This post is brought you by Jessica who writes for the advice packed travel blog, Globetrotter Girls. Stay connected with the Globetrotter Girls on their journeys around the world through Twitter or Facebook and don’t forget to share this post with your friends and family!
After packing up our London apartment in early 2010, we GlobetrotterGirls have been on the road for nearly two years now. Our health status has run the gamut – from taking vitamins and fitting in five workouts a week to coming down with stomach bugs, sinusitis and even an exhausting two-week bout with a tropical disease (read more about that a bit later). Having health issues on the road can be annoying at best. At worst, any sort of sickness can potentially ruin a trip all together and leave you longing for nothing more than the comforts of home.
Tip #1: Do your health research before you go
Even if you are just going on a short holiday, find out important information like whether tap water is safe to drink where you are going. The last thing you want is a case of Montezuma’s Revenge that could easily have been avoided. What about eating fresh fruits and vegetables? In some regions, like in Central America, it is advisable for first time travelers to only eat salads and fruits with peels if the restaurant clearly states they are washed in filtered water. While it is important to know before you go, unless we get way off the grid, perfectly adequate medical care for local issues like stomach bugs is almost always within an hour’s drive.
Tip #2: Get your shots
We love traveling beyond the comforts of North America and Europe, but we always get necessary immunizations before we go. Why risk it? Do your own research online to know just what you need for the countries you plan to visit and then talk to your doctor, who will either know the right sequence of shots (some immunizations, like Hepatitis A, require two shots weeks apart) or can send you to a specialist who does. If traveling to a region with malaria, your doctor might prescribe malaria pills for you, as well. We are not medical professionals, but as travelers, we have learned that with medicine like malaria pills, it is often more cost effective to buy them once you arrive in the country with the affected region, where they are readily available at a price that locals can afford.
Tip #3: Pack sunscreen and mosquito repellent
It might seem tempting to pack light and make these purchases in your vacation destination, especially if attempting to travel carry-on only to avoid baggage fees. However, we have seen prices for sunscreen as high as $25 a bottle at popular beach locations in Costa Rica or Mexico, with a small bottle of mosquito repellent not far behind. The items are absolutely necessary, and the stores know it. First of all, no one wants to be that bright red, burnt lobster that did not apply sunscreen, and more importantly, we have learned the hard way just how important mosquito spray can be. That tropical disease I mentioned earlier was Dengue Fever – an illness no immunization or pill can prevent, instead contracted through mosquito bites. If you have irresistibly sweet blood like I do, you’ll need to make sure you’re covered in mosquito repellant in any locations where there might be Dengue, because there is also no cure except water and sleep, which could ruin your entire trip.
Tip #4: Gobbling up local goodies is great…to a point
It might be tempting to declare ‘When in Rome…’ and start gobbling up as much of the local cuisine as you want on your trip. We are huge foodies, and believe that sampling local cuisine is an interesting way to interact with local cultures, but in reality, locals in Rome do not only eat pizza and drink wine; the French do not only eat cheese, croissants and chocolate tarts, and in Argentina people balance their diet with more than just steak. We encourage you to take part in sampling classic dishes, but health should still be priority number one. Before you go, locate two or three healthy restaurants near your hotel or near sites you plan to visit so that, when you are famished after sightseeing, you have healthy go-to options to choose from rather than grabbing that second pizza of the day out of hungry desperation.
Tip #5: Keep up your workouts
No matter how long you travel for, there is no need to hit pause on your work-out regime. Keeping fit is the best way to ensure you can fight off colds common after sitting in enclosed airplanes and buses. Working out also keeps you from getting run down and ensures that we stay fit, no matter where we are in the world. One way to do this is to book hotels with fitness facilities, a surefire way to eliminate any excuses. If your hotel doesn’t have a gym, find a gym nearby with affordable daily or weekly passes.
The more we travel, the more we have learned that fitness can be another great way to jump into local life, like when, in Mexico City, we joined hundreds of Mexicans jogging early in the morning at the gorgeous Viveros de Coyoacan park, and here in Asia we have come across dozens of free outdoor gyms or nearly free outdoor Aerobics classes in urban areas in Thailand, Laos, and Malaysia. How great to pump, sweat and dance in step with locals under the shining city lights around the world! However, if I am in a more remote location, feeling too shy or just want to squeeze in a quick workout, I make sure to have a workout DVD like P90X, Jillian Michaels or a Billy Blanks Tae-Bo DVD to pop onto my laptop and work out in privacy.