AMAL MUSES, MARCH 2019
The Clam Condition
By Amal Ghazali
It’s funny how something could start off so wonderfully, and within an instant it could immediately turn around into a full blown nightmare.
This was exactly my thought as I hauled my heavy backpack in the freezing night in Kyoto, trying to not miss my flight to Manila while also struggling to refrain myself from throwing up for the nth time that day. It was my last day in Japan after what seemed like an amazing travel for a couple of weeks, and as luck would have it, I had managed to get food poisoning as the grand finale.
I could still recall the night before. My friends and I were exhausted from a day of hiking, and on our last night in Kyoto we wanted to have a quick fix, cheap sushi dinner (this was the last day after all, and we were short of cash). A quick Google research pointed out a nearby place with a good price range, and soon we found ourselves enjoying generic, amazing sushi on an upstairs floor of the building. For good measure, I decided to order a clam miso soup, and remarked that my friends were not as adventurous, as I complimented how delicious the soup was.
Clams and I have a pretty dark history. I absolutely adore seafood, but there were times where I would experience the rare occasion of indigestion due to their consumption, specifically speaking the shellfish kind. But of course I was not reminded of this as I slurped away that night, thinking that this was Japan, after all, where food is superior and there couldn’t be anything possibly wrong with indulging in some clammy goodness.
I woke up the next morning hurling in the toilet, and the rest of the day was just a blur of projectile vomit, headaches and heady waves of nausea. To make matters worse, I had no choice but to be functional that day, as we had to take the train back to Osaka and board a flight to Manila, my last leg of this particular travel adventure.
Getting Sick While Traveling
If you travel often, it’s probably only a matter of time before you experience at least an episode of getting sick abroad. It’s all the case of probability, folks. Feeling unwell is bad enough at home, but imagine nursing a fever, coping with diarrhoea or being down with flu while you need to be constantly moving and are far away from the familiar comforts of your bed, food or even weather. It’s not an ideal situation, but these things really do happen more often than we think. With that in mind, here are some tips that I’ve learned along the way that may help you manage the situation if it should ever occur to you in the future.
First of all, preparation is key. Regardless of the kind of health state you are in, no one is completely exempted from suddenly catching something – virus, bacteria or even just the change of weather. That being said, pack with you the essentials for the ‘common’ travel illnesses, such as the medications for colds, headaches and digestion issues. Even if I’m backpacking with limited luggage space, I consider these remedies as necessary and I don’t travel without them. Furthermore, I have found that in some countries these basic medications can be expensive, or worse, not exactly compatible with your body (some painkillers can irritate your stomach if you’re not used to them, for example).
The next important point to remember is that prevention is always better than cure. In my case, I should’ve probably reminded myself that although I was feeling adventurous, my digestion system might not share a mutual sentiment. Research is helpful, and reviewing restaurants in new places will identify possible risks you might not know of. If you know yourself to be allergic or sensitive to certain things, consuming them while traveling is perhaps a bad idea. The same could be said of other circumstances as well, such as not staying out too late if your body is not used to it back home, or reducing the exposure to certain weather conditions (rain, too much sun etc.) if you are prone to get ill from these situations.
And of course, if by some unfortunate chance you still get sick, there is no other choice but to plough through them. If it’s serious then of course you’d have to seek proper medical assistance, but if it’s the common illness that is personally bearable or manageable, take these few recommended steps to reduce the torture and promote faster recovery. Drink lots of water, and although this is pretty much common sense, most of us tend to forget this especially while traveling. Stick to only ‘safe’ foods, and this means neutral, non-irritating menus. Food that are too spicy or raw may encourage the situation, for example. Even consider taking the day off from visiting public places or being too adventurous – perhaps your body could benefit from the extra rest and chill at the hotel for the day. This is especially true if you’ve been out and about for days on end, and your body is lacking the proper rest it needs.
Unfortunate Episodes Do Happen
The bad news is, travel, like life, doesn’t always go as perfectly as we’d plan. Sickness isn’t exactly considerate of our vacation dreams, and as much as we hope it doesn’t happen, it still does, sometimes in the worst of places. I had a friend who caught a bad case of scabies while on a month-long Trans-Siberian train adventure, and she described it as an itchy nightmare while being confined in a train’s coach for days. Just when you thought that traveling can be as picture perfect as the documentaries you see on the Discovery Channel.
But hopefully the next time you go for an adventure across the globe you’d be better prepared for any health possibilities. Then maybe you’d be able to avoid another episode of barfing your guts out around the beautiful city of Kyoto like I did.