Awakening to a conscious travel safety reality is what we hope to share with the world. Learn from us. Prevent pain. Save a life!


Lengthy journeys to faraway places can be filled with excitement and anticipation of exotic foods, different cultures, architecture, languages and experiences. As we are anticipating the best, we need to prepare for the worst. We need to be mindful of our safety.

Being mindful means being aware. In 1938, Lufthansa Airlines made the first commercial transatlantic flight paving the way for global travelers and a $7 trillion travel and tourism industry.  Because of the pace of globalization in these 78 years, protective policy has not kept up. There are no consumer protections, critical incident reports, or warnings before tens of millions of people book their trips or depart.


Most people assume safeguards are in place to ensure safe journeys.  We just go without being mindful of what threats could impact us.

According to the US Department of Commerce International Trade Association’s report, of 30,780,000 people who went abroad in 2014, 71.9% (22,130,820) did not buy travel insurance, and 87.8% (2,7024,840) did not get pre-trip vaccinations to protect themselves. People travel to places far from home where they have never been during times of civil unrest, natural disasters, diseases and crime outbreaks. At Depart Smart, we hear from many who were not aware, or prepared for the probability of an eventuality.

During many years of working with distressed travelers and family members, Depart Smart has discovered most people don’t know local emergency numbers, how to ask for help in local languages, review country-specific safety information or register their trips with the State Department.  Equally problematic is that most emergency contacts are not prepared to help.


Helping people depart smart in mindful ways is our passion.  Unfortunately, many travelers and tourist learn the hard way.

Sudden awareness for my family came in an international phone call from Japan with the words no parent ever wants to hear, “Your son is in grave condition.”  Tyler was brain dead but his heart was beating. We were incapable of comprehending the reality of the situation. We had dreamed of a life-changing experience for Tyler. His experience ended his life.

Ty had checked the donor box on his driver’s license.  Donating his tissues was a grueling task of limitless Japanese translations and intense legal procedures during the worst moments of our lives.  We know Tyler wanted someone else to live better because he was here, so we persevered to donate his tissues.

Ty died on June 29, 2007.  Due to red tape, his body did not arrive home until July 3, 2007. If you have very good insurance, a 24X7 hotline will help you with legal counsel, translation, bedside assistance and more. That is a very BIG if. If you do not have reputable insurance, you are on your own to navigate the U.S. Embassy to make arrangements to bring your loved one home. It can cost upwards of $50,000 or more.  If you cannot afford to pay for services, your loved one may be cremated and their remains interred on foreign soil.

In our situation, Berkeley Insurance denied Tyler’s life insurance claim. You must read the fine print.  You may think you are insured, only to be excluded. Fortunately, bringing Tyler’s body home was compensated. Our family could hold a visitation and say good-bye.

There is evidence Tyler asked for medical attention but none was provided.  Pat Veum-Smith, a teacher chaperone on Tyler’s People to People trip, denies he asked for medical attention.  Dr. Yagi, his attending Japanese ER doctor, testified that he was told Tyler asked for medical help.  There is evidence Tyler tried to dial 911, his Dad and Sprint service.  The medical emergency number in Japan is 119.  Ty couldn’t have asked for help in Japanese anyway. He did not know the Japanese Red Cross Hospital was minutes away.  I faxed his medical records to his care team, but they were useless in English.  I was almost refused boarding a flight to Japan because my passport was not good for six months beyond my return.  Our younger son could not come to Japan with us because his passport had expired.  We had to say goodbye to our youngest son, while we went to say goodbye to our oldest. It was emotionally painful. Many families are not prepared when tragedy strikes a loved one abroad.

The first iPhone was released the day Tyler died, June 29, 2007.  We invested more than a thousand dollars in Sprint international service and state of the art cell phones, but Sprint failed. Communication with your home base, and travel insurance hotline, can save your life.


We are approaching the ten-year anniversary of Tyler’s death.  In these years, we have learned from the pain of thousands of survivors and next of kin what could and should be done to save lives and protect people abroad.  Students are most vulnerable.

I have heard a cacophony of noise from parents who tell me, “Our child studied abroad and had a great time!”  For the record, my child studied abroad and had a great time, too, as evidenced by this Simple Truth video:

When I ask the same parents if their child got pre-trip vaccinations and travel evacuation insurance, knew the emergency number or how to ask for help, registered their child’s trip with the foreign affairs office, knew how and where to go for medical care, or if they had powers of attorney, valid passports and money to get there and help if needed – I get dumbstruck faces.It’s because people are not informed, and there are no travel and tourism consumer safety standards.

Hundreds of students have lost their lives studying abroad.  Thousands are raped and sexually assaulted.  Many become ill and injured. Some go missing and are never found. No one knows exactly how many or where.  Depart Smart is working to change that.

Forum on Education Abroad (FEA) reported in a case study sample that the number of student deaths abroad is almost 14/100K. Your child is more likely to die studying abroad than in a car crash in the United States, 10/100K. The same International Trade Association report mentioned earlier indicates more than 2,000,000 students went abroad in 2014. If  FEA’s statistic holds true, more than 280 students died abroad.  The World Health Organization declares anything at 10/100K or above as critical.


There was no Depart Smart organization when Tyler died. We learned from the hardest school of knocks. We founded Depart Smart because millions need to know how to identify and mitigate risks, get help and home safely.

Depart Smart has reached millions in thought provoking, action based major news thanks to  We’ve helped pass study abroad transparency laws.  We’ve also created tools and resources to reach, teach and engage consumers in decisions affecting their safety when they travel.

The people we serve teach us.  We use their lessons to help others. Many lives have been saved! There is so much joy in safe returns! Here are a few testimonials for Depart Smart:

“I didn’t know Honduras was a homicide capital of the world. You’ve changed how I travel.” -B. Millar

“I knew the emergency number when my friend had a seizure abroad.” -W. Griffith

“You saved my son’s life.” -D. Shaw

“You’ve got some ideas! Excellent!” -President Obama


My family loves to travel internationally.  We have a bucket list of destinations we would like to ski, tour and scuba dive. We prepare and travel mindful of safety.  Having a plan, and tools like working cell phones, translation services and proper insurance bring peace of mind.

We are working passionately to raise awareness of much needed travel safety standards and to educate travelers so they can travel safely. Imagine a world where travelers could earn safety certification and valuable perks, such as discounts, for completing country-specific safety courses.  Our plan is to develop consumer travel safety training courses and people-driven travel safety incident reports.  People will return and stay engaged to help each other travel safely. Our users will know how to establish an emergency action plan for their specific destinations.

Until the travel certification course and safety tools are available, please download the travel safety checklist. It has more than fifty points for travel safety consideration.


To raise the bar on travel safety and make travel awesome, we need funding and development partners. We are a robust organization of many volunteers who care deeply about you and your safe travels.

Please Give. Save A Life. Join us.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

― Benjamin Franklin