I have officially passed the one month mark of living in South Africa, which means I have about nine months left on my journey abroad. Realizing I’m this far in has made me a little pensive. Sure nine months seems like a long time. You can bring life into the world in nine months! But time is relative and the list of what I’d like to accomplish here keeps growing. So within the past week I’ve been doing a whole lot of…nothing. WTF.
I’m the type of girl that is always working on a project, making plans, enjoying the outdoors, or at the bare minimum, cooking. I kept promising myself that I would start researching trips, looking into volunteer opportunities, write blog posts, and none of that happened. I did the bare minimum work I had to do for my freelance gig back home, slept, ate, watched TV and maybe went to the gym. At night I just wanted to relax.
What was wrong with me? Why wasn’t I taking more advantage of my time here? Was I homesick, depressed, plain old lazy? Maybe I was iron deprived from my mostly vegetarian diet? My husband encouraged me to relax. I shouldn’t feel guilty for taking it easy.
The thing is I was TIRED. Like really tired. Like too lethargic to spread butter on toast, tired. And then I got sick. A sore throat that persisted for four days. I decided to call a nearby health clinic and make an appointment. I also had to get a prescription refilled so this would do double duty.
We walked into the two-story health clinic, which was surprisingly modern and pleasant: non-existent lines, an onsite pharmacy to fill your prescriptions and a cafe where you can get lunch or a little tea for your sore throat. My doctor was a sweet woman who listened to my problems, (not the 30-second checkup I’m used to back home). She took my blood pressure and commented that it was low. A few tests later, and it turns out I had a UTI, throat infection AND low blood pressure. She asked incredulously, wasn’t I feeling a little tired?! Well, now that you mention it, I’ve been EXHAUSTED. I walked out with three prescriptions and a big sense of relief. I wasn’t depressed, homesick or lazy, I was SICK, and it’s going to get better. In fact I am day one into my medicine and already feel my energy coming back! I want to ensure that I don’t have more sick days creeping up and wasting my time!
I’ve compiled some tips so you can learn from my mistakes and stay healthy and strong when you’re visiting a foreign country:
Prevent, Prevent, Prevent!
Do your research before you travel and see what immunizations (if any) you may need to get. When we first decided to come to SA this was the first thing I looked into. The Centers for Disease Control has a great website that shows which immunizations are required and recommended for your destination, and takes into consideration where you are traveling from and any conditions you may have.
Consider taking supplements.
Before you leave, talk to your doctor about which supplements you may consider taking. I have friends in America who swear by Emergen-C and people here swear by Berocca. I remember reading in Marie Claire that Emma Watson also swears by Berocca and 365 Everyday Value Immune Support. Hey, if it’s good enough for Hermione it’s good enough for me!
Listen to your body
This may seem obvious, or cliche, but you may be surprised how easy it is to blame feeling lousy on jet lag, homesickness, etc. Really assess the way you feel and if a few days pass and you are still not feeling like yourself, make a trip to a clinic. Don’t wait to get worse.
Tips from a fellow travel blogger
I looked to see what tips one of my favorite travel bloggers, Adventurous Kate has. She has rarely gotten sick in her years of traveling, and credits “paying attention to my body, slowly easing into exotic food, and staying away from any food that looks a bit dodgy. When I need sleep, I sleep (most of the time). Also, having work to do keeps me from partying nonstop.”
What do you do to stay healthy abroad?