Since teaching English In China I've learned a lot about traveling. Long plane rides, walking all day in the hot sun, sleeping on a hard hotel bed – not all parts of traveling are equally enjoyable; especially the dreaded illness. It could have been anything… Was it the water? The coughing man on the subway? The suspiciously delicious kebab? No matter how it happens, getting sick in unfamiliar surroundings is never a good time. Although staying healthy on the road is not a guarantee, here are some simple ways to reduce your chances of getting sick.
So you've just sat down in your way too cramped airplane seat, facing 11 hours of flying ahead of you. That beverage cart rolls around and suddenly that free beer and wine seems mighty tempting. In the moment alcohol seems like a good idea to forget your flying woes, but if you have a long trip ahead skipping the alcohol is a must. Alcohol not only dehydrates you, but it also lowers your immune system. Which could be the difference between catching that cold or enjoying your trip. So next time, ask the flight attendant for a glass of water or tea instead.
This one is probably a “duh” moment for you; of course you're going to drink water while travelling. That's great! Just remember that the stress of travelling, combined with the increased exercise of walking, and (potentially) the heat, could alter how much water your body needs. Make sure you're taking in more fluids than you're sweating out. And if you aren't sure about the water, don't take the chance and drink bottled.
A must for anywhere you travel, but especially if you're backpacking! A small hand sanitizer in your purse or backpack can go a long way; but only if you use it! After you use public transportation, before you eat, and (another “duh” moment) after you use the bathroom are the trifecta of sanitation.
When you're travelling, eating can be a bit of a balancing act. If you don't know the local cuisine, and what you like, you may end up falling for the old McDonalds trick. If you don't want to get the dreaded food poisoning, while still experiencing a new culture, eat at the busiest restaurants. The more locals at a restaurant, it's a better bet the food will be safe, fresh, and tasty! Another tip: avoid unwashed fruit or veggies, and stay away from the meat dishes if something doesn't look right. For a healthy and nutritious snack, ditch the pre-packaged chips, and try packing dried nuts or fruit – a punch of protein and antioxidants that will keep you full for longer!
Break out your “mom purse” for this tip, and stock up with your favourite pharmacy goodies! When travelling it's rare to find the brands you might have come to depend on back home; so don't get stranded – bring your own! A good tip is to carry a small first aid kit with band aids, disinfectant, pain killers, etc. I also recommend bringing antihistamines and some kind of Imodium product (you never know!). Finally, don't forget to bring sunscreen and bug spray, these are especially important if you have sensitive skin.
We all know that travelling can be stressful. Even if you're not backpacking, but going to a luxurious tropical resort, the new surroundings can sometimes be overwhelming. Taking a couple moments for yourself every day, whether that be meditating in the morning, stretching for half an hour at night, going to the hotel gym, taking a long bath etc. can really make a difference with your stress levels. Don't neglect self-care because you're on the road.
I could go on and on with lists and anecdotes for staying healthy, but when you get down to it the most important tip of all is to trust your instincts. No one knows your body, and its limits, better than you do. Listen to your body; are you tired, thirsty, food tastes funny, does this motorbike look safe to ride? Don't push yourself. Travelling is supposed to, above all, be fun and a foreign hospital is anything but fun.