Travel Document Copies & Phone Numbers

With only four days left, I’m working on the final details of packing and getting everything in order. It is always better safe than sorry, so I’m taking along photocopies of most of my id, as well as leaving copies of them at home … just in case any of it is stolen or lost along the way.

What to copy?
– Passport
– Health Card
– Social Insurance number
– Driver’s License
– Birth Certificate
– Medical Insurance card (Emergency travel medical insurance)
– Travel Insurance card (Trip Cancellation / Interruption)
– International or toll free phone numbers for emergency help with any possible insurance needs.
– Credit cards – front & back so that you have the phone numbers you need if the card is stolen.

Always keep your copies in a separate spot from the originals. I will likely always keep the originals on me at all times, but will have the copies stowed away in my backpack somewhere just in case.

Very important – DO NOT travel with your passwords written anywhere. Make sure you have them memorized, but you don’t want to be carrying them with your ID or credit cards.

You can also look into services such as KeepYouSafe.com. It’s an online safety deposit box where you can store your travel and ID information, securely.

I don’t have a scanner at home, so I won’t be using the online option, but it is certainly the way of the future!

Phone Numbers
Presumably, your friends and family know you are traveling, so no one will think you’ve just disappeared.

Before I travel, I always leave a list of contact information with all of the closest people in my life, including each other’s phone numbers and email addresses. I’ll also leave my Doctor, Vet and Building Superintendent’s contact information for my family and close friends. I also make sure they have as much information about my flights, itinerary and accommodations as possible.

My list of people will include:
– My mom and dad
– My sister
– My boyfriend
– My roommate
– My building superintendent – I’ll make sure he has everyone’s contact information, but I won’t be sending him my full itinerary!

I will also take all of these contact names and numbers with me, in case of emergency. Most of us would have these numbers memorized, which is great, but if you are hurt, someone else may need these numbers.

In December 2010, my best friend, who lives in Bermuda, was in a very bad accident (head on scooter collision). Thankfully she survived and I received a phone call from one of her close friends in Bermuda to tell me what was going on. Unfortunately, they were having a difficult time reaching her mother and in the end, I was the one to get in touch with her. The accident was very serious and meant months of rehabilitation. I hope this never happens to me, or to anyone, but should it happen, I would want people wherever I am to be able to get in touch with my family ASAP.

It has taken me about an hour to photocopy everything, get my contact information all ready AND write this blog post. Really, it doesn’t take very long and you will most definitely appreciate it if something goes wrong while you are away!

Travel like a diva … with a cup … Part 2

If you haven’t read Part 1 of this series, check it out here before you read part 2.

This post is all about women’s issues when traveling. That’s right vacation menstruation. The topic of periods, menstruation, that monthly visitor, being ‘on the rag’ …

NOTE: Some women may find this post too detailed. If you don’t want to read it, don’t read it. If you are curious, then read. If you read all the way to the end, despite it’s brutal honesty, please don’t complain to me about being too honest … after all, you decided to continue reading!

I’m going to travel like a diva … with a cup. What the hell does that mean, you ask?

Back in 2012 when I ran my very first photo tour, as soon as I had the minimum number of participants I was so excited that I started counting down the days! That also meant I started counting the weeks between periods to see if I’d be ‘on the rag’ during my adventure of a lifetime. To my dismay, I would be. So, what was I going to do about that?

Picture this …

I’m sitting at a travel agency picking my agent’s brain about all things Peru. I’m asking about the weather, about flight schedules, about adding on a trip to The Galapagos Islands … the questions are just pouring out in excitement and she’s answering each one of them with as much information as she can to help me out.

There are three agents in the office. It’s fairly small and both of the other agents were busy at the time … one with a client in person, the other on the phone.

I leaned across my agent’s desk and whispered something like ‘I can’t believe I’m asking this … I don’t want anyone to hear … but what is the bathroom situation like on the Peru trip? I mean, I’m going to be on my period. Will I have regular access to washrooms? Will our accommodations have washrooms or will I be going in the woods?’.

After all, this was an adventure travel trip, not a Caribbean resort! And we would be doing homestays for several nights and hotels for the others.

I felt a little silly, but thankfully I’m not easily embarrassed. We tried to quietly and discreetly have a conversation about ‘women’ issues while in the company of a man and a client!

I’m pretty sure our conversation went something like this …
Rose: Well, Shari, do I have the perfect thing for you! Have you ever heard of The Diva Cup?
Shari: The Diva Cup? Um, no. Not sure I want to know what that is … but ok.
Rose (goes to The Diva Cup website): It’s an alternative menstruation product, reusable and environmentally friendly. It will change your periods forever!

OK, from here on, this post gets detailed. Read at your own discretion! Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Of course at this point, I was intrigued and disgusted all at the same time. After all, it is a sort of cup that you insert instead of a tampon that catches your blood and then you empty it out. I didn’t even know there were such things as ‘alternative menstruation products’! I thought we had pads and tampons and that’s all there was to it.

We went on to have a detailed discussion and read information on the website about how it was going to change my periods forever! The lovely ladies at the agency spoke so highly about it for traveling women that I decided I’d give it a try for my next period. I wanted a test run with it before taking it to Peru!

So, when my next period came around, I decided to take the plunge (or plug)! At that time, The Diva Cup wasn’t sold at drug stores and pharmacies though. You couldn’t just go in and buy it instead of a box of tampons. You had to buy it at a health or sex store.

On the second day of my period, I went in to Super Natural Foods, found a nice female staff member and asked if they sold the Diva Cup. She pointed me in the right direction and then the adventure began!

First thought … It’s kind of like buying your first box of condoms! You really have no idea what you are doing, but know that you should be getting them, so you are going to do it, but it’s a little uncomfortable!

Second thought … ok, there are two sizes. How do you know what ‘size’ is right for your vagina? HA HA HA Ok, so who am I kidding? I just said vagina in a blog post and I was a little uncomfortable about buying the Diva Cup? Ok, I think I just got more uncomfortable … as did you, but remember, I’m the one writing this for all to see … no one knows you are reading it! And really, we should be de-stigmatizing all of this anyway! Women should not be embarrassed to talk about their periods which are a perfectly natural part of life!

The Diva cup makes the size choice fairly straight forward for you. Either you are over 30 and may or may not have delivered a child vaginally or by c-section. Or you are under 30 and have never had a child.

Simple enough right?

Unless you let your mind wander … In my mind I thought “Well, I’m over 30, but I’ve never given birth … doesn’t that make my vagina smaller?” Ok, in reality I know this isn’t really true, but I’ll admit that this thought went through my head! I bought the recommended size for those of us over 30, got in the car and said to my friend who was waiting for me, ‘but what if I have a small vagina?!’ … fits of laughter ensued.

Later that evening, I came home and decided I was ready to tackle using the cup for the first time. Obviously best to try it at home first where you are most comfortable. I was a good girl and read all of the instructions before doing anything. Mind you, I really wasn’t sure what I was going to do with this malleable silicone cup thing with an opening that looked way to large to ‘fit up there’. So, I guess I had to read the instructions.

As suggested, I washed the cup with warm, non-scented, soapy water.
And then, I gave myself another little pep talk that consisted of ‘Ok, so you’re going to have to touch yourself a little bit to get this to work, but all the ladies who use it say that it is worth it. So, get ready …. go for it!’

The instructions give you two ways of inserting the cup properly. I chose the second way, which is to push down on one side of the cup in to the middle, until it forms a bit of a V. This makes it much smaller to insert. Seems simple enough, right?

Well, maybe … or maybe not! I pushed my thumb down to the middle of the soft cup, held the sides and started to walk myself through the part where I was going to have to (paraphrased) ‘use your other hand to separate your labia’ and then …

POP!

The cup slips out of my grasp, hits the door with a dull little thud and bounces to the floor. “OMG I’m glad I’m at home, not in a public bathroom right now!” What if I had lost my grip, the cup hit the door, then the floor and rolled right out of the stall? I might just die!

Instead of the Seinfeld episode ‘Can you spare a square?’ it would be ‘Can you roll my alternative menstrual product back under the stall for me please? And then, can you leave the bathroom before I do, so you never see my face?’

Ok, I’ve recovered from my embarrassment with myself, I’ve rewashed the cup and I’m ready to try again … Concentrate this time!

I’ve made the cup smaller for insertion, I’m holding things ‘apart’ down there and using my other hand to gently insert the cup … and then …

It works! Phew. Wow was I glad when it was in and couldn’t go flying out of my grasp again.

(and I’ve just realized that this should be part of The Vagina Monologues that tours every year!)

Once the cup is inserted, you reach up and gently turn it 360 degrees to make sure that it fully opens rather than being smaller like the way you inserted it. Yup, you actually reach in there, grab on to the bottom of it and start turning. For me, this was the most awkward part. I originally tried to hold on to the little nubby end (so that it doesn’t go missing in there), but really, what you need to do is grab the bottom of the cup with your fingers, squeeze and turn. If it hasn’t already opened up fully, you’ll feel it when it does, but don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt! When it is open fully it lightly suctions, forming a seal so that it doesn’t leak or move.

So there, the cup is in and I’m good to go … for how long?

Well, you see, two of the really fantastic benefits of using the Diva Cup are:
1. You can leave it in for up to 12 hours
2. because it is made of sillicone, there’s no risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome, such as with tampons.

Just for ‘fun’, that first night, I left it in for a couple of hours, then tried my first attempt at removing it. The instructions tell you all kinds of tid bits such as (paraphrased), ‘don’t panic if you can’t reach it! This means you may have inserted it a little too far, but eventually the weight of the liquid and gravity will pull it back down.’ What you actually do is squeeze your vaginal muscles which pushes the cup closer to your fingers, then you reach up there … (yup, you have to be comfortable with yourself) … pinch the bottom of the cup and pull. Weird? Yes, it is weird, but it’s not all that bad.

It is a little bit like having a pap test when your doctor sticks his or her fingers inside to make sure everything is ok. It is an odd, uncomfortable sensation, as far from sexy or arousing as possible, but it only lasts for a few seconds, then it’s done. Once the cup is inserted, you really, honestly can’t feel it at all! You notice it even less than a tampon!

I can hear you all saying ‘ewwwwww! Gross! That’s gotta be messy.’

Actually, it isn’t messy. All of your menstrual fluid is captured inside the little cup and you just dump it out in the toilet (or on the ground if you are peeing in the woods!). There is very little blood on the outside of the cup because it has been pressed against your vaginal walls, directing everything inside. So, as gross as you may think it is, you don’t actually get much on your fingers (usually).

Something else I learned is that the average woman, during her entire one week period produces about an ounce of menstrual fluid. An ounce? That’s it? Well, apparently it is! The cup itself is made to hold an ounce. So, technically, that would be a week’s worth of fluid from your period. They recommend that you take it out and wash it 2-3 times per day (which is every 10-12 hours). Isn’t it cool that as long as it is inserted properly, you don’t have to worry about it for 10-12 hours?

I’m so excited! That means not only when I’m traveling and don’t have access to a suitable washroom, but overnight, when I’m on location working and don’t have access to a washroom, I don’t have to worry about overflow! That’s right. Unless something is horribly wrong, I’m not going to ‘overflow’ the cup in those 12 hours.

And I don’t think I mentioned that you can pee, or have a bowel movement with it still in place. You don’t have to take it out every time. Well, I don’t think you have to take a tampon out either, but I always do because it just doesn’t seem right. I always feel like a tampon gets shifted, moved and is uncomfortable if I leave it in while using the washroom. Ok, not to mention the fact that you then have a wet string hanging around with pee on it. EEEEEWWWW! See, THAT is disgusting!

I’ll admit to the world, I am converted. I used the Diva Cup for the last few days of that period and was thrilled with it’s efficiency. When I go to my boyfriend’s house (someday that’ll happen again) I don’t have to pack a bunch of bulky, embarrassing pads and tampons. When I go to a photo shoot, I don’t have to worry about running to the bathroom every couple of hours to remove my tampon, or trying to find a delicate way to get a tampon from my bag to my hand and carry it to the washroom without anyone seeing. I don’t always have to carry my purse everywhere with me with a stash of feminine products because I now have a reusable one!

So, I guess I’d better answer the last few questions that I know most of you have. How’s it going to work when you are in a public washroom or traveling?

Well, here’s the deal … you are supposed to wash the cup off with drinkable water (and non-scented soap) whenever you can. If you are in a one stall public bathroom in Canada or US, that’s no problem. If you are in a bigger washroom, you can’t just take your cup and wash it out in the sink in front of everyone, then run back to the bathroom and insert it. So, you can either wash it off in the stall with bottled water that you are carrying, or you can wipe it off with toilet paper and re-insert it, washing it the next time you have a chance.

They really stress how important it is to wash your hands before using it as well, as you don’t want any unknown bacteria causing problems!

When you are traveling, you aren’t always in suitable bathrooms or don’t always have drinkable water. So, it is just a matter of planning ahead to take good, drinkable bottled water with you, or you can wait until you are at your hotel to wash it off. Remember, you don’t have to remove it every time you go to the washroom, so you don’t have to worry about this all of the time!

Wash it before you insert it in the morning and then you will be good until you get to your hotel or a private washroom later in the day.

Doesn’t this make life so much easier when you travel?

I can’t imagine having to pack my rucksack with enough pads and tampons for a week. Not to mention trying to not squish them, have them become wet from rain or squished from being thrown around in the cargo area on the plane. Nor do I want the hassle of trying to find new pads and tampons in another country where I can’t speak the language! Instead, I just pack my little Diva Cup in a pretty little cotton bag, and I’m on my way!

Oh yeah, and it only costs around $40! With the money you’ll save on pads and tampons, in a few years you’ll have saved enough money for a trip! And you are making a huge impact on saving the environment! What’s not to like about all of this!

So, if you can’t control when you are going to have your period and it just happens to end up in the midst of your travel plans, you should consider the alternative .. Travel like a diva … with a cup!

‘Self, suck it up. Get over it. Be a woman. Get comfortable with yourself and enjoy your travels!’

Travel like a diva … with a cup … Part 1

If you are male, you will want to avoid this post right now. Stop reading, don’t go any further. This post is all about women’s issues when traveling. That’s right – vacation menstruation  The topic of periods, menstruation, that monthly visitor, being ‘on the rag’ …

Wait …. Did your face just go red?

Pretty sure you’ve heard enough already, so save yourself the pain and anguish. Or, be a man and educate yourself on what your mother’s, daughters, friends, girlfriends and wives go through every month.

Please find an inconspicuous spot to read about the dreaded period on vacation. Women, be prepared to laugh, or cry, depending on what part of your cycle you are currently in. Get ready to hear the thoughts from your own head coming out in this blog, except they are written by someone else.

WAIT! How did I get in your head?

You’ve never muttered these thoughts out loud ….right? You have all of these crazy discussions with yourself, in your own head and sometimes it seems like you had a dream about it, but was it real? You feel like you’ve said it to someone before, but yet the words never made it off the tip of your tongue. They just get jammed up, swirling around in there and they’ve been in there so darn long that you feel like they are part of you. You have indeed had these conversations, they were just unspoken! And then, because it’s “embarrassing”, you never talk about it … and then you never know that you are not alone and that other women are thinking the same exact thing!

“UG. I feel fat today. Didn’t these pants fit two days ago? How did I gain like 10 lbs in two days?”
“Why am I crying? This is ridiculous, just stop crying! You don’t even know what you are crying over anymore!”
“OMG this is disgusting. Why is it that women have to bleed?”
“Am I leaking? Ah, feels a little wet down there. I can’t be. OMG what if I am? OMG can people see it? Am I bleeding through my jeans?”
“Oh …. mmmmmmm …. whine …. I don’t feel like moving. I don’t wanna go to work. I’m cranky. I’m just gonna snap at someone.”
“I’ve been doing this for 15 years … you’d think I’d get used to it, but no, every month it’s like a kick in the ass, again.”
“WHAT? SERIOUSLY? I’m three days early! What am I going to do? I don’t have any tampons, I’ve made a mess of my undies. I have a big meeting to get to. Really? I’m 33. Why don’t I have this sorted out by now?”
“Um, friend … can’t believe I’m asking this but …. Could you maybe bring me some underwear and feminine products at work? Um yeah, I had a little accident. Don’t worry … just go digging through my drawers and find any undies that aren’t thongs. Thank you. I’ll love you forever!”
“I can’t believe I’m going on this fantastic trip to {insert your favorite vacation spot} and I’m going to be on my period. What’s the point in going on vacation if I can’t even relax and have sex?!”
“What do women in other countries do about their periods? Do people in developing countries use tampons? How do they dispose of them? If you can’t flush toilet paper, guess you can’t flush a tampon!”

I’m not alone here, right? Please tell me you identify with at least one of these crazy conversations?!

And for the men out there who are reading and thinking ‘Why don’t you just take your pill straight through so you don’t have a period?’ … I have a few choice words for you and the women in your lives who have made this seem so simple and common, but I’ll refrain and politely tell you ..

  1. Not every woman uses the pill. For a variety of reasons from not believing in using pills, to believing that the chemicals in the pill damage your body, to adverse side effect to full blown depression. The pill is not for everyone.
  2. Even if a woman does use the pill, changing her cycle regularly to stop her period is questionably harmful to her body. Do you wish harm on the women in your life?

My mind is tired now though. Tired of churning over thoughts in my head about how to deal with my period while I’m traveling and stressing out about it! Telling myself that it’s going to ruin my trip. Shame on me!

Well, let me tell you, I made a decision and had a little conversation with myself quite some time ago and I said
‘Self, smarten up. This trip to Peru is going to be fabulous. You can’t stop being a woman, so deal with it. Talk about it until you find a way to deal with it, then do something about it.’

Gasp! I am a woman in my thirties who ISN’T trying to get pregnant and isn’t using birth control.
Gasp! I thought it was only those crazy women trying to trick their boyfriends and husbands into having a family who stopped taking birth control by choice!

*sarcasm*

I’m not on any birth control medications. I went off them all years ago because they were wreaking havoc with my hormones and therefore my life. Our hormones have a mind of their own to begin with, but it seemed that while I was on birth control I was dealing with two minds that just never balanced. I had been on birth control of one form or another since high school. I decided that it was about time I stop trying to control my body with chemicals and see what it was like to live with just my own hormones … the ones my body produces instead of the ones I was swallowing by pill or injecting by needle (birth control, not illegal drugs folks!)

Isn’t everyone on some kind of birth control though? Isn’t it just what women (and teens) do now-a-days? At age 16, doesn’t the doctor just automatically write you a prescription for ‘the pill’ and then you take it forever and ever until you decide to switch to the newest birth control available, or decide you want to get pregnant? Maybe that’s a little exaggerated, but it sure seems that way!

So, what’s a girl to do about her period when she’s headed on vacation, off to travel the world, or even planning her wedding? Most women change their cycles by changing their pill schedule. Is this healthy? I’m guessing most women on the pill don’t care if it is healthy or not, as long as they enjoy that one week of vacation ‘menstruation free’. No tampons strings hanging out of their bikini … lots of sex because you are on vacation … no panty lines under that cute little sun dress …

Me, well, I don’t have the option to change my pill schedule. If I were to go back on the needle or the pill, my period schedule would be the least of my concerns and instead I’d be a blubbering mess of emotion – both irritability and tears … all the time, all at once, not just the week before my period. I choose not to do that to myself, or those I’m traveling with! (you guys & gals should thank me for this one!)

So, what am I going to do about it because ‘Self’ has decided that it is not going to ruin my next trip!

I’m going to travel like a diva … with a cup!

Click here for Part 2

Traveler’s Diarrhea

So, here you are … about to read about poop. Seems like an embarrassing thing to talk about, but since I don’t see many people talking about it, I figured I might as well tackle it. I mean really, you are here reading, so you must be interested in knowing something … maybe how to prevent it, maybe you are looking for a funny story, maybe you are just weird and find pleasure in other people’s embarrassing and uncomfortable situations. Regardless of your reasons, I’m glad you’ve joined me for this stinky blog post.

Traveler’s Diarrhea – No one wants to be overcome with the urge to run to the bathroom no matter where they are. It is even worse when you are trying to enjoy a relaxing vacation. Wait, even worse when you are trekking or staying in areas where they don’t have the bathroom facilities that you are used to. Wait … I think it gets worse when you also realize that many places don’t provide toilet paper, or you pay for it before entering the bathroom. YIKES! Dealing with all of that while trying not to make a mess … doesn’t sound like fun to me!

My family physician explained to me that traveler’s diarrhea is incredibly common. It isn’t necessarily due to poor hygiene in the country you are traveling to although that is a major contributing factor, it is just simply that their stomachs have different flora to deal with bacteria present in that area. In fact, someone from South America coming to Canada could end up with traveler’s diarrhea too! This is why if the food is perfectly safe, well cooked and washed in clean water that you still may end of with a case of the runs. Your stomach just isn’t used to the bacteria in the food (good or bad). Some people are more sensitive to this than others.

Unfortunately, it appears I am one of the sensitive ones.

In February 2011 I headed off on a beautiful vacation to the Mayan Riveria in Mexico, which someday I will write about with all of the beautiful details of the trip. Today, I’m writing about poop.

Almost every day of our vacation we went off the resort for some kind of tour, park or little adventure. This meant that we also ate off the resort several times. I thought we were ‘safe’ because we were at well known restaurants and with tours. I was incredibly careful about drinking lots of bottled water. Surely a tour wouldn’t serve you bad food would they? Well, no, probably not knowingly, but now that I know it isn’t ‘bad’ food that causes traveler’s diarrhea, I better understand that I probably just ate something that I wasn’t used to and my stomach wasn’t prepared to battle the bacteria in it.

I wasn’t feeling well for most of the trip, suffering from major bloating, sore blistered feet and trying to fit too many activities in. But, by the time we were headed back home, I was also making extra (emergency) trips to the bathroom. Luckily it wasn’t so far advanced, or so severe that it was an issue on the flight home! Although I think I took some immodium or pepto to try to keep it in check.

The next several days back in Nova Scotia, my trips to the bathroom became much more frequent. Up in the middle of the night stumbling to the bathroom … up early in the morning trying to make it there on time … get to the bottom of the stairs, turn around and have to go right back to the bathroom again … eat something, run to the bathroom, get dressed, go to the bathroom … plan your day around where the nearest bathroom is in case you have an emmergency. You know, your average, every day schedule completely turned upside down and now scheduled based on the ability to get to a bathroom! Most of us have experienced this at one time or another in our life, but how about for a whole week?!

The kicker was six days after our return to Nova Scotia. I had been up early in the morning to run to the bathroom. I went back to sleep on the couch. Woke up freezing and couldn’t get warm. Decided to go back to bed. Got out of bed to go to the bathroom and was shivering uncontrollably, so I decided to take a warm shower to try and get back on track. Much to my dismay when I put my head under the water to wash my hair, I nearly fell over. I opened my eyes, stumbled and grabbed the slippery wall. I teetered, but didn’t fall down. I stood for a moment thinking it would pass, but it didn’t … then everything hit me all at once in that flash of warm spreading through your body and then all of a sudden you go cold. I delicately balanced trying to get out of the shower to make it to the flush without falling head first IN to the flush (my bathroom is pretty tiny). I turned around and grabbed the garbage because I thought I might need it too. I was dizzy, nauseous, weak and couldn’t seem to get it together.

Finally, I called out to my roommate to ask her to call my sister to come take me to the hospital as I was pretty sure at that point that I was going to pass out, or puke … maybe both. I was able to manage to get dressed by the time my sister arrived and she took me to the Cobequid Community Health Centre where she waited with me for EIGHT HOURS. I was miserable, running to the bathroom, dizzy, tired, cold and we all knew that I was dehydrated. Unfortunately, it took a full day for them to take me in, have a doctor look at me, put me in a bed, hook me up to IV and fill me full of fluids. Then I started running to the bathroom to pee because they put two litres of water in to me!

Worse than the way I was feeling, worse than the embarrassment of being at the hospital for a problem with diarrhea, I was scared. I was only two days away from a two-week trip to Poland with Coalition for Kids International to photograph Canadian teens granting wishes to terminally ill children there. I was concerned that I wouldn’t be well enough to travel. Worried that they would keep me in the hospital to re-hydrate me, or that my diarrhea would continue while I was in Poland! Yikes!

In the end, they sent me home with a prescription to start right away and strict rules to drink lots of water and stay on the B.R.A.T diet for the next couple of days.
B – bananas
R – rice
A – applesauce
T – toast

Two days later, drained, but better hydrated, I headed off to the airport to travel to the other side of the world. I hadn’t eaten a real meal for several days, but I had crackers and applesauce in my carry on to get me by! Mostly I just tried not to eat during the eight hour flight from New York to Berlin. The last thing I wanted to do was be running to the tiny little airplane toilet. By the time we got moving in and around Berlin, the fluids and prescription had kicked in … I was back on track for regular, non-emergency bathroom visits. What a relief! And, in Berlin, you don’t have to pay for toilet paper, but you do have to pay to get into the bathroom!

What did I learn from this whole stinky experience?

1. There’s a vaccine out there for this! If you don’t know about it, it might be worth looking into. As soon as I saw the ad below on TV I booked a doctor’s appointment to get a prescription. There’s no way I’m sacrificing a trip to Peru to the runs!

‘This is not a good time.’

2. Never book two trips to opposite sides of the world with only one week in between!

Hope you had a giggle at my expense and that you’ve learned a little more about traveler’s diarrhea!

Importance of travel vaccines

Back in 2009 when I decided at Christmas time that I couldn’t resist the urge any longer to travel to Costa Rica, the thought never even crossed my mind that there may be travel vaccines required before I went! It wasn’t until about two weeks before departure that someone mentioned it to me and I decided to look into it. Much to my surprise, I was already too late to have the full course of vaccines that were recommended, but at least I could get started on them.

Now, being a more seasoned traveler, I am much more aware of the need for medications and vaccines when traveling and I understand that each country is different. Each city, community, state or area within a country can have vastly different requirements. Now, I know that 4-8 weeks in advance of any travel, I need to book an appointment with the travel health clinic. These professionals research your trip in advance and talk to you about all of the diseases and issues that you might come in contact with. For the most part, it is up to you to decide what medications and vaccines you want to take, but sometimes proof of vaccination is required before entering or leaving specific countries, such as yellow fever.

Many vaccines are lifelong protection from illnesses that are present in Canada and US, but much more prominent in under developed countries.

Most importantly, no matter where you are traveling outside of Canada, it is extremely important to have your childhood needles up to date. When we are young and get vaccinated for measles, mumps, tetanus and many others, we often forget to get our booster shots when we are older … or maybe think that they aren’t important. And in some cases vaccines have been changed, updated or have additional protections added to them.

In 2004 I was chopping wood at my home in Truro, NS. I nearly cut off my thumb with a rusty old axe and guess what? When I went to the hospital, the first thing they wanted to know was if I was up to date on my tetanus shots. Seeing as I hadn’t specifically ever sought one out just for fun, I was given the proper shot. It was a pretty easy fix, here in Canada. Take that same situation to the Amazon, or Africa when you step on a rusty nail or cut yourself while cooking during a homestay and they might not have the tetanus vaccine available to give you.

The tetanus shot actually covers you for tetanus and diphtheria and is good for about 10 years. This particular vaccine is free in Canada .. or rather our tax dollars pay for it. Either way, there is no cost to keep your tetanus shot up to date. The downfall (albeit a small one) is that this is a vaccine that does make your arm pretty sore. Better than death by rusty nail though!

When I traveled to Costa Rica, my travel health professional strongly suggested that I be vaccinated for Hepatitus A and B. This is done through a vaccine called Twinrix which you get three doses of, at specific intervals. For me, I was able to get my first two shots in before leaving Canada, but had to wait until I returned to have the final booster shot. Now that I’ve had it taken care of though, it is good for life! This isn’t just a travel vaccine though. It is recommended to most young adults as it is protection against the sexually transmitted type of Hepatitus as well as from the form carried in water and ice cubes.

Even if you are traveling for a week’s vacation to Dominican, Cuba or Mexico you should be vaccinated for Hepatitus. Their cleanliness standards are just simply not the same as ours and whether on or off resort, you are at risk.

Of course for anyone who is going to party, do drugs or have sex, the risk increases greatly. Do you really want to live with a liver disease for the rest of your life because you got drunk and had sex with a random guy/girl just one night? Then, you can carry the disease and pass it on to others. If you simply don’t care, then you suck. I think the three vaccines cost me about $200 over the course of six months, but now I am protected for the rest of my life.

As I was doing a little extra research before writing this blog I discovered that the hepatitus that is carried in water, some shellfish and on raw food is contaminated by human waste. It could be food that has been handled by someone who is infected and doesn’t wash their hands before handling your food, from poor water purification practices or from raw sewage going into the ocean where your seafood comes from.

Now that you are sufficiently disgusted … go get your Twinrix shots from your family physician or travel health clinic (about $200). While you are there, make sure you are up to date on measles, mumps, tetanus, diphtheria and maybe even chicken pox too. All of those last ones are paid for by the government, so protect yourself!

DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT A TRAVEL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL. THE INFORMATION IN THIS POST IS FOR INFORMATION ONLY. SIX WEEKS PRIOR TO TRAVEL YOU SHOULD CONSULT A TRAVEL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL ABOUT YOUR OWN UNIQUE TRAVEL PLANS AND HEALTH CONCERNS.

Welcome to I Picture The World

Gently close your eyes, relax …
Breathe deeply and clear your mind …
Now picture something … anything at all … what do you see?
Is it a person, place or thing?
Is it in black and white? In color?
Does it give you goose bumps and happy thoughts? (I hope so!)

When I close my eyes and relax, I picture the world. That’s right, the green and blue globe spinning on its axis is what comes to my mind, in full color, three dimensional goodness.

Pause, take a breath …

Then I get excited about all of the places I want to visit and what this big vast world has to offer! And how can I Possibly SIT STILL? THERE’S A WHOLE WORLD OUT THERE WAITING FOR ME TO DISCOVER IT!

Not everyone understands the urge, the NEED to travel, but those who get it, really understand that it is like gravity pulling you in all different directions all of the time. Being in one community, in one country for the rest of your life is just not an option or you’ll be torn to bits.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Canada. I’m happy to call it home and don’t anticipate ever moving from this peaceful land with our medicare system, great education opportunities and all of the freedoms we have. Halifax, NS is where I call home … well along with my parent’s home in Fredericton, NB, I call that home too.

I have a home. A roof over my head. Wonderful family and friends. What more could I want?

Well, for me, I want to see the world. I want to learn Spanish. I want to experience life as other people know it. I don’t want to just hear stories from far-away lands, I want to create stories, etch them in my memory and be a better, more rounded person for sharing in the joys and trials of friends who I have yet to meet in other countries.

I want my life to be overflowing with inspiration and the world inspires me. It inspires me to be better, continue learning, to be thankful and to hear other people’s stories.

I hope you’ll join me on my journey as I share photos, stories and tips for photo enthusiasts who like to travel.

Come on in. Share in my inspiration. See how I Picture the World.