Getting Sick when Travelling


June 2018.

I had to concentrate on breathing. Just focus on the in breath, then the out. My head was pounding. I lay on my single bed, sealed in my single room on the 1st floor of an old dame of a hotel in Bari, Italy. I knew nobody in Bari. There was no-one I could call who could get to me. If I called anyone it would have to be an ambulance. I didn’t know what number I would call to get an ambulance. I couldn’t have asked for what I needed from them anyway,  any fragments of Italian I knew erased with feeling so wretched. I was having some sort of allergic reaction to something in my Kebab. It was from the Mediterranean takeaways in the piazza by the station. I’d eaten there the previous two nights. As I had chatted with the Turkish guy about the rugby and cricket players he knew of in New Zealand I had no idea that in about half an hour I would be struggling to breathe. What I did have on me were antihistamines. I had brought them for a completely different reason.

alone sick in bed

May 2017.

I was mortified. I dragged my sleeves down to make sure my arms and hands were covered. I was in Santiago Cathedral in Galicia, Spain. The service was underway. A woman tottered away from her pew heading for the door. She covered her mouth with her handkerchief as she walked then suddenly it came. The vomit seeped from around her handkerchief and formed a small puddle on the floor. She was clearly mortified too. I looked back to the service as she was enclosed within her people. Looked after, enfolded, cared for. At least I wasn’t vomiting I thought. I just had bedbugs. Back at my hotel, I stripped by the door then put all the clothing into a plastic bag. I showered then went to bed naked. I didn’t want to risk infecting the bed. The next morning still covered in itchy welts from neck to toes I binned the majority of my clothes. I dressed in hot, hot-washed clean clothes and flew out. It wasn’t till I got home the Doctor told me I did not have bedbugs. I had urticaria. An allergic response to bizarre triggers which for me now, following my camino, was to walking outside in the rain.  It has since developed further. I now get it from swimming in the sea. My favorite thing to do in the world. The Doctor tells me I should now carry an epi-pen. At the time she just prescribed a long course of antihistamines. It turned out that by carrying them on me for urticaria, they probably saved my life the following year in Bari.


There has been sprained ankles, ectopic heart rhythms, migraines. I’m sure everyone has their stories of the ailments that befall them while travelling. I think the lesson for me as a solo traveler is to get a bit more savvy about what I should do in the event of a health concern.



3 thoughts on “Getting Sick when Travelling

  1. Wow, you’ve gone through some very serious stuff. You’re right that when you’re traveling alone, it’s different. You have to be clear-headed no matter how bad you feel and you can’t wait until you can’t pick up the phone or drag yourself to the nearest pharmacy to get help. And the thing is that people will help you when they see there’s something wrong. You just have to ask, which is of course easier said than done. That’s rough, not being able to go swimming, though, but I can understand hiking in the rain bringing it on as I have a strong aversion to cold, wet feet, and I can’t even imagine doing that camino. Keep safe!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I seem to have this ridiculous need to be very private when I am unwell, almost a shame. I hide it well. I think we all want to appear robust and healthy. But you are quite right. I need to get over myself. Oh and I do still go swimming, I just take an antihistamine. And really, most of the time I’m tickety boo. 🙃

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, I think that’s completely normal, an instinct really, to hide a weakness. That’s when your caveman neighbor hits you over the head and takes your food. I think there are still the cavemen out there but they’re hitting us over the head the rest of the time. Glad you’re swimming and hopefully you’ll be able to ween yourself from the antihistamine soon.

        Liked by 1 person

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