It is an absolute bummer when we fall sick on our holidays. Whether it is the common cold, the queasy stomach, the blisters on your feet, the heat rashes, the tiredness due to dehydration or an accident, it is a pain that not only affects you and your holiday, but also that of your family and friends. And to top it off, it adds to your financial and emotional burden. In short, it spoils your holiday and all your planning.
During my travels, I have had my fair share of falling sick. The most common item on the list is the uneasy stomach, but I have also had the unfortunate privilege of being bitten by dogs, being bitten by sand flies, cutting myself on coral rocks and being in accidents. A lot of these instances can be attributed to the fact that I love to experiment with the local street food, the fact that I love to trod the path less beaten and hence am caught unawares at times. But, over a period of time and based on learning from my mistakes, I have figured out a way to reduce my sick travel days.
It is based on these personal experiences and those shared by fellow travelers I met on the move that have helped me build these handy tips that should help you stay healthy while traveling.
Control your Alcohol Intake
I know you are on your holiday, but that isn’t excuse enough to get pissed drunk every day. This includes those long flights too. People start drinking as soon as they board a flight. They say it helps them sleep, but I beg to differ as alcohol will dehydrate you severely. Do drink, but stay within limits. Supplement yourself with lots of liquids and nutritious food so that the effects of dehydration and hangovers are minimal. After all, you have so many things to do and places to visit the morning after and you don’t want a muddled mind while doing that.
Stretch Every Day
Cramped seats on the plane, train, bus or car, change of beds with every new destination, those endless hours of walking and finally those backpacks and baggage. All these lead to cramped and sore muscles. Don’t ignore them as they might lead to bigger issues. The best way to deal with them is by stretching every day. Personally, I prefer some squats, spinal twists, shoulder stretches and hamstring/quadriceps/calf stretches at the start of every day. If you know to do yoga, add about 5 minutes of it to your morning stretching session. If you have access and can afford, go for a massage or a spa session. While you are on the aircraft, keep moving around and do some basic stretching for blood to circulate well.
Drink Local Filtered Tap Water after a Week
Even though, I am used to drinking low hygiene tap water at home, I take it easy for the first week when I am traveling and drink bottled water in that country. And then slowly I settle down into drinking the local tap water, filtered water or boiled water like how the locals do. This helps my body acclimatize slowly to the water and prevents me from catching any water infections. You can either try this or to be safe can stick to bottled water.
Do you have a Crocodile Stomach?
Crocodiles have digested anthrax and we travelers dream to have such powers of digestion. I have been blessed with a very strong stomach, but even then every now and then, I do feel the effects of bad street food. The best way to deal with stomach related issues is to use your common sense, trust your stomach’s capability, experiment in moderation and carry digestive enzyme supplements if you struggle. I don’t believe in skipping local or street food at all. In fact, I love to try them out, but do so with moderation and if my stomach is fine after a day, I indulge in them. If you do not find enough nutrition in the local food, try and supplement it with stuff from the super markets or the local markets like fruits, nuts, etc.
Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate!
This is one thing that lots of travelers unknowingly ignore. You are walking more, the humidity is most possibly higher than at home and you are guzzling more. Your body needs more water. Do ensure you drink enough liquids (water, juices, fruits, etc.). And start this good habit right from the time your board your plane. This will help you with your jet lag too.
Plan for the Elements
Weather is one of the things that is not within our control, but we can work around it. Depending on the weather, pack a pair of polarized sunglasses, good sun block, a wide-brimmed hat, summer or winter clothing, a rain poncho and a pair of comfortable walking shoes/boots.
A couple of showers a day and clean clothes go a long way in keeping most of the sweat and dust related problems. In case of over sweating, either use talcum powder, antiperspirant or anti fungal powder. It is best to bathe in clean water after a swim in the sea or the hotel swimming pool. Both salt and chlorine can cause skin rashes.
Pack a Good First Aid Kit
You will have access to good hospitals and pharmacies while you are traveling, but there is no equivalent to carrying your trusted medicines. This is even more critical if you have to take regular medication. Many a time, your medicine is not available in the country you are traveling to or is very expensive. A good first aid kit can prevent this situation. In my first aid kit, you will definitely find a lot of probiotics, tiger balm and some paracetemol.
Exercise whenever you can
Generally, travelers get good exercise every day of their holiday as they walk quite a bit. Sometimes, they swim too at the hotel swimming pool or at the river or beach. While this exercise is good, it augurs well if you can somehow manage a short run twice a week and ten minutes of push ups and squats every day. My travel exercise chart includes at least 5 kms of walking every day, 10 minutes of push ups, 5 minutes of squats and 10 minutes of yoga every day. And I also stretch well. If you are on a short relaxing holiday, such exercise can be excused.
Get Enough Sleep
I do understand the fact that you have spent quite a bit to reach your holiday destination and thus wish to pack as many sights and activities as possible in your short holiday. But, do you want to do this at the expense of your health? A good night’s sleep will do wonders and help you enjoy your holiday more.
Don’t Drive in an Inebriated State
I have met tourists with broken ankles, dislocated shoulders, bad gashes, multiple stitches on the face and more. All of them had one thing in common. They drove a car or rode a motorbike while they were in an inebriated state and met with an accident. Drunken driving is a serious offence in the developed part of the world, but that may not be the case in a remote tropical island. But, the effects can be pretty hazardous. Like how it works in the cities, take a cab or ask a sober friend to drive so that you can reach your hotel room in one piece.
Don’t Overdo Cigarettes, Alcohol and Drugs
I do understand that holiday makers are out to have a good time, the fact that cigarettes and booze are much cheaper than back home and that drugs are easily available. I trust you to use your judgment while indulging in these, but try not to over indulge. It can lead to lots of health disasters.
Whether you are living in your city or are traveling, safe sex needs to be practiced. You might come from a country where the spread of STDs might be very less, but the country you are traveling to might have a high percentage of STDs. It is better to be safe than sorry. It is best to carry condoms with you or buy them from a supermarket or pharmacy at your holiday destination. And at the end of it, use your better judgment.
Preventions and Immunizations
I don’t know how people can build immunity for a holiday as it takes years for the body’s immune system to develop. However, we can do a lot in terms of preventions and immunizations. If you are traveling to an infected country, it is advisable to take a dose of the required immunization well in advance (sometimes 3 months before). Yellow Fever, Hepatitis, Typhoid, etc. fall under this category. But, in the case of Malaria, I would not recommend immunization as it might cause side effects and may or may not be effective. The best way to deal with Malaria is by preventing yourself by being bitten. And you can do this by sleeping inside a mosquito net, covering yourself, using a mosquito repellant, etc. It is best to take the advice of your doctor before you decide on the final course of action.
Buy a Good Health Insurance Plan
There are so many health tips out there that we can follow, but when in emergency, there is nothing like a good health insurance plan that comes to your rescue. It pays to research well on your travel health insurance plan before you leave for your international holiday. Do make sure they pay for daily expenses, have higher limits and also will bear the cost of flying you back to your home country.