The hardest lesson I’ve learned from constant travel

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It was the third day in a row that I had traveled to a new city and the second week I had been in Scotland. I had been walking roughly 7-10 miles every day. I could do it, I said to myself. I just needed to get to Kelvingrove Museum from the railway station. No problem, I’ll just walk. I passed by retail stores with names I recognized and restaurants I could find back home. I passed by statues of famous Scotsman. Then I found myself on a street that sloped up. This can’t be that bad, I thought. I just have to get to the top of the hill, then I’ll be halfway there. The trip to Kelvingrove ended up being a few miles further away than I had thought. When I got there, I had climbed an enormous hill and walked along a deserted road for most of it. All I wanted to do was sit down, but I was at a museum. So I kept walking.

When I finally went back to the hostel that evening, I was fatigued and freezing. I felt like none of my blood was reaching my outer extremities. I was hungry too. Starbucks was close, but it didn’t have any real food. If I wanted real food, I was going to have to walk at least a mile to find it. I did find it that day, after a 2 mile round trip hike. I was mentally exhausted from having to figure out my bearings and physically exhausted from the day. But wait, I still had to do work for four hours. Ok, I’ll just get my laptop. It’ll be fine.

I plugged everything in, got myself some water and went to send an email. The email was sending so slowly I checked the wifi; it said I had four bars. It took about 12 minutes to send a 1MB file. I kept going anyway. The speed of the wifi cut the amount of work I was able to do in half. I couldn’t communicate with my coworkers or clients without having to sit through an excruciatingly long progress bar. Whatever, I’ll make it for it tomorrow when I get faster wifi somewhere else. My brain felt like jelly. It felt like I needed to exert extraordinary amounts of effort to think. I put my head back for a moment and almost immediately fell asleep.

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I foresaw that I was going to be tired, hungry and sleepy. I knew that I would be coming home a little drained and pale-faced. I had an inkling that I might get sick. What I didn’t expect was that I would be sick for three weeks, and that I would keep getting sick for the next three months. I kept traveling, and my immune system dipped again and again.

Had I slept a little more, eaten a little better, chosen to take the bus instead of walk to destinations that required more walking/climbing, I could have mitigated my illnesses. I didn’t have to deplete everything I had, but I did. I didn’t listen to my body. Whenever there was something new to see, I would ignore all of my basic needs and run to explore my new destination instead. I forgot about eating things with nutrients and recovering from long days. I forgot that those things were important.

I went to the doctor’s for an annual check-up in the middle of my traveling. He told me my white blood cell count was low, and that I should rest up for a while. Instead, I flew to the Middle East and continued my journey. I knew that I was about to get sick again, and I did.

Of all the things I’ve learned from traveling, I’ve learned that nothing is more important than taking care of yourself. You can’t do anything without your health. Don’t lose it.

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