One of the downfalls of traveling for 18 days straight is the potential to run yourself ragged. Understand that our trip to Ireland was amazing, and I am so glad we added on an extra week. However, by the end of that last week, we were all exhausted and then some.
In the days following our tour groups departure, we were receiving Facebook updated on our group pages of nearly half our group going to the doctors office with respiratory and sinus infections and other ailments. Not much time passed before Dad started not feeling well, with me following suit a few days after, and Mom deciding to join in the fun on the last days of our trip. I think by that point, we’d been exposed to the same illnesses as our fellow travelers, as well as having spent a few extra days walking all of towns and hilltops. Our immune systems were down from having eventful days and night that were never long enough, but how can you stay in bed when you’re in a foreign beautiful country and on limited time?
The day we traveled back to America was the worst for myself. Dad was on the road to recover, and Mom was just catching whatever we had. I, however, was utterly miserable. When it comes to flying, my ears generally do just fine equalizing the pressure in my head. Maybe a few pops, but nothing to terrible, and things are back to normal by the time I’m walking off the plane. This time around was VERY much the opposite. With all the congestion I had going on, my sinuses had no room for everything to move about in. So instead of equalizing normally, the pressure during one of our flights built up so bad that I felt like my head was going to explode. When the stewardess came by with drinks I asked mom to get me some ice. As I held that tiny cup to my forehead and temples, I couldn’t help but start to cry. I bump into thing, smash my toes, hit my head and other painful clumsy things on a fairly regular basis. But the pain I experienced in my head on that plane was overwhelming, and it seemed to last forever. Once we had started the decent, one of my ears popped, and helped settle the pressure in my head. When that happened, the pain eased and I started to feel ridiculous. I know from experiencing it how painful it was, but I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the man on the other side of my mother who had to be wondering why I’d gone from contentedly listening to music to sobbing with my head buried in my moms shoulder in a matter of minutes.
We had three flights that day. By the end of the third, I had completely lost hearing in my left ear, and had a slight muffled effect happening in my right. When Jim picked us up at the airport, I had to stare at him while he talked to make sure I understood what he was saying. By this point, we’d been traveling for nearly 20 hours, I’d run out of cold and cough medicine, I had not slept more than an hour the night before (you can ask my mom. She panicked when she woke up in the middle of the night and I wasn’t in our room or ensuite bathroom, but was found wide awake in the tea room next to our room for the night) and I just weary mentally and physically. I slept the entire car ride home. Still no hearing in my left ear. I slept the entire night. Woke up still without hearing in my left ear. And again, without warning I felt like crying. As a vocal performer (even though I don’t perform regularly anymore) the idea of not being able to hear, even partially, is heartbreaking. And every time I get sick, the first thing to go is my voice, usually followed my a throat infection of some kind. Lack of hearing and losing your voice. Two things that petrify a vocal musician.
Luckily, with many a hot shower, jaw exercises, drugs, and blowing my nose really hard, I was eventually able to get my left ear to pop enough to have my hearing back (mostly). Over the past week of being home, I’ve spent nearly every day in bed or on the couch, sleeping and resting as much as possible, drinking countless cups of tea, and taking a limitless number of Advil Cold and Sinus paired will Halls Cough Drops. And for the most part, I am finally feeling much better. I still have a cough that is lingering, and soreness from talking today since I’ve been out of the house all day for the first time since we got back, but I feel a lot better. Mom and Dad both have made a swift recovery process as well, and I’m hopefully that we’ll all be back to our regular selves by this time next week.
Just remember, even when you are taking care of yourself, you can still be susceptible to illness, especially when traveling. Always stay hydrated. Wash your hands and face often, with soap and water. Leave one of the mini hand sanitizers in your purse or duffle/suitcase to use when sinks are not available. When in doubt, you can always sterilize with liquor like they do in movies, right? Try to keep from touching hand rails and doorknobs/levers in public places as much as possible as those are huge areas of germ growth. When on a plane, try not to have the air vents blow directly on your face or head. Even on newer planes, the cooling system can create condensation, providing a home for bacteria that can be spread in the air. I don’t think it would generally be harmful, but it could compromise you if your immune system is already down. Also, try to keep a small pack of wipes on you to cleanse seats or tables or other hard surfaces you might come into contact with. And of course, try not to go around kissing too many handsome strangers.
These are just a few steps you can take to protect yourself and your companions as you travel. Don’t overthink and be a hypochondriac, but also try not to risk having a trip ruined by being sick. Instead, take small precautions and allow yourself to make the most of every moment!