It seems like whenever I take a trip, something ends up coming home with me (or stays with me while I continue to travel). Because I enjoy oversharing, here are some of the worst things I’ve contracted abroad and my best suggestions for preventing them:
Spain: BED BUGS. I got bed bugs two different times while hiking the Camino de Santiago. The first time, I didn’t realize I had gotten them until I started getting really itchy one night at dinner and I looked down to see lines of red spots going up and down my arms, legs, and face. I even had one on my eyelid. Get the special bed bug spray and spray down your sleeping bag and sheets/mattress religiously. Trust me. The memories and phantom bugs are horrid.
Also while hiking the Camino, I aggravated my Plantar Fasciitis, which is inflammation of the tendon that connects your heel bone to your toes. If you’re a PF sufferer yourself, you can imagine how painful hiking across an entire country with the condition is. Mine ended up “spreading” into Achilles tendonitis, which made walking/hiking almost unbearable. To help with this, I started wrapping my feet with an Ace bandage before each day’s hike to give my foot more of an arch. I wore good hiking boots with “supportive” insoles, but nothing helped as much as the bandages did. Chaco sandals are also lifesavers because of their support.
United Kingdom: Mononucleosis (Glandular Fever in the UK)– it’s only a smooch away. I don’t really know how to help you prevent that one, other than to say don’t kiss strangers? Good luck out there.
Also, every time I’m in London, I get a horrible cold and end up with tissues full of black mucus (sorry for the gross imagery). Take Emergen-C regularly and use hand sanitizer a lot to stay healthy. The tube is a bacteria-filled place and there is nothing worse than congestion or a runny nose while you’re away from home and on the move.
Australia: After a day at the beach in Melbourne, I noticed weird spots (from some type of mite?) all over my chest. I never had any pain or itchiness from them, but they made it look like I had acne covering my chest. If you can help it, try not to lie directly in the sand and rest on a towel instead. Honestly though, I wouldn’t be too worried about getting them– they went away after a week or so and didn’t really bother me.
FEELINGS. If you can resist an Australian accent, hats off to you. I’m not so lucky. While down under, a preexisting crush got worse, and a major crush on the county itself developed. Avoid Australia and all Australians to prevent these “feeling” things from happening to you too.
China: I am not kidding when I say that for 2 solid weeks after leaving Beijing, I had some type infection that caused me to cough from the depths of my lungs. Air pollution is no joke. As silly as you will probably feel, I strongly suggest wearing face masks while outside and take lots of vitamin C to give your immune system a boost. The Beijing cough is not worth your pride.
Italy: Shortly after getting a tattoo, I spent time on a rock beach in Cinque Terre. I had put 100 SPF sunscreen on my tattoo to keep it looking fresh, but didn’t think to keep the extra-strength sun protectant within the design’s lines. When the tan/burn set in, I had a giant blob of pasty white skin surrounding the tattoo that lasted for months. Cute.
Canada: I’ve currently been home from camping in Canada for almost a week, and have a rash on my neck that won’t go away. I don’t know how I got it or how to avoid it, so my best advice is to use bug spray and stay away from plants you don’t recognize. Hopefully that isn’t new advice, but it’s the best advice I have.
Greece: Mosquito bites. All over my face. Wear the repellant or suffer the consequences.
Ireland: A tattoo. To avoid contracting one yourself, stay away from large quantities of Guinness and tattoo parlors. In my case, my mom convinced me to get mine and no alcohol was involved.
So there are *most* of my stories about bugs, bacteria, and emotions. Sorry if you were expecting something more scandalous, but that’s all I’ve got. Stay safe out there!