I hope this never happens to you, I really do, so please learn by my example. I am an educator, I have been one for almost 20 years, and I truly believe we must learn by the awful examples of others. Please understand that this information is designed for the health and safety of all who dare to travel the world with wild abandon. Sure, you might never have this experience, you might be one of those people who “never get sick” that may be very true, but in the event that it does happen, I want you to be equipped with the tools to make good choices and save the embarrassment of soiling your clothes on the streets. In educator style, I will break these into teachable moments “lessons” and scaffold the information for a clear understanding for all students.
When your travel agent warns you not to eat any fruits or vegetables for the first 3 days of your trip because your body is not acclimated to the climate and bacteria of the country, listen, they know what they are talking about. Yes, you will be offered food, and if you are like me and feel like refusing food is a form of disrespect, I understand completely. But please know you will pay for this with a loss of respect for yourself in some forms if you don’t listen, you decide. The hotel will have a beautiful spread of fruits and vegetables and salads, stay away from them, if the food isn’t cooked leave it alone on those first few days. If after that third day you are feeling yourself and want to indulge, because trust me, the fruit is delicious, you can smell it before you see it, have at it, but please I am begging you, wait the time advise by your agent. I didn’t listen and less than 2 hours in Cairo, I was enjoying greens on my falafel (deep fried patty of ground chickpeas or fava beans) with a smile so big and bright because of the deliciousness that filled my mouth, wrong move!
I know we here in the US enjoy our beverages cold and full of ice, don’t do it, don’t ask for drinks with ice at random places outside the hotel. I would even caution at the hotel, or ask if the ice is made with bottled water, but remember ice machines hold bacteria. My dumb ass was drinking everything cold with additional ice, I didn’t even make the connection that ice is water, epic fail. If you want to use ice to keep your face and neck cool, that is a great move, it does keep the body temperature regulated, but keep it out of your beverages. Really drink bottled water on your daily excursions and when you stop for snacks or a meal, have hot mint tea, it hydrates and in my opinion helps the stomach digest food. If you read up on Ayurveda, they do stress the importance of drinking room temperature, warm or hot liquids to aid in digestion, it’s true, listen and learn. You will pass vendors selling water at every site, usually children and women, they try to keep the bottles as cold as possible, but please do not stress them about finding the coldest bottle, grab 1, hydrate and keep it moving.
Make sure whatever bag you carry with you daily includes some form of wet wipe, toilet paper, tissues, and some type of soap or disinfectant. While most of the places we visited had very clean restroom facilities, they aren’t always fully stocked with toilet paper or soap, and they often overflow. I am not sure why, but I saw many women mopping the bathrooms with Dettol (antiseptic liquid) and us from the Caribbean know when we smell Dettol something needs to be highly disinfected. All bathrooms have water in the stalls because using toilet paper is not the norm, water is, don’t get all in your feelings, spray some water on your ass, and use your tissues to dry up and keep it moving. Don’t spend time harassing the ladies for tissue, now if you find yourself in my predicament, they will try to help as much as possible, but to prevent sharing your personal business, make sure you have a sanitation kit on your person.
If you wake up and something is just not right with your stomach, stay in the room, sit the day out, get some medication to clean out your stomach, drink endless bowls of broth and bread, take some Imodium, and rest. Ill say it again, stay your ass home! If you go to breakfast and have to make several trips to the bathroom before you finish your meal, stay home. If you have that “I’ve got the bubble guts” look on your face, stay home. Do not get into your van and let your guides know that you are not feeling well, they will try to help instantly, they will give you some medication to “kill the bacteria in your stomach” but they will not say “you need to be home because we don’t know how quickly this is going to clean out the continents of your intestines for the last 5 years”. Now, the medication will work, it will make your stomach calm down for about 2 hours, you will be relieved, happy even that you can go on enjoying life and not miss any of this trip of a lifetime that you saved, planned and prepared for, but that feeling of relief is temporary. Your stomach will begin to self destruct in about 90 minutes after taking the medication, and in two hours you will be sprinting across museums looking for the nearest restroom at every turn. I was scanning sections of the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities like you scan for fire exits, yes its hilarious now, but it wasn’t at that moment in time. I was paranoid, hot, anxious, I knew I didn’t have any more tissues in my bag, I was wearing a white skirt, this could not happen, it simply could not happen, but it did.
Do not ever wear white pants, shorts, or skirts while traveling with an upset stomach. I don’t care if it keeps you cool, if it’s your favorite color, don’t do it. I loved that white skirt I was wearing, it was beautiful and floor length, cool, but I should have taken my ass back upstairs and changed into a pair of jeans the minute I realized my stomach was upset and I was gonna brave the heat and activities of the day. So I made it through the Egyptian Museum, next stop bazaar, no, I cant do it, I had to lay down in the back of the van, sit completely still, hold my cheeks together and pray. I am sure my face was green, all I wanted to do was make it back to my room because I knew all hell was breaking loose. I made it, I made it to the hotel entrance gate, but as soon as I stood up I knew I wouldn’t make it to my room, but I tried. I tried to walk as fast as I could, but it was useless, within seconds of exiting I was throwing up, and in those same seconds flies from who knows where swarmed be like scavengers on dead meat. I couldn’t avoid them, and in that same moment my whole stomach emptied as I was walking up to the hotel entrance, then I started throwing up again, then the flies were swarming again. So here I was, in white, with shit (literally) coming out of both ends, and all I could do was cry and keep moving. Luckily I did have a pink sweater that I was able to wrap around my waist, but that didn’t help with the flies or the smell, I was a walking cesspool and all I could do was keep moving, my face told people all they needed to know “stay back, I might throw up on your ass”. What seemed like the longest elevator ride, finally back at the room I figured I would survive if I could take a shower and lay down, wrong! I continued to throw up several more times, all I could to was keep taking cool showers, I wanted my stomach cleaned out because dammit I was going to Luxor in the morning!
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, not just water, soups, broth, teas, anything that has large quantities of water, especially after you get sick. Yes you won’t want to eat anything, but its really important that you do. That was my next mistake, I figured if I started eating I would start throwing up, but I needed to replenish the fluids in by body, I definitely should have gone to the doctor, but another lesson learned. The medication definitely did it’s job, though I am not sure what it stated on the package because it was in Arabic, after a few hours I had nothing else to throw up, but I was weak and dehydrated. I couldn’t allow myself to sleep until I packed up, the broth and crackers on my night stand I watched with mild annoyance, I did not want to consume anything that looked like food. I got myself together, packed, didn’t worry my hair was a hot mess because I had to wash it, yes I felt like shit, but I was getting on that plane to Luxor! Looking back at the pictures I looked awful, and I felt even worse, but I tried to push through, I tried to make it to the sights, I tried, but I had no business walking around at Karnak Temple in the 125 degree heat, no food on my stomach, no water in my system, roaming away from my group looking for the cold comfort of a mango Popsicle. I fell completely out, not sure for how long, and woke up drinking water out of a police officers gas can. Good thing I remembered the name of the guide and he had given us his cell number for emergencies, good thing the people who found me were kind and caring, but the best thing is that I would live to see another day. Luxor is where we boarded the cruise ship for the days down the Nile, I was grateful, I was taken to my room and made the hard decision to stay put for the next 24 hours no matter what I missed.
Listen to your body, it tells you everything you need to know. My body was screaming “Nyri sit your ass down, eat, drink liquids, stay out of the sun, rest” but I didn’t listen so I had to be taught another public embarrassment lesson. Had I not made the decision to stay in bed, I might not have made it out of the Valley of The Kings, my traveling buddy told me the heat was relentless, no shade, water was scarce once you arrived inside “Nyri you might have died and become mummy” yes we laughed, but it was true, I very well might have. Yes I was heartbroken because I was so excited about this portion of the trip, but my body literally shut down, I slept the full day, and woke up to eat soup and drink tea, and went back to sleep again. Thankfully the next day was a full day on the Nile with no stops or sites to visit, so I had a full 48 hours of rest and replenishment. I still felt a bit shaky, but I was eating food and some of my energy returned. I had learned my lesson, and from here on out I was prepared to humble myself to the beast that was Egypt!
Much love from the brown girl, traveling the world, scanning the scene for restrooms and missing everything beautiful! Stay safe on your travels and most importantly, if you get sick, rest, recover and recharge so you can enjoy the remainder of your trip!
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