The upside of being sick on the road

Bumrungrad Hospital

Bangkok, Thailand

It is 8:00 p.m. in Cairo and I’ve just crawled out of bed to tend to this blog. I have a fever and am feeling pretty darn miserable. My creativity feels stunted and, given that all I want to do right now is lay back down with the blanket pulled over me, I have booted up my laptop with some hesitation. This blog entry could really bomb.

But as I sit here with my eyeballs on fire in their sockets, I remember that some of my most powerful travel experiences have involved not feeling well. Travel, of course, takes us to places where, to at least some degree, we feel foreign. And in a sense, sickness does too. We don’t feel particularly comfortable with our bodies when we are ill.

In Luang Prabang, Laos a few years ago I remember being wracked by fever. My room overlooked the Mekong, and I’d sometimes move from the bed to the balcony, watching the muddy water flow. I remember feeling my weakness, the unpredictability of health, the sense of being particularly far from home as I eased myself back into bed and pulled the sheet over me.

When after a couple days the fever lifted, I packed my bag and continued north, bound for China. I still recall the clanking sound as my ride to the bus station crossed a rickety bridge. I felt alive, perhaps even thankful.

Thankful for what? For at times being brought to a standstill by illness. For then recovering with a renewed appreciation for the gift of good health. For the tremendous gift of being able to stand and walk, and for dwelling in a body that feels like an operable home rather than like a cantankerous old grouch.

When I think of Luang Prabang today, I think not only of the monks collecting their morning alms. I also think of the joy of feeling whole again. Both, I think, are pretty great to witness firsthand.

(The picture above, taken a couple years after my Luang Prabang fever, shows me, a nurse, and morphine the day after I had an operation at Bangkok’s Bumrungrad Hospital; a post for another time!)

Posted by | Comments (2)  | April 29, 2010
Category: Images from the road, Notes from the collective travel mind, Travel Health

2 Responses to “The upside of being sick on the road”

  1. Rod Says:

    Great perspective. I too remember some truly bizarre and nasty bugs I picked up in far off jungle places. I too appreciated the feeling of lean, hollow emptiness at the moment I was healthy enough to walk away with my backpack on … and how the world seems open and new again. I haven’t thought of that for years. Now when I get sick at home, I usually get grumpy. On the road, its a novelty of sorts! Sure hope you feel better soon!

  2. Paul Says:

    So what exacly is the “upside of being sick on the road” Yay I got malaria, wow I got a bacterial infection in Africa…..What a poor posting