8-months of planning and bragging on social media and a 6-hour flight later, there I was, sick in Scotland for Christmas, all my plans to stay healthy while traveling went right out the window. On reflection, I could see all the wrong turns I had taken to get me to this point. Sure I could just blame it on the fact that I must have walked into the germ-filled cloud of a sick person but I’m fairly positive it was a culmination of many things. If I had slept on the plane, not pushed through my exhaustion as every travel article will tell you to do, not spent the first night in a pub getting hammered with a bunch of locals maybe I would have been strong enough to fight my way out of the gutter.
To top it all of I spent Christmas day in a castle filled with smoke from the uncleaned fireplace. As each inhale burned a little deeper I attempted not to cough on the dinner companions I had just met. All of these misguided moves had sunk my battleship. From then on out it was a roller coaster of symptoms plaguing every step I had attempted to make and infecting each person in our group one by one. Upon returning to my native city, I started to do a bit of research on how to avoid such issues, and hopefully, it can help you to avoid the same fate.
Before the plague infects your village, give yourself a fighting chance.
Researchers don’t always get the strain of flu correct for the season but it will still help fend off any parasites trying to break through and shorten the duration if you do get sick. It takes about two weeks after receiving the shot for the antibodies to build so make sure to get it before the flu season begins. This is so important if you want to stay healthy.
Bring Hand Sanitizer
My doctor once told me that airplanes were like flying germ tubes, he gave me an antibiotic on the assumption that I would be sick soon. Although fairly irresponsible the sentiment has stuck with me ever since. In addition to hand sanitizer, consider bringing wipes for your tray table, seat, and armrest.
A couple of days before your trip and after you land, pop your favorite vitamin supplement. Whether it be Airborne or Emergen-C your body will be thankful for the extra vitamins as it works to keep any sickness at bay.
When going through each article on how to get the most out of your trip, you will stumble upon the advice to push through the mind-numbing exhaustion you feel on that first day, to acclimate yourself to the new time zone. Do not follow this advice! This isn’t a free pass to sleep through the day, indulging in that sweet slumber, eventually, you’ll realize all you saw was the backside of your eyelids. My point is simply that if you’re exhausted take a nap. Your body needs rest to stay healthy and fight off any infections.
If possible a week or two before your planned vacation, start slowly adjusting your sleep time to acclimate your body to your destination. Whether it’s pushing your sleep back a bit and waking up later or going to bed earlier you will be thankful to have adjusted when you don’t miss a step during your new adventure.
Exercise and eating whole foods
Doing what your body craves to stay healthy can make a huge difference when fending off germs. When you fuel your body with junk food, your body works hard to break down that food with little nutrition in return. Along with the right diet, moderate daily exercise can help you stay healthy. Okay, so I may sound a little preachy but the science is there. Still, don’t feel like following the rules? At Least take a multivitamin to attempt to help your body.
So you did everything you were supposed to and it just wasn’t enough?
Or maybe you did nothing and it got you, either way, have an emergency plan in place. Waking up at 3 am with burning lungs, unable to catch a breath between coughs, was the worst time to realize, I was in a foreign country where I knew nothing about the healthcare system.
Thankfully, I did think to set-up an international data plan on my phone and quickly reached out to my social network where someone was able to point me in the direction of help. After a quick call to Scotland’s helpline, I was directed to the nearest hospital to be examined. I got lucky that they have a universal health care system. The gentleman at the front desk asked if I had travel insurance, when I said no, he replied with don’t worry about it, it’s Christmas. In the states, I would have been charged $200 and a candy cane because it’s Christmas. So while daydreaming of taking off to exotic lands don’t forget about the realities of life.
Before leaving, make sure to stock up with just in case items, DayQuil/NyQuil, Benadryl, Band-Aids, Advil, Emergen-C. We’ve found that the over-the-counter medication in other countries just don’t compare to the strength the U.S. allows in their cold and flu pills. Also, having these on hand when you feel something coming helps tremendously. This way you don’t need to go on the hunt in a foreign country where you possibly don’t speak the language.