Nobody likes getting sick – that’s a major understatement! Your throat hurts so you can’t eat. Then you’re exhausted and nauseous because you haven’t eaten anything. You can’t sleep because you keep coughing, and then you’re super emotional because you’re so tired. It’s not a fun place to be in. Yes, there are meds, but they don’t make you instantly all better again. Usually you just need to rest, sleep lots, drink fluids, and pretty much just chill until you feel better. It also helps if you have a friend, significant other, or parent to help take care of things like cleaning, laundry, and cooking while you’re out of commission. But when you’re travelling or living in a new place, being sick can feel like the end of the world!
Some of my worst moments abroad have been when I’m sick. All of a sudden I hate everything, and I just want to go home. I’m no longer my lovely, flexible, go-with-the-flow self. I’m grumpy, and I want what I know from home, and I hate everything different about the new culture. It’s definitely not something I’m proud of, but I think it’s normal. When you’re sick, every little thing seems like a giant obstacle. It’s even harder because you don’t have a social network or anyone to lean on in your new city. You don’t know what to eat or what will make you feel better, so you lie in your bed and feel sorry for yourself. After getting better you realize that nothing was really such a big deal after all…
Here’s an excerpt from my latest blog about Getting Sick While Abroad:
Living in another country is like a roller-coaster of emotions. Sometimes you feel great: you love your job, enjoy all the food, and you’re fitting in with the local community. Sometimes you feel lousy: the traffic is loud, you hate your new roommates, and you’re having a hard time making friends. However, the hardest thing for me while living abroad is getting sick.
I’m sitting on the ground of my room, crying in the dark. I call my mom on Skype. “What’s wrong?” she asks. “Everything!” I pout. “I ‘m sick, so I made soup. It was my last package, but I made it on the gas stove in the dark because the power is out. My roommate moved out and I don’t have any friends. When I finished the soup, I tried to grab something and the soup spilled all over me, burning my arm, so I dropped it. Now there’s soup all over the floor, mixed with pieces of broken glass! It’s so hard to clean up because it’s dark and I don’t have enough water… But if I don’t clean it up then the hundreds of ants will come back. I’m tired, and I’m sick, and I’m hungry – so here I am, crying on the floor.”
Being sick makes everything worse! Each little thing individually is fine – I’m flexible, I can handle it. I know how to wash food off the floor. I can read for hours by candle-light if necessary. I’m not that sad about breaking a cheap bowl, I can live without it. But when you’re sick, everything just comes together to make a super-storm of negativity. Everything physical seems harder because you’re in pain. Anything emotional seems super intense because you’re exhausted. You don’t want to be social because showering and smiling seems like a lot of work, but then you feel lonely. EVERYTHING SUCKS! But you’re sick – so what do you do?
If you want to read the rest of the blog post, including some tips for what to do before you get sick abroad, check out my latest blog on Expat Coffee Club: