Paid moment from Fluzone
The industrial white lights of the Finnish pharmacy pierced through my eyes as I played a losing game of charades with the pharmacist. Her amicable disposition gave way to frustration as I tried to mime that my head was spinning and my throat was on fire. All I wanted to do was go back to my Helsinki hotel and melt into the bed. But I was about to set off on a camping trip the next day, so I had to fast-forward my recovery—and needed the best possible cure for the cause.
Whether it was that sudden bout of the flu in Finland, a deep splinter in Italy, seasickness in the Galapagos and Iceland, or tummy troubles in Nepal, Indonesia, and Romania, I’ve succumbed to the fact that my global travels will often be plagued by some sort of minor health ailment. What the symptoms might be and when they might pop up are an unpredictable reality.
Worrying about self-care and general wellness is tough enough at home, but when you’re out of your element in an unfamiliar place, and have to navigate a language barrier, it only adds to the stress of the situation. Instead of having to depend on Google Translate’s camera to navigate medication labels, I now have a carefully curated Away F.A.R. pouch filled with every kind of product for any general ailment that might arise, in order to ensure that my travels are as problem-free as possible. Below, I’ve broken down all the essentials you might want to add to your own health kit when considering how to stay healthy on the road.
Packing a mini pharmacy may seem like an overzealous endeavor when you’re feeling perfectly healthy upon departure, but if something does go wrong, there’s a major comfort in knowing exactly what medicine you’re ingesting, along with the proper dosage and potential side effects. And with flu season starting up in October and potentially lasting into May, now is the time to properly prepare.
Start with some general painkillers, like an aspirin or ibuprofen, that can help alleviate a wide range of symptoms, and then add in some cold and flu medication, in case you do fall ill on the go. From there, think about your own personal health and what issues you may be prone to. That could include medication for menstrual pain, allergies, stomach issues, dizziness, or nasal congestion, among other symptoms.
For a space-saving hack: Since the chances of needing a full course of every meditation is unlikely, pack one sheet of each medicine that comes in a foil blister pack and stash them into a small bag, as if it’s a mini packing cube. To ensure you know exactly how much to take, use a permanent marker to write the dosage on the packaging (on the part you won’t punch out). My shorthand on each is something like “two every six hours; max six/day.” Other medication may come in single-serve packs, so you can easily add a few into the pouch. Round out the baggie by slipping in compact containers (like the ones Dramamine comes in). Instead of lugging around all the boxes and instructions, take a picture of them, so you can access the full directions on your phone, if needed.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned more than ever in the last couple of years, it’s how important hand hygiene is to prevent catching viruses. And when we’re on the road discovering new sites, whether it’s exploring museums, experiencing amazing resorts, or going on an epic adventure, picking up germs is an unfortunate side effect of touching and feeling the world.