Health Tips for Extended Travel

Health can be a big issue when you’re abroad. It can stop your trip right in its tracks. In order to make the most of your time, take some precautions while you travel. Here are my top health tips for extended travel:

Go to All Your Appointments: Physician, eye doctor, dentist, you name it. If you go to them for an annual, make sure you have gone in the year before your trip. It helps to give you peace of mind that you know there isn’t anything too crazy going on.

Get Your Prescriptions All Lined Up: This one can be tricky. Insurance companies don’t like to give out medicine at the reduced rates even if you swear up and down that you are leaving the country, won’t have access to the pharmacy you need to go to, and have written proof of your trip. I had this happen to me when I studied abroad in Ireland and for my backpacking trip. Get ready to cough up some extra cash to get your meds. If you’re only going to be out of the country for a few months, it’s worth it to get your medicine in advance. I haven’t ventured into what happens when you’re gone for longer.

Get Extra Prescriptions: Hopefully your doctor will understand your situation like mine did. When I went for my annual physical, I told the doctor that I wanted to bring some antibiotics along with me just in case. She completely agreed and wrote up a prescription for them. I didn’t use them but knowing I had them at the ready gave me peace of mind.

Stock Up on Medicine You Typically Use: Bringing your medicine is a good way to ensure your health. I brought cold medicine that I typically use and was so happy to have it on hand. You shouldn’t bring a whole store with you but bring what you know you’ll need and use. I knew I would need cold medicine, Motrin, Pepto Bismol tablets, and Vitamin C packets so in my bag they went. I used them all.

Know What You’re Getting Into with Medicine Abroad: It’s good to know that you might not be able to easily obtain medicine abroad. It won’t be too difficult but it is different than the USA. Sometimes you can’t just walk up to a shelf and get the cold medicine you need without asking. (On my most recent trip, I asked for them to get contact lens solution for me twice.) In Europe, you’re going to need to go to a pharmacy to get medicine. It’s not like in the states where you can grab something at a supermarket or a gas station. Be prepared that you might have to search. This is where having your medicine already with you comes in handy. The more you travel, the more you’ll pick up on patterns on where you can find things you need.

Stay Hydrated: I would always feel worse when I didn’t have enough water in my system. It definitely is hard to stay hydrated when you travel. You constantly move around and are distracted by other things. Plus, I would drink less on travel days just so I wouldn’t have to use the bathrooms as much. But I found that to be silly after the first few times I did that. I would feel horrible and cranky. I would also occasionally get terrible headaches from it. Keep yourself hydrated. I brought a water bottle with me the whole time. It was a plastic pouch so I could roll it up and save space in my bag. It also had a clip on it so I could save room in my bags even when it was full. You can also just buy water bottles along the way and reuse them which is what my boyfriend did.

Get Exercise: This tip isn’t that difficult. If you walk everywhere like Matt and I did, you’re basically golden. When I’m active I feel much more awake, refreshed, and ready for anything. Plus, I get sick less frequently when I exercise. I did occasionally run while we traveled. I hope to add more exercise into my routine on future trips.

Get a Flu Shot: If you are into getting the flu shot and you’re leaving for a trip during flu season, consider getting this done before you leave. I asked the pharmacist if the strain anticipated in the US would be the same as in Europe. He said he was unsure but suspected not. Then he said it ultimately couldn’t hurt to get it anyway. So I did just in case. I’d rather not have the flu while traveling.

Take Time Off When You’re Sick: When you get sick during your journey, it is really, really easy to just keep going and attempt to ignore your illness. There’s so much to do and see that you just don’t want to miss anything. Don’t do this to yourself. I attempted this in Budapest. I took a day and a half off when I got a cold and then went out the next. I ended up really sick and feverish by the end of that day and had to take about another day and a half off. It wasn’t worth it. I should have just killed the cold in two days and then been able to spend more time in the city rather than effectively wasting a whole day.

Take Preventative Measures: Vitamin C helps me so much. When I feel a cold coming on, I take some. It is particularly useful when you are staying in hostel rooms where there are many other people. Ultimately someone will be sick at some point and you will be exposed to those germs. When I start to feel a tickle in my throat or feel I’ve been exposed to too much to not take preventive measures, I use my Vitamin C packets and it sets me straight. Use your typical preventative routine while you travel.

 

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Be Good: Going Through Airport Security as a Woman

Airports usually aren’t that horrible. Typically, I go through a moderate amount of stress packing and getting to the airport but then it is smooth sailing. Cruising through check-in and security, I mainly think about whether or not there will be good food and lattes on the other side of the line. Rarely do I have experiences that are even remotely bad but they occasionally happen. Over the course of backpacking through Europe, I didn’t really reflect on my interactions with security until my final border crossing in Dublin. They have a great system set up where you can go through customs before boarding a plane to the US. This allows you to walk off the plane in the US and not have to wait in any lines. You just grab your bag and go home. It’s genius really considering so many people show up at airports early anyway. It maximizes time and I appreciate that. Needless to say, I was pumped about using the system. Until I walked up to the man who examined my documents and questioned me. Matt and I typically go through passport control together as we travel in tandem. You can’t go through customs together unless you live in the same household and we didn’t at the time. I walked up to the man with a smile on my face, documents in perfect order, and my hope that if I was positive with this man, he would be positive with me. This is my general strategy when interacting with literally anyone in my life. No such luck this time.

 

(Here’s an approximation of our conversation with some commentary. I really wish I had written it down immediately after it happened. I left out stuff that I couldn’t remember perfectly because I didn’t want there to be any embellishment.)

Security: “Are you traveling alone?”

Me: “No. I’m with my boyfriend.”

Security: “Did you check a bag?”

Me: “Yes.”

Security: (Accusingly) “It doesn’t look like you did. I guess he checked it for you.” (Pulls up picture of our bags.) “Which one is yours?”

Me: (I didn’t lie so don’t act like an asshole to me.) “The burnt orange.”

Security: “Do you have any [list of long things like produce and food] with you?”

Me: (Happily.) “No. Unless you count the sandwich I bought after the first security line.”

Security: (Look of annoyance with equally annoyed tone following.) “Just put it in your bag.”

Me: (At this point I’m wondering if he wanted me to lie or something.)

Security: “I guess I’ll clear you. Go stand at that corner and wait for your boyfriend. (And here’s the kicker, folks.) Be good.”

 

Sure, mister! Let me just skip over there in my school girl outfit and braids carrying my brown paper bag filled with lunch.  I promise I’ll be really good. Don’t worry, I’ll wait for my boyfriend. Then he’ll walk me to our gate and buckle me into my seat because I can’t figure out where to go or what to do without him. Now pat me on my head and send me on my way.


I’m sure you can read the sarcasm in the above paragraph but just in case you can’t, I was being sarcastic. You best believe I walked over to that friggin corner. And then I pushed that frowny face survey button immediately and with indignation. What I really wanted to say to that man was, “How dare you tell me to “be good”? I have given you zero reasons to believe that I’ve caused trouble abroad or will cause problems in the USA. I am a grown-ass woman who takes care of herself. Sure, I travel with my boyfriend but I am perfectly capable on my own. And for the record, I don’t appreciate you being unnecessarily abrasive towards me when I’m being kind to you and answering your questions honestly. Now put a smile on your face and treat me properly as I’m sure you would want to be treated.” But really I think, “I’m sorry I don’t have a penis,” might have been more effective. I say this because the only time I ended up being treated poorly by security during this trip was when I didn’t have Matt standing by my side. But I’ll give this man the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he was having a bad day. Maybe it was just a coincidence that this man treated me poorly when the other male security officers treated me properly. Maybe the person in front of me gave him a hard time.  But I ultimately finished the process feeling that he said those things to me because I’m a woman. I didn’t like the juxtaposition of being told to wait for my boyfriend and to be good. Once again, maybe it was just an unfortunate coincidence but the whole exchange didn’t make it feel that way. After all, you should treat people (all people) like you would want to be treated. Maybe I should have told him to be good.

Lisbon: A Few Photos

Art in a Mall (Unfortunately I was unable to find the artist's name near the piece but it looks awesome so I had to share it.)

Art in a Mall (Unfortunately I was unable to find the artist’s name near the piece but it looks awesome so I had to share it.)

Ruins at Excavation Site at the Castle of S. Jorge

Ruins at Excavation Site at the Castle of S. Jorge

Trees in Courtyard of the Castle of S. Jorge

Trees in Courtyard of the Castle of S. Jorge

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Like these photos? Check out more on my Flickr photostream.

Barcelona: A Few Photos

Balconies, Casa Batllo by Gaudi, Barcelona

Balconies, Casa Batllo by Gaudi, Barcelona

Roof of La Pedrera by Gaudi and a Piece of Skyline

Roof of La Pedrera by Gaudi and a Piece of Skyline

Light through Stained Glass, Sagrada Familia by Gaudi

Light through Stained Glass, Sagrada Familia by Gaudi

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Like these photos? Check out more on my Flickr photostream.

The Magic & Struggles of Venice

Venice is a magical place. Before I traveled to this location I saw plenty of pictures which inspired me to make the trip to the city in the first place. Matt and I arrive in Venice in the dark. Taking the train into the city, we know there is water on either side of the tracks but we can’t see it. Snatching up our backpacks, we struggle to hoist the oversized luggage upon our backs before we exit the train station. Leaving the terminal, we see a huge canal in front of us but we can’t really see everything. It’s dark and threatening rain so we focus on getting to our hostel. We take a side street and walk away from the canal to an enclosed square with no water in sight. In our room we are in a closed off world; the window opens to the view of a brick wall of the next building over. I stick my head out the window and crane my neck to the right to catch a glimpse of the square we just scurried across. I get ready for sleep and crawl into bed, thankful for reaching our destination and briefly noting the run Matt and I planned for tomorrow.

A Small Bridge in Venice

A Small Bridge in Venice

 

The Beautiful Day

 

A long, restful night behind me, I wake up with sleepy eyes and brush my teeth in front of the mirror while I assess my hair and wonder what I’ll need to do to make it cooperate. It’s a normal day. After I get into my workout clothes, Matt and I descend into the square to begin our run. We come out of a small street and are immediately confronted with the Grand Canal. Running along the water and over small bridges, I keep exclaiming to Matt, “This is so cool!” which mainly resulted in me running out of breath as I don’t usually talk when I doing cardio. In Venice the water laps up against the edge of the canal. In some places it is almost level with the street. If someone wasn’t aware, they potentially could attempt to walk out onto it thinking that it might be a continuation of the streets. The water is a beautiful blue, a hue that is pale yet deep all at once. It’s practically indescribable. And I certainly have never seen its like before in my life. Venice is one with the water. It feels as if the island could be flooded at any second, lost to nature’s wrath. The city instilled in me a sense of wonder and magic that something so splendid and surreal could actually exist on this earth. When I’m near the water I feel at home; Venice felt like the most extreme and unique version of that feeling. It brings me back to memories of my childhood and trips with my family. As I run along I wish I could have my family with me and show them this unbelievable sight before it disappears as sea levels rise, a thought that makes me feel sad. I am so thankful to have seen the city in person.

Temporary Walkways to Traverse Flooding in St. Marco's Square, Venice

Temporary Walkways to Traverse Flooding in St. Marco’s Square, Venice

After a quick shower and a breakfast, Matt and I decide to spend the day wandering Venice. It’s one of those places where you can go to just see the city, kind of like Rome. We make our way over to St. Marco’s Square. We find a small alley and pop out on to a slightly elevated portion of the square, looking out over a system of temporary walkways that have been set up due to the flooding at the location which is one of the lowest points in Venice. I practically squeal with delight. It is such an amusing and novel sight. Some people walk through the water in boots. Other eagerly spend the ten euros on a pair of cheap booties to place over their own shoes so they can frolic through the water. Matt and I patiently cross the crowded walkways to access the basilica of which the entrance is also flooding. The basilica boast a glittering, opulent interior due to gold on every surface. The floor hosts marbles of all shades arranged in varying patterns. The wealth of this location becomes immediately clear upon stepping into the building. It is so ostentatious, extreme, and beautiful, a description that easily matches the city itself. Matt and I spend the rest of the day wandering Venice and taking in whatever sights we happen upon.

Marble Floor in St. Marco's Basilica, Venice

Marble Floor in St. Marco’s Basilica, Venice

Golden Ceiling in St. Marco's Basilica, Venice

Golden Ceiling in St. Marco’s Basilica, Venice

The Not So Good Day

 

The next day in Venice was much less glamorous than the first. Matt wakes up sick so we decide a run isn’t the best idea. The heavy rain deters us as well. Matt and I purchased tickets for a secret tour of the Doge’s Palace in which we could see the regular parts of the building but also all of the back administrative rooms, prison, archive, and torture chamber. Matt and I set out early in case we got lost along the way. The rain fails to subside by the time we reach breakfast so our pants are already soaked through; this event is only five minutes in to our day. We forge on over bridges, through the rain, over temporary walkways. We make a stop to place my bag within Matt’s for fear that my camera will be destroyed by the rain that begins to soak through my bag. At this point it looks like we took a shower in our pants. Thankfully the rain jackets prevent our upper bodies from being soaked as well. By the time we are in St. Marco’s Square, our boots soak through, boots which never had water reach their interior before this particular inondation. That’s how much rain there is. Upon arriving at the Doge’s Palace, the pants exposed to the rain are so saturated that the water is starting to creep up the fabric under our rain jackets. We begin the tour feeling much like drowned rats and hoping that Matt won’t get even sicker. The tour is lovely and interesting even if we shiver from the cold of our clothing which doesn’t dry. After the tour we decide to continue to the hostel. The rain has let up a bit so we take the opportunity to stop in souvenir shops along the way. Upon entering the first shop, heat washes over us. We spend more time than necessary in the shop so that our clothing can dry, which it does completely with the help of standing under the heating vents. After that fortunate occurrence, we decide to stay out, get some lunch, and enjoy the rest of our last day. Unfortunately the rain only subsided briefly. After our meal, we go back out into a downpour and return to our hostel just as soaked as when we arrived at the Doge’s Palace.

Ceiling in the Doge's Palace, Venice

Ceiling in the Doge’s Palace, Venice

Venice is an unbelievable location. We had both a beautiful and rainy day. Both days are something that Matt and I will never forget. It was a positive experience overall in Venice because the place is just magic. Even if you’re soaked to the bone, you can’t help but feel awed and happy to be there. It feels as if you are living on the water rather than near the water. As Matt and I departed from Venice, we looked back at the city across the water. It looks like a floating city rather than a simple island; it’s a grand illusion that you want to get lost on and in.

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10 Stocking Stuffers for Travelers

Christmas stockings can be a real pain. When Matt and I decided to exchange stockings one year, I found out that I actually had to fill a bottomless pit. It started to get expensive too. Nonetheless, it is a fun tradition to continue. In the spirit of the holidays and to help you fill that black hole, here’s a list of stocking stuffers that you can give to the traveler/backpacker in your life. All items listed are geared towards utility.

 

An eye mask and earplugs: Give the gift of sleep! Hostels can be noisy and bright. People are in and out of the rooms frequently. For times when a traveler wants to sleep, both items will come in handy.

 

A small quick dry towel: Not all hostels provide towels. At the very least hostels will charge a fee to rent a towel. A compact quick dry towel will be used when towels aren’t provided to travelers. And it will save them money from renting a towel.

 

Travel size toiletries: Toothpaste, shampoo, body wash, brush, floss, deodorant, perfume, etc. These items will get used up by your traveler.

 

Small LED flashlight: This little gift will help your backpacker navigate the hostel at night or in the early morning without disturbing sleeping roommates.

 

Spork: You’d be surprised at how often a utensil will be used. Travelers might end up at a hostel without a kitchen or need to eat something on the go. Having a spork handy is always helpful.

 

Medicine: Motrin and tablet form Pepto Bismol will be used at some point on an extended trip. Buy some medicine to help ensure your loved one’s health.

 

Extra SD card and battery: Do you know what kind of camera they’re bringing? An extra SD card and battery can let them always get that next shot.

 

Pens and small pad of paper: These will be super helpful when a traveler needs to jot down directions, do a bit of research, or remember a travel tip. They are items that will get almost daily use.

 

Bungee clothesline: These compact and helpful gadgets can ensure that a traveler’s clothes get dried quickly when they don’t have access to a spot to hang their clothing.


Cash:
Money always helps a traveler. To make it a bit more meaningful, give them some money with the stipulation that they use it on something fun for themselves rather than using the cash to pay for essentials.