Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Travel Bug

There's also a third travel bug type.
The kind you can eat!
Kampong Cham, Cambodia - July 2012

Getting the travel bug can be good or bad, and it may surprise you that no matter how many times I get the bad travel bugs, I never seem to lose the good travel bug.  The "good" travel bug is, of course, a passion for travel, and the "bad" travel bug comes as an unpleasant surprise when you get sick abroad.  Though I try, it can be difficult to avoid the bad travel bugs...like icky stuff in the water, and any other random illness which strikes you while you're abroad.

PART I: Depending where you are, avoiding the water can take quite a bit of effort.

CATEGORY 1: Stay away from the water!!

In places where the residents cannot even drink their own water, avoiding it is simple.  For example, in Marrakech, even our tour guide didn't drink the water.  He explained to us that it's common to drink hot tea all day because it's boiled, thus eliminating the dangers of the water.  In Marrakech, bottled water is sold cheaply everywhere because everyone needs it.

Mint Tea in Marrakech
There are some places, where simply brushing your teeth with tap water will make you sick.  Unfortunately for me, a person who is accustomed to brushing my teeth the exact same way every morning and evening of every single day, it's really easy to carelessly use this water.  FYI: If you're going to Guatemala, don't brush your teeth with the water.  It won't go well.

Belize is another place where you really don't want to drink the water.  You also don't want to eat pasta with a water based sauce that may not have been boiled all the way.  It will go very, very badly.  I won't elaborate on that.  In these "category 1" places, you need to watch out for any food that has been rinsed in water or is water based.  Basically, if you don't know how it was prepared, it's best to avoid it and choose something else to eat.  Trust me, you'll be happier later.

CATEGORY 2: Well... it won't kill you.

In places where the residents are perfectly accustomed to their water, but you, being from elsewhere, are not, avoiding the water becomes much more complicated.  While you won't die from the water, you might get sick, and getting sick will definitely put a damper on your trip.  Eight years ago, I was warned not to drink the water in Italy for this reason.  It wouldn't kill me, but it would probably make me sick.  This year, when I went back, I wasn't sure about the water, but really didn't want to take any chances.

In these "intermediate" places, avoiding glasses of water is easy because they're obvious glasses of water.  But if the people there are used to their own water, they will serve you drinks with ice cubes, washed fruit, rinsed pasta, wet vegetables and salad, and ice cream...made with ice.  You have to be a little paranoid if you really want to avoid all of this.  To this day, I have no idea what's up with the water in Italy.  I didn't drink it, but I ate a ton of gelato, which I assume is made with ice, and didn't get sick.

CATEGORY 3: But, it's gross!

In yet a third category of places, the water is perfectly safe, but it tastes so bad that once you take a gulp, you get a little nervous.  I am used to very clean, high quality water from the Great Lakes, so I'm picky about how my water tastes.  Last October in Valencia, a city in the eastern part of Spain, I was pretty dehydrated after being out in the sun all day.  Back at the hostel, I got a glass of water, took a few sips, and thought to myself, "Oh...this could be bad."  It was fine though.

Glass of Horchata - Valencia
Another place which falls under this category is Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, specifically at OSRUI.  Their water tastes terrible because it's well water and smells like sulfur.  Somehow, people like my sister decide that the water is one of the endearing qualities of OSRUI, and they actually look forward to it.  I definitely missed the boat on that one.  In fact, I remember bringing entire cases of bottled water hidden in my bags when I went to camp there.

A third place where the water tastes kind of funny is one of my favorite travel destinations: London.  There's nothing at all wrong with the water; in fact, it is perfectly fine for you to drink.  It just apparently undergoes different treatments than the water to which I am accustomed, resulting in a slightly jarring flavor to my taste buds.

PART II: Speaking figuratively instead of literally, "catching the travel bug" has the opposite meaning as getting sick abroad.  This type of good travel bug, in my personal experience, means the more trips you take the more trips you want to take.  The more cities you experience, the more you cities you add to your travel bucket list.  The more delicious Swiss chocolate you consume, the more chocolate tours around the world you want to attend.

My first trip abroad was a tour of Italy with my high school's orchestra.  Perhaps back in 2004, you could argue that I was still young to travel and really enjoyed hanging out with my friends and eating gelato equally as much as seeing Michelangelo's ceiling in the Sistine Chapel.  Still, I knew I wanted to come back before I even left.  I saw a different lifestyle, seriously old artifacts and art, and that people on the other side of the world weren't all that different from me, and I was intrigued.

Dining in Taipei - Summer 2012
In 2005, my grandparents, who began to travel extensively during my lifetime, brought me with them to Belize and Costa Rica, thus encouraging my sense of adventure.  Over the following years, I have really enjoyed comparing travel notes with them.  Last year in Madrid, I would often call them on Skype before booking a trip to ask if they had been there, if they liked it, and what I should go see.  Following my year working abroad in Madrid, they brought me with on their trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Taiwan.

On the Sound of Music Tour by the Austrian Alps - Dec. 2009
In Madrid, when I studied abroad in 2009, I met a fantastic bunch of travel buddies with whom I would go just about anywhere (left and below).  We're always loosely planning a travel reunion somewhere new and exciting.  Hopefully one day all our schedules will line up again and we'll meet up again in Paris or something.

Fiesta de fin de curso - Dec. 2009 in Madrid

1 comment:

  1. The best water I've ever tasted was in the Swiss alps. There was also another type of fresh water you could drink from the wells around the area which was naturally sparkling and really healthy for you!