There is a rather well known fact about travel that all travellers need to face at some point.. you’re probably going to get sick overseas and it’s going to suck… and I don’t mean getting homesick, I mean proper sick. Call it what you like: traveller’s diarrhea, food poisoning, gastro, a loose day on the toilet, a smooth move, the chocolate facet.. however you dress it up; it’s about as unpleasant an experience as sitting through the Twilight movie saga.. on the big screen.. without cyanide pills.
Let’s set the scene. I’m in Dalyan, the middle of Turkey’s stunning turquoise coast and only about 65km’s from the Greek island of Rhodes. It’s a balmy 27 degrees with a warm breeze, I can get 500ml of beer for $2, there are beaches to relax on, amazing Lycian tombs cut into the very rock overlooking a town and i’m for all intensive purposes somewhere between the 5th and 7th level of hell…
Earlier that evening i’d ordered some Turkish pizza (usually really, really good) but this time I’d had the sneaking suspicion that the meat was somewhat under-cooked. Being the gung-ho, red blooded, bulletproof, heroic, kitten saving type (in my head) I ignored it and decided to just eat the damn thing anyway… mistake.
A few hours later the next few days of my life were foreshadowed by an ominous gurgle emanating from somewhere between my bellybutton and my crotch.. it soon felt as if Lucifer himself had decided to take up residence in my large intestine and was making himself right at home, pitchfork, horns, fire, brimstone and all, along with what felt like the entire contents of hell too… I couldn’t lie still, sitting up made it worse, lying on my back made it feel as if my stomach was trying to make its squirming way up through my esophagus while simultaneously trying to squeeze itself out of my rear-end.
For obvious reasons the bathroom soon became quite important to me. Though only several meters away from the bed, each time it was an epic journey fraught with potential tragedy. While every step brought me closer to the sweet salvation of the porcelain throne, ironically the jarring impacts of my footfalls along with gravity and my now seemingly powerless sphincter, combined to make the journey more dangerous than watching The Twilight Saga… on the big screen… with cyanide pills.
That night I stoically fortified my soul for what I knew would be a marathon contest of endurance. After what felt like at least 500 trips to the bathroom I eventually drifted into a fitful sleep haunted by dreams of melted chocolate, fire, brimstone and flatulence all set to a tortured melody of screams escaping the throat of the poor Turkish cleaner who soon would inevitably enter upon his own epic journey sometime in the next few days when he crossed the threshold of my bathroom door..
The next day the 5th level of hell gave way to the 6th and it started to feel more like Satan had invited a few friends around to my colon and was having some form of daemonic Great Gatsby style house-warming party involving plenty of dancing, drinks and of course, a bouncy castle…
Later that day..
My girlfriend enters the room. There’s a huddled, shaking mass of skin and bones, cowering underneath a sheet. Every few moments the creature beneath the blankets utters a weak croaking groan, it sounds more like an ancient bullfrog who’s smoked 3 packs a day getting stepped on than a human.. She throws back the curtains to reveal a space turned more lair than a hotel room – Fear and Loathing style. The natural light touches the creature’s translucent skin and it recoils into the darkest corner of the room, groaning and crying with pain…
When I get sick I turn into a crippled mix of Gollum from Lord of The Rings and The Emperor from Star Wars… It’s not pretty.
So getting sick while abroad can really suck, worse than suck, it’s literally the worst thing ever. Luckily (or not, for them) your travel companions are the ones who will get you through the these not so fun times. If you’re a solo traveller then it’s no surprise that these times can be actually quite scary. Being too sick to even get out of bed, clean yourself or to leave your room to get food is not the kind of memorable experience we all aim for while overseas. Yet, unless you’re Chuck Norris (Chuck Norris doesn’t get sick, sick gets Chuck Norris..) chances are you will suffer from a ‘loose day on the toilet’ at some point in your journey. Getting sick overseas sucks, I know having experienced it enough to become quite the amateur expert, I do at least have a few tips to help ease the pain.
- Always keep your room stocked with drinking water (if you’re somewhere that does not have drinkable tap water..)
- Make sure you have an internet connection. That way at least you can re-search (and no I don’t mean Google-diagnose yourself) medical facilities in your area or possibly use it to help call out doctors if required.
- Talk to the hotel/hostel staff, they are usually locals who have seen it all before and can make recommendations for medical professionals etc.. when needed.
- Always carry Painkillers and anti-diarrhea medication, just in case.
- Don’t take any antibiotics without the consent of a medical practitioner.
- In case things do get bad know/have access to the local medical hotlines and emergency numbers in each country you visit (these do change depending on which country you’re in.. think Europe).
- Drink loads of water and if you can get a sports drink, these can help get you off the floor.
- Make sure you have adequate travel insurance that covers medical overseas (especially when visiting the US, Canada and Japan) just in case the worst should happen and you need hospitalization.
- Use Google, or a specialist provider like: IAMAT to source local (English speaking) medical help when needed.
“Tis healthy to be sick sometimes” – Henry David Thoreau