Travel Resources

Travelling while sick

The air was thick with heat and humidity in Georgetown.  Everything seemed to move in slow motion.  And me, well I sat either shivering or sweating beneath the air conditioner listening to people getting ready to explore Georgetown, there was a knock on the door.  ‘Come and have some soup’. 

There is nothing fun about being sick when you are traveling, and this was week one of our big adventure.  While I was feeling sorry for myself as Andy ventured out, a few things about being sick occurred to me, but more about that later.

In 2017 we sold our house, went house sitting full time and left New Zealand to travel.  As always before leaving New Zealand, and more so this time, there was plenty of catching up with friends and family, so we were running on empty when we got on that plane in Wellington.  To be frank, it was a matter of time until one of us succumbed to the dreaded lurgy.

Georgetown was an ideal travel destination for us. We love South East Asia having visited several times, but never to Malaysia.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage City and is teeming with Street Art – so plenty of things to satisfy this museum geek.  Georgetown is also at the crossroads of several vibrant cuisines – Malay, Chinese and Indian – so Andy the Chef would be well occupied.  Georgetown was our quintessential destination.

We landed in Penang after three flights and a six-hour layover in Hong Kong, and it was steaming hot. Not warm or hot. Steaming hot. The kind of hot that makes my hair pouffe up into a frizzy mess, or where I break out in a sweat as soon as I step outside.  This is the type of weather best approached by sitting in a pool and drinking a cocktail I thought.

And Then...

Three days in and it hit. I knew I was in trouble when we were at a wonderful night market surrounded by the incredible smells of freshly cooked food, the buzz of traffic and loads of people having a great time – and I wasn’t into eating anything. (Always a sure sign that something is not right – I love my tucker).  By the time I went to bed I was sweating buckets, had a hacking cough and demanding the air conditioning be turned up high.

Because it was so hot and muggy the absolute worst place to be was outside.  So inside I sat listening to everyone enjoy their holiday.  Boo for me.

By day two I was at peak frustration about not being able to get out and explore this wonderful place we had come to.  And then there was the knock on the door – Come and have some soup.  Andy had been to the local market and discovered a fragrant and tasty duck and broth. It was the best thing ever.  And then a plate of tropical fruit was placed in front of me from the kind staff at the Hotel.  This epitomised our stay in Penang.  Kind, thoughtful people and food that was out of this world.

Be Kind to Yourself

Yes, it sucks being crook when travelling.  There is no retreating to your favourite corner or bed, getting your ‘go to’ sick food and hiding in comfort.  But you do what you gotta do and make the best of it.  We have each been sick since then and have learnt a few things along the way.  Here are the four things to remember when you do get sick when traveling.

  • Be kind to yourself – It is frustrating but it is what it is.  It is ok to not soldier on and do all the things you had planned to do.  Stop, rest and get better.  Drink lots of water. Be Kind.
  • Be kind to others – no-one else needs your bugs.  If you do need to get out and about think about your impact on others.  We purchased some face masks to stop me spreading my bugs. 
  • Find the things that comfort you – Grapefruit Juice and hot toast are my go-to comfort foods when sick.  Sitting under the air conditioner was top choice this time.
  • Seek out medical advice as soon as you can.
Tips to avoid getting sick

5 Tips to Avoid Getting Sick

There are a couple of things you can do to minimise your risk of getting sick while you are travelling.  I am not a medical or health professional, but these are the things we do when travelling to avoid getting sick or be as prepared as possible.  Yes, I realise the irony of that sentence given the topic of this article. 

  • Get medical advice – do some research about your destination. For example is there dengue fever or malaria present?  Visit your GP or specialist to discuss the best ways to manage or prevent any infections while you travel.
  • Get travel insurance – we never travel without insurance as you just never know what may happen. This is not everyone’s choice but is one of our absolutes when travelling. 
  • Be careful with tap water – in some areas the tap water may be contaminated, or you just won’t be used to what is in the water. We tend to use bottled water for brushing our teeth and make sure to boil water well for hot drinks.  We also pack rehydration packs just in case.  Of course, if you do get sick which results in diarrhoea, do make sure to monitor your symptoms as you may need to seek medical advice.
  • Stick to your routine – if you already take medication it is important to stick to your routine. You can download a simple app that will remind you of the time at home (for a short trip) so you can keep up with your routine.  As always, check with your GP or medical professionals.
  • Wash your hands – washing your hands is a good way of minimising bugs. Of course, refer to our comments about tap water above.  It may be useful to invest in some hand sanitiser.

Have you been sick on holiday?  Any tips or tricks to share?

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We are Cath & Andy, avid travellers who are either travelling or planning the next trip. Come along and join us for the ride as we house sit and explore new destinations. On Red Door Ponderings you will find destination guides, travel essentials we love, and information about long-term travel in your 40s and 50s with your significant other.

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