By Divya Patwari
We caught up with Jeanine Barone, a well-known independent journalist who has written for many reputable travel publications, from National Geographic Traveler to Conde Nast Traveler.
Whether it’s providing the best packing tips, discussing how to stay healthy on the road or trekking through the interior of Corsica to find the best trails, Jeanine is the go-to source for savvy travel advice.
Her latest savvy travel product, Doc-in-a-Bag, is a kit that allows you to organize your first aid supplies according to body systems and symptoms.
We interviewed Jeanine to learn more about how we can all travel a bit more safely and securely with Doc-in-a-Bag.
How many countries have you traveled to? What is it about travel that keeps you always exploring new countries and cities?
I’ve traveled to 60+ countries. But for me, traveling is not all about checking off how many places I’ve been, but rather simply taking pleasure in the process of endless discovery. I revisit certain countries that are my specialty ““ Spain, Portugal, Israel and Iceland — and no matter how many times I visit there’s always something I didn’t notice last time or something new that has popped up. (On my recent trip to Madrid, a city I’ve visited probably 10 times, I found new art galleries, a bicycle-centric restaurant, and under-the-radar green spaces.) And even in a city where nothing new is on the horizon, I delight in just finding a great place for fair-trade coffee or a shop making organic grapefruit ice cream, two things I enjoyed on my recent trip to Bratislava. Travel is an education — about people and their history and culture, as well as the natural environment unique to each landscape ““ and that’s what keeps me on the road and never, ever bored.
Can you give us a key incident that triggered you to come up with Doc-in-a-Bag?
I’m an extremely organized person, probably because I’m a scientist by training. So I have always approached packing from that perspective, which means never checking luggage and having everything in well thought out zippered pouches. Then, a couple of years ago, a friend of mine was on vacation in rural China with her husband and she woke up in the middle of the night with a vaginal infection. She sent him out to look for a remedy, to no avail. She was quite uncomfortable until she eventually found a remedy. Most women I know, no matter how savvy, do not travel with supplies to take care of basic vaginal infections. Sure, there are plenty of pre-stocked first-aid kits on the market. But, some of these are meant for people going on expeditions to Antarctica or the equivalent — clearly overkill for most travelers. Other kits are lacking items to deal with gum irritations and women’s health issues. And, for all those minimalist travelers who think they’ll get away with band-aids and Aleve, guess again. Health issues can occur at the most inopportune times and places. So I decided to create a system of pouches to organize your first-aid supplies. No more digging into a voluminous bag trying to find what you need in the middle of the night. My five bags are sold empty but they each come with a laminated list of everything I recommend you to pack in that bag. (As well as discount coupons for a few natural products on the list.) No more searching for pharmacies after hours.
How is Doc-in-a-Bag organized into five systematic kits?
The bags or pouches are organized by symptom and body system. This is the easiest and most practical way to pack your first-aid supplies. When you become ill, you have one or more key symptoms, such as nausea, a skin rash, or a toothache. Just grab the bag for that symptom or body system. I designed a colorful (and humorous) icon for each bag, making it easy to know which bag to find your remedy. Bag #1 is for tummy troubles and the icon is a toilet spewing fire. Obviously this bag should have everything for stomach and intestinal issues, including unique items, such as Peppermint and Ginger Tummydrops. Bag #2 is for bites, stings and rashes. The icon is an arm with a large, evil-looking mosquito hovering. It should contain things such as topical cortisone cream, prescription EpiPen (in case someone in your group has severe allergies), remedies for poison ivy and even a jellyfish sting. Bag #3 is for cuts and bruises and the icon is a foot with a comical big, bandaged toe (that’s crying). This bag should contain, among the items, triple antibiotic cream, gauze pads, anti-clotting pad, topical anti-fungal cream for your feet, a blister kit. Bag #4 is for everything to do with eyes, ears, nose and mouth. (The icon is a clothesline with a very sad-looking eye, tooth and runny nose.) That means tooth and gum issues, nasal allergies, red eyes, sore throat, swimmers ear, and so forth. Finally, Bag #5 is the women-only bag ““ the icon is a comical frenzied-looking woman ““ that should be packed with, for example, condoms, anti-vaginitis cream, natural vaginal wipes, and a test kit for urinary tract infection.
The kit, I believe, contains not only suggestions for minor accidents but also covers treatments for major incidents such as a heart attack. Can you tell us about a few other major accidents/illnesses, which might manifest on a traveler’s journey and how the Doc-in-a-Bag could aid in treatment?
Well, if someone has any signs or symptoms of a cardiac, respiratory or bleeding condition, you want to get to an emergency room asap. But, keeping aspirin in the kit is a good idea just in case you or someone else has the symptoms of a heart attack. (You chew the full-adult dose aspirin and get yourself to an emergency room.) Then there’s QuikClot, which is a specialized gauze pad that aids in blood clotting. You would use it if someone suffered a laceration and there’s a risk of significant blood loss. This is something that is essential when hiking or bicycling in the backcountry, though it can occur on many sorts of trips, and it’s especially important if someone is taking anti-clotting medication, which increases their risk of bleeding. (Again, though, this should be used as you attempt to get the person to an ER asap.) What if your child is biking or skiing, hits a tree and knocks out a tooth? Ever think about what you’ll do? Whatever it is, you have to think fast because the tooth will die quickly with no hope of reimplanting it. Save-A-Tooth to the rescue, another item I recommend in my kit.
Can you give us five quintessential first aid supplies that every traveler must possess (regardless of if it’s a trip to Indonesia or a stay in Paris)?
There are many ailments that are common but can become quite troublesome no matter whether you’re traveling domestically or to an exotic locale. It’s hard to limit it just to five. So, aside from an array of bandages in different sizes, I carry Pepto-Bismol for intestinal issues, including the prevention of traveler’s diarrhea (which can occur anywhere, not just in developing countries) as well as chewable antacids. A blister kit is always important because I often do a lot of walking on my travels. I always pack anti-vaginitis cream as I already mentioned. And, then, of course, something for pain relief — I prefer Aleve, as well as chewable aspirin).
There is a separate Doc-in-a-Bag for women. This makes the kit so much more valuable and practical. What are some packing tips you would give women for organizing and preparing first aid supplies before departing on a trip?
As I mentioned in my answer to question #3 above, I just don’t think most first-aid kits address women’s health issues. Women need to be proactive, taking control of their health. (Everyone, not just women, should pack extra prescriptions for medications they are taking and carry all prescription medications in their original containers making sure they have enough meds for their entire trip.) The “women’s issues” bag should be stocked with everything that’s exclusively or more often affects them, and that means a single dose of Diflucan, a prescription pill used to treat vaginitis, as well as condoms and chemical/fragrance free intimate wipes, to name a few items I suggest.
We know you are always finding new methods to make traveling more safe and secure. Where shall we stay updated with your valuable insights?
My blog www.jthetravelauthority.com has everything from gear reviews to savvy travel tips. For example, I reviewed Lifeline Response, a new and very unique personal security app that can keep women safe and secure, whether they are taking an early morning jog or walking to their apartment late at night.