illness while traveling: a taboo topic

It’s a taboo: illness while traveling. Waking up feeling ill while traveling is no fun.

Even apart from being away from the creature comforts of home, your supply of comfy clothes, favourite pillow, and your perfect wifi connection to ensure day long Netflix binges, it can really harsh your mellow. Especially when you have plans!

I guess it is the season to be tackling topics related to living a nomadic life and living “not a pedestrian life.” But, these are the things that will help you work out if you like traveling or you like sightseeing.

That, and the fact that I woke up today with a wicked cough and feeling a bit crummy. It’s not interfering with too many of my plans on this trip, except that I really don’t want to make my grandmother (who is recovering from pneumonia) sick. Good thing too, because I’m laid out feeling fatigued, headachey, and achy!

But, it happens even in the midst of an adventure of a lifetime: waking up with a cold or the flu, getting food poisoning or just adjusting to the food and water in a new place, the phenomenon of the international bug sharing that happens in hostels, residence halls, and on tour buses the world over, and just overdoing it.

I’m not going to make a recommendation on travel insurance. Whether you buy it will depend on your circumstances, cost v benefit, cost of medical attention in the countries you will be travelling, your activities. Basically, make a decision that works for you. My suggestions are much more modest.

What should you do? Firstly, try to remember that pacing yourself on long term trip is really important, so too going with the flow and recognising that a morning of rest or quiet time may save you from collapsing in a heap later. Indeed, you almost need to expect that some downtime will be necessary.

Secondly, take a small first aid kit including the essential of over the counter pain killers, allergy medication, antiseptic cream, and either anti-inflammatory cream or tablets. A small sheet of tablets packs easily. Basically, use those things that work best for you at home. Trying new medications is not always a good idea unless you are prepared to go see a doctor or talk to a pharmacist. Bear in mind that there are three international regions for flu shots. For me, this means flu shots in Australia, US and Uk are all necessary to ensure coverage (at least for the previous year’s bug – nothing will help if you catch something brand new)

Thirdly, keep hydrated and eat properly. Water is better than soft drink. Packing some small water soluble packets of electrolytes. If you find that you tend to catch stomach bugs (like me!) some anti-emetics like stemazine or maxalon are essential items in your kit. If you have food intolerances, be diligent and keep snacks on you.

Fourthly, decide what is really important to you about your journey! Are you an explorer? An adventurer? A sightseer? Make sure you keep the important things important.

It isn’t fun, but illness while traveling is almost inevitable.

Listening. Observing. Participating. Writing. Photographing. Reflecting.

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Anna Blanch Rabe is an Australian-born writer and photographer. You can follow her adventure on Not A Pedestrian Life, or Facebook. For more domestic things take a look at Quotidian Home or her previous website, Goannatree

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