I got sick once while backpacking . . . and please, let’s hope never again. There’s nothing worse than being in a hostel, coughing up a storm, running a fever, and having nowhere to go.
I won’t be so dramatic as to go and say that hostels are a breeding ground for germs, but . . . sleeping in the same room with 10 other people probably doesn’t help. It’s already close quarters so, when one person gets sick, you’ll probably all get sick. The winter months are the worst.
While there is no way to truly ever prevent myself from getting sick, there are tricks and little rituals I’ve picked up that I like to think keep me healthy while on the road.
Be healthy beforehand
And I don’t mean just like a week beforehand. Eat well, try to keep those hangovers to a minimum, take some daily multivitamins . . . all that good stuff. Being healthy in the first place will make your life that much easier. There’s nothing worse than starting off your trip feeling like you should be put in quarantine. You do NOT want to be that sick person on public transport that you yourself absolutely hate. Been there. Done that. It’s awful.
And be (relatively) fit
Now I’m not the fittest person in the world, but I always make an effort to be somewhat in shape before going on a long travel stint. Even if you don’t think you’ll be exercising very much, you probably will. I’ll easily walk up to 7-10 miles a day while exploring a new city.
Don’t drink like a fish, especially if you’re already feeling under the weather
It’s tempting. Oh, I know it’s tempting, especially when there are ruin pubs to explore. But beer will only make it worse, trust me. You can’t power through it and, if you do, you’ll only regret it later.
Take vitamins/have supplements on hand
I’m bad about taking them everyday, but I always carry that powder vitamin C you can add to water. It comes in a packet or in little tablets. Pop them into a glass of water and it’ll start fizzing. I always get lots of questions, because I guess it looks like I’m drinking a potion, but it can help ward off whatever was making you feel icky. Granted, it’s not a substitute for medication, but those Vitamin C tablets have saved my butt countless of times.
FYI, they don’t really work after you get sick though.
Have a basic arsenal of trusty meds
When I got sick, it ended up being so painful and exhausting that I now carry a medicine bag every time I travel. Not being prepared definitely made things worse. I ended up not going to a pharmacy until day 2 or 3 and, by that time, there was no way I was going to get over what I caught quickly.
I think medications are personal, kind of like makeup. I might take something with me someone may not deem necessary. For example, I always carry Dramamine. Always. I’ve ended up on surprise boat excursions more often than I would have ever thought. It’s also good for long, twisty tour bus routes. Advil is always a good choice. Maybe some spare cough drops and a few decongestants. You probably won’t get sick but, on the chance that you do (and eventually will), you’ll be ready to kick that cold into the dirt.
Stay healthy, fellow travelers.