Welcome to my newest ongoing series, The Departure Lounge! Here I’m going to delve into the preparations for long-term travel. Previously, I wrote about what gear I’m packing.
Your good health is one of the most important things you can bring traveling. Every traveler has a disaster story of getting sick on the road, and it can often color your view of the entire trip. I personally came home from my first trip to Asia practically dripping with disease, including an eye infection that would rage for nearly six months and even more ewwww inducing, a fingernail fungus. The experience taught me that A) I need to take better care of myself this time around and B) I love travel enough that not even my fingernails falling off can stop me.
I traveled to South East Asia just two years ago, so I was pretty sure that I didn’t need any new vaccines but I made an appointment with my general practitioner over Christmas to double-check I didn’t need any boosters. I didn’t, so I used the appointment time to talk to my doctor about how I could stay healthier abroad than I have in the past, and she also gave me a list for a basic first aid kit.
If it is your first time traveling to a new region of the world, I recommend looking into any needed vaccines far ahead of time as many of them take several doses spread over a period of time to be effective. You can research your destinations ahead of time on the Center for Disease Control’s website.Additionally, travel vaccines are usually not covered by health insurance and can be quite costly. Make sure to build them into your travel budget. I have even heard of travelers getting their vaccines in the first cheap country they land in (Thailand, for example) before moving on to areas where the protection is needed.
As I mentioned above, I had a nice long chat with my doctor about staying healthy on the road, something I wish I had done the first time I left for Asia. One of my biggest concerns was my immune system. I’m the first to admit I don’t eat a very balanced diet (unless goldfish crackers somehow come to represent the full food pyramid) and here in the states I take nasty looking liquid vitamins to try to compensate. But they are expensive, heavy, and must be refrigerated- no good for travel. So in addition to eating more greens, my doctor recommended taking along Zinc and Echinacea pills and popping one when I was feeling a bit ragged.
For stomach ails, she recommended stashing a pepto bismol, an immodium, and for sea sickness, a dramamine. For wounds, I’ll be bringing along band aids, bacitracin (for scrapes) and cortisone (for bites and itches). Those two are especially important for me, as I’ll be in the water often, making it hard for cuts to heal. And clear as the water in Thailand may look, the tiniest scrapes have a tendency to get infected if not cared for. Lastly, I’ll pack a general antibiotic and an antihistamine for allergies.
Of course, all these things can be found in most parts of the world. But luckily I have most of them lying around already. And lets be real, when you are having an allergy attack you do not want to be trekking around London trying to figure out what the local version of Claritin is.
Those of you with 20/2o vision, leave this blog right now. I think my jealousy may get in the way of our friendship. Okay, fine, you can stay. Someday, I will have Lasik. And then we can be besties.
I’ve made my final eye exam for a week before departure, where I plan to have my glasses prescription updated and more importantly, try to wrestle a year’s worth of contacts out of my insurance company. The standard is three or six months, and while I’m sure I could find a more than competent optician in Bangkok, I just want to put off dealing with that as long as possible.
Also, I plan to keep a copy of my prescription backed up in my email so should I ever lose my toiletries bag I won’t have to be making long distance calls to upstate New York to try to replace my contacts.
A lifetime of succumbing to my sweet tooth means trips to the dentist usually leave me in tears. Over Christmas I got some major fillings done and since then I have been brushing and flossing dutifully. I have my six month checkup the week before I leave, and I have my fingers crossed for no more cavities.
I may be being overly cautious, but I have had an emergency root canal before and I can confidently say its not something I want to have done abroad (or anywhere, really). However, I will absolutely be getting a six month cleaning in Bangkok over Christmas. Its less than $15USD out of pocket!
Many traveler hotspots around the globe provide everything you could need in terms of staying healthy. However, I think those are the last things you want to be dealing with while traveling so I have chosen to be a bit more aggressive with my preventative care. Most important of all is making sure you have insurance that will cover you in case of something more serious than a cough. I am lucky not to need to purchase a special traveler’s insurance to be covered abroad, but check with your health insurance to find out if you are covered. And of course, divers should consider purchasing DAN insurance to cover any water related emergencies. Nothing will put a damper on your travel budget like a $10,000 ride in the hyperbaric chamber!