How To Avoid Traveler’s Diarrhea: Lessons Learned

by The Runaway Guide on June 29, 2011

Diarrhea, the squirts, the runs, geri, splitskas, layseh mogen, or anal leakage; what ever you call it, it rarely makes for a pleasant afternoon.  In all seriousness though, for the traveler, diarrhea is one of the most common and potentially life threatening ailments that can occur. And if you’re going backpacking in a developing country, It is less a question of if you will get diarrhea, but rather when and how severe.

Fortunately, the chances of getting life altering diarrhea can be abated. Unfortunately for me, a stubborn and careless runaway, I had to find out how the hard way. The hard way being days and days of unprecedented, blood draining, ass quivering diarrhea. Forgive the description.

So for the sake of your rectum, your trip and your life, I encourage you to capitalize on my diarretic misfortunes and learn from the following mistakes.

Lesson One: If it smells like poop, and tastes like poop, it may very well have been mistakenly marinated in poop.

After a 40 mile bicycle rickshaw ride we finally arrived at the western most border town of Mahendranga, Nepal. I had heard that unlike veggie India, Nepal was carnivorous. So after two months of no meat, all I could think about was stuffing my face with a savory piece of chicken, beef or pork.

There, on the corner of this wild west looking town, is where I spotted it. Hanging from a string, swaying in the breeze, a single squer of chicken beckoned to come. Though it was covered in flies and looked as though it had been hanging there for days, its beauty mesmerized me, and I obliged its request without question.

Chicken! I said to the waiter while pointing at it with my finger. He obediently scurried over, cut it down, and served it to me on an aluminum plate. I praised him for his quickness and his beautiful piece of chicken.

The first bite was heavenly. The second bite was also nice. But by the third bite, my blind adoration for this chicken was beginning to wane. I began to smell something strange and so I sniffed it. Is that? Could that be? “This chicken smells just like poop,” I exclaimed. Then I took another bite to confirm. “It tastes like poop too,” I declared.

Over the course of the following week my bowels underwent a trauma that words cannot describe. 5 to 10 times a day I frantically rushed to the hole in our jungle hut. I had a high fever and nausea. The culmination of which produced bright orange projectile vomit. Lesson learned.

Lesson Two: Some ice creams will make you scream.

We decided to head to Pokara Nepal by bus. Since the seats were small and crowded, we opted to sit on the roof. Before departing, I spotted an ice cream vendor and bought one from him. It was truly delicious. It was creamy, cold and full of Indian spices. Everything I needed on this overcast yet roasting afternoon.

Though I had been warned not to eat ice cream because the melting and refreezing could produce bacteria in already bactria ridden milk, I didn’t care. It was so satisfying that I even bought another. Unsurprisingly, for an entire month, I turned every clean bathroom I entered into a war zone. Don’t worry though, as we left each hotel, I tipped the maids appropriately. Lesson learned.

Lesson Three: Leave the leftovers for the dogs.

In a bus side hotel in Jordan, I was forced to work for one month to pay off the one night I couldn’t afford. As I had no money, eating was a rarity, and I was beginning to resemble a holocaust victim. One day, outside the African women’s door, I found a tray with left over chicken on it. Famished, I rushed over to the tray and ferociously began to eat. This time the chicken didn’t taste like poop. On the contrary, it was juicy and perfectly cooked. It was just what I needed to regain my strength.

However, just as I was finishing my shift, I made my first run to the toilette. Little did I know at the time but it would be the first of many. For two weeks straight, I hit the toilette and then cleaned the toilettes. I was in the bathroom at least ten times a day. On top of it all, the other employees didn’t believe I was sick. And they constantly walked in on me while on the pot, yelling, work work! Yala yala!

Moral of the story, don’t eat half eaten chicken if it has been sitting on the floor for an unknown amount of time in a hot and filthy Jordanian hotel. Lesson learned.

Although diarrhea is sometimes funny to joke about, it is no laughing matter when you begin to bleed from the …. So I hope that you will learn from my mistakes and be cautious if you ever come across poopy chicken, refrozen ice cream, or aging leftovers.

Good luck and diarrhea free travels,

P.s. While diarrhea is a concern for the traveler, it is life threatening for millions of children from developing countries. According to UNICEF, every day 24,000 children under the age of 5 die due to diarrhea resulting from unsanitary drinking water. 24,000 every day. If you would like to help, you can make a donation directly to UNICEF. Additionally, if you prefer a smaller non for profit organization, I highly recommend Planet Water. Planet Water has developed a cost effective yet efficient water filtration system and constructs them in schools and rural communities across South East Asia. To learn more or make a donation, please click on the following link, Planet Water.

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