Anticipating death overseas

I don’t know when I have been so moved by an article in ITN as I was by the one penned by Betty Patterson concerning the death of her husband (Feb. ’05, pg. 16). Not only did my feelings go out to this lady who had to confront all of the European bureaucracy, but I also became introspective wondering what would have happened had I died in Europe in 2004. In October, I was a single on an Elderhostel trip to Central Europe. I then, as a loner, took a train trip with stopovers from Budapest to Paris, also spending three nights in Venice viewing the sights by day and prowling the alleys by night.

While I am in relatively good health, anyone in his 70s must confront the possibility that bad things could happen. Once you die, it doesn’t make a lot of difference to you, but I now worry about how my loved ones would handle the situation if I were to “pop off” on foreign soil. So I would like to solicit ideas from other ITN readers regarding several scenarios, each of which will probably have a different answer or solution.

If the person in question is traveling with a companion, spouse or otherwise, some of the problems are lessened, but they certainly exist, as Mrs. Patterson so eloquently explained in her letter that could not have been easy to write. But I primarily phrase these queries with reference to the solo explorer and what that person should do ahead of time to make the movement from a live person to a deceased one as smooth as possible insofar as the heirs are concerned.

For example, consider that the solo is on a cruise ship and dies. What takes place?

Then there is the scenario of a single being in a structured travel group such as an Elderhostel program or any of the literally hundreds of escorted tours offered everywhere. How is that individual’s death dealt with?

Finally, and most important to people of my ilk, if I am a single traveler going around from country to country with a minimum set itinerary, what happens when I reach the “end of the road” in an area where I am unknown to anyone? In Venice, does my cadaver just get shoved into the canal or what? Who does what and who should be prepared to do more?

I would think that, at the minimum, we oldsters should have the name of our immediate contact written in various languages easily discoverable on our person. That person should have access to cash so that, once notification has been made of our demise in another country, travel to that country can be made expeditiously. Then what? I have a daughter who is trilingual, so that should help, but suppose one doesn’t? I get the impression the American Embassy may not be of great help.

So I address other ITN readers: what are your ideas? While we hope that it will take place in our own beds, what do you do to face the inevitable? I, for one, look forward to discrete ideas.

Pinehurst, NC