I’m writing this to you from under a mountain of tissues. As a current cold-battler, I may not be the most trusted health guru to give tips on how to stay healthy while traveling, but the least I can do is be a cautionary tale. I’m retracing my steps to see just where I went wrong this time and how I can tweak my travel style just a bit to keep from getting sick so often. Because there’s nothing worse than being stuck in a cramped dorm room, quarantined off into a corner by your roommates, wishing you were in bed at home while your mates are off exploring a new city.
Take a Day Off
Traveling is freaking exhausting. Sometimes I forget how taxing it is, mentally and physically. There’s so much to see and you feel guilty for not maxing out your time to squeeze it all in. Then your off days are spent hopping from bus to bus traveling across entire countries. Take a day off! Sleep in, watch movies, spend the whole day reading. Taking a day off every once in a while will prevent you from having to spend a whole week curled up in the fetal position, popping Paracetamol.
Eating healthy can be difficult on the road. Often fast food pizza is cheaper and quicker than buying veggies and cooking up a healthy meal. Instant noodles and boxed Mac n Cheese are easy, delicious and serious comfort food. It’s also terrible for you, especially on a regular basis. You wouldn’t go days without some kind of fruit and veg at home would you? Wait, don’t answer that. Backpacking already puts your body through the wringer. The best way to prevent getting sick? Don’t eat shit.
Turn Down the Party
You know you’re getting sick. You can feel that first symptom scratch in the back of your throat, but you choose to ignore it because tomorrow the group you’ve been traveling with for weeks break off to different destinations. You can’t possibly poop out on the party. So one beer turns to three, which turns into rum and cokes and then you end up taking body shots off some local named Luis. Now, the next day instead of just battling an epic hangover, you’re stuck with the flu and will be out of commission for a week. Trust me, when you’re backpacking, there is always a party to be found. Missing one night won’t kill you. But pushing yourself when you’re getting sick will screw you over.
Take Your Vitamins
Even if you try to eat as healthy as possible, it’s still difficult to get all the nutrients you need while on the road. Unlike grocery stores in the Western World, markets in developing countries are subject to seasonal fruits and veggies. If you’re not getting all your nutrients in (and lets face it, who is?), packing a supply of multivitamins can be helpful. Vitamin C and E are particularly helpful for boosting your immune system and the B complex vitamins are great for a kick of energy. Also, eating raw garlic and ginger are basically like giving your body a 1 up, Mario style.
Wash those Dirty Hands
Okay, so you’re not five. You know to wash your hands after the bathroom, before you eat, etc. But this should go ten-fold while traveling. Hostels in particular are breeding grounds for germs. With so many people coming in and out everyday, sickness spreads easily. When you’re traveling, you’re also entering a lot more public places than you would at home. The turnstile on that bus? Filthy. The handrail on the elevator up to the Eiffel Tower? Disgusting. Wash your hands often and invest in a bottle of anti-bacterial gel. You may look like a paranoid germaphobe, but seriously, your insides will thank you.