Keeping fit and healthy during your gap year can make the difference between having an epic time or flying home early, so in this instalment of our Gap Year Planner we I’ll be introducing you to James Moore – who set up Travel Health Consultancy, a one stop shop for all your travel health needs.
We caught up with him to talk about life on the road, following Ben Fogle up mountains, Joanna Lumley through deserts, and how to keep yourself safe and well during gap year travel.
So James, how did Travel Health Consultancy come about?
I have always had an interest in travelling and a few years ago wondered if I could combine my work in Emergency Departments with my qualifications in Tropical Nursing and Travel Medicine. As with many of life’s great adventures, mine started after one too many glasses of wine. Whilst at a Travel Medicine conference I thought ‘I’m going to set up a clinic where people can come and get advice from not only someone who has qualifications in travel medicine, but who’s slept under the stars as well’. I returned home, sobered up and took the plunge.
Have you seen surge in business with the recent popularity with gap year travel?
Over the last few years there has definitely been an increase in the numbers of individuals travelling abroad, and yes, I’m seeing increasing numbers of students preparing for gap years. Although recent changes to grants and funding has meant many students are concentrating on getting into university rather than travelling, students continue to travel.
You also work as an expedition medic – how’s that as a job?
In all honesty – probably one of the best jobs in the world. I have had the privilege to go to some of the most amazing places, meet some incredible people and take part in some fantastic adventures. A few of these experiences would never have been possible if it wasn’t for the particular expeditions I was looking after, such a speaking to displaced Dinka Tribes in war-torn Southern Sudan, or trekking with locals through the jungles of Papua New Guinea.
You’ve worked on a few high profile expeditions alongside names like Ben Fogle…any celeb gossip or interesting stories from those?!
Working with Ben in Papua New Guinea was hard work but great fun and incredibly interesting. The last high profile trip however really made me realize why I do this job. I accompanied Joanna Lumley on her recent program about the Nile. Our small team of seven travelled o
ver 4000 miles across Africa following this great river. The adventures occurred on an almost daily basis, from walking three steps behind a two tonne white rhino, to hanging out of the back of a small plane filming. As for gossip, very little that I would reveal here! When you work closely with these celebrities you realize they are not a lot different from you or I.
With that much travel under your belt you must’ve seen some rather disgusting medical things – spill the beans!
Believe it or not, my plan as an expedition medic is to do as little as possible. Fixing people on expedition sounds very glamorous but there is nothing glamorous about trying to stitch a wound in the dark, in the jungle whilst being eaten by mosquitoes. It sounds pretty boring I know but when things go wrong on expedition, the consequences can be devastating. Even seemingly trivial issues can develop into life threatening problems very quickly, so my plan is to spot things happening before the do. One team member was bitten by a snake whilst we were working in Borneo. That sounds quite exciting, but the 9 hour stretcher carry and evacuation through the jungle that followed was anything but. If you want disgusting, just remember that most people on expedition will suffer from an upset stomach at some point (the Kathmandu Quickstep, or Montezuma’s Revenge). And this can strike without warning at any time of day!
What would be your advice to someone planning a gap year?
Planning. Be flexible in your route, itinerary and timings, but not with your contingency planning. Ask yourself the’what if’s..?’ What if I lose my wallet? What if I get ill whilst away? Don’t’ worry yourself too much but a few carefully asked questions will help you prepare. Get some good insurance. You may never need it but if you get sick you will never regret taking it out. It can cost well over £20,000 to bring someone home and the UK government rightly will not pay. Allow time for your preparation and vaccinations and discuss them with someone experience in this field as we can often save you time and make sure you get exactly what you need. Finally, don’t go trying to make or look for adventure by cutting corners. Adventure will find you, and it is generally a better experience this way around. Oh, and pack some Tiger Balm and Gaffa Tape. Ones for mosquito bites and the other for fixing things.
Want to dispell any common myths about travel health?
Marmite and garlic do not stop you getting bitten by mosquitoes and homeopathic remedies offer no protection against malaria. In addition, vaccine preventable diseases are one of the smaller risks when travelling. Your individual behavior is what puts you at risk.
On a more positive note what’s been your most treasured experience from travel?
I have had so many wonderful experiences, picking one is incredibly difficult. Watching the sun set in the Matopas Park in Zimbabwe, watching the sun rise over the Annapurna range in Nepal, laughing until my sides ached in a tea house whilst trekking. Sat playing dice with Joanna Lumley in the galley of a Sudanese ferry crossing Lake Nassau. There are so many. I think the common theme though is these experiences have often been shared with others.
Your back at home for the time being – what’s your next big adventure?
Well, when I’ve managed to store up a few more domestic credits there might be a couple of trips. One to the Brazilian Amazon and one across the west coast of Africa, both with film crews. They are both in the planning stages at the moment but watch this space….
Travel Health Consultancy is based in Exeter, Devon and he would be happy to see you in his clinic. – Simply head over to the Travel Health Consultancy website or send him an email;