You wake up in a hospital in Paris. You lost your passport in South Africa. You desperately need online access at a sketchy Internet cafe in Thailand. Running into trouble in a foreign country with no ID, money, credit cards, and zero medical or insurance documents can be, inconvenient to say the least.
In case of a minor or life-threatening emergency, make sure you have a good backup plan – an emergency usb drive. A secure usb flash drive loaded with all of your most important documents, files, and numbers is a great way to get yourself out of a jam. It may sound like overdramatic paranoia, and to a certain degree, I am exaggerating.
I mean the odds of you running into a life or death situation at Disney’s Magic Kingdom are pretty slim. But then again, it’s always better to be over prepared than underprepared when traveling, and a simple, encrypted usb drive can help you do just that. So here’s how you can build your very own emergency flash drive.
Choose a Good USB Drive
The very first thing you’ll have to do is buy yourself a flash drive in the 2GB to 8GB range. A regular memory stick running TrueCrypt software will be best. I’d recommend the Verbatim Tough-n-Tiny flash drive because it’s tough and small enough to keep in your wallet or a hidden compartment in your luggage. You should clearly mark the drive has having emergency information so that the EMTs, doctors, or police will know to take a look at it. Use a little nail polish or a sharpie to mark it with a red cross with a piece of medical tape to make sure it’s universally understood as containing important emergency data files.
Organize Your Data Files
Split your emergency usb drive into two parts – open and encrypted portions.
Use the universal plaintext .txt files to fill the open section with the following files:
Title the first document, “Emergency”. Use all caps so that people realize that you want them to open this first. Then have your name, address, and nationality in this document. Have instructions written in English, French, Spanish, Mandarin, and the local language saying, “contact these people”. Then list all of your relevant phone numbers and emails of your family members, significant others, and close friends.
Create another document titled, “Credit Card Contact Info”. Include the details for each card that you carry. You will use this to cancel your cards if your wallet was stolen or you lost your cards. Do not include the Credit Card number, CVV code, or expiration date. You’ll have this in the encrypted partition of your usb drive.
Title your next document, “Medical”. List all of your current medications, significant allergies to prescription drugs, foods, and other substances, as well as your primary care physician’s contact information. Write “I have health insurance” in all caps at the top of this document, even if you actually don’t. Do this because it’s very possible that a doctor could refuse treatment in some countries if he/she believes that you’re uninsured. If you bought any traveler’s insurance, put that information there too.
Also include a scanned copy of your insurance card, front and back if you have one. Finally, add a portable web browser that runs directly from your usb drive. Firefox and Google Chrome both have portable versions that are more secure to use than a public terminal loaded that might be loaded with all kinds of spyware. It might not be a bad idea to add a portable antivirus program as well, but it’s not essential.
As for the encrypted section, include the following information:
First off, remember that encrypted means severely password protected. Choose a drive that’s got top of the line security when it comes to its encryption process, as you’ll be putting some pretty sensitive information in this partition.
Add scanned copies of each of your credit and debit cards, front and back. Title a file “CCNs” and list your account numbers, expiration dates, and CVV codes of your cards as well as the toll-free contact number and international collect call numbers for each company.
Also include your routing and account number for bank accounts, phone numbers to your local bank’s branch office – just in case you need to have money wire transferred or bank accounts frozen in case of a security breach.
Finally, ass scanned copies or digital photos of your passport, your driver’s license, and at least one other form of official photo identification.
Keep it safe
So now you’ve got your super-secret emergency usb drive. Where do you put it? Well it depends on where you’re going. If it’s somewhere shady, just putting it in your pants pocket won’t work. Mount the drive on a sturdy chain and wear it as a pendant. Attach it to a locking carabiner and fasten it to your belt. Maybe a hidden compartment in your luggage, shoes, or leg strap even. Keeping it in your wife’s purse if you’re going to Magic Kingdom should be ok though. Get a flash drive that’s also water proof, and resistant to blunt force.
And that’s it! Traveling is a fun, relaxing, and exciting experience. Just remember to prepare for it just like anything else – with an emergency usb flash drive.