Let’s talk about getting sick. It’s the worst. It’s even worser than the worst when you are traveling and it inevitably happens to even the heartiest travelers.
Personally, I have been sick on nearly every continent of the world. I’ve had food poisoning in Mexico, tonsillitis in Europe and one of those awful warm-weather colds in Australia. The entire three months in China I suffered from a painful persistent cough (which mysteriously disappeared the moment I left the smog behind for Canada).
So what do you do? The way I see it there are really only two (maybe three) options when sickness strikes.
- Carry on no matter how hard your body protests.
- Give in and rest up until you feel better.
The only other option I can see, if you are really ill, is going home. I suppose if you are deadly ill that might be a possibility, but for the rest of us our choices are either rest, or deal.
Back when I was young and strong and foolish I would always go with option one. I fought my way through Amsterdam with literally no voice, I explored Italy with the flu and I battled St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin with a cold of death. I traveled quicker then: If I only had a weekend somewhere I was damned if I was going to spend that time doing anything but exploring.
Of course the downside to this strategy, aside from looking like the walking undead in your photos, is that you don’t actually get any better. My semester of studying abroad in London I was a complete zombie because I refused to let my body rest and recuperate. I just kept pushing and pushing.
I kind of doubt I could still pull that off now, nor do I really want to. Slogging through the streets of a beautiful city while my muscles ache and my head pounds seems like a special kind of hell. I can do it when I have to, but I’m definitely a convert to the second option: rest and wait it out.
Sometimes a day of rest makes all the difference, sometimes it doesn’t and you get sucked into a black hole of sick (see: Santiago debacle). Sometimes you need to visit a pharmacy, sometimes you need to even (shudder) go see a doctor.
The bottom line is that it sucks to be sick in a foreign country. That’s why I pile on the Vitamin C and drink lots of water at the first sign of a sniffle.