Being Sick on the Road
After spending this past weekend being sick as a dog, it got me thinking about the times I have gotten sick while I was backpacking. It is not common for most people to get sick within the first few days they arrive in a different country, especially a 3rd world country. This happens because we are not used to the food and sanitary, or lack thereof. Heck, its common enough that they even coined it ” Traveler’s Diarrhea” . Traveler’s Diarrhea is the most common illness affecting backpackers. Of all my arrivals in different countries there are only 2 times where I remember getting sick.
My first encounter with this common illness was when I arrived in Bangkok for the time. I’ll never forget the wave of heat as I stepped out of the doors of BKK ( Bangkok’s International Airport). It was like nothing that I have ever felt before. The heat took my breath away. Already feeling tired and woozy from the 20 something hour-long flight, I grabbed a taxi and headed toward the famous backpacker hangout street called Khao San Road. With no hostel booked, I was hoping to just show up, grab a bed in a dorm and crash for a few hours. Well, turns out every hostel was fully booked and I was told I had to wait until checkout time to see if anyone was checking out and therefore opening up a bed for me. So I dropped off my backpack at the hostel and decided to kill the time ( as it was 3 in the morning) by walking around my new home city for a few hours. Khao San Road is littered with tourist traps and venders selling all kinds of random things to eat and buy. I came across a stand and the contents that it was selling just blew me away. DEEP FRIED FROGS. I had to try right? I mean I came half way across the world so I had to try one of these things. Those who know me, know that when I travel I eat like the locals. This was one thing out of many random things I’ve eaten that I will never try again. It didn’t taste too bad but I think the thought of knowing that I was eating a frog made it a little worse than it was. I ate it all and felt fine. Then a couple of hours later I felt the rumble in my stomach and knew I would be sick. I spent the 2 days recovering in my 10 bed dorm with no A/C. It was brutal. It had to be above 90 degrees in the room and all I had was a fan that didn’t even hit me. I soaked a towel in water and laid it on my face. I finally got rid of the sickness and was able to enjoy more street food. Those two days were some of the worst that I’ve had while backpacking. I’ll never eat deep-fried frog again.
The second time wasn’t really a sickness. It was the worst ear ache that I have ever had. I was on the amazing island of Bocas Del Toro in Panama. This island is unlike any I have been to. Its more of a chain of little islands connected together only by a long tail boat that you hire to get to each one. I was in the middle of getting my advanced scuba diver certification. It’s a three-day course that involves book work and a variety of dives including a night dive, deep dive, and a ship wreck dive. On the night before my final dive and the completion of the course, my ear started to really bother me. This was not my first time diving as I had gotten my open water diving certification a month earlier in Honduras and even then my ears were acting up. The pain was not too bad but I was a little hesitant to go on the final dive because I knew it could be bad on the ear. The dive instructor told me that the only way to pass the course was to do this final dive so I pretty much had to. It was bad idea. Less the an hour after the final dive my ear was killing me. I went straight to my room, luckily I had my own room, and tried to sleep it off. It was hot, really hot in my non A/C room and I couldn’t sleep. This was the worst earache I had ever had. I finally gave in and asked where the hospital was. I had to get some sort of medicine for the pain. I was told it was about a 20 minute walk so I headed there. When I arrived it was crowded. The workers didn’t know much English and I only knew a small amount of Spanish. I pointed to my ear and said ” dolor” which means pain. I was taken in the back and luckily the nurse knew a little bit of English and told me it was pretty bad. They gave me pills and ear drops and wanted me to go back everyday for the next 7 days to get a shot. This was a problem because I was leaving the island in 2 days so I just played along and said I would. This Dr. visit only cost me 6 bucks. I was astonished by that and headed back to my room. The following day my ear was feeling better and I was able to enjoy the sun again on the gorgeous island. I’ll never forget that time. The pain was incredible.