Tag Archives: health

World Health, fever screening and… zombies

One of the interesting things about traveling abroad is the many different health checks and standards required for traveling. We had no less than seven vaccinations for our year of travels and took about 100 days of anti-malaria medications. I was “fever scanned” upon entry to several countries (while some places didn’t seem to care what we had).  Some nations were more concerned about the fruit viruses than human disease (although a food epidemic can have catastrophic human consequences) and others had elaborate requirements for entry – but rarely enforced them.  Entry requirements ranged form the ultra high-tech scanners to walking across sticky mats at the border to prevent the passing of foot and mouth disease.

I find it all interesting. I’m not a germaphobe and we were lucky enough to not get sick during our entire year traveling around the world. I like to think it was a combination of the fresh air, lack of stress, good sleep habits, and smart food choices (including street food) that kept us healthy – but honestly it probably had more to do with luck.

I do love zombie and apocalyptic virus movies.  My family used to try and pick the place in the world that was best suited to survive the “zombie apocalypse” and strategize what we would do to survive.  It’s admittedly a strange preoccupation but one that is connected real life threats which makes it more intriguing.  I follow the World Health Organization (WHO) and I keep up with the latest standards and international health threats.   I’m thankful for the good work WHO does on behalf of humanity.  Their vigilance and international cooperation allow us to cross borders and explore the world.

Below is a fever scanner from Singapore . I think it’s one of the coolest machines – and the creepy image kinda straddles the line between factual disease prevention and a zombie invasion. Starting this week they’ll be fever scanning all travelers going through Singapore for the MERS virus.




Five reasons I think I was healthier while traveling

Everyone asks me “Did you get sick while you traveled around the world?” and I can honestly answer “No”. We really never got sick, or had any major injuries. BUT since I’ve been home I seem to have every cold, flu, or crud that comes through town. What was it about traveling that was different?  How did we manage to stay healthy?  Why were we healthier “on the road” than at home?  I’ve compiled a list of my educated guesses.


1. Living outside:  Most of the places we stayed we lived much closer to the elements. Open windows, no A/C, outside in nature most or all of the day. We definitely got our daily dose of Vitamin D and we weren’t cooped up in a germ factory.  Our kids were out of school and probably less exposed to every germ and bug that passed through town. Even with all the plane rides we took our immune systems seemed to get a boost from our daily outdoor life.

2. Exercise as part of daily life. Many of the places we lived required us to walk to the markets, to town or to (and through) the places we wanted to tour. We spent more time hiking, walking, snorkeling, or swimming each day than we ever do at home. Being active was part of our daily living and it felt good.  We drove considerably less. Being home it requires much more of an effort. I admire those friends who ride their bikes to work and walk to the grocery or adhere to a regular exercise time schedule. You have to make it a priority here, or you will lead a less active lifestyle than when traveling.

3. Stress free. Yes, I can’t ignore the fact that we left jobs and school and activities behind for a year. We were living a much less stressful daily existence and it was healthy. There are still real pressures while traveling but being “unplugged” was healthy and provided for a valuable lesson about the stress we tolerate here. Trying to reduce stress and too much structure (over-scheduling) has been part of our return plan – but the reality is that living in the US with jobs and two children makes for a hectic daily schedule.  That reality has added stress to our lives and we continue to try and find the elusive “balance”.

4. Eating healthy. Part of traveling is enjoying the food. It is ironic that it is often the food that makes travelers sick. We were part lucky but we were also vigilant about monitoring what we ate on the road, making sure to visit any health food store that appealed to us over the street food.  I attribute our not getting sick to that. In many places, we never drank the water unless it was bottled.  Not even to brush our teeth.  We also avoided fruits you couldn’t peel and salads.  If it was fried or cooked we generally ate it. We tried most things in every country – including occasional “street food”. In sum, we ate a lot of organic, local, fresh food throughout the world and very little processed food. Eating healthy in the USA is definitely possible – but compared to many places it is more expensive.  Also, there are also plenty of ways to eat poorly here at home and it is difficult to avoid the temptation of quick, processed, fried, fatty and fast foods.

5.Good healthcare. We had our shots before we left. We took anti-maleria meds where we needed to. We had everything we needed before we left and were able to find pharmacies around the world to get us staples when we needed them. Preventative healthcare, our general good health, and a lifetime of good healthcare prepared us for a year of traveling. I can’t say enough about starting with a good foundation as a means to help you stay healthy.

So as I sit here, congested with a head cold, envying how warm it is in Fiji in February, I will say that traveling was a healthy experience for us. I’m going to have to work on making life at home just as healthy… or I’m just going to have to get back on the road.