Carol van Stralen and her family hit the paved and unpaved roads in a camper towing a Jeep seven years ago, and they haven’t looked back since. Though the van Stralen’s vehicle has evolved over the years, and the kids have gotten a lot bigger, the family’s passion for adventure travel, exploration and life behind the wheel and on the trail is unwavering, and fascinating, as documented in their Epic Family Road Trip on YouTube 

It’s also the result of careful medical and security planning and preparation. Because the van Stralens know that as much as remote travel can be life-improving, it’s equally imperative to do it safely.   

Practical know-how in an emergency, especially when traveling in remote areas, is critical, but these are skills few possess in such situations.  “The majority of the population is woefully unprepared to deal with an emergency in a place where they are inaccessible,” said Jeff Weinstein, a paramedic and a medical operations supervisor for Global Rescue.   

Carol van Stralen and family laughing at campsite overlanding

Fortunately, that’s a maxim the van Stralens understand and act on with serious commitment. Carol and her family train extensively to know where everything is located and how to use the medical kits, survival gear and outdoor adventure equipment. They take great pride in getting the training to know how to use everything.   

Related Reading: Going Off The Grid Safety 

“It helps avoid panic during any challenging situation. My daughter, Caroline, is really good with the medical side of things. She does a lot of training, research and reading on all sorts of medical response activities like stitching lacerations, treating puncture wounds and making a rope harness to bring someone to safety,” she said.   

Carol and the family adhere to a doctrine of planning, preparing and practicing as the best and most important things they can do. “I like to lay everything out to see and visualize all the just-in-case equipment we have so we all know where things are and how to use them should an emergency occur,” she said.   

She knows that when something happens you can’t waste time looking for the tool or equipment you need. “Everyone has to know exactly where everything is, so no matter who gets hurt or sick, all the others know exactly how to get what’s needed and how to use it immediately,” she said. Every member of the family has a ZOLEO two-way communications satellite device and a fluent understanding of how to use them. “The worst situation is if your children are unable to use the devices correctly to call for help if a parent gets sick or injured. That would be a disaster,” she said.   

Mother Mom and daughter snow hiking sleeveless in mountains with trees

Carol admitted she needed to beef up her training, especially after her children went on a separate adventure leaving her and her husband to explore on their own. She realized that if her husband got sick or the Jeep rolled and he was badly hurt, she had to be prepared to help. “I needed to learn all the medical responses, how to use the winch on the vehicle, where to replenish our water supply and all the other things to successfully respond to an emergency,” she said.   

She jumped into training with both feet, doing as much hands-on support as possible instead of relying on her husband or the kids to do it all. “Now I can do it all. It makes me proud, and more self-reliant.”   

Related Reading: Improvised Emergency Medicine in the Wilderness 

As you would expect of any family of five living in a beefed-up van and exploring the wilds daily, the van Stralen family has had their share of emergencies. “Once my son was whittling and he cut his finger to the bone. But it worked out because there was a doctor in the group and he was stitched up on the spot,” she said.  

Her other son crashed his adventure bike on a mountain trail in Montana that resulted in a deep laceration on his cheek and a compressed orbital bone. “We were able to transport him to the nearest hospital for treatment,” she said.   

Carol remembered a scary incident in another country. The family was at a small village in Haiti on a humanitarian mission when they were startled awake by riotous noise and wild commotions outside where they watched masses of people building bonfires and creating a ruckus.   

“We were getting panicky because we had no idea what was going on and whether or not we might be in danger,” she said.   

They didn’t know what to do or how to get any information to sort out what was going on. “It was scary for 45 agonizing minutes.”   

Carol van Stralen beach campsite overlanding

They finally got in touch with officials and discovered that the mayhem was a countrywide celebration related to a change in government. “We were never in danger but we didn’t know it right away,” she said.  

It got the family thinking about what would have happened if this was a real security incident. Or what if medical emergencies happened in the backcountry?   

They realized that despite all of the preparation and training, there will be situations that demand outside help. Which is why they turned to Global Rescue. Carol and Peter realized they needed a Global Rescue membership because the services include security intelligence and event alerts in addition to field rescue and medical evacuation. “It’s nice to have that peace of mind. I like knowing the facts about what’s going on,” she said.  

Related Reading: 10 Reasons Why You Need Travel Protection 

In terms of medical issues, the van Stralens have been fortunate not to have had to call Global Rescue for field rescue or evacuation. But their membership has come in handy for a variety of small medical issues. “We’ve had many small injuries during our travels – muscle injuries, sprains, cuts, bruises – and we called on Global Rescue for help,” said Carol. “That was really nice because sometimes I wasn’t even with my children who, themselves, called Global Rescue for advisory. My husband, Peter, and I could breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the kids were talking to professionals to get the help they needed.”  

On pavement or gravel, plugged in or off-grid, solo or with family, the open road calls. And for Carol van Stralen, with planning, preparation and a Global Rescue membership, it’s been life’s grandest adventure.