People love to blab out travel advice. It seems like anyone who's ever been on a plane are full of tip and sage wisdom, the quality of which is usually inversely proportional to the experience level of the individual. Problem is, there's so much noise out there that the really important stuff gets lost in he process. Never fear - in this post, I will give you THE single most important piece of travel advice you will ever get.
One caveat. This only applies to travel to less savory places. If you're going to Minneapolis, you don't need this. Likewise, this advice isn't so useful for international travel to somewhere like, say Berlin or Tokyo.
You DO need this if you're going to Mexico/Southeast Asia/India/China/Third World (or lower) countries.
HERE IS THE TIP:
What's the one thing that ruins a fancy international trip? Answer: diarrhea. After that long, expensive plane ride, those precious few days in an exciting foreign country cannot be sacrificed at the altar of the porcelain gods. It's heartbreaking.
Despite having traveled to more than 70 countries (or perhaps because of it), I have been disproportionately afflicted by this phenomenon. I have personally shat uncontrollably on between 5 and 10 UNESCO World Heritage sites. I have tried, unsuccessfully, to slip off a night walk in the jungle of Costa Rica, only to have the guide illuminate me, squatting on the side of the path (other members of our group reported this was the best spot of the night). I have endured a $120 cab ride when... you know, let's just leave it at that.
The flora and pathogens present in less developed parts of the world wreaks havoc on the first-world digestive system. It is known. And there's nothing you can do about it, except DON'T DRINK THE WATER.
Don't worry, that wasn't the tip. Fact is, it's impossible to not drink the water. And besides, it's probably also the food.
In all my efforts to prophylactically stave off this most common medical malady, only one thing works. Follow these steps and you will never be sick to your stomach as a result of mild-to-middling exposure to foreign pathogens:
Step 1: Go out and but a fuckload of Pepto-Bismol. The tablets. Not Immodium. Pepto. Generic is fine. The quantity you buy should be determined by this formula: (# of days in the trip +3) x 4. For example a ten day trip would be 52 tablets ((10+3) x 4 = 52). Do this for each person in your party.
Step 2: The night before you leave, take 2 peptos. Then take two peptos in the morning and two peptos at night. Do this every day of your trip. You can stop taking them when you reach the airport heading home. Do not skip taking a dose.
Step 3: Enjoy your trip (and solid bowel movements).
I'm not a microbiologist, but I believe that the bismuth has a protective effect achieved by stifling exogenous pathogens. In any event, although I'm not sure how it works, it does, and does very well.
Perhaps you doubt this? Not scientific enough? Since adopting this method, I have only gotten sick twice on trips, once when we ran out and once when I got cocky and tried to skip a dose. Because of the latter, I missed the opportunity to watch a group of lions take down a water buffalo.
Full disclosure: There in one side effect from this - your poop will almost certainly turn black. This is normal.
Finally, don't use this knowledge as license to do stupid shit. If you're in the middle of Africa and the natives are drinking bottled water, so too should you.
Noah's Inner Monologue
Scribblings of a man who can barely operate an idiotproof website.