The Travel Disaster that Strikes Everyone…

It’s an inescapable occurrence that will hit you for a home run.

The recipe is easy; you take your mouth for a hot spin, add a pinch of wasabi, a dab of masala, a sprinkle of peppers, dirty hands optional and a cup of foreign water and boom!

You find yourself in a dilemma!

It strikes in full force – Nagasaki-fashion – fatigue sets and you pray for better days.

It’s a diarrhoea dilemma; commonly known as Traveller’s Diarrhoea, Delhi Belly or the Turkey Trots. In Mexico they say it’s the Aztec Curse or Montezuma’s Revenge, Indonesia got Bali Belly and in Egypt it’s the Gippy Tummy, the Cairo Two-step, Pharaoh’s Revenge or Mummy Tummy.

Quite colourful, quite colloquial.

But wait there is more.

There is the Bangkok Bloat, the Dakar Dash, the Rangoon Runs and the Hong Kong Dog.

And a few months ago I learnt about the Sri Lankan Stomach Storm.

It’s real.

You can be a seasoned traveller, wash your hands vigorously, drink only bottled water and abstain from fresh produce but when it happens it comes in all shapes and sizes… even if everything was declared okay by the department of sanitation you have no guarantee that a stubborn chili won’t all of the sudden decide to go against humanity and murder your insides one curry at a time.

Heck. Don’t blame a fancy prognosis like food poisoning, even your nerves can be two-faced and make a contribution before the bomb drops.

The Sri Lankan Stomach Storm hit me in small regular intervals; slide to the left, slide to the right, take it back now y’all, one hop this time… cha cha real smooth.

Like a theme song it accompanied my curry hurry.

Hands on your knees, hands on your knees.
How low can you go.
All the way to the floor.
One deviled sweet and sour fish curry, please!
Oh hell.
Can you bring it to the top?
Like you never never stop?

Asking for anything deviled in Sri Lanka is really unnecessary; it is uncalled for my thunderstorm stomach moaned.

When in Rome, eat pizza.

When in Sri Lanka, cut the crap and freeze your toilet paper.

After three weeks of curry and a whole lot of spice, normal bowel movements earned a spot on my Christmas wish list.

Traveller’s diarrhoea is one the of the most common occurrences anyone will encounter on a trip; whether you are going away – abroad or local – for a short break or a long trip, eating a lot of hot food that your body is not used to or even if are just eating something stranger than usual at a restaurant in your town. Sh*t happens and while the business of porcelain trading might not be up everyone’s ally of hot seat conversations, there should be nothing hush-hush about diarrhoea.

Sh*t happens.

Even to the queen.

Unthinkable but true.

A lot of travel tips suggest that you avoid street food at all costs and that you do not eat uncooked veggies or fruit.

No. Don’t listen to that. Trust me, I’m not a doctor.

If you are skipping fresh fruits and vegetables you might not get diarrhoea (I said might) but assuming that you’ll stock up on everything Tim Noakes warned you about you better be ready for a massive drain blockage.

And avoiding street food is like avoiding the view when you visit the top of Table Mountain.

Here are a few tips on how to deal with the splatter matter:

  • Packing Check List: Immodium / Lomotil or whatever you want to call it, pack a pack of Loperamide.
  • For long term travel, have something like yoghurt, lassi or curd every day or so to help with your digestive system’s resistance.
  • Listen to your mother: wash your hands.
  • Hand sanitizer vs soap that’s been used over and over again by a gazillion of people? You choose.
  • The tap water might not be safe for consumption or your belly might just not be used to it; buy bottled water and refill the bottle wherever you can to avoid using too much plastic.
  • Never trust a fart if you are in a public space.
  • If you are in the middle of it… don’t dehydrate, drink water.
  • If you are in the middle of it… don’t venture too far away from a toilet.
  • If you are in the middle of it… make sure you have enough toilet paper.
  • Get your electrolytes.
  • If – after a few days – nothing is staying in and all is going out, maybe it is time to seek some medical help. Watery? Fine. Vomiting? Okay. Bloody? Doctor.
  • It’s okay if you are drinking Loperamide for a runny tummy, but a stop-the-poop pill is not the best solution when your body is fighting to get all that sh*t out. Pop a pill wisely.
  • Everything shall pass, be patient.

Like I said, trust me, I’m not a doctor. Happy travelling, happy pooping, take everything with a pinch of chili and run to the nearest toilet.

(I should really stop writing about bowel movements and toilets but it comes so naturally…)

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Travel disaster

This piece was first written for Traveller24.

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