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Pills, Shots and Sprays Oh My!

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

Anyone who plans a multi-country, extended trip invariably has to deal with the problem of malaria prevention. Unlike many other diseases, malaria does not have a vaccine. Simply put, the best way to not get malaria is to not get bitten. The best way to do this is to cover up and use bug spray with DEET or some recommend lemon eucalpytus extract. But that doesn’t always work, especially when mosquitoes somehow make it their life’s mission to find only you in a crowd of thousands. There is also a rumor floating around in travelers circles, that there is either a homeopathic cure or that you somehow build up an immunity to malaria once you get it. If there is a homepathic cure, can you let the medical community know about it please? Thanks much. And if you intend on getting malaria just to build up an immunity, talk to the estimated 2 million or so people who die from malaria every year and see if it worked for them.

So we are left with taking pills. Lots and lots of pills. In certain places, the skeeters have built up an immunity to certain drugs, so you need to research where you are going and what to take. I think the main reason that travelers don’t take malarials is the cost and side effects that come with certain kinds. There are three main anti-malarial drugs out there, mefloquine (brand name Larium) which can cause anxiety and nightmares in some people. Then there is doxycycline, which is an antibiotic, and not only are you not supposed to drink alcohol while taking this (what’s the point?) but it can cause sun sensitivity, reduces the effectiveness of BC pills, and makes you at greater risk for yeast infections. Sign me up! The last one is Malarone, which is fairly new, reportedly has no side effects and the skeeters aren’t immune to it. The kicker is that not only is this pill insanely expensive (I was quoted $4.75 A PILL) but you have to take it everyday. So, if you are like me, and plan on being in malarial zones for about 9 months, this will put a major crimp in your budget. Not to mention the hundreds of dollars I spent on my vaccines or “jabs.”

For my trip, I decided to get the Jap B Encephalitis (3 shots at $110 each), since I’ll be in Asia for part of the monsoon (read: skeeter) season. I also got Hep A&B, Yellow Fever, Tetanus/Diptheria booster, MMR booster, Polio booster, Meningitis (why I didn’t get this FOR FREE at college I have no idea) and a flu shot. I also have to take my typhoid vaccine, which is 4 pills. All of these, not including the malaria meds, cost me over $600. And my insurance even paid for the Hep A&B and Tet/Diph booster. Supposedly my insurance will also pay for a 90 days supply of Malarone, but I’m thinking they may catch on that if I need 90 days of Malarone, I might not be working or have their insurance anymore. We’ll see how that goes, I’m going to try and get my script filled today at Sam’s Club, which quoted me the cheapest price. The hard part is to not buy too many, as it is a waste of money, but to not run out either, since Malarone is really only available in western countries right now. So if I run out I can’t really get any more on the road. These are the issues that suck about planning a trip like this.

None of this addresses any of the diseases that don’t have any vaccines or preventative medicine at all, not to mention post-infection care. Dengue fever, another awesome little disease, is also transmitted by mosquitoes. Difference is, these mosquitoes bite during the day, while malaria mosquitoes bite at night. I wonder how they decided that? Did they have a little Darwinian pow-pow one day?

Almost 50% of travelers will also get “sick to their stomach” at one point. When someone says they are sick to their stomach, they are really referring to poop. And this usually means some form of diarrhea, more affectionately known as “Delhi belly” or “Montezuma’s revenge.” The best advice to avoid diarrhea is to not drink local water, ice or any fruits and vegetables that have been washed in said water and not peeled. But if you read this article, you’ll understand how even the most careful of travelers end up with a dodgy stomach. (Not for the faint!)

About me

Monday, November 28th, 2005

Well, as you’ve probably guessed by the title, I’m off on a Round-the World (RTW)adventure. After 6 years of looking around and only seeing beige cubes, I decided I needed a change. Whereas most people would maybe just change jobs, I’ve decided to leave the country and travel, something I’ve been thinking of doing for years, seriously for about two, and have been sort of planning for the entire year of 2005.

I’m a 29, soon to be 30 year old, American girl who grew up in Chicago. I’ve lived here pretty much my whole life, except for college, which was spent at the University of Illinois Urbana-Cornfield. I also spent a semester in Vienna, Austria my junior year. I have always regretted not going a whole year. I don’t remember much about Vienna, except heurigen, chocolate croissants and my friend Liga. Almost every weekend we traveled somewhere else, and when I was actually in Vienna during the week, I was either drinking, or hungover in class. I really should go back there and refresh my memory a bit.

After college, I worked a few odd jobs and found myself working in the health insurance business, both for private and government work. Suddenly, I had been working in insurance for over 6 years, no idea how that happened, and made the decision to get out and basically start over. So, after thinking about this trip for about two years, I finally made the decision to go, and just booked my ticket one day in September. That way, I couldn’t wimp out and change my mind.

At first I really wanted to be gone for my 30th birthday, December 11th, but after some discussions with my family and other plans within the trip itself, I decided to stay for Christmas. That being said, I’m leaving Dec. 26th. I bought a one-way ticket to Sydney, and have another flight out of Oz to Singapore on May 13th. I am also going to NZ in there somewhere, but otherwise, nothing else is planned. I’ve decided to buy my tickets as I go, because I will probably be gone for longer than a year, and I also wanted the flexibility. My bank account may not agree with this decision, however, seeing as my flight to Oz was WAY more than I expected. But that’s okay, it’s bought and paid for, and I’m arriving on the 28th. Dec. 27th? Doesn’t exist for me.

Here are a few questions I’ve been asked repeatedly, so I thought it might be easier to just answer them here.

How long and where are you going?
I’ll be gone at least year, and maybe more depending on how fast my money goes. My “plan” is Oz/NZ, SEA (Thailand, Vietnam, Laos Cambodia loop) Myanmar maybe. Then over to Tibet,Nepal, India, maybe Sri Lanka. Hopefully then over to South Africa and work my way up the East Coast towards Ethiopia.

How much is this costing?
Well, I’m budgeting $30/day, more for OZ/NZ and less for India/SEA, so it should even out. I’m hoping to keep my flights to $5000 and pre-trip spending including vaccines, clothes, pack, etc, will be about $1500.

What do your parents think?
Well, they’re parents. They are worried that I’m a solo female off alone in the big bad world, but they have only themselves to blame. My parents are big travelers. Iin the 60’s, they took a hippie bus, even though they weren’t hippies, from Germany to New Delhi. My mom, a German citizen at the time, emigrated in Hawaii. They’ve been in countries that people rarely go through now, Iran, Afghanistan, etc. After that, they moved to Chicago and started a family. But we were always traveling, I went to Europe before I went to Disneyland, and they’ve continued to go on big trips, most recently to China, Vietnam and Cambodia. They also just spent the last year cruising around Europe in their retirement. Needless to say, traveling has always been a part of my family, so they can’t be too shocked.

Why are you doing this?
Because I love to travel, and I want to go to places while I’m young, not when I’m retired and imprisoned on a tour bus. Plus, I have none of the normal attachments right now keeping me home. It’s the perfect time to go. So I’m going.

How do you pack for a year of travel?
From everything I’ve read, lightly. Packing list will follow once it is final. But it’s going to have to fit in a 60 liter backpack. For you Americans, that is about 3600 cubic inches. I “backpacked” my way around Europe for about 6 weeks a few years back, and I had a 110 liter backpack. No, that’s not a typo. I was one of those maroons who dragged around 4 pairs of shoes, two pairs of jeans, and numerous other clothes and items around that I never wore or used, struggling every step of the way. I don’t know how I managed, but I’m sure a few people got knocked over on a bus somewhere. I can’t even fathom a guess as to how much that pack weighed. This time, I’m going to try and keep it to 20 pounds, including the 5 pound pack. That being said, anyone in the market for a really nice 110 liter backpack?

What are you going to do when you get home?
I have no idea. Don’t want to even think about it, because it scares the bejeezus out of me. Stop asking me.

Where has the time gone?

Monday, November 28th, 2005
Well, I can't believe today is November 28th! I have less than a month before I leave for my Round the World (RTW) trip. When I bought my ticket in September, I thought "No problem, 3 more months." But now, ... [Continue reading this entry]