04 January 2014

Not Getting Sick in India and How to Pack for the Ladies.

We recently returned from a two week stay in India.  It was amazing and wonderful and overwhelming and incredible and fantastic.  We rode elephants, saw the Taj, ate amazing food, saw tea plantations ... we really did so much that the two weeks felt like a month!

Before going, I had two main questions that I googled endlessly: one was what to pack, and the other was how not to get sick.

I scoured the internet for packing lists and dietary tips. I read tons of blogs and found that some were good and some really missed the mark.  As a result, I decided to write my own round-up to supplement what's out there.

How Not to Get Sick
We didn't get sick. At All.  And I am not going to lie, we were pretty cocky about avoiding delhi belly or any other gastric distress issues while away.  I have a super sensitive stomach and G has digestive issues that we get sick ALL THE TIME when we travel,s o getting through this unscathed was nothing short of miraculous. EXCEPT for the fact that we were incredibly prepared.

First thing that I truly believe made a difference was taking probiotics before going and while away.  I began taking them about 3 weeks in advance of going.  I took Align, but there are all kinds of different ones that are available.  This one was recommended by a pharmacist, so I grabbed a box and started in. I took it every day before bed and didn't miss a day. Increasing the healthy bacteria can't hurt, so give your stomach the best defense straight out of the box. 

The second part of not getting sick was being hyper careful about the water. We all had some fear of the water, and we were always pretty cautious.  Almost all bottled water was sterilized but we often still used our steri-pen for added protection.  And we brushed our teeth with bottled water (sterilized with the Steri-pen).  In restaurants, etc., we drank beer or cokes and never used any ice, even when told it was safe.

(Let me say that the Steri-pen is AMAZING. It sterilizes a litter of water in 90 seconds, in the bottle, with ultraviolet light. It doesn't make a mess, doesn't change the taste, and fits in your bag for sterilizing on the go. It felt like a bit of overkill to take this, but in the end, I was so glad we did. You can't be too careful, really.)  

Next, we didn't eat uncooked veg at all.  I mean, we seemed a bit insane, but I would scrape garnish off my plate.  It just wasn't gonna happen, no uncooked veg.  This meant that ME who hates salad was craving salad something fierce by the time I got home, but again, uncooked sliced veg could have been cleaned or dipped in unsafe water.  Maybe a bit overzealous, but again, I didn't get sick and that wins out.  

Fourth on the list would be to really watch not eating when not hungry. I say this because there was so much great food that I would always want to try, but with all the other variables, not overeating was the one cause of stomach distress I could wholly control.

On our tour, breakfast was the one meal that was always included, but most mornings I really would just eat a little rice and maybe a bit of a curry or omelet or potato.  But just a bit.  I found that I was so full from our delicious dinners, and lunch was always just around the corner.  Not eating when I wasn't hungry sounds like a no-brainer, but when the food is all so delicious, you want to keep eating!

Last and final would be to start eating spicy/rich/Indian style food periodically before leaving home.  I think we really benefited from the fact that we eat spicy food all the time.  We eat lots of Indian and lots of Mexican food, and I think that our systems familiarity with this level of spice really helped out.  

Next up: What do you take when you are a lady. I read lots of lists before we went and I really wanted to add my own.

Things to Pack for Sure - Not a Complete Packing List, but my view on the essentials when on a tour:

- Thin capri pants -- It is true that people/women do not wear shorts.  Don't be that person who wears shorts unless you really want to stand out. Wear thin capris. 
- Sleeveless shirts are okay provided they aren't spaghetti strap or skin tight.  -- Lots of blogs will say people don't wear them, but we saw it often. I took lots of really thin long-sleeved shirts so that I could stay covered from the sun. 
- A thin scarf is of paramount importance! You don't know when you are going to need to cover your head or shoulders, and having something in your bag makes it super easy.
- Comfortable shoes that are closed toe and preferably closed on the sides. When you are walking around the cities it can be a bit dirty, so protect your feet and wear shoes that cover you.
- A thin jacket in case it cools or is very bright and sunny.
- Deodorant bc when it's hot, you will sweat.
- Soap if you have allergies, which I do. Having my own soap made a big difference.
- Toilet paper and carry it with you. G and I each took a roll of paper and kept it in our backpack. Even when a 'western' bathroom was on offer, there was often no toilet paper.
- Hand sanitizer or wipes. You will want them and you will use them.
- Water purifying system for moments when you don't trust the bottle of water being offered or don't have one to hand. We took a Steripen, which was amazing.
- We didn't need to buy feminine hygiene products, but I took just in case. Why not?
- Paracetamol and ammonium are available everywhere BUT when you are on a tour, it's not always possible to stop. I brought my own and was glad to have it (and so were the others on my tour who had trusted that it would be easy to come by so they didn't bring their own).

Anyway, lots of people have said to me that India is not on their list of places to go. I totally get that, but I have to say, change your list. It's absolutely an amazing country with wonderful people, gorgeous things to see, delicious food, and interesting history (which I realized I know absolutely nothing about). It was a great trip and I really was happy to have gone. It's definitely somewhere you should go, whoever you are!

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