Thursday, August 6, 2015

Staying healthy while traveling

I love to travel. Nothing beats going somewhere new and totally different from my own environment, meeting people and experiencing new cultures, food and so much more. But you know what I don't love? Feeling under the weather when I'm in these new places, because then instead of being out and about, I'm lying in bed and feeling miserable. Fortunately, I don't often fall sick during my travels, and I've learned a few things over the years to avoid illness while away from home.

At home, it's easy to stay healthy. I know exactly what foods I'm eating and how much water I'm drinking. I get enough sleep in my own bed and I follow a set routine of exercise.

When my routine is anything but normal when I'm traveling, and when I'm faced with an unfamiliar environment, different foods and sleeping times, things can get a little out of whack. So I make sure that I stay as healthy as I can, and prepare for any unforeseen circumstances.

1. Get enough sleep.
It's very tempting in a new place to want to be on the go the whole day, because you don't want to miss out on anything. But days of staying out till late and waking up early will take its toll. I'm usually tired out anyway after a day's walking and tend to head to bed early. If I don't get my eight hours of sleep I'm a wreck, so I make sure I catch enough zzzs. I'm absolutely hopeless at falling asleep in a strange bed. It's probably old age, but I can only enjoy a good night's sleep in my own bed. It doesn't help that traveling across different time zones interrupts my circadian rhythm. So I bring along some sleep aids. For some people, melatonin helps and that's great. But I find it too mild, so I get some mild relaxants from my doctor to take on those nights when I know I can't fall asleep.

2. Drink enough water.
It's just common sense, isn't it, knowing that you need to hydrate yourself constantly, especially in drier environments? But sometimes, when I'm on the go and there's so much great coffee (and alcohol!) available, I forget about drinking enough water. I'm also worried about the availability of toilets when I'm out and about and tend to limit the amount of water I'm drinking. I then pay the price for it, when I start to get a sore throat and other ailments. So I carry a water bottle with me at all times, and remind myself to drink enough water. I figure that with all the rich food and alcohol I'm indulging in, drinking as much water as I can should help in flushing out any toxins.

3. Wash your hands.
It's something I can easily do at home, but tend to get careless about when traveling. But imagine the gazillion germs floating around airports, train and bus stations, public transportation and public places and all the viruses that may be alien to us. Add that to a lowered resistance caused by stress, tiredness and lack of sleep, and you're bound to fall sick. So I try to wash my hands thoroughly with soap and water wherever I can, and make do with wet wipes or soapless cleansers.

4. Keep your bowel movements regular.
I always get constipated when traveling. Being on a long flight also tends to mess with my digestion and it's agonizing when I can't poop. So I try to help things along by making sure I have my usual foods that aid digestion, like yogurt, fruit  and cereal at breakfast. I also bring along some prunes to help make me go, because otherwise, I'm just miserable. If things get really bad, it might be advisable to bring along a mild laxative.

5. Prevent sunburn.
It's easy when you're outdoors to forget how strong the sun can be, especially in environments where it feels cooler but the air is thinner. It's often when I least expect it that I'm exposed to the sun, like standing in lines. I always bring a hat or cap along wherever I go, and make sure I slather on some sunblock. I also always have a bottle of pure lavender oil in my toiletry bag, so that in the event I do get too much sun, I can apply the oil directly onto my skin to soothe the pain and ease the sunburn. I find it the quickest cure ever, and a little goes a long way.

6. Pack all your supplements and medicines.
When I'm home, all my medicines and supplements are within easy reach and I don't have to worry about suffering any minor ailment. So I try to replicate that as much as I can on my travels as well. I make sure to pack enough supplements to last me the entire trip in one of those pillboxes that can fit all of them. I also pack a supply of first aid items, from bandaids to alka seltzer, aspirin to Vicks Vaporub, so that I don't have to run around looking for a pharmacy when I get the sniffles or the runs.

7. Stay warm.
Again, it's a no-brainer, but I've been caught unawares before in extreme temperatures I didn't expect. So I carefully research what the weather will be like in the countries I'm heading to and pack accordingly. In cold climates, I make sure I have enough thermals and keep my head, hands and feet warm and snug at all times. There's nothing worse than catching a cold in chilly weather and feeling totally miserable.

 I tend to get all kinds of muscle aches and my back hurts like anything when I've been on my feet too long. So I bring along my muscle rub as well as a battery-operated massager to soothe those aches and pains. These small, portable massagers are a great boon on travels. I picked mine up at a Japanese electronics store but they're available online - check them out on alibaba.

That's about it. I just try to be in the fittest shape when I'm traveling and do whatever I can to prevent falling sick. That said, I don't agonise over whether I'm eating healthily or exercising enough on holiday. It's my downtime after all, and as they say, "Laughter is the best medicine." So I set out to have a good time and that seems to keep the germs at bay.

Do let me know if you have your own health tips for traveling - I'd love to hear from you!

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