Wildlands Studies requires that all participants be covered by a health/medical insurance policy, as well as obtain travel insurance for international projects. It is important that students understand that they are financially responsible for all their own personal medical costs while on a Wildlands Studies project. This means that if a student needs to visit a doctor while on the project, or receive emergency care, the student bears the cost and any related costs (such as transport). Thus, it is important to have both medical insurance and travel insurance. The Participant Agreement (included in the Logistics packet mailed out about ten weeks prior to your project start date) outlines the required amount of travel insurance and describes a policy that satisfies Wildlands Studies travel insurance requirements. STA Travel, our preferred travel agent, sells the required travel insurance and many past participants have found this to be good option for the required insurance. Please note that students need two types of health insurance if they are joining us on an international project: their own from the USA and the travel insurance outlined in the Participant Agreement.
Once accepted, students are sent a series of emails with information. Approximately ten weeks prior to the start of the project, students will receive our “Logistics” email with a detailed logistics information letter, required legal documents including a Participant Agreement and Emergency Medical Form, and Team Roster. Students need to complete the Emergency Medical information form and the Participant Agreement, include a copy of your medical insurance card, and return these to the Wildlands Studies office. These forms, along with a copy of your medical insurance card, must be returned to the Wildlands Studies office before you can participate in the project. We also ask that students bring a copy of the name and number of their health insurance policy as well as any compensation forms which are required by the insurance company on the project with them.
Students should consult a travel nurse or doctor (or visit a travel clinic) at least six weeks prior to participation on a project. Be sure to explain to the physician the location(s) where the project travels, so they can appropriately determine which inoculations you will need. Students will want to keep inoculation records on-hand in case this information is needed to enter into the country or in case of emergency. Information about travel, inoculations, and disease risk is also available at www.cdc.gov, a site maintained by the US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For most projects, but especially international ones, there is no ready access to Western-style medical care, though Wildlands Studies Instructors do carry comprehensive, backcountry-oriented medical kits. Students should bring their own basic first-aid supplies and any prescription medicines their doctor thinks they might need. Prescription medicines should be accompanied by complete pharmacological information, available on request when you fill the prescription – this information could be indispensable in the event of an emergency. Students should ask their doctor about the following prescription drugs: (1) for pain, acetaminophen with codeine (a.k.a. Tylenol 3); (2) for bacterial dysentery, an effective anti-diarrheal and a course of antibiotics like ciprofloxacin. If you have an acute allergy, then please make sure you have an emergency kit with an epinephrine syringe, available by prescription.
On travel websites and in books, one can read about many exciting diseases, but generally the main ailments that we encounter on our programs are traveler’s diarrhea, colds, and the occasional fever that comes and goes within 24 hours or so. Diarrhea and stomach upset caused by bacteria seem to be the most common traveler's afflictions abroad. It is uncomfortable to have, but is no emergency unless dehydration occurs. More serious gastro-intestinal problems such as amoebic dysentery (including giardiasis) may also be contracted from unsanitary food and water. As with any illness, prevention is the best strategy. All food should be cooked, boiled, or peeled, and water should be treated or boiled.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is an authoritative source of information on travel medicine. Visit their website (www.cdc.gov) and then navigate to the pages that discuss the country or area where your project is located. They have special sections about a number of important diseases, such as malaria. The World Health Organization (WHO) also maintains a comprehensive base of information about disease risk. The Pocket Doctor by Stephen Bezruchka M.D. (The Mountaineers, Seattle) is a good, concise source of information about traveler's health concerns. A more comprehensive reference is Medicine for Mountaineering, published by The Mountaineers, Seattle. We encourage everyone to educate themselves about medical concerns related to traveling in the area where they are headed.
For international travel, students need a current passport that does not expire until six months after their departure from the host country. When a student applies for a project, Wildlands Studies will ask for a student’s passport information, including name on the passport, passport number, date of issue, and date of expiration. Many countries require this information for reservations. Before departing on a project, we recommend that students make two photocopies of your passport (inside cover and front page, where the photo is) in case it should get lost or stolen during travels. Students should bring these with them and keep them separate from the passport. Wildlands Studies faculty can hold on to one as a precaution should a student lose their passport. It is also a good idea to scan passport information and email it to yourself. This way one can access the information while abroad.
Wildlands Studies students are expected to bring their own equipment as indicated in the Logistics letter, which is sent after acceptance into a project approximately ten weeks prior to the project start date. The Logistics letter will list in detail the equipment and clothing required for the project. Equipment on projects will range, but most projects require a tent with waterproof fly, water filter, backpacking stove, sleeping bag, hiking boots, backpacking backpack, day pack and clothes suited to living outdoors for an extended period of time. Equipment should be in good working order and suitable for the duration and rigor of the project. In addition, participants should pack carefully. We ask students to bring everything requested in the Logistics letter so that they are not without an essential piece of equipment, but also to pack minimally (i.e., only what is in the Logistics letter), so that we can easily travel. A good rule of thumb is to keep luggage to one large backpack or duffle, plus a small daypack. Please note that on most Wildlands Studies projects there will not be room to store more luggage than one large bag in travel vehicles or at the field site, and each student may have to carry all of their own luggage at times between sites. Students should also check their project itinerary for backpacking. If the project will be backpacking, only bring a backpack, not a duffle bag.