It’s miserable to get sick when you are at home, but you are really in for it if that happens while you are on tour. I can still remember being on a Fulbright tour in Thailand and succumbing to a terrible case of traveler’s diarrhea (or the appropriate nickname, Thai-dal wave) in Chiang Mai. While the rest of my group carried on with our itinerary, I had to stay back at the hotel. Misery does love company, but I was all alone in my misery that day. While you are on tour, you just don’t have time to be sick! I wrote an extended post for April 28, 2011, providing “Tips to Stay Healthy on Tour,” which went into great detail about OTC and prescription medication, medical facilities, first-aid kits, and providing TLC for your students. I would like to take the opportunity to expand on some of the tips in this earlier post and add a few more.
1. Don’t skip breakfast. Even if you don’t eat breakfast at home, it’s always a good idea to eat something in the morning on tour. This meal is already paid for in the program fee so you might as well take advantage of it. Breakfast may help you to avoid a tension-type headache or that mid-morning slump. Eating breakfast gets you prepared for a long day of touring.
2. Be regular. No reason to be squeamish about this topic. If you’re not regular on tour, then you need to be sure you are eating enough fiber-rich foods and drinking enough water, along with allowing yourself to have enough time to tend to “the call of nature.” Bring along some individually wrapped prunes (or dried plums) just in case.
3. Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated is important, especially during the summer tours. If you limit the amount of water you drink on tour because you don’t want to get in a bind when it comes to finding a toilet, you will get in a worse bind if you get dehydrated. Check the bottled water you buy carefully because you don’t want to buy a bottle that has been refilled for resale.
4. Get plenty of exercise. You may be getting enough exercise due to the fast pace of an EF tour, but try to work in as much as you can. Take the stairs whenever possible and go for a quick walk around the hotel before breakfast if you are in a safe area. You will be regular and you won’t have any problems going to sleep if you stay active on tour.
5. Get enough sleep at night. Being on tour requires a great deal of energy. Try to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time. As a group leader, you can gauge how much sleep your students are getting at night when you look around the bus to see who‘s sleeping. Be firm about enforcing those bedtime curfews.
6. Wash your hands a lot. Be sure to carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer or wet wipes. When you use public transportation, your hands will be touching a lot of unclean surfaces. Avoid touching your face with your hands. This particular tip may help you to avoid a cold on tour. Carry a handkerchief or a bandanna so you can dry your hands if the toilets don’t have paper towels or a blow dryer.
7. Wear sunscreen and insect repellent. Even on cloudy days, you need to take the time to put on some sunscreen before you leave the hotel for a day of touring. Ditto for the insect repellent if you are traveling in some “buggy” countries. If you bring them in small sizes, you can take them along with you during the day.
8. Be careful about what you eat at lunch. Use some common sense when you are making your lunch choices. Know your food allergies. If your “gut” tells you not to go for something adventurous or exotic, then pay attention. You can always take a photo of the foods you were just too scared to eat. I’m a big fan of street food, but I always go for the vendors that attract a crowd and I choose foods that are served hot. A heavy lunch may put you in a coma when you should be paying attention on tour.
9. Take care of your feet. The fast pace of an EF tour puts a lot of stress on your feet. You can’t go wrong with wearing proper shoes (no exposed feet) and good socks. Don’t pack a pair of brand-new shoes or a pair that will not hold up to walking a few miles each day. Look at your feet before going to bed and see if there are any sore or tender areas. If your bathroom has a bidet, soak your feet in it.
Readers, what are your own tips for staying healthy on tour?