What you want least on your trip, besides having one of those stories that starts out, “So then I woke up on the side of the road, with no shoes, no wallet and no passport,” is to get sick while traveling. It’s uncomfortable, unpleasant, can make moving to the next town an impossibility and takes you right out of your comfort zone into the doctor’s office in a country where you don’t speak the language and are not entirely sure of the hygiene practices.
But maybe you’re a sucker for medical tourism, and not the cosmetic dentistry kind. You’re looking for 1,001 ways to make sure you get sicker than sick, the kind of ill that follows you home and plagues your dreams. Here are just six really good ways to make sure you get the devil’s ick while traveling.
Eat unpeeled fruits and vegetables or drink a glass of tap water when you arrive
All those pesky warnings about cholera be darned, go for the gusto. Even if the locals don’t drink the tap water, or wouldn’t dream of eating raw vegetables, make sure you do so. Your chances of getting a free case of dysentery or other amoebas which will keep your doctor at home guessing for weeks is great.
You also might win a midnight trip to a medical establishment, or if you’re lucky, a late night doctor visit with IV-fluids administered. Don’t ask to makes sure the needle is new/clean either.
Don’t wash your hands
Sure, you don’t wash your hands at home every single time before you eat. But your chances of getting an unidentified microbe straight to the gastrointestinal tract is increased exponentially after taking a public bus, tying your shoe in the middle of the street and using the restroom.
“…you can be sure that the decision not to apply a little soap and water will pay you back in spades.”
In your home country, you probably won’t skip a beat. But in places where cleanliness standards are not your own, and where your body hasn’t had a lifetime of experience to acclimate to the bugs, you can be sure that the decision not to apply a little soap and water will pay you back in spades.
Unlike some of the other things on this list, this one will probably take at least a few days or maybe more before you realize you are ill, and recent developments have shown that this could lead to something more than just a couple days going back and forth between your bathroom and your bed.
Go to empty restaurants
If it’s lunchtime and you’ve got a little growl in your stomach, be sure to pop in on the restaurant where not even the flies will go. Eschew eateries packed with locals and foreigners alike, and instead choose the food stand where nobody is waiting.
This is sure to be an undiscovered treasure trove, and lead to a unique culinary experience, or at least a quick trip to the clinic. Related tip: order the thing on the menu that nobody else is ordering. It’s sure to be made to order. Or at least dug out from the back of the (dare we hope?) refrigerator.
Don’t use sunscreen
Deep in the southern hemisphere with its notorious ozone troubles or up on mountaintops, where everyone warns you that sunscreen is an essential, because the rays are strong or your skin is pale or because the altitude increases that chances that you’ll become dehydrated, make sure you don’t use any protection from the sun. Scoff at recommendations and signs posted liberally and little kids in rash suits at the beach.
Disregard all suggestions and get a sunburn of mythic proportions, complete with stripey effect, possible blistering, unsightly peeling, sunstroke, and improving your chances of developing skin cancer later on.
Don’t protect yourself from insects and other critters
Here’s where you want to make sure not to tuck your pants into your socks against ticks, not to wear long sleeves and pants at night, and to never apply anything as foolish as insect repellent. Don’t check your shoes for scorpions in the morning, or inspect your hut for giant bugs (or even spiders) at night.
Make sure not to take your malaria meds or see the doctor for any weird, unresolving bites you might get, and be sure to walk barefoot around pigs and other livestock and through swampy areas. You could be an internet photo celebrity with the caption “odd bugbite,” or a youtube star as your friends film and later upload the de-worming procedure (PG-13 please).
Party like a rockstar
Make sure to throw all caution into the wind when it comes to your health, drinking your volume in alcohol and consuming nothing but fried food and red meat. Don’t sleep properly, never drink your morning juice, and generally disregard everything your mother ever said about staying in tip-top shape. Don’t consume anything nutritious, and please, please, for the sake of all that is good and important when traveling, make out with as many strangers as you can.
“Don’t sleep properly, never drink your morning juice, and generally disregard everything your mother ever said about staying in tip-top shape.”
In this way you can assure that your defenses are low and that you expose yourself to maximal germage, both in the form of parasites that your snogmates may have picked up on the way from following the first five tips, and also from any colds or illnesses they may have picked up from following tip number six. If you decide to take the makeout session further, you’re sure to get a terrible night of sleep, and this will only add to the chances of you coming down with something really outstanding.
But there’s more!
In addition to being in pain, stressed out, at the mercy of doctors you don’t know and in a language you don’t speak, getting sick will allow you you’ll lose time, pay part of your ever-dwindling budget for health care, and in areas where doctors are hard to come by, you’ll use valuable resources to minister to your sick traveler self while people who seldom have access to medical staff are forced to wait.
So step up and don’t hesitate, you dirty-handed, empty-restaurant, fruit and vegetable-eating, sunburned, lice-ridden hookup rockstar. There are so many ways to get sick. We’ve just barely scratched the surface!