It’s a germy world out here. As a world traveler, I’ve experienced it – especially during this horrendous cold and flu season on our planet.
Over the last five months, we’ve been on three continents, lived in five countries, and visited 16 cities. In those five months, I have suffered through three different colds and the flu. As I write this from Lisbon, Portugal, I am getting over a mild-to-moderate ‘chest cold’.
Sickness is a bummer drawback to continuous travel. Our immune systems fight different bodily invaders at each new place. This is one reason why good health is so important for travelers. (A health aids travel list is at the bottom of this post.)
I seem to have caught this latest illness at a spiritual conference a few weeks ago in Lisbon. The event drew people in from all over the world. On the opening night, people coughed nonstop, sneezed often, wheezed and frequently blew their noses. The last day of that conference is when my chest began to feel tight. I fought it for days and I feel like I lost the fight after I was soaked in a downpour headed from museum to museum on a rainy day. Then it was my turn to cough like crazy.
While it sucks that travelers are exposed to virtually every bug on the planet, it can be a comfort to have a partner when sickness strikes. When Tedly got the flu in California over the holidays, I played nursemaid for him. It sucks to get out of bed and get a glass of water when you have the chills, right? He was down for the count for several days before I finally caught it. By the time I was flat out in bed, he was somewhat better and able to help me a little.
This brings me back to that time I got (what was likely) Chikungunya in Mexico, Thanksgiving 2015. Man- oh- man, did that mosquito virus suck ass! This was before Tedly retired and joined me, and I was alone. In a foreign country.
It was an especially lonely experience when fear toyed with my mind. In my crazy-high, mosquito-virus induced fever, all I could see was bright white light even with my throbbing eyes closed (who knew eyes could throb?). I went to some rather dark places in my mind during the couple of days I could hardly sit up and consciousness was a dream-like state. I was scared.
My mind can be a terrible thing to be alone with for too long. I’d struggle to get out of bed and sit with my laptop and research this thing called Chikungunya the doctor claimed I had. What if this fever just won’t break? What if this weird rash and the itchiness on palms and feet didn’t go away? Why were my fingers and neck swollen? Is the back of my skull about to come apart and spill out my brains? (The headache really was that bad.) Why am I so damned tired?
Aside from a million other worries about my physical condition, I had other worries about life in general. Worries that a solo traveler stricken with illness is forced to think about. How would I get clean water if I was down and out for a long time? What happens if the power and/or wifi went out – my only connection to the outside world? What if this thing kills me and my new husband comes to Tulum to find me rotting on this bed? See? My mind can be a terrible thing to be alone with for too long.
When Tedly retired and joined me in Tulum, I still was recovering from Chikungunya. I was so happy he was there to “take care of me.” In reality, by the time he came to Tulum, I was well enough to get around on my own with effort. I forced myself to use public transportation to meet him in Playa del Carmen, an hour’s ride north. With him around, I suddenly wasn’t lonely.
While the experience made me feel lonely, I knew, deep down, I was never alone. God is always there, and the universe’s plan for me unfolds as it’s supposed to. I know this – I feel this – as a truth. But I’m human, and fear can be harder to lick than sickness, and it can cause my mind to visit dark places.
I know many courageous people who travel alone, and/or live in a foreign country alone. Some are family, some are dear friends. If a loved one ever got really sick, I’d fly to their side in a heartbeat to help, no matter where in the world they happened to be. I’ve already been to that place.
While I survived a sickness in solo travel, it sucked. I’d rather a loved one not go through that alone if there is a way I can help.
In hindsight, that whole Chikungunya experience showed me – yet again – often my greatest problem is my mind. Problems are created – or at least amplified and exaggerated – with my mind. In this case, the catalyst was a physical viral sickness that knocked my body down.
Today, my body is nearly over this latest chest cold. I’m coughing much less, my voice sounds like me, and I feel less winded and tired on daily activities out and about in this awesome city and region.
Small but mighty items we carry to help avoid or treat sickness:
- hand sanitizer
- antibiotic ointment
- basic antibiotic pills (Amoxicillin)
- acetaminophen/paracetamol (ibuprofen is not to be used for a suspected mosquito virus)
- loperamide (anti-diarrhea pills)
- decongestant pills
- over-the-counter allergy meds
- bug repellent
Other things we do to stay as healthy as possible:
- plenty of rest
- lots of vitamin C
- healthy eating
- exercise through active living (hiking, swimming, bike riding, and we walk a lot as car-free people)
- regular dental care
- annual checkups and exams
- anti-bacterial wipes (for Airbnb apartments and hotel rooms)
What are we missing? If you have any additional suggestions, we’d love to hear them.