Three Years of Sickness and Travel, By the Numbers

Categories Sickness and Travel

I receive emails almost every day asking me if I’ve gotten sick during my years of travel. The same question is whispered to me in person, too. I’ll be at a dinner or out for drinks and someone will introduce me as a long-term traveler and travel writer, to the confusion of the lawyers and careerists present. Inevitably, I get cornered later by at least one or two people furtively asking “so did you ever, you know, get sick?” Oh yes, many times.

I understand why people would ask. Sickness and travel were a big preoccupation before I left. What if I was completely isolated and no one knew and then I died a horrible death in the middle of nowhere? What if I couldn’t speak the language and then managed to find myself at a doctor, unable to to tell them what’s wrong and then (all together now…) died a horrible death in the middle of nowhere? For what it’s worth, reading How to Shit Around the World and bringing a Point It Dictionary went a long way into making sure the “dying a horrible death in the middle of nowhere” didn’t happen.

That said, I was most lonely when I was sick. Time slows down; foggy with fever and fatigue it feels like a lifetime before you get better again. And since this is a question I get so often, I thought I’d share the fairly ridiculous laundry list of ailments and sicknesses from my travels.

Three Years of Sickness and Travel By the Numbers

1. Bronchitis in Punta Arenas. The trip started out with a nasty cold, which quickly converted itself to bronchitis in the damp cold of Chilean Patagonia. My mistake was working long hours and then quitting my job to leave mere days later – I didn’t give my body a chance to rest before I started on my trip. Only days in, I made my first hospital trip to Punta Arenas’ Salud Magallenes complex. The fix? Antibiotics. Something I didn’t want to take, especially this early into my travels. The bronchitis was especially fun when I wound my way through Salkantay Pass to Macchu Picchu (and then climbed Putucusi) with a busted rib from all the coughing.

Climbing Salkantay to Macchu Picchu in Peru

Climbing Salkantay: less fun with bronchitis, but still pretty.

2. Food poisoning from a llama empanada in San Pedro de Atacama. Sadly, I had a llama empanada only hours before I departed on a 4×4 trip through the Salar de Uyuni, and was incapacitated for the first few days of what is generally a magical excursion. Highlights include throwing up twice behind a burnt out bus at the Bolivian border, while border officials tried to tell me it was just altitude sickness. Uh, no, it’s llama sickness. My brother chastised me for eating what is my 2nd favourite animal on earth (the first being the tarsier), and perhaps he is right – this was some karmic retribution from the llama gods. Regardless, at 5010m high in the Bolivian antiplano I finally felt human again and was able to enjoy the last day of the trip.

Optical illusion fun on Salar de Uyuni

Optical illusion fun on Salar de Uyuni, the food poisoning edition

3. Giardia and Salmonella. I’m not entirely sure where this was from, though I suspect the aforementioned llama food poisoning could have a lot to do with it. Other contenders include street food in Bolivia after a power outage and a restaurant in Huacachina where, immediately upon seating ourselves at the table, the toothless waiter gave a crooked grin and asked if we wanted a line of cocaine “por la mesa“. Thanks, but no thanks. I ended up finding out about the parasites while in Peru and getting treated for them in Ecuador. Cross-country worms!

4. Bronchitis (again) in Buenos Aires. Back into colder weather meant a resurgence of my dormant bronchitis, which was depressing as I really thought the lungs were better now. But climbing at high altitude compounds lung problems, something I learned the hard way and won’t mess around with again. Back to the hospital I went, this time in Argentina, leading to a Hospital Throwdown post between Buenos Aires and Punta Arenas.

5. Sinus infection in Cape Town. The bronchitis managed to only worsen as I flew to Cape Town, turning into a whopper of a sinus infection and knocking me on my back for my time in town. Though I managed to get a skydive in, I felt terrible.

Skydiving over Cape Town, South Africa

Skydiving over Cape Town – now with more sinus infection!

6. Torn tendons in my ankle, South Africa. As if the sinus issues weren’t enough, while carrying my pack I tripped and fell and microtore 2 tendons in my ankle. At this point, I was feeling pretty terrible. Fever, shaking, delirium. The works! I sent Jess (my “s” in Legal Nomads) on her way to continue through South Africa and thought I would stay put and get better in Port Elizabeth. Not so, I only got worse and soon I lost all the hearing in my left ear. So I booked a flight back to New York for the summer to get better. My friends picked me up at the airport and brought me straight to the doctor, who took one look at the meds I received elsewhere and dropped them in the garbage. It took me a full month of barely moving to be able to breathe again and/or walk down the street.

Lesson learned: don’t push yourself to the brink of exhaustion and collapse. Stay put and get better. But, as soon as I was able I set off again, to Russia (on the craziest flight imaginable).

7. Allergy to the entire country of Mongolia. I was better! But my troubles were not done. I got a strange, dry cough while on the Trans-Siberian trains, fine during the day but as soon as I lay down at night it would keep me up. Weeks of no sleep later, I ended up visiting a Tibetan medicine doctor in Siberia who diagnosed me with a bunch of allergies, including a plant that was endemic to the Gobi Desert….where I was headed next. Though I don’t usually have allergies, she said that the more-than-average antibiotics I was on (especially the very strong ones in New York to get rid of the last of my lung problems) weakened my immune system. Prescribing me earthy powders to take at night and at dawn, I followed her instructions and my cough went away in her allotted 10-day period. However she did note that I was allergic “to Mongolia and all its plants and animals”. Terrific.

Me and my home in the Gobi desert, Mongolia

Me and my home in the Gobi desert, Mongolia

Healthy for a few months (from September to November), I decided to up the ante by….

8. Falling off of a cliff on the road to Pai, along with my motorbike. Yes, you read that right. While motorbiking the length of the beautiful Mae Hong Son loop in Northern Thailand, a songthaew truck full of cabbages was driving in front of me in the particularly steep portion between Chiang Mai and Pai. Its chain broke, cabbages were flung in all directions and, in what can only be appreciated in retrospect, began to rain down on me. I braked, but because I’m so short and was banking left on a steep mountain road, I couldn’t hold the bike up and fell off of it. Down the side of the cliff, to the bottom of a ravine below, the bike landing on my right thigh. This could have been a lot worse – it landed muffler side up (so no tattoo of muffler searing skin, thankfully), I didn’t break anything and was only scratched up and blue from right hip to knee. However, it was scary as hell and I had no other option but to get right back on the bike and continue to Pai, more than slightly shaken.

9. Salmonella in Ko Samet. Not content with just one salmonella experience, I had to go for another, from eggs at a Ko Samet restaurant. It merits saying that I eat mostly street food and of my bad food experiences, restaurants (both abroad or at home) are more often culprits than street food. This was no exception.

10. Tonsillitis in the Philippines. My time in El Nido was a wondrous adventure, with air sirens to signify that nighttime curfew had arrived for the errant kids in town and a family of people who accepted me as their own. In the four months I spent there, I only got sick once and that was tonsillitis during a particularly rainy stretch as the seasons turned. I thought that it would go away on its own, but a week in (with no voice) it was worsening by the day and making me miserable. Going to the public doctor in my tiny Palawan town was itself an experience; by the time I left there were throngs of kids waiting for me outside, huge eyes and smiles.

11. Loss of 4 toenails and most of the skin on the backs of my heels in Lombok, Indonesia. I never owned a pair of flip flops until I moved to NYC in 2003, and even then I never wore them very much, mostly because I was at work all the time. So when I left on this trip and started wearing these flip flop things for a considerable amount of time (read: always), something happened – my feet expanded. My hiking boots, which fit me perfectly and I loved dearly, no longer fit. But seeing as how I was in Southeast Asia and not using them, I didn’t know this yet – until the day I started climbing the first of my birthday mountains. And by then it was too late. As a result, I lost several layers of skin at the backs of my feet, as well as several (ok, four) toenails. The tropical heat and humidity meant that my feet were starting to get septic, so I had to book a flight to Australia and visit friends in Adelaide during their wintertime. I’ll never forget being in a pharmacy in Mataram, Indonesia and having the woman behind the counter look at my toes and go “um….how?”. Nor the doctor in Adelaide, who took a look at the same feet and said “seriously lady, HOW DID YOU DO THIS?” An added bonus is that the trauma seems to have rejiggered my feet entirely, meaning new toenails now grow under my old ones and periodically push the old ones off. I have robot, regenerating toenails. A perpetual souvenir.

Mount Agung at dawn in Bali, Indonesia

Mount Agung at dawn in Bali, Indonesia. Not featured: 4 lost toenails

12. Food poisoning in Myitkyina, Burma. My friends, this was a doozy. Up in the far North of Burma to attend the Kachin State Fair, I had been eating street food with no issues all the way through Southeast Asia. Burma is known for having its share of street food nightmare stories, but thus far I was unscathed. Until I got a soup at the fair, at which point I was out of commission for a solid 48 hours of total ugliness. With only 1 place in town housing foreigners and a shared bathroom for the entire guesthouse’s bottom floor, I spent the night crouching and vomiting into a squat toilet, sick as a dog. To make matters worse, acoustics weren’t quite….private. So the next morning as I tottered out of my room, the Filipino guy whose room was unfortunately located next to the toilet turned and said “you vomited 6 times, eh? That sucks.” Classy.

13. Teargassed in Kok Wua intersection in Bangkok; lung inflammation from inhaling burnt tire smoke in Bangkok. Those of you following me on the Twitter last year around this time know that my stream was all Bangkok, all the time. And with good reason: photographing the protests and their devolution into a more violent set of events, experiencing the first shift when I got teargassed on April 10. That was also the first time I realized the social power of Twitter, since I tweeted the photo of the tear gas on the street and got widely retweeted by news organizations in Thailand. Living in the Din Daeng triangle, an area that became a flashpoint for the standoff between the government and the Red Shirts, I was also inhaling a good amount of burnt tire smoke. The end of my soi was barricaded with tires and bamboo, and my hospital visit in May was to try and figure out why my lungs were burning and I was coughing all the time. Prognosis: inhaling burnt tire smoke! Not something I thought I would add to this list.

14. Food poisoning from a yoghurt purchased at the 7-11 on Arak Soi 5 in Chiang Mai. Given that I eat street food for just about every meal, it has been funny to see the balance of probabilities land my food poisoning experiences squarely in the ‘restaurants or stores’ lap. I ate a yoghurt for breakfast from the 7-11 and by dinnertime I felt terrible. By midnight I felt worse. By 2pm when I was boarding a flight to Laos I was somewhat lucid again (after a night of toilet fun) but didn’t eat solid food until later that day. I shake my fist at this 7-11 when I walk by. Just so you know.

15. Falling off my motorbike down a ravine in Chiang Mai. Which brings me to what inspired this post, my latest predicament. The last night of Songkran, I was riding at the edge of the moat when a car moved toward my line. I accelerated, thinking I had room to pass him before he cut me off, but I was wrong. Off I went, down a ravine – for the 2nd time in Thailand, natch – and subsequently to the hospital. The Thai man tried to get me to pay for the damage to his car – of which there was absolutely none. And I couldn’t stand up, let alone walk. My roommate Shannon came to the rescue, taking me on her motorbike to the hospital for X-Rays. Nothing broken, and of course I was wearing a helmet, but my hip and back were a mess, a huge inky mess of black, red and blue reaching from rib to thigh.  More than frustrating, as I was about to leave Thailand and head to Jordan and for the next several weeks I was completely immobile, relying on Shannon to pick up food for me when she went to eat. It took a visit to a completely insane Taiwanese chiropractor (highlights involved wrapping a scarf around my neck and yanking me clear off the table, while my back cracked from top to bottom) and time for my back to heal. Happily, just before I left for Jordan I could finally walk again and the trip there was a lot less painful than expected.

* * *

My friend Bryce calls me a pitbull in a chihuahua’s body, and this litany of injuries certainly underscores my fallibility. Throughout it all, I’ve been fortunate enough to have great friends or fellow travelers to help me out, and have always been amazed at the kindness of strangers when things have gone awry.

Despite this list, I keep travelling. What remains at the end of the day isn’t a slew of mishaps (though I do joke about my toenails quite often), but rather all of the fun memories and stories and incredible food from my time on the road.  I wake up feeling grateful that I’ve built a life for myself that enables me to keep doing what I love, sickness, food poisoning and all.

UPDATE AS OF YEAR 5.75: So, it’s almost 6 years of travel — April 1st will be that anniversary, and really when I wrote this piece I had no idea that I would be continuing on for so long. I still do wake up feeling grateful, and happily there have been less falling off a cliff accidents after it was written. The update healthwise was an unfortunate combination dengue and, they think, chikungunya — you can read about that disaster here. Here’s to a year 6 that’s both healthy and exciting. Thanks for reading!

-Jodi

 

95 comments to Three Years of Sickness and Travel, By the Numbers

  1. You’re a walking disaster.

    I mean this endearingly.

    Also, I think you’re also a Terminator. Nothing else could keep going through that lot.

    While you’re obviously mentally tough as nails – were there points where you were ill that you found yourself seriously questioning what you were doing? Perhaps moments that affirmed your passion for travel – the fact that you were willing to push through the pain and misery for the sake of it?

    • Thank you Mike. I know you mean this endearingly, but believe me there have been plenty “whyyyy meeee” moments on the trip. I definitely found moments that I was confused why things kept happening to me, but to be perfectly honest, I never said ‘this isn’t something I ought to be doing.’ I rationalized it in part by saying that I’d had so many highs, so many incredible things, that it must even out and perhaps this is the way it evens out. It’s been a tough time every so often but as I said in the post, the highs inevitably won out.

      • Well, here’s the thing: why you? My answer – because you’re a born traveller and you can handle it.

        No, really. I’m not going to get all woo here (I think), but it’s a pattern: the most adventurous (and entertaining) travel writers seem to attract misadventure, and also seem to be the most able people to take it on the chin and keep going. It probably has a lot to do with the fact they willingly put themselves into adventurous situations enough for things to go wrong on a more adventurous scale, but still…it’s a pattern.

        And the folk who embrace it and accept it and channel it and ultimately *use* it….they rock.

        I therefore formally submit that you rock. ;)

  2. Holy crap!!! I thought the llama thing was bad but that’s nothing compared to the rest of your adventures! I have horrible ankles and been to hospital twice for injuries. I just about puke when I see someone spraining their ankle. That one was more gross than all the rest.

    Jodi, I like you but a lot but in case the opportunity ever came – I no longer will consider traveling with you. :) Granted, if these bad things only happen to you and the rest of us are safe, then maybe!

    • It’s strange to me that some of these comments say people won’t travel with me – no one ELSE has this stuff happen to them, just me :) Other than the collateral damage from birdcrap, it’s really only me who gets these crazy injuries. You can ask Shannon, who lived with me for several months and travelled with me through Jordan – she got out unscathed.

  3. I love this post, and since I have acquired a similarly amusing list of injuries and illnesses (flesh-eating bacteria, anyone?) through both travel and my other unusual hobbies, it has inspired me to one day write a similar post!

  4. Wow! With that tally of assorted sickness and injuries on top of all the bird crappings, most other people would have given up and gone home long ago. Not you though, Jodi. Inspirational.

    • Thanks James. Never occurred to me to throw in the towel, though as I said to Mike below, I DID have a few foot-stomping temper tantrums about why this keeps happening to me and not other people. Still, it’s the good that stands out.

  5. I knew about almost all of these except for the tonsillitis. Of course our parents love me more, so had my tonsils removed in grade four so that this wouldn’t happen to me. If only they loved you that much…

  6. Wow, and I thought I got myself into trouble while traveling. In fact, I pride myself on it, but I have nothing on you.

    I agree with Mike. You are a very endearing walking disaster.

    • Ha, well I don’t make this a matter of pride, but it’s certainly something that got to be unwieldly over the years. And since I write a lot about the food and the fun, I figured it was high time I shared the other parts, because it wasn’t easy all the time, and wasn’t always fun. And don’t even get me started on the birdcrap….

  7. Oh. My. Goodness. It’s a miracle you’re still alive. :-)

  8. Wow you have had a real stream of bad luck! I have somehow managed to avoid getting sick or getting any injuries while travelling. Hoping I’m not jinxing myself. Off to Thailand and Laos soon, if I don’t get food poisoning or something else then I’m going to proclaim myself as superhuman ;)

  9. Interesting post. Not one I would share with someone just ready to start a RTW trip, but still interesting.

    With all the problems you’ve run into, my guess is you have used up all your bad karma and nothing will ever go wrong again. Right?

    • I think it’s realistic. Everyone wants to know if you get sick or get hurt, and this is what happened to me. I wasn’t trying to hide it prior, but ultimately the takeaway would and should be that I’m still travelling and it’s still been great, despite these injuries. And that’s the most important nut graph of all, because it isn’t about each of these absurd stories, but rather that overall you survive even when things go awry. And then, 3 years later, you write about them and your friends tell you that you are crazy for not having come home when you were sick :)

  10. Yikes. Having had my fair share of bizarre ailments, injuries, bites and food-related issues over the last 18 months that once saw me delirious with fever in a hostel dorm in Mongolia with roommates discussing whether I could be dead, landed me in hospitals in Jordan and China and most recently involved a course of antibiotics in Guatemala I can most definitely sympathise.

    When you’re travelling alone getting sick can be some of the most miserable and loneliest times you’ll ever have on the road and more power to you for keeping on keeping on :)

    • Wow, Megan – sounds like we’ve got some stories to share with each other! I’m sorry to hear you’ve had your share of sickness and food issues too, but given your other comments on my posts it sounds like you’re still intent on traveling as well. Kudos and glad to hear you made it through each of these crazy mishaps!

  11. You’re a much stronger person than I am, Jodi.

  12. Yay someone who has more ill luck with motorbikes and getting sick on the road than me … oh sorry I mean I hope the next three years bring you better health!

    Unlike your other replies, I will happily travel with you if the occasion ever arrive in the hope that your bad luck in health and injuries will deflect mine!

    • Ha! Well, as I said in the other comments Shannon can attest to it being a silo’d occurrence: no damage-by-proxy issues for her. Glad to hear (I mean, sorry to hear) you’ve got your share of disaster stories. We should all start a club.

      • A club is a great idea. It would be fun to find a travel insurance company willing to cover our annual meetings! Lets not hold them in Northern Thailand on bikes shall we? You’ll be the one down the cliff, I’ll be that’s accelerated into the nearest tree due to my fatal flaw of tightening my grip on the throttle when scared!

  13. Seeing it all laid out like that is wacky–you really do have an inordinate number and variety here Khun Joodi, well done! It does keep travel more interesting ;-)

    • I remember sitting across from you at the table in Chiang Mai when I started to write this and saying “wow, um – I really had a lot of weird things go wrong”. It definitely keeps travel more interesting, and god knows I’ve got one arsenal of stories at my disposal ;)

  14. Such amazing adventures, Jodi. I don’t wish you any future illness or injuries, but it sure makes for great storytelling. Stay safe out there.

  15. Great advices, but I hope you won’t scare people from long-term travel… Please, let me say that I have travelled for 8 months in Asia with my husband and 2 young children, and I’m the only one who got seriously sick with food poisoning, for only one day, in China. My daughters had only one episode each of mild diarrhea. They did not even catch a cold! We had to take the youngest one twice to the hospital for stitches, once on the chin and once on the forehead. So nothing more serious than a year at home, when schools had bouts of H1N1 flu, gastro and headlices…

    • Salut Isabelle! I hope it doesn’t scare anyone off. I think it’s a portrait of what I went through – but in 3 1/2 years, which is a long time. And several of the things on this list were definitely assumption of risk issues – I chose to stay in Bangkok during the protests and chose to drive my own motorbike where others might not. Still, I’m pretty cheerful about the whole thing. Yes, it was some tough times but I have some incredible memories around them and in the end, I’m still here and in 1 piece :) Hi to Marco and the girls for me!

      • Yes, we certainly would not have gone with the children to the same places you went, right in the hearth of the action, during the Bangkok protests! It shows that you are made of the right material, being able to bounce back and keep on traveling despite all those bad lucks… Cheers! Everybody here also says hello!

  16. nice list! Except for one thing. The thing that shall not be named. I can’t help but think that the llama karma is also related to the bird craps. If we traveled together the results could be catastrophic. No moto accidents for me, or teargas or torn tendons or biotic toe nails. But I share your misery on the GI front, amoebic dysentery being the worst for me, and I’ve now had malaria twice. Last summer, I tore open my leg after falling into an open sewer in Accra. Maybe we actually need to travel together, because the misfortune will cancel out. What do you think?

  17. Wow. I think you should invest in some sort of full body armor (at the very least, a hemlet!), and maybe hire someone to test your food before you eat it! :)

    I’m not sure I’d have the gumption to keep going after all that. Except the robot toe-nails. That’s kinda cool.

  18. Oh my. I’m a little dumbfounded. And also beyond inspired and comforted to know the joys of traveling outweigh the discomforts. Bravo for healing and keeping at it on the road!

  19. All I can say is WOW! This is truly an amazing list! You could write a book just about the ailments and injuries you have had during your travels. I don’t know if I would have it in me to keep on going.

    • It’s true – I often joke that if I write a book it should be called “Getting Sick Around the World: Misadventures in Solo Travel” ;) I’m sure you would have kept going if you also had as many wonderful and wondrous experiences to balance out the sickness and the birdcrap.

  20. Two words: holy crap. But I bet you’re one of those people that still looks adorable while vomiting…

  21. WOW! I seriously can’t understand how you can keep going! I only have my one worse-than-usual experience with food poisoning (that my husband loves to tell at parties) that happened a few days after moving to Bishkek. We had to call the only English speaker we knew at 4am (a 22-year-old student, now one of my best friends but a complete stranger at the time)and ask her to call an ambulance for me, a sweaty Kyrgyz doctor showed up, yanked my shorts down and stuck a needle in my butt. The whole ordeal cost about $8 and a bit of my dignity.
    Is the allergy confined to Mongolia? Or does it ban you from ever coming to Kyrgyzstan as well? It’s lovely in the summer and I can tell you which restaurants to avoid! (or else my Russian is good enough to call an ambulance for you at 4am)

    • She DID say that the allergy (to wormwood and goosefoot and down) would go away once my immune system, so battered by the antibiotics, got stronger. And she was right – these don’t cause issues (other than the down, sometimes). My ear hasn’t fully been the same since – when I get a cold it starts to swell shut again. That said, I’d totally go to Kyrgyzstan, allergies or otherwise – central Asia is high on the list and I’d absolutely love you as a guide! (Also? No needles in the butt yet – let’s try and keep it that way, m’kay?)

  22. Jesus! How is it that you’re still alive? Wow, I’ve had my share of sickness and nasty accidents (like falling off of a Maya pyramid and cutting open my knee… I could see my patella!), but you definitely take the prize! I agree with your friend, you are a pitbull in a chihuahua’s body.

    In the end, it’s all those stories (and more) that make our travel experiences unique, memorable, and fun (if we do survive them).

    • It’s true – these do make for some ridiculous stories but as I said in the post – they ALSO make for some great ways to have faith in humanity because in each of these situations, the kindness of strangers and friends has been extremely heartwarming. Great to see you on Tues!

  23. And I thought I was clumsy!!! Haha, in all honesty it’s pretty shitty that this stuff all happened to you but then again you have been on the road for a while and it’s kind of inevitable that you would get sick no matter where you were in the world. At least it was doing something you love!

    Reading this made it sound like you have been solidly sick or immobile for the entire time you’ve been on the road but considering how long you have actually been traveling I guess you are doing pretty well!

    I had approximately 12 semi-serious injuries/situations in just 3 weeks in Spain and Portugal so I don’t even what to know what I have coming to me!

    • I think that’s true – in 3.5 years, this isn’t so bad. Is it? Is it? ;) You need to make your own list and as I said below we’ll start a club. OR we can submit them to Phil’s Sick on the Road site that he’s been building. Clumsy women, FTW!

  24. Whew. Being sick on the road is no fun – I do think I am near world record holder for in flight, trans-oceanic flu incubators. Blech.

    (BTW, you’ve taken photo captions to a new level. Well played, well played.)

  25. Wow, Jodi! I would never have thought that someone so tiny could get so violently ill so often! I hope you haven’t had any more major issues lately. But it’s awesome that you haven’t let the mishaps stop you from traveling. You rock!

  26. I am really sorry you fell off your bike next to the cliff; that sounds bizarrely dangerous. Am glad you are ok

  27. I am sitting in my hostel in Istanbul battling my own case of food poisioning :( With all these mishaps I was wondering what our thoughts on travelers Insurance is? Do you buy it? If so does it come in handy?

  28. I COMPLETELY identified with this list and felt like I was reading my own story.

    Unfortunately, I’m the recipient of a muffler searing skin accident and have this lightning bolt formation that wraps around my entire right calf from a scooter accident in the Phillipines.

    The way I see it though- these injuries are way cheaper than any souvenir!

    • I actually got my own Philippine tattoo (aka muffler burn) myself, but I didn’t include it because it has mostly faded, 3 years later. Yes, injuries are cheaper than souvenirs ;) And more durable too!

  29. Wow. Just wow. All I can say is that if you’re still loving travelling as much as ever after all this then it can only be a good thing!

  30. You know the law of averages? For instance, two people out of ten get seriously ill or injured while traveling overseas (I just made that up). With everything that’s happened to you, I figure you’ve got me covered for the next ten years. I wouldn’t wish what you’ve been through on my worst enemy and am very glad you survived it all and are still with us.

  31. Were you always this prone to injury and illness before you began travelling?

  32. I would just like to go on record saying, “I am a weenie.” And that is all. If 1/8 of those things had happened to me, I’d be back home. My home may be Latin America, and it may have some teargas in it, but no motorcycles ever fall atop me. It takes on a whole new meaning when I say to you, “travel safe!”

  33. Wow, seems like you’ve had your fair share of sickness on the road..!!

    Now is a good time to think “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, so now you can probably handle getting sick better than most people :)

  34. This reminds me of a post I’ve been meaning to write. I’ve only had one major illness abroad… a serious immune system breakdown in Southeast Asia that lead to nail fungus (oh yes, I lost nails as well) and a debilitating eye infection that left the top cornea specialists in NYC scratching their heads and a year later led to major eye and eyelid surgery!

    And guess what? I’m headed back in less than a week!

    • Yikes! That nail fungus sounds nasty. Well, I do feel a bit better now – thank you for sharing ;) I’m with you: none of this stuff would keep me away from travel. Has the eye healed? What was the infection, in the end?

  35. You sound as accident prone as my kids! Between them we’ve ended up having a shattered finger (reconstructive surgery) a sliced open foot (stitches), scarlet fever (IV antibiotics), two falls head first off a bike with concussions, a broken nose … etc etc etc … in 18 months!

  36. Hello Jodi, Reading your story of adventure makes me wonder what life would have look like without those near mishaps. I think these things is what makes us appreciate life more and pushes us to go farther than we have gone. You are a wonderful person. keep traveling!

  37. In 4 (cumulative) years of world travel to over 40 countries, I’ve never rented a moped/motorcycle out of fear of becoming one of the many tourists I’ve seen with bandages and broken bones from falling or getting into other accidents. I know I’m missing some cool experiences by not riding on them, but your post makes me feel good about my decision :)

    Some advice to everyone: Become a vegetarian while you travel. In all of my travels, including 3 months in India and most of the other time being in developing countries, I’ve only gotten 1 small bout of food poisoning. And I eat street food all the time and am not terribly careful about water (I drink bottled water but brush my teeth with tap water and eat produce washed in tap water.) Giving up meat helps your body, the environment and all the cute animals where you’re traveling.

    • Thanks for reading Margot! I used to be vegetarian (for many years) but I doubt I’d give up meat again. So much of travel for me has to do with food, and much of it meat-related. The roasted duck and crispy pork and braised chicken of Asia are necessary parts of my experiences, and the only meat-related food poisoning was the llama….which is something I don’t plan on eating again. That said, for those who are vegetarian there are plenty of delicious eats on offer in almost every place I’ve been.

  38. whoaa! I do attract a lot of misadventures too but that’s because I wasn’t pre-planning but never had sickness (thank God!) like all the ones you listed here, perhaps because I haven’t traveled as much as you have. You’re one brave girl, keep walking! and take care on your travels! :)

  39. I thought I was the only one with the getting-to0-excited-about-the-trip sickness. This post is such an inspiration, there are times that I have cancelled trips because of some illness, after reading this no sickness shall stop me now from making a great trip.

  40. I guess it had not really occurred to me that getting sick is an aspect of long term travelling. It was really interesting to hear what you had to manage through. Wow…what a list. What I thought was so great was what you said at the end about continuing to travel even though you have had your fair share of illnesses. I think it is so easy to get all caught up in the “bad” that we overlook all of the great things we have experienced. If we look at things from the right perspective, the good always overshadows any challenges or obstacles that came our way. Really great post and I laughed when you mentioned that some people get confused when you are introduced as a long term traveler and writer. I know I have definitely gotten some raised eyebrows when I mention I am no longer practicing law and instead focusing on my writing. Glad to hear I am not the only one;)

    • Thank you Sibyl. I love when you comment on my posts (here or on your site) because you always take away the exact nut graph I hope people are taking away! :) It’s exactly that: despite this list, I’m still excited to travel and happy to risk more sickness because it’s worth it, very much so. On the lawyer note: would you be interested in doing one of my Thrillable Hours interviews?

  41. This post could be called Disaster Nomad! Props to you because you seem built tough. Songkran in Chiang Mai is on my list, I heard it’s the best place in Thailand to celebrate. Would you agree?
    I want to go to Bolivia just so I can take photos at Salar de Uyuni. =)

  42. Gosh, I’m glad I read this. I thought I was the only one to get so sick so many times while traveling. I do believe you’ve got me beat. But I’ve only been injured once in the past 15 months, when my feet flew out from under me while hiking a deserted mountain alone and I fell very literally on my face, smashing it into a pile of rocks, then had to pick myself up and hike back home. Despite that fun, you’ve been injured more than I have too, so it’s a good thing this is not a contest – you would win :)

  43. Wow – that’s all I have to say. Very determined and brave of you to keep traveling and not be discourages after so many injuries and instances of food poisoning!

  44. I love this post! In the next few years I plan to take off on a RTW, and my biggest fear is getting sick or hurt somewhere. Considering how you survived falling off a cliff on a motorbike (twice), and all the food related illnesses, I feel pretty confident in my odds of survival now :] Also, very interesting that the safest places to eat seem to be the street vendors! I would have never figured that..

    So far loving your blog all around, and adding it to my favorites!

    • Yes yes! You’ll survive just fine. People often think that street eats are the places that will get them the most sick but even books on travel and sickness will tell you that it’s quite the opposite. The turnover is often so quick that the food is most fresh. There are exceptions, of course – if meat is rotten, it’s rotten – but chances are the wisdom of the masses won’t lead you astray. Safe travels to you, and thank you for the comment!

  45. Wow – your list is quite impressive! I am glad to say, that while I have also experienced some crazy ailments while travelling, your list leaves mine a little paltry! My worst – being mugged in Chile, and as a result of said mugging, being hit by a bus!! Experience in hospital was interesting to say the least. My spanish was weak, but my french helped me to understand the doctor in emerg who laughed at me for travelling solo as a female! Your nasty toe story actually interests me a lot – I seem to have developed a similar situation with one toe – my new toenail just pushing my older one off! This is the first fairly spontaneous exit of a toenail in what has been a problem toe for a while now!!! Guess that 2 -3 hour hike on the weekend was the catalyst! Interesting.

  46. OK. I’m clearly late to the game, but I have to say I’m impressed. AFAIK I’ve never had food poisoning, but I do know that a squat toilet isn’t where I’d want it. And the motorbike stories are a little crazy.

    But all in all – good on ya for persevering! And now I’ll head back to the rest of your site to find more Iceland. My destination for next July!

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