Should crowdfunding campaigns be used to pay for the medical bills of travellers who didn’t – or don’t want to – pay for travel insurance?
There has been a huge rise in recent years in travellers or their families begging the internet to fund medical treatment after becoming ill or injured abroad, after it emerges the travelers themselves don’t have travel insurance and are being stuck with extremely high medical bills.
The latest example is of a UK family who are begging for their loved one to be returned home after she collapsed in Thailand and is now being kept on a life support machine, but this is very far from being a one off. Another backpacker left her parents with a £35,000 medical bill after a horrific crash in Thailand, another couple needed £15,000 to help with medical bills after an accident in Vietnam.
These stories are becoming increasingly commonplace.
All of these and many more are increasingly turning to crowdfunding sites like Crowdfunder or GoFundMe to beg for money to get them out of a desperate situation, all because they didn’t get enough – if any at all – travel insurance.
It is often easy to have sympathy with individual cases on a personal level, but is it fair to expect strangers to pay for the consequences of not covering yourself?
Now don’t get me wrong I understand completely the many criticisms of travel insurance. It isn’t cheap. I hate handing over my hard earned money for what is essentially a piece of paper I probably won’t need as much as the next person. I understand that insurance companies will do their damnedest not to pay out and that the fine details often try and screw you over too, that is why it is absolutely essential that you read the fine print in your policy carefully and ensure that you are completely covered for every activity you want to do.
At the end of the day a small amount of money to pay for a policy is nothing, and I mean truly nothing, compared to the price of medical treatment, medievac or repatriation if something goes horribly wrong.
Because no matter how small the probability, no matter how unlikely you are to have anything bad happen to you, there is still a chance. After all going on a gap year is a grand adventure, filled with the promise of excitement and adrenaline fuelled activities.
Backpackers almost by definition take risks, they indulge in amazing once in a lifetime activities that make their journey unforgettable. And so they should! That is one of the many reasons travel is so amazing!
Travellers should never stop diving, surfing, climbing or trekking through jungles. They should keep up the backpacking traditions of pushing their boundaries and indulging in as many awesome experiences as possible.
A gap year should include some element of risk. That is half the point!
But travellers should be responsible with that risk too and ensure they are financially covered if something terrible does happen, because asking strangers to cover you for your negligence, or in some cases stinginess, is a huge moral and ethical grey area.
Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely nothing against crowdfunding. When it is used right, in the way it was originally intended for. I think it can be, and I use can very specifically, a great thing, and has allowed a lot of small businesses or artistic projects to start up and thrive. It has helped a lot of charities and community causes. Used in this way it is a mutually beneficial partnership for all involved.
I even think that in some occasions, the stories of communities and strangers rallying round for a cause is proof that humanity isn’t completely doomed.
But to be used to beg strangers for money because you didn’t want to get travel insurance? That’s a whole different story.
So, should travellers get insurance and cover themselves? Is it selfish and unethical to expect strangers to pay for your negligence? Or alternatively is it a simple example of altruism and the world pulling together in a persons time of need?
What do you think about this? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages, and please feel free to share the discussion with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.