Nobody in the crowd wanted to be THAT guy.
The insanely talented guitar player from Hungary introduced himself to the crowd at the Zihuatenejo International Guitar Festival and then, in a perfectly elegant accent, promptly informed all of us that he had spent the worst day of his life locked away in a bathroom – a trapped victim of a misstep, while Mexico’s coastal paradise called to him with each rolling wave. His only consolation? He had plenty of alone time to mentally compose his guitar piece for that night’s event. Poor guy.
The crowd chuckled and offered appropriate sympathetic faces, for it was likely we all could identify with the rookie mistake. Was it bite of irresistible street food? The lure of a fresh tomato? Or could it have been distractedly running a toothbrush under tap water?
Mexico’s revenge found me too on my first trip out of the country at the age of 15. I went into a small town and responsibly ordered a bottled coke at a restaurant, only to forget to tell them to hold the ice. Let’s just say I missed out on a few experiences and added some of my own!
Over the years I’ve definitely learned how to avoid being “that guy” and its made a world of difference. Our family traveled for 2 months on a packed schedule throughout Central America, Mexico and Asia, and good health meant we didn’t miss a thing! Most of the tips I’ve gathered have come from veteran travelers or locals. Here are some of the best tips I know:
There is Power in the Pink Pill
Our guide in Mexico shared this awesome tip he has tested and found true: Did you know that ingesting 2 tablets of Pepto Bismol (containing the active ingredient bismuth subsalicylate) 4 times a day – 2 days prior to traveling and during the duration of your trip – has been scientifically proven to reduce your chances of getting hit with traveler’s tummy by up to 65%?
At the Risk of Looking Weird…
The airplane is a tight space with people from all over the world. At the risk of looking paranoid, put your antibacterial wipes to work – wipe down the head and arm rests and the tray table as soon as you get seated. Clean your hands periodically throughout the flight – like after picking up the airline magazine or after using the restroom.
The dry air in planes can contribute to illness. Point the overhead air vent away from your face to prevent over-drying and refresh with a nasal spray if needed. It’s also a good idea to drink steamy beverages. Tea – particularly mint tea or tea with lemon and honey will help perk up the body’s natural defenses.
Get Your ZZZZs
Preparing for a trip out of the country often means putting in longer hours to wrap things up at work, squeeze in that extra load of laundry, or download favorite movies and books. But, the late nights are not a good idea if you want your immune system running at top performance levels. Get started early on all of those tasks to avoid the usual last minute stresses and plan for plenty of sleep prior to departure.
Drink to Your Health
Water is responsible so many key body functions that will keep you healthy – proper digestion and absorption, circulation, the efficient transport of nutrients, and regulation of your body temperature. Don’t let travel disrupt the habit of staying hydrated. Take a water bottle with you and refill it with safe, clean drinking water every chance you get. When the flight attendant comes around with that cart, choose water, not carbonated, sugary drinks or dehydrating alcohol. Add lots of fruits and vegetables into your diet that are high in water content.
Watch your Mouth!
Avoid UNSAFE foods, particularly in countries where traveler’s tummy is a known concern. Only eat salad or fruit if you are confident it has been thoroughly washed with filtered water. Fruit with a thick skin that can be peeled is a good choice. Avoid under-cooked foods, or food sold in the street… and (as I learned) WATCH OUT FOR ICE prepared from unfiltered sources.
Additional Tip: To prevent the likely event that you will forget about the tap water when brushing your teeth, one friend recommended putting a plastic bag over the faucet as a reminder. The extra step of removing the bag will remind you to only use it for safe activities like washing your hands.
Create a Personal Space
Pack a personal blanket or scarf in your carry-on that can be used as a barrier over your nose and mouth. I’ve used it to filter out bad smells and air pollution. I’ve also been known to subtly pull it out when seated next to someone with symptoms I would rather not share.
Don’t Neglect the Obvious…
There is a great deal of news around mosquito borne illnesses and their threat to travelers, but most of your risk can be eliminated by carefully and consistently applying quality bug repellent, dressing properly, and paying attention to your surroundings. Wearing sunscreen and a hat is another obvious preventative measure that can prevent lost days due to illness.
An Ounce of Prevention
There are serious illnesses you want to prevent through vaccinations or pills. Visit a good travel doctor who can look carefully at the regions where you are traveling and make recommendations about which preventative measures are necessary or advisable.
Never Trust a Cute Face
Keep your distance from animals. No matter how cuddly, how friendly, how lonely or sad they look, it is a good practice to avoid close contact with unknown animals in foreign places.
Another Water Tip!
Check with your guide before jumping in for a swim. In some locations in the world “fresh” water can be contaminated. If this is the case, it is advisable to stick to chlorinated pools or salt water.
Travel with a Guide
I cannot tell you how many times our guide in Mexico was asked, “Is this food/beverage/ice safe?” Niteo guides are up-to-date in their knowledge of local restaurants and vendors. They are trained to guide you away from foods or beverages that would be harmful to your health. Though they will probably never tell you that you can’t, they will surely tell you if you shouldn’t. Local informers you trust are the BEST resource to stay healthy in a foreign place!