Put quite simply: getting sick while traveling sucks. Not only do you miss out on much of the fun stuff you were planning on doing, but you’ll have to recover in a hostel or hotel instead of your own bed.
Let’s back up. I was reflecting on my first month of traveling, and in an email to my parents I wrote that I had survived a whole month in Southeast Asia without getting traveler’s diarrhea or the stomach flu- yay! Of course, as soon as I sent that email, Murphy’s Law had to make sure my gloating stopped.
It started off as what I thought was the worst hangover of all time, the day of the Full Moon Party. While I didn’t used to get hangovers, time eventually caught up with me and the awful, day long hangovers began right around when I turned 22. But that particular hangover was extremely confusing to me- I had barely drank the night before! I had had one bucket (equivalent to maybe 4 mixed drinks?), which is not enough to make me hungover all day. I was immediately regretting going out the night before the Full Moon Party and doubting whether I could make it to the beach that night. What began as a stomachache shifted to hot and cold flashes and a horrible headache. While I made it out for a short time that night, I definitely missed out on much of the fun of the Full Moon Party and almost fainted at one point, prompting me to give up and return to bed.
When my “hangover” continued to the next day, I began wondering if I was really just sick. And, as it turns out, I was- I’m pretty sure the ice from my bucket that night was what gave me an infection. Here’s my advice on what to do when you get sick while traveling.
1. Wait a few days. I waited three days to see a doctor- it doesn’t make sense to go to the clinic if you’re only hungover! Of course, if you feel supremely awful, yes, go immeditaly. But if you just feel a little worse than the wear, save yourself some money and see if nature (aided with plenty of water and rest) can work itself out.
2. Don’t freak out. Everyone in my dorm room in Koh Pha Ngan was telling me I had dengue fever. Just because you are in an exotic locale doesn’t mean you’ve contracted an exotic disease! I was pretty familar with the symptoms of both malaria and dengue fever, and I was almost 100% sure I didn’t have either. My whole body was not aching, and I didn’t have an extreme fever. Do your homework and listen to your body.
3. Go to the doctor. If you still feel sick after a few days, go to the doctor. For some reason, I really didn’t want to go to the doctor. It seems so silly now! I was in and out of the doctor’s office in 20 minutes and with only a $26 bill, which included the visit with the doc and the medications he prescribed. While I was really nervous I had appendicitis (I had extremely painful stomach cramps), I was diagnosed with a simple stomach infection. The doctor gave me medicine for the infection, cramping, and vomiting. I was all better in about 4 days! Why can’t healthcare be this simple in the US?
The worst part about being sick (besides the stomach cramps)? Missing out on all Koh Tao has to offer. I quickly fell in love with Koh Tao- it seemed to be the perfect balance between laidback and less overdeveloped while still having a built up backpacker and diving scene. I felt like Goldilocks- I had finally found the island that was just right. Koh Tao has so much to do in a gorgeous setting, with a ton of great restaurants and fun bars (but way less party-centric than Koh Pha Ngan). And thanks to the stomach flu, I only got to experience Koh Tao’s claim to fme, diving, for one day. While I’d love to complain more about being sick in Koh Tao, I’ll try and remember that I am still extremely lucky I’ve only gotten sick once and did get to do two dives (at Sail Rock, the Gulf of Thailand’s best dive site, no less). Whine over.
Sorry for the lack of photos in this post- I have almost no pictures of Koh Tao as I spent most of my time there curled up in a moaning ball in my bungalow.