This season, you've either already had the flu, or are living in abject fear of it given the news reports of such a widespread and virulent outbreak. Beyond that, standard cold germs are enough to ruin any day — let alone one on which you have plans to enjoy a fabulous, hard-earned vacation. But it happens to the best of us — a lot, too much — especially after spending time in heavily populated indoor spaces, like airplanes.
So what do you do when you feel yourself getting sick while away from home? Once you’re done mourning that totally unfettered, healthy, comfortable pool time, move on and make the most of it the best ways we know how.
1. Bring cold medicine with you.First of all, before you even get sick, start practicing this rule of thumb: Bring your cold medicine with you when you travel. In some places, cold medicines you might rely on are downright impossible to get your hands on, but traveling with something legal from your country is fine in most situations — just don't try to bring an entire suitcase full of Sudafed. It might seem overly paranoid, but you will not regret having access to actual working cold meds should you get sick and find that the rules for what’s legal and readily available are a little different in the place you’re visiting.
2. Take all preemptive measures possible.A lot of times, you feel a hint of sickness before it fully sets in. If you’re attuned to your body and sense this, stop the presses and pamper yourself with all things healthy. That means you need to fully pause your alcohol consumption, focus on healthy vitamin-rich foods, drinks tons of water, sleep a million hours, and give yourself a fair chance to shake whatever it is before it takes hold.
3. Reevaluate your itinerary.This one stings, but sometimes it must be done. If you attempt to power through everything you planned to do healthy, you’ll likely be shooting yourself in the foot. Take all of the preemptive measures listed above and live by them. You are officially on a detox vacation now. Then take a hard look at what you wanted to do and reasonably change your plans. You might still be able to swing some of what you had in mind, but take those plans for a mega hike or partying all night at the club and throw them straight away.
4. Turn your room, wherever it is, into a self-care ward.Make the most of what you have. Scrape up every resource that might help you get healthy. Find a way to boil water for tea and go overboard on chugging it all day long. Steam up the bathroom with hot showers and baths and breathe deeply. If you have access to a medic team, get evaluated right away. Some medicine types can work wonders and even be necessary, depending on the specific bug.
5. Embrace the staycation.It’s not what you wanted, we know, but if you hit a certain level of sick, you’re having yourself a staycation — perhaps in your hotel room or Airbnb. There are plenty of things to resent about changing plans to stay closer to bed, but we recommend that you try to embrace it and focus on how much you probably do in fact need some time to yourself to just rest. So put on your pajamas, binge-watch TV, and sleep. Read all of the things you’ve been meaning to read and maybe even doodle a little bit — if these are things you don't have the luxury to do at home, then they're still special and unique to vacation. If you have travel partners and aren’t in need of their care, send them on their way and take this time to pull into yourself and meditate a bit.
6. Do your best to take care of others.When you’re the sick person, you might be mainly focusing on basic functioning and not thinking a whole lot about how to keep those around you from getting sick. But it really is the right thing to do unless you want this unfortunate situation to get any worse! So wash your hands a lot, cover your nose when you sneeze, block your mouth when you cough — do all of the things you wish someone had done around you before you caught their germs.
7. Contextualize.Once you’re home and recovered, maybe start thinking about if you can swing revisiting the destination at some other point in the future so you can redefine your experience there a bit. You do have to remember, though, that traveling never comes with any guarantees: no guarantee that your flight will make it there, that your bags will be there when you are, and that nothing bad will happen. As much as everyone hopes for a smooth traveling experience, part of the reason why travel can be so interesting and impactful is because we are taking our flawed selves to visit flawed places. Sometimes it’s not a smooth ride, but there’s insight to be found from every kind of experience. Try to contextualize your trip with this lens and feel extra grateful every time you don’t get sick while traveling in the future. It's all part of the journey, right?
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