arise no matter how health-conscience or how much yoga we do. If you burst your appendix, the only options you have are surgery or, in some rare cases, a strong antibiotic regime.
    Being uninsured in the US is going to bankrupt you if you have anything like this. In your case, going without insurance is an option because medical tourism is very cheap. I think it is morally irresponsible to convince your audience to do this since 99% of them aren’t traveling constantly and don’t have that same option.

  34. Hello, I am currently living and working in China and my parents are still paying for my health insurance at home in the US but I also have insurance here through my job. My questions is, since I am about to age out of my parent’s insurance can I use traveler’s insurance in place of regular health insurance? I really want to use workaway but I read you can’t be exempt from the requirement of health insurance if you don’t live abroad for a certain amount of days and you have to have proof. I could have technically used the exception for my year abroad here but it is too late for that and I will soon have to get a policy in my name. So what do you do about proof of insurance when filing taxes? Do you take the hit of the fine and move on or can the traveler’s insurance serve as the health insurance? I hope my question makes sense.

    • That’s a very good question! I look forward to hearing the answer. I’ve been traveling for over a year & just renewed my traveler’s insurance. It’s only $1090 for a year, as compared to the $900 a month I was quoted in the US (which was right before Obamacare, so I don’t know what it would be now). I also heard that even if you have insurance through your employer in the US it doesn’t usually cover you abroad

  35. I was just about to berate you for not having travel insurance. But then I read the last paragraph and understood. You’ve basically written an ad for travel insurance with a company called world nomads. I don’t think they’re that great. I suppose this is how you’re supporting your travels though.

    • Just curious why you say World Nomads “aren’t that great”? I just renewed with them for a second year. Thankfully, I haven’t had to use my policy, so I have no idea if they’re good or not, but just want to be prepared for what to expect if I do need them…
      Thx

    • Camille Willemain Says: December 24, 2015 at 1:19 pm

      Hey Dom, actually I’m not earning any affiliate income through World Nomads, just offering the best info I have to offer. You can tell it’s not an affiliate ad, because if you hover on the links you’ll see that there is no affiliate ad code. Full disclosure :) I would love to hear why you don’t think they’re great and if you have a better suggestion to offer that would be awesome! xox

  36. Hi Camille,
    First of all, I love reading your blog. I stumble upon by reading other blogs and I’m hooked!

    Interesting to read all the reactions because they seem so familiar to me as well. I live in the states as a freelancer so having a health insurance is awfully expensive. I also like to use natural remedies as possible and have a healthy diet, I believe that if you take care of your body and spend the money on lots of veggies and fruits you will have no problems but I do always get the “you are so irresponsible” look that I have gotten used to it already. :)
    I’m also planning to move to Costa Rica pretty soon and I cannot wait! I want a change and I’m ready to do it so you are truly an ispiration.

    I also wanted to ask you how easy is to find organic coconut oil and organic oils in Costa Rica? I use all of these on a regular basis and I’m a bit worried on how am I going to get those there without a problem.

    Would love any advice that you can provide!

    Thank you and keep on writting and inspiring :)

    Maria

    • Camille Willemain Says: March 30, 2016 at 10:36 am

      Hey sweets thanks for your comment!!! You can definitely get good quality organic, cold pressed coconut oil everywhere in Costa Rica. They’re typically at the farmer’s markets and at some specialty shops. That said, they can be more expensive than what you might get at Trader Joe’s for example, because they’re processed in small batches. Hope that helps! xo

  37. Thank you for the fact that you engage with people who write to you! I have a question about female specific health concerns and how you manage that on the road…
    Do you write about this topic anywhere, as I think it’s a huge part of daily/monthly life and therefore travel.
    I know not for all.. but I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels they could learn from your approach to all things hormonal restrictions/problems – pain relief – schedule adaptions – potential hook-ups?? The whole deal!
    Keep up your bravery in telling it how it is, Camille.