Tuesday, December 1, 2009

4 ways to cope when getting sick when you travel

Travel confession. Okay, here's goes...

I'm EXHAUSTED and a little sick.

We just returned from our 4 day Thanksgiving Hong Kong trip (which is more like a week-long trip if I tack on the Shanghai part of it at the beginning of last week), and as fate would have it, I got sick AGAIN.

Actually, I feel like I've been sick for a month already. It sort of phases in and out, I feel better one day, energetic and raring to go, then horrible again the next. What is going on? I'm usually the picture of health, hardly ever missing a day of work or feeling despondent in my pajamas all day.

And since when do I get sick while traveling? Isn't that about the worst possible time to get congested or have one of those prickly headaches that migrates all over the head and behind the eyes?

Getting sick while you're traveling is painful in just so many ways. First off, the fact that you aren't as mobile is really sad. Walking around and exploring is definitely not appealing. Second, most of us make a tremendous effort to get to that country in the first place- schedules have to be arranged, tickets bought, visas applied for, hotels booked, etc... and who knows if we ever have the chance to be back there again? Finally and perhaps the worst, I can't stand losing my sense of taste and not being able to savor what I eat. I think I would become a very depressed person if I permanently couldn't experience food anymore. Needless to say, not being able to appreciate the salty sweetness of an almond croissant in Paris or a fine savory trattoria meal in Italy is plain cruelty.

Well, despite the lethargy, and hacking, and sneezing that strained the blood vessels in my eyes, we did manage to have a nice time in Hong Kong with - and this is very important- adjusted expectations. There are loads of photos and videos of bird markets, frying intestines, and BBQ pork steam buns to upload, and I will do that soon. This weekend, I promise.

But until then, here are some of my strategies for dealing with illness while you're away from home and out in the world on vacation somewhere.

1. Thank goodness, almost all countries in the world have a version of chicken soup. I'm serious... it may have lemon in it in Greece, or ginger and ginseng in Taiwan, but it can be found anywhere in the world and it's universally good. Get a big bowl and slurp it down.

2. Find a public place where you can be immobile, but still glean something of the local culture. Parks and shopping centers are consistently good for people observation and weird going-ons. Rest the bones, sit still, and just watch the surroundings like a fly on the wall. You'd be surprised how pleasant and informative it can be, even when you feel your most horrid.

3. Adjust how you think you're going to spend your time there, obviously. Take shorter trips out into the world, and then go back for a rest. Cross off all the extraneous activities on the itinerary and only do the one that is most meaningful to you.

4. Take taxis. This last one is tough for me since I love walking about in foreign places. I feel that a traveler sees so much more and is more likely to stumble upon a hidden undiscovered place while walking. I also don't like the added expense... but I do like reserving my energy, so it's necessary to pay someone to cart me quickly and easily where I need to go.

These are a few of my solutions for coping with a desperate travel situation, but how do you do it? What are your tips for mildly enjoying yourself when you've already paid a load of money for a trip and then gotten sick?


Shannon OD said...

So sorry to hear you were sick! I fell in love with hot ginger, lemon, honey water on my travels. I got really ill in Northern India and this steamy drink took the chill out of me and cleared my sinuses :-)

Ekua said...

I'd have to say I agree with the above comment about ginger, lemon and honey tea. Very tasty and it does wonders for your throat and sinuses!

Fly Girl said...

I think your tips are very insightful. I don't believe in getting sick on trips and will ignore any sick feeling I have until I'm home because you always regret what you didn't do because yu were sick. I also carry EmergenC packets and my own herbal tea and acidolphilus, to ward off anything coming my way.

Mary and Sean said...

Fly Girl,
That is a great reminder to bring my own full-proof remedies from home just in case. I normally do, but I was feeling lucky!

Mary and Sean said...

Shannon and Ekua,
I'm going to go make myself a cup of that lemon, ginger, and honey water right now! thanks for the tip!

A.C. said...

All good strategies, and I particularly agree about the walking (I think I would add biking to that list, since nowadays most places have bicycles for rent, which makes getting to those slightly too far to walk places doable)!

My personal strategy is to take plenty of coffee breaks (hot wine breaks if you're in the right place and the right season): this allows you to sit and rest, people watch, and the get the benefits of consuming a hot liquid (and maybe something to munch on) regularly. This is also convenient since anywhere in the world there are places to sit and have a hot beverage and most of the time it's not going to add up to a sum that your wallet can't manage :)

Mary and Sean said...

Ooh...I like the idea of hot wine! you're right too that it's a perfect way to refresh and won't cost a lot at all.


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