© Samantha Celera

Why You Should Never Be Scared of Getting Sick Abroad

You’re a traveller. You love moving from place to place, experiencing different climates, tasting crazy foods and meeting people from around the globe. And you’ve been sick. You’ve vomited in your dorm room, you’ve nearly shit your pants and you’ve had a fever so high that people gasp when you tell them about it.

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This is the life of a nomad and it’s something we’ve all dealt with. Being sick is part and parcel of this amazing lifestyle we’ve chosen. It’s happened to you before and it will happen again, so don’t be scared … be ready.

Desert View
View to the Desert © Goats on the Road

There’s No Avoiding It!

Stop wasting your time and energy dreading your next debilitating illness and just get on with it.

No matter how careful you are, how many precautions you take or how you attempt to avoid illness, it’s going to come for you! I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but travel and sickness go together like colds and The Price is Right, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

The best thing you can do is to not dwell on it beforehand. Have you ever noticed that the first person to get sick is always the person who doesn’t eat salad, wraps the remotes in their hotel room with plastic, and washes their hands twenty times a day? The more you focus on it, the more likely you are to get sick. Stop wasting your time and energy dreading your next debilitating illness and just get on with it.

You Don’t Want to Miss Out by Being Too Careful

If you were as careful as the WHO told you to be, you’d never eat fruits and vegetables, you wouldn’t get to sample delicious street foods, and you wouldn’t even be able to visit many of the countries in the world because they’re coloured red on the dreaded World Disease Map.

You can take precautions to stay healthy without being overly cautious. Wear mosquito repellant, sleep under a net and wear long sleeves at dawn and dusk to avoid mosquito borne illnesses. Don’t eat meat that has obviously been sitting in the sun all day. Rinse off vegetables or peel them whenever you can.

Mosquito (closeup)
© Enrique Dans

If you do everything that’s recommended to avoid getting sick, you’ll end up missing out on some of the best parts of travel. If a stranger offers to cook you lunch in their home kitchen, don’t turn down the offer because the hygiene standards might be lower than you’d like. If you see a delicious BBQ on the side of the road, don’t pass it up because the meat is in a cooler rather than a fridge. And if you have the opportunity to sleep under the stars in the jungle, do it! Just put on some mosquito spray.

Everything Is Curable

Words like malaria, chikungunya and dengue fever have an ominous and chilling ring. Many people immediately think of endemics, death and plagues, but they are curable. These types of tropical illnesses are far worse than your average flu or cold, but they can still easily beaten.

Many people have died of malaria, but these are people who didn’t have the money or the means to see a doctor. Most deaths from tropical illnesses come from dehydration. People in small villages without access to fresh water often succumb to fevers and cold sweats, and after days of not drinking liquids, they perish.

This is a sad fact in the world, but it’s true. As a western traveller, you have money to see a doctor, so it’s unlikely that you will die from malaria, chikungunya or dengue. You’ll head to a clinic and they will put you on a saline drip. You’ll drink coconut water, take a whole range of pills, and feel better within a few days or a week. These ailments may have horrifying reputations, but in reality, they’re not much different from any other sickness you’ve had before.

Coconut Drinks
© Goats on the Road

There Are Good Hospitals Everywhere

You may think that just because you’re in a developing nation, there are no proper hospitals, but you would be wrong. Almost every country has decent medical facilities. Even the poorest nations in Africa usually have access to good clinics. Unfortunately, many of the local people can’t afford them, but with your travel insurance you should be able to take your pick.

If you are in a place with no real health care, you can be transported somewhere with good facilities. You can find western doctors in almost every country on Earth, so don’t feel so stranded! You’re almost always close to good medical attention.

You Have Travel Insurance

Or at least, you should! Most travel insurance policies cover you for more than $500,000. Meaning that if you ever reach critical condition, you can be heli-lifted to a top of the line facility. You can visit any nation’s top hospitals and not have to worry about the bill. You can have world-class doctors and nurses waiting on you hand and foot … for free!

(Don’t have travel insurance yet? Click here to find out why so many long-term travellers use World Nomads.)

Beach Camping
Beach Camping © Goats on the Road

You Can Handle It

You’re bound to get sick when you’re travelling, and while you can take precautions, there’s no reason to go overboard. Travel is all about stepping out of your comfort zone and having an adventure.

Getting sick is all part of it. You may dread getting a fever, but you’ll find that the longer you travel, the more you’ll start to wear your travel sickness tales like badges of honour. You’ve been there, done that, and you survived. Now it’s time to get back out there and enjoy the road.

Founding Editor
  1. Hey Mike!

    Thanks so much for featuring our article this month, we really appreciate it :) We’ve been sick more times than we would like to say while travelling, but we’ve always pulled through! It’s just all part of the adventure.


  2. Great post guys! It’s such a good reminder that getting sick abroad isn’t the end of the word. I always get sick when I travel and it has never turned me off eating street food, or going off the beaten path. After all, we are not going to find amazing travel experiences sitting in 5 star hotels and eating room service :)

  3. My experience: I’ve been sick in Thailand, when I came back from KoChang to Bangkok. I spent three days locked in a cheap and dirty backpacker single room, vomiting, with fever and you know what happening to my ass… I really thought I was going to die this time and got really scared that the staff would find me dead on my bed and had to contact my family… finally got better and I still don’t know what happened to me (food poisoning or heat stroke ?).

    Conclusion: go to see a doctor and have a travel insurance (nothing new)

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