Spin the Globe with Justin Butner

A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.

Being Sick in a Hostel

Getting sick on travel sucks. This may not seem like the greatest insight, and perhaps it isn’t. I guess I can blame that on being sick. I really can’t, but I might try to pass it off that way anyway.

When you catch a cold and the fever sets in and the coughing fits start, most people take two paths. Path one is to medicate heavily and go on with the day as if nothing is wrong. That is very hard in a country where all of the cold medicine I’m finding is based in herbal remedies. (No, I don’t want horseradish extract for my fever. I want an expectorant to break up my congestion and a mild dissociative to make me forget that I want to cough.)

Path two, and the better path to take, is to cut off ties with the outside world, turn your brain off, hibernate and let your body do what it has evolved to do. You sleep half the day. You wake up to get more water, pee, blow your nose, and hack up stuff. You eat what you feel like. Soup. Warm things. Comfort foods. Things with vitamins. You do what your body needs. You start to listen to yourself in ways that you normally don’t when you have a schedule or things to do. You turn inward.

And when you are on holiday, all you want to do is pack it all in. You want to see the sights. You take time off from an active life because you need a night off after a couple long days of walking around the city. You don’t take days at a time off because on a holiday, you don’t have the time.

When you are vagabonding, such as I am, time is less critical. If you want to get into a life in a place, you can. There is no itinerary telling you where you need to be and what you should be doing. Not every day is a frantic pace to fit everything in. When you visit a city for 3 days, you are actually more likely to see it than when you are there for a week. With three days, there is urgency. At a week, there is always more time. And so I am not as stressed about the loss of a few days.

It is the problem that a couple days stretches to a few days inherently due to the nature of my surroundings. There are things to be said for the benefits of your own home. You can buy things and have them when you need them. You know where everything is. When you want to sleep, it can be quiet. When you want to have privacy, you can. And yet most of these are things I can abstractly appreciate yet don’t miss. I’ve grown accustomed to the background noise and the lights always being on and the fact that I am never going to have alone time except by some random and unpredictable fluke.

The thing that I miss about having my own space, and the thing that kills me about being sick on travel, is that I don’t have a cave to go hibernate in. I am having coughing fits in the hallway bathroom, with anyone awake in the nearby rooms able to hear it. I am rolling over in bed to hack and cough, much to the dismay of my roommates. I want to make comforting vegetable soup, but I need to go buy the ingredients and there isn’t room in the fridge to store them. I want to take long hot showers to break up the congestion and to just feel comfortable, but the limited hot water for the 30 residents means I can’t take a shower longer than 10 minutes without feeling guilty. And it certainly doesn’t help that the facilities here are so dirty and run down that I feel a certain level of assaulted just by staying here. I can fight the mold and cockroaches when I am at 100%. When I am sick, they just feel like another defeat.

And yet, I have no choice in the matter. So I will cough in public spaces. I will leave my germs around communal areas. And I will infect the people I live with as my sickness lingers, with me unable to get the final bits of what I need to kick it altogether. And the others will get sick. It is the cycle of disease in public places. I got this from someone here. I will incubate it and pass it on. And hopefully they will pass it forward and there will be no givebacks. But again, I have no choice in the matter.

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This entry was posted on March 15, 2012 by in Australia, Victoria (Melbourne) and tagged .

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