I’ll resolve to go easy on the free inflight drinks
Yes, the booze is free, but if you are on a long-haul journey and render yourself legless with alcohol (or sleeping tablets) you are much more likely to suffer from a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Go for juice and water instead and you’ll disembark feeling far friskier – and then it is off to the bar.
I’ll try to do lots of calf-tensing exercises during my flight
The calf muscles act as the pump for getting body fluids from the feet and legs back to the heart for recirculation. Frequent tensing and relaxing of the calves – to mimic walking – will reduce the uncomfortable ankle swelling that many of us get after a long journey, and diminish the chances of clots forming.
I’m going to learn some phrases of the language of my host country
My pronunciation always makes people smile, but I love making contact. Sometimes my attempts to communicate have even earned me a bit of a discount on the published hotel rates, and have got me out of troubles and misunderstandings a few times. More than once I’ve been warned against entering a dangerous part of town.
I’ll visit the travel clinic well before my holiday to allow enough time for immunisations
I never seem to remember to make that appointment six weeks ahead of departure – more like the day before. I’ll also try to remember that, even when fully immunised, I need to keep covered up from dusk. Pity that G&Ts don’t work any more.
I’ll travel with at least a one-litre water bottle with a good seal
I can then add iodine to local tap water or I can ask for it to be filled with boiling water – so I’ll know that it is OK to drink. It’ll be safer than buying mineral water in a developing country, and I’ll feel virtuous as I won’t be contributing to the litter of discarded plastic bottles that I’ve seen heaped up in many destinations where there is no effective refuse disposal system.
I’ll drink enough water to produce at least three good-volume wees a day
Even if I don't actually feel thirsty.
I’ll think about carrying back-up cash or an extra credit card
I’ve heard that if there is an emergency, or if war breaks out, having a locally recognised credit card will often give you a better chance of getting out of the country.
I promise not to skimp on my travel insurance...
And I also promise I’ll tell the insurance company about any past medical problems – then the nice air ambulance will come and pick me up after I’ve crashed my hired moped.
And actually... I’ll try to resist the temptation to jump on a dodgy moped
Or cool motorbike when I’ve no real skill in riding one. And even in destinations where the law doesn’t make me wear a helmet, I will be good and wear one – and I’ll even promise to fasten the chin-strap. I promise to pack a helmet with a British Standard kite mark on it if I plan to hire a motorbike in a developing country. I’ve heard that cheap Indonesian helmets shatter on impact and break into sharp shards that themselves cause injuries.
I will remember to wear a shirt...
When riding my motorbike or sitting on the roof of a bus or the deck of a boat so that I don’t get sunburned. I love my tan but I must remember that each year in Britain about 5,000 people like me get malignant melanomas – skin cancers – and 1,500 die of them.
I might eat a meal that includes oily fish
Like mackerel – in the 24 hours before my next long flight because it is quite effective in reducing the chance of a clot. Flight socks also seem to be highly protective – I might even get some.
I shall try to get out in the sun at the ends of the day...
When I arrive at my destination because I know that this will stimulate the natural melatonin in my body, which will help me adjust to jet lag. And anyway, the fresh air and warm, balmy evenings are just what I’ve travelled to enjoy. Tropical sunshine between the hours of 11am and 3pm (when the shadows are short) is bad news.
Whenever I decide to try some new, vigorous activity, I will get fit enough beforehand
I know that unfit adventurers are more likely to have accidents, and extreme sports tried in developing countries often don’t come with as many safety nets as we are used to at home. And when I injure myself, I promise to listen to my body and rest up – whatever my intended schedule.
I will try to remember that goal-driven trips often end in tears
I will allow plenty of time and also add some extra days onto my holiday to acclimatise to the altitude.
I promise to pack some SPF 15 sunscreen...
If I am going somewhere hot. And I’ll use it too. I promise.
I will obey my guide...
When he tells me not to get too close to the edge or to the animals, or when he instructs me to keep quiet and not to take photos.
If I opt to travel by bush taxi, I promise to avoid journeys after dark;
And I’ll try to remember to eyeball the driver and the vehicle to check for obvious deficiencies, like lack of functioning eyes, limbs, brakes and lights. Violent robberies are most common after sundown, and accidents more likely if headlights don’t work and there are sleeping cows on the road.
I’ll be careful and will try local foods
Often these are safer than badly prepared and reheated Western dishes – and trying exotic food is one of the pleasures of travelling anyway. I will, though, choose fruits that I’ve washed and peeled myself. I will avoid strawberries and lettuce in places where sanitation is poor for, verily, these are curséd and unwholesome victuals.
I shall not eat salads in developing countries
I will also remember that hot soups are excellent tropical fare because they allow the safe replenishment of fluids lost through sweat.
Even when Montezuma’s Revenge is upon me, I shall remember to follow the biblical commandment;
When thou wilt ease thyself abroad, thou shalt dig, and shalt turn back and cover that which cometh from thee. And I’ll try to burn the paper, too.
I should take my own advice: I promise to at least think about wearing a helmet
When I indulge in any risky activities such as climbing, abseiling and the like. I am guilty of setting a poor example myself and will try to be a good girl next year. Promise.
Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth has written How to Shit Around the World (Travelers Tales) and Bugs, Bites & Bowels (Cadogan), both available from Amazon, which are full of advice to keep you well on your trips – and if you don’t follow the advice, they’ll help you deal with the consequences.
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