This blog post is all about staying positive when travelling and things don’t go to plan. Unfortunately, we had to learn this the hard way during our recent trip to Cusco, Peru.
Planning for Christmas in Cusco
I’m writing this from seat number four of a Cruz del Sur coach headed towards Puno, Peru. It’s a very professional service, especially considering some of the buses we’ve endured in South America so far! I think it’s completely ruined Phil and I for bus journeys in the future. For an extra six dollars we went first class; we have personal TVs, reclining seats, and we’ve just had our breakfast and a hot coffee brought to us! It’s much better than a plane, instead of clouds we have the amazing view of the Andes and sleepy mountain life rolling by.
But anyway, I digress. I want to tell you about Cusco, from where our bus left at 8am this morning. We spent almost three weeks in total there, and it was a stark reminder that no matter how much you plan, nothing is guaranteed. We decided in November to spend Christmas and New Year’s in Cusco . We wanted to see the vibrant celebrations in the city that was once the centre of the Inca empire.
Cusco is a dream destination. It’s bathed in history, and is the jumping off point for the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. I wanted our visit to be perfect, especially as it would be our first Christmas away from home. You will know from our previous blogs that we have planned very little on this trip, giving ourselves chance to just stop and experience, rather than race on ahead. So organising six weeks in advance was quite something for us! By mid-November we had flights and accommodation booked. I researched hostels with good festive vibes, and found somewhere we both liked the look of. It wasn’t available for our whole stay, so we lined up somewhere else for the New Year.
An unwanted guest
We flew by plane from Mancora, on the northern coast of Peru, to Cusco, on the 18th December. On that first day, I really wasn’t well. We’ve been plagued by colds and tummy upsets throughout our trip and we didn’t think much of it. Five days later though, it was pretty obvious that something wasn’t quite right. I didn’t to listen to advice, and vehemently refused to see the doctor until the third day of being room-bound. I won’t give you the details, they aren’t pleasant, but I’d barely eaten for days and was pretty weak by this point.
On 22nd December, just three days before Christmas, I finally allowed the hostel manager to call for the doctor. When she arrived, it took her less than ten minutes to confirm that I had a stomach infection, whether it was bacteria or parasite, she wouldn’t be able to confirm until she’d run the relevant tests.
To cut a long story short, the quick tests at the hospital, turned into an overnight stay stuck to a drip. Their tests had found I had picked up a parasite somewhere along the way and my body was fighting to rid itself of its unwanted guest.
The perfect Christmas…
That perfect vision I’d had of Christmas in Cusco was completely unravelled. Luckily they released me on 23rd, and I was feeling much better than the previous day. I was on a strict diet though, which meant that a Christmas drink and festive dinner would not be happening. In addition, the hostel we’d carefully chosen was soulless. It was under renovation, work starting as early as 7am, and finishing past 7pm. Due to the work, half the rooms were out of action and the large hostel was eerily quiet. Other than the Hostel Manager who had been so helpful to get me the medical care I needed, the staff were uninterested in their guests. In one way, apart from the banging, the hostel was perfect for us. Socialising was the last thing either of us wanted to do!
Luckily the second hostel we had booked for New Year’s eve was much nicer, the staff were lovely. By then, we were both feeling healthy again (mostly!) so we were at least able to enjoy part of the festive season.
Staying positive while travelling
If I’m honest, when I was laid in the hospital I was declaring that we were going home as soon as I was well enough! Phil kept suspiciously quiet in response to my declarations. When I felt better I realised he was right, it would be silly it to let a one night stay in hospital ruin the trip. Instead, I started thinking about all the positives for staying – there were lots!
We’re really lucky to be travelling together, and whenever we’ve felt off it we’ve always had the other to lean on. We do have a few techniques to keep us on the positive side though. Whether you’re travelling as a group, a couple or solo, remember these five things to help you keep your chin up when it all goes a little bit wrong.
- Try not to have too high expectations, either of yourself or a new location. Just like we did with Cusco, you can over plan and over-expect, and sometimes reality just doesn’t live up to it. Go with an open mind and heart, and you will be surprised by what you find. We’ve been blown away by places we didn’t expect much from, and highly disappointed by others that we couldn’t wait to get to.
- Remember to take a rest! It’s so easy to fall into the trap of ‘do, do, do, go, go, go!’, and you forget to just take a breath and enjoy where you are. Sometimes our bodies just need a rest, and they will shout loudly at us when we have pushed them too far.
- If the plan falls to pieces, don’t fret! Take it slow, have a rethink, and try and see the positives. For us, it was really lucky that I got ill at a point where we had planned to stay for longer than usual. By slowing things down it also gave us the opportunity to see a different side of the city of Cusco.
- Talk to friends and family back home! Whether it’s a text or a call, talking to people from home can help you put the situation into perspective and work out what to do next.
- Take a look back at your photos, or the messages you’ve sent home previously about your awesome trip. It will remind you that this is just one little moment in your adventure. You’ve done some awesome things so far, and you will go on to do plenty more!
How to stay healthy while you travel
You’d think we would be experts now at how to stay healthy, but we still seem to pick up the odd cold or tummy upset here and there. Remember, it’s to be expected! When you’re travelling you are immersing yourself in a completely new place with new germs, different water, and strange food and cooking techniques. Our bodies try and cope with all this change as well as possible, but sometimes they need a bit of help:
- Always make sure you have clean hands before you eat. Carry hand sanitiser with you for where there is no soap available.
- Avoid salad and uncooked vegetables, they are often washed with dirty water or simply not at all. Be careful with fruit too, don’t eat the skins.
- Do not drink untreated water. In many places around the world the tap water is not fit to drink. Research your location before you arrive so you know what to expect. If the tap is out of the question, use bottled water, a treatment system such as a SteriPEN, or make sure you boil the water thoroughly. If the tap water is unclean, don’t use it to brush your teeth! REMEMBER: at high altitude water boils at a lower temperature! This means you need to keep on heating the water for a while after it reaches the boil to ensure that it’s at a high enough temperature to kill any bugs and bacteria.
- When you are eating out, do a sense check. How does the place look? Is their food fresh or does it look like it’s been sat for a long time? If there are lots of people there, the chances are the turn over of food is much quicker and it will be fresher.
- Again, if you want to eat at a market or street stall, use your common sense. For example, if it’s a juice bar, are they using dirty tap water in their drinks? Is there access to clean water for washing surfaces and for the servers to wash their hands? In Cusco, some of the markets just have one bucket of water to last all day which they use for everything.
- Make sure you have travel insurance, and actually read the boring blurb so you are prepared in case something happens!
Have you had your own story of things going wrong while travelling? Please do add a comment below to tell us your story and share your ideas for staying positive on the move. We’d also welcome your tips for staying healthy.
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