Lonely Day of Sickness while Travelling
Travelling alone and independent is great, as long as you are healthy. Once you happen to get sick, you realize all of a sudden how dependent on other people you can be. So even if this is the one type of day that nobody likes to talk about, unfortunately it does happen and when you are all alone in a foreign country, it can be called nothing less but a Miserable Sick Day.
My first time getting sick was in Cusco, Peru, the night before I was supposed to go on the Inca Trail and hike to Machu Picchu. The reservation for this hike had to be done months in advance and it was not possible to move the date. So I was left with no choice but to bite the bullet and accept the fact that I needed to take care of my body first. Actually at the time when I felt sick, I didn’t even care any more about the hiking, all I wanted was to get better and be healthy again as soon as possible.
In retrospect I am still pretty upset about missing this famous track that is most people’s dream when they come to South America. But what I learned from it were two very important things that helped me a lot in the future. First, when travelling alone it is extremely important to take care of yourself in any sort of situation. This is true when it comes to food, but also when it comes to safety and exhaustion. It is vital that you learn to understand your limits and make sure to treat yourself sometimes.
The second thing I have learned is that it is never a good idea to plan things too far in advance and with that establish a certain expectation. These expectations always limit your flexibility and once you have them set, as I had with the trek to Machu Picchu, then only disappointment will follow if those expectations cannot come true. Events like Miserable Sick Days do happen despite any schedule or expectation and you will just have to take the time to get better before you continue with your trip.
In general the golden rule is obviously never to get sick and to live by “boil it, peel it or forget it”. Staying clear of tap water and ice will also greatly increase your chances of staying healthy. In some countries, but especially in India, I would advise you also to avoid eating meat. When there is no refrigeration and meat is hanging in the sun with flies buzzing around it, your chances of surviving the day are obviously much greater when you go for the vegetarian option.
If living by avoidance is the first golden rule, the second one is to have some emergency medication on you. It is probably best to consult your doctor before you leave, but in my case some antibiotics did the trick and saved me from having to go to a local hospital. After that experience I made sure to always have an emergency dose on me and, like any other medication, it could be bought easily over the counter in South America and also later on my trip in Southeast Asia.
The other real life saver turned out to be a little pack of re-hydration powder. While it obviously does not cure anything, it was still amazing to see the revitalizing effects it had on the body. Especially when you are all alone and depending on yourself, this little pack of powder can give you back some much-needed strength and comfort within no time while making your Miserable Sick Day at least a little bit less miserable.
Overall I would say that those sick days were the only time during my entire trip where I really wished to be at home in my own bed, or even on my mom’s couch while she is making some soup for me. Luckily those days are extremely rare and it is good to know that every fellow traveller will always jump in to help you out if necessary. So make sure to be prepared, live by avoidance and don’t worry about it too much as it is, even if miserable, all part of the travel experience.
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