Feeling bad while on the road and being in a strange place is one of the worst situations one can experience, especially when so much time, money and effort have gone into planning a trip. Watching what you eat and drink can go a long way in preventing this scenario from happening. While I have had my share of feeling under the weather during my travels, I have developed techniques for preparing and dealing with food and drink that have helped me from not getting sick more times than not. This discussion falls into three categories: Food challenges, drinking dilemmas and what to do if the worst happens. Hopefully this advice will be useful for your next journey.
As far as food goes, I have been most successful in following a few simple rules. I tend to want to try the local food when I travel. So I will look for a restaurant that has other people in the establishment, which tells me that it has some kind of reputation and that the food is probably being cooked to order to keep up with the demand. I prefer to order off the menu and avoid any buffet items that look like they had been sitting out for awhile or anything that contains milk or cream that is not being refrigerated. Even a little bit of the wrong thing can end up being a problem. For example, I know someone who had a little cream in their coffee that had been sitting out and got sick because of that. To be really safe I minimize my meat and cream-based dish intake and stick to soup, pizza and vegetarian food, although there is the risk of missing out on some of the local delicacies by doing so. Try as much as possible to be in control of what you eat and do not let others order for you. In general, if it looks good, smells good and is hot, it is probably OK. If not, do not eat it.
With the water in developing countries, I absolutely use bottled water for everything, including brushing my teeth. Some hotels claim that they have pure water, but I never take the chance. Many hotels in developing countries provide you with free bottles in the room or provide a convenient way to purchase them, so access should not be a problem. One very important thing to remember is to always check to ensure that the seal is on the water bottle before drinking from it for the first time. Many bottles are reused without being cleaned and resealed. This happens more than you might think and I have saved myself from becoming sick numerous times by checking first. Once, when traveling in India, I tried to warn a friend about this and he did not hear me and drank from a reused bottle. He got sick a short time later. Most places have tea and coffee and that is fine to drink, due to the boiled water. I have not had problems with soft drinks but always take a look at the can or the bottle in the same way that I mentioned earlier regarding the bottled water.
When the Worst Happens, Now What?
If you do get sick, you should have some medicine with you in your travel bag (i.e. Imodium) and take that as soon as possible, as well as drink water to help speed things along. If you are able to catch it early, hopefully you will just feel bad for a few hours and can be back at full strength quickly, especially after a good nights sleep. Occasionally you may feel bad for a day or two. In that case you will have to slow down, get some rest and make sure that you are staying hydrated. If you continue to feel bad beyond that, then you may need to seek out some medical help, but I have never had to do that, fortunately.
So, by following these few guidelines, hopefully your trip will be a healthy and happy one!
Sandy Van Soye began chronicling her global adventures with stories, digital photos and video in 2000 through the website http://www.OurDistantJourney.com To date, she has visited 40 countries on six continents. In 2003-2004, she took a four-and-half-month around the world with her husband and children. Her travel philosophy is to experience the journey ‘authentically’, meaning that she minimizes the use of planes and try to use public transportation whenever feasible. She likes to mix visits to the iconic places in the world with the adventure that keeps travel fresh and exciting. Sandy believes that, through travel, she is supporting the local economy and encouraging the preservation of the world’s special places. To experience her travelogues supporting this authentic adventure of travel, visit http://www.OurDistantJourney.com
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