Getting a Cold While Traveling

Preparedness is a traveller’s best friend. I am constantly thinking about what would happen if my bag doesn’t make it, if my wallet is stolen, if I forget something from back from home; all common anxieties of a prepared traveller. One thing that has slipped my mind over the years: getting sick. On my last trip to Europe, six days in, that happened. I’m not talking about a serious illness where you need to seek medical attention, just a bad cold. Honestly, it was my fault. Hank and I were in Budapest at the time and it was cold. A cold augmented by being close to the water you felt ever-present moisture in the air. But, it was New Years Eve and we wanted to stay out until the clock struck 12 – so we did. We also happened to get about 40,000 steps while walking over 15 miles through the city. The combination of being outside for so long, the cold weather, staying out late and waking up early, proved very costly.

New Years Day I woke up not feeling great but as the day went on, it progressively got worse. The worse it got, the easier we took it. I ate some traditional goulash soup, and we had a relatively early night. I think this is one of the biggest things we had to realize: Even though you are on this amazing trip and want to explore, taking care of yourself is still your top priority. Over-doing it will only make things worse, prolonging your sickness and ruining more of your trip. As with any cold, rest, staying warm, and drinking plenty of fluids is absolutely essential. That night we were hoping it would pass but when I woke up in one of those horrible cold sweats we knew it we had to take it seriously. I took some fever-reducing/aches and pains meds (which we had luckily packed), drank a ton of water and went back to sleep.

Bratislava was the next stop along our journey, so after sleeping as much as I could we set off. On the way to train station my throat caught fire the moment we stepped in the cold, wet air, turning a short walk into a nightmare. I slept at the station waiting for the train, I slept on the train, and I slept in Bratislava – sleep was the theme of the day. Accessing the metro from Bratislava Central Station proved difficult and resulted in more walking in the bitter cold. Eventually we made it and found that we were in luck. We had booked what we thought was a nice hotel for a great price. It turned out to be one of the nicer hotels I’ve ever stayed at. I did not want to miss a moment of the already fleeting time we had in Bratislava, but we knew it was for the best that I stay in bed. Hank ventured out to get us some food and me some tea and we watched Stranger Things while we ate our supermarket dinner.

Whether it was the bed, the tea, or the ‘80s inspired horror I’ll never know, but I awoke feeling refreshed and ready to explore. Hank forced us to take it easy, and I drank my weight in hot tea. We nipped inside to many cafes and had a simple day around the old town before heading to Vienna that night. Throughout the next few days I only drank water or lemon tea with honey and went through at least two boxes of tissues. Ultimately, what made me feel better was the age-old combination of rest and relaxation. You cannot fight something despite wanting to do more. And the length of our trip found us, some two weeks later, looking back on this moment in shock, as we couldn’t believe it was part of the same adventure.

These pictures are document the cycle of my sickness, up until my night in Bratislava. Looking back, I find these hilarious as you can really see it catch up to me! I apologize for how I look (especially in the last one!), but I figure you have to see it all to understand what it was like.

New Years Eve in clearly chilly Budapest
the morning of New Years Day as the cold began to settle
later in the day I progressively got worse and goulash soup was the answer
the next day, asleep in the train station
not looking my best in Bratislava, but resting in bed