Getting sick at any time is a miserable experience, even under the best of circumstances. Getting sick while on vacation, on the other hand, kicks the miserableness up to a whole new level. Some might say it sucks. And, in my case, getting sick while on my quinquennial girls' trip with my best friend earlier this month to celebrate our 45th birthdays totally blew. Honestly, it blew chunks and I mean that both figuratively and literally.
Within 12 hours of arriving at our resort in Runaway Bay along Jamaica's north coast, I found myself heaving up the contents of my digestive system. I should mention that I hate, and I mean HATE, throwing up. I'm one of those people who will go to great lengths to avoid throwing up, even when I know it will make me feel better. Well, even had I tried, there would've been no stopping the forceful expulsion that hit me around 4 a.m. the first morning and the same goes for the two additional times I threw up within the next 10 hours. I'm not sure what I caused my illness - E. coli, salmonella, Norovirus... All I know is that whatever it was, it was nasty.
I'd love to say that whatever I had passed quickly, that I rebounded and was able to fully enjoy the reminder of my highly anticipated vacation with my best friend, but it didn't. The worst, in my opinion, was the vomiting, and it was, thankfully, over within 24 hours. However, I dealt with other issues (rolling waves of nausea, fatigue, lack of appetite, and intermittent diarrhea) the rest of the week. Although I wasn't completely sidelined, for I learned how to manage and keep my symptoms at bay (i.e. consume only toast, rolls, soup, water, Gatorade, and Pepto), I wasn't my optimal traveling self.
In life, I try to look at every event, even the most difficult and the most inopportune, as an experience to learn something. Here are four things I learned from getting sick while abroad.
Know That It Can Happen To Anyone
Anyone who eats is susceptible to coming down with some foodborne illness. Anyone. And, having said that, it can strike anywhere at any time. Yes, there are many things we can do to prevent from getting sick while traveling, but let's be honest, there are many factors that are simply out of our control. Although the timing of me getting sick sucked, I know in the grand scheme of things that I've been very fortunate. I've traveled to a lot of places in my lifetime and this is the first time I've ever found myself sick while traveling.
Know Your Options
Know Your Options
After I threw up the third and final time, I went to the resort's medical center. There I spoke with a nurse who helped me decide my course of action based on my symptoms. In lieu of a having a doctor come to the resort or me going to a local clinic, I opted to try some over the counter medicine first and see how things went from there. It was nice knowing what options I had if my condition didn't improve, which they thankfully did.
Always Pack Pepto
I spent nearly $30 on two travel-sized bottles of Pepto Bismol at the resort. The same amount would have cost me around $10 or less here at home. I've always been one to pack Imodium when I travel, but not Pepto. I truly believe that pink liquid was instrumental in helping me manage the second round of symptoms as well as I did. Lesson learned - always pack Pepto.
Salvage What You Can of Your Trip
I'm very thankful that C and I didn't have an overly active vacation planned. If we had, I doubt I could've participated in some of the activities and that would've made me feel even worse because at that point my illness would've negatively impacted C's trip, too. Fortunately, our plans primarily involved lying by the pool, lying by the beach, drinking fruity drinks, and spending uninterrupted time together catching up - all of which I was still able to do (minus the drinking fruity drinks). In fact, as long as I ate a strict diet of toast, rolls, soup, Gatorade, water, and Pepto, I faired rather well. I even managed to snorkel, kayak for about 20 minutes, and climb Dunn's River Falls. Most importantly, C and I got to spend a lot of uninterrupted time together catching up. Although it wasn't necessarily the trip I imagined, I salvaged what I could.
Although I would've preferred not getting sick while in Jamaica, I did. Life happens and when it does, all you can do is the best you can under the circumstances. I do hope to return to Jamaica one day for a proper do-over.
Have you ever been ill while traveling out of the country? What did the experience teach you?