State Department website lists where American travelers have died abroad

The LA Times recently linked to a tool on the US State Department website that allows you to search by date range and country to find out where around the world Americans have died of “non-natural” causes.

The information goes back to 2002. No names or details of the deaths are disclosed, they are only reported as suicide, drowning, drug-related, homicide, disaster, or vehicle, air or maritime accident, and listed according to date. The disclaimer on the site states that the stats may not be entirely accurate however, as they only represent those deaths disclosed to the State Department.

So can this tool tell you where you should or shouldn’t go based on your likelihood of drowning, getting into an accident, or being killed as a tourist there? Not really. Circumstances of the deaths are, of course, not disclosed and there is no distinction between expats or people who have lived in the country for many years and those who are tourists visiting on vacation.

Even countries with high numbers of deaths shouldn’t automatically be crossed off your list. Mexico, for example, lists 126 American deaths in 2009. 36 of those were homicides. Sounds like a big number, but not as big compared to the 2.6 million Americans who fly to Mexico every year. As the LA Times points out, “the odds overwhelmingly suggest that your vacation will be nonfatal.”

National Geographic Glimpse program accepting applications

If you are between the ages of 18 and 34 and will be living abroad for at least ten weeks between January and July of 2010, the National Geographic Glimpse program wants to hear from you.

Glimpse correspondents will take photos and write stories about their experiences abroad, receive training and support from professional editors, get a $600 stipend, and have the possibility of being featured in National Geographic Magazine.

Candidates do not have to be US citizens, but they must have access to the internet while abroad and commit to working with the program editors on their submissions, which will include photos, stories about the place they are living, the people they meet, and the experiences they share. Applicants need to submit two references and a writing sample, plus an $18 fee for consideration.

Applications are due November 8, and finalists will be announced December 15, 2009. If your time abroad doesn’t coincide with the spring schedule, you can apply for the fall program (August to December) starting in April, 2010.