I fell terribly ill this week because a nasty anti-malaria medication called Doxycycline. You may be able to find it in pharmacy near you by its other name: The Devil. But it’s not all bad. This devil has taught me a few things about being sick while living abroad. Here are some things I have learned.
Do the Prep Work
The best decision I made before embarking on this journey was to visit a travel clinic. I received my preventative medication. Was given loads of health information about my travel destinations. I was even prescribed Cipro, the magical cure all travel medication. But most importantly my visit to the clinic gave me peace of mind. I was given the information I needed to make informed decisions about my medical care while living abroad.
Each of us has different health needs. Take some time to assess what might be important preventative, daily or emergency medications for you. Birth control. Allergy medication. Malaria pills. Pick your poison. Take the time to consult with a doctor but also be reflective about your own needs.
Listen to Your Body. Do Not Hesitate.
In college my favorite motto when faced with an illness was “suck it up”. That was until I developed bronchitis because I neglected my health needs. Don’t be like me in college. I know. It is easy to say mind over matter in a society that devalues listening to our bodies. If you feel like you may be sick take note of that. Be curious about what your body is telling you. If you feel like you have developed a bug seek medication attention. Of course this is easy for me to say when the local clinic costs less than $3. But never the less research your options and the medication system of the country you are traveling to.
Tip: it is helpful to brush up on your medication vocabulary if you are unfamiliar with or are learning a new language.
No this does not mean turn the dial back or slow down. This means slip on those jammies and get into bed. If you have wifi even better you can bing watch Gilmore Girls.
Allow Others to Support You
I have been sick two times since arriving in Xela. Both times I received help from people I felt supported and cared for by. This may not be the norm for everyone. Many of you may be traveling alone. But my advice would be to accept help where it comes. That may look like a stranger giving you directions to the clinic or your host mom making you soup. Accept love and support when and where it comes.
Know How to Support Yourself
What would I do if I were back at home? What brings me comfort when I am sick? Are these options viable for where I physically am currently?
I am about to make a confession. For me, the answer to all three of these questions was simple: instant mashed potatoes. Yes I dragged my sick ass out of bed for instant mashed potatoes. Every time I was sick growing up my mom would bring me mashed potatoes. They were yummy and easy to eat. But here in Guatemala they represented comfort. So I put on my sweatpants. Slipped on my rain boots (because who can be bothered with actually putting shoes on). And snuggled into my most comfortable hoody. All for instant mashed potatoes.
My suggestion would be to figure out what brings you comfort. Consider packing that item before your trip. Whether it’s that Vics rub that your mom rubbed on your chest when you were sick. Or that small stuffed animal your partner gave you before your trip. You know yourself best. Use that knowledge skillfully and tactfully to help your body during its time in need.
If you would like to share your tips for being sick while abroad or simple want to rant about anti-malaria medication please feel free to comment below. Would love to hear what you have learned.