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by Maggie Downs
I purchased travel insurance before embarking on my year-long, round-the-world backpacking trip. Of course, it's not the kind of thing you ever want to use, but I figured it might come in handy for medical woes, bag theft or a broken iPod.
I did not expect that my mother would die.
She passed away in Ohio. I was at a yoga camp in Dahab, on the Red Sea shore of Egypt's Sinai peninsula (pictured above). I never felt so physically or emotionally isolated before in my life.
The day it happened I spent hours on the phone at an internet cafe, contacting family, making plans for the funeral, and of course, trying to find a way back to the U.S.
Getting a last-minute flight within my budget, however, proved impossible. I must have made two dozen calls to airlines, asking for bereavement fares, and I still couldn't find anything that would work. Each phone call left me feeling even more broken and hopeless.
The last call I made was to my travel insurance. A very kind woman comforted me and said she was sorry for my loss. And she said the words I'll never forget: "You just get home. We'll take care of the rest." Immediately it felt as if I had been stumbling in the dark, and suddenly a stranger was there to give me a steady hand.
It might not sound like much. But in that moment -- in the thick of my grief and sadness -- those words meant everything. And the woman was right. I simply had to book a flight home on my credit card, and the cost was quickly refunded.
Thankfully, even as I continued my trip later, I never had any other need for travel insurance, like emergency medical evacuation, political unrest or even baggage loss. It's unfortunate that I had to use it at all, particularly under those circumstances. But I can say with certainty that I will never take a trip without it again.
The price of travel insurance pales in comparison to the peace that comes from knowing that someone is on your side. That kind of security is priceless.