Dealing with Sickness While Traveling

WARNING:  This post is probably TMI.  Read at your own discretion.

Getting sick:  it’s an inevitable part of the adventure for most budget travelers.  You never quite know what did it–street food, allegedly potable (but later you find out the pigs live upstream) water, or just weird and new germs in a new country.  It’s really hard to avoid occasional illness if street food and living with locals are things you consider integral parts of the experience.  So let’s sympathize.

My first real problems on this trip just popped up out of nowhere on Monday night.  One hour and 4 bathroom trips later, I knew something had caught up with me.  I spent the night tossing and turning, stuck with that horrible nausea where you can never ACTUALLY just get it over with and throw up.  The next morning I felt a bit better.  It was to be a long travel day involving three different vehicles.  I decided I could eat some breakfast before beginning the trek–BAD IDEA!  As soon as I ate I realized my error.  I had to do what every poor sick bus-rider does in this situation:  gobble Immodium!  That little pill essentially turns your insides into concrete, thus working miracles for bus ride survival.  I’ve heard that it’s actually really bad for you, though, and should only be taken when absolutely necessary.  Soon enough I found myself perched in the back of a covered pickup truck, and of course this drive involved the craziest, curviest road ever, which the driver sped down without any regard for my troubled stomach.  Hanging out the window for fresh air and making sure to drink lots of water to at least stay hydrated are my best ideas for surviving this situation.  At least this road was paved.

The next minibus grumbled over a narrow dirt road up and over the Andes for hours.  Zone out, iPod on, try to enjoy the scenery and forget about my warring intestines was what I tried to do, with mediocre results.  Of course by the time the Immodium was wearing off and we were within an hour of Pasto (our final destination), the driver had to stop for dinner.  I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast, but I could still feel my rebel intestines growling angry threats of mutiny.  Finally, finally, we got to a hostel and I flopped into bed in misery for another nauseous night.

This morning what I mostly felt was the shaky, low blood pressure feeling from barely eating in the past 24 hours.  (At least being sick saves you food $$!)  I sent Zach out for bread and juice (what a good guy I have!) and the ultimate test began.  Was I on the road to recovery?  Would said food be accepted or rejected?  Almost as soon as I ate I began to perk up and it seemed my rebellious digestive tract was behaving once again.  A true hurrah indeed, since having the travel sickness for more than 24 hours is usually a warning sign that something more major is wrong (think: critters).  We decided a rest day was called for which sucks because we wanted to take a boat out on a beautiful nearby lake today.  But when energy is not up to snuff as you’re recovering from a nasty bug, sometimes a “stay in PJs” day is just necessary.  This hostel, The Koala Inn in Pasto, is actually the perfect place for a lazy-bum due to it’s comfy beds, fast WiFi, and cable TV!  There are even English channels and I’ve gotten to watch some No Reservations, Project Runway, Scrubs, and new It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia online.  So we’re spending my recovery day vegging and working on the website.  (What do you think of the changes?)  And now I must torture Zach by holding the computer hostage as I catch up on Grey’s Anatomy (my guilty obsession).

What are your tips for getting through those problematic little stomach bugs while traveling?

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