As I write this, I'm about a month into travelling solo and lo and behold, I've managed to pick up some illness. I was waiting for this time to come, I knew it would strike me down at some point, I had just expected it would be an upset tummy that kept me chained to the toilet rather than a cold! Can you believe it? I'm halfway round the world in tropical heat and in suffering from a cold that would strike me down in the middle of winter at home - all thanks to the air conditioning spreading those germs around while we sleep at night. So I've spent a day in bed feeling lousy, watching Netflix and generally feeling sorry for myself - I rarely let myself do this at home and just plough through when I'm ill, but here I know it's my body's way of saying it's tired and needs to rest.
So being ill sucks. It sucks no matter where you are, but we know it's always a lot better when you're at home with your mum or partner to look after you and give you snuggles, feed you chicken soup or ice cream, and to change the TV channel for you when you get bored of Charmed reruns. Being a solo traveller, you get none of that, it's all down to you, and this is when it really gets hard and you can often feel at your loneliest during your travels. This is when it shows what kind of person you really are, whether you're going to wallow and mope, or take care of it all and cope.
Top tips for coping when you're ill as a solo traveller:
- Sharing a dorm when you're poorly is never fun, either you're the annoying person up all night to the loo or you're the one sniffing and blowing their nose loudly. Often, if you can afford it, now is the time to plump for a private room or even a hotel, having a little extra home comfort will also help make you feel a bit better.
- As soon as you start to feel ill, stock up on all the essentials like water, toilet roll/tissues, any paracetamol, cold and flu capsules, other medications, rehydration tablets, simple foods that will last a few days and fruit for vitamin c, an extra layer of clothing, or a fan for when you get the hot/cold sweats, make sure you have plenty of entertainment like Netflix or downloaded films.
- Don't feel guilty about taking a few days to stop the city exploring, beach days etc - this is your body's way of telling you to slow down and catch up on sleep, relax, so take advantage of a movie marathon and remember the temples have been there for thousands of years and will still be there in a few days.
- For another of those home comforts, contact home! Call or Skype your mum and dad so they can feel sorry for you, FaceTime your boyfriend and get lots of sympathy. Just speaking to your loved ones can make you feel heaps better when you've been wallowing and feeling alone, use the time to catch up with people and you'll feel better for it.
- Now is a great time to use those friendships you've made, ask your mates to pop out and get you supplies, I'm sure they'll be more than happy to as they hope someone would do the same if they were poorly. Us solo travellers are a friendly bunch and we like to look out for each other, don't be afraid to ask.
- Remember the little things - it's so easy when you're travelling alone to just lay in bed and feel awful. I know I'm guilty of knowing exactly what would make me feel better and yet not bothering to actually do it. I'm talking about things like forcing yourself to eat so you have some energy, taking a shower t wake yourself up. Do these things and you will feel so much better, with no one else around to motivate you, you have to be your own cheerleader.
- Really relish that first morning when you open your eyes and realise you feel back to normal - it's such a good feeling (one I am awaiting at the moment). It will happen even though it feels like it never will, most illnesses only seem to last 24 hours, or a week with three bad days and a few recovery ones. If you follow these instructions, they will be as bearable as possible!
- And after the illness fades, you better get back out there and start making up for lost time! There are places to see, things to eat, stuff to do, and it's all waiting for you. So go for it, kick some ass and feel fabulous.
Have you been ill while abroad - how did you cope? Any other suggestions for how solo travellers can cope when they're feeling poorly?