How to Stay Healthy While Backpacking Southeast Asia

By Derek Craker

Whether you are backpacking or planning an extensive vacation, heading to Southeast Asia requires more than just a traveler’s guidebook. With so many beautiful places to go and so many amazing sights to see, your preparedness is as important as ever. The top thing on your list? Your health.
So what should you be extra conscious of before heading to Southeast Asia? Here are some expert tips (and common sense):

Street Food – Pay attention to the aroma in the streets and follow your nose to a street vendor. It shouldn’t be hard, Southeast Asia is full of them. Once you find something that looks delicious, take note of the following: Is this stall receiving any business? Is the food being prepared hot and fresh? What is the condition of the stall/cart?
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Having caution before you eat is key in avoiding illness. Seeing temples and sunrises is pleasant and rewarding…until you have an upset stomach.Medicine and Vitamins – Bismuth Salicylate (Pepto Bismol) / Multivitamin / Probiotics
This trio can transform your trip from mediocre health to tip top shape. Prior to your meal, taking a Pepto pill can help your digestive system prepare for any risks you may take while eating. Since it is a preventative measure, it is a safety net for your stomach. Probiotics also help your immune and digestive system by filling your stomach will good bacteria, thereby boosting your defense. Multivitamins are always important, but with traveling, they become an essential tool to keep your body healthy.
Sun Protection and First Aid – Keeping your body healthy on the outside is just as important as on the inside. Your skin is your first line of defense from foreign invaders and plays a big part of your immune system. Have a cut on your foot? Put on a bandage. Brush against poison ivy? Get specialized lotion or ask for local anti-itch cream. Your skin should avoid irritation at all costs. The sun can be the biggest perpetrator of skin illness, so be cautious and mindful. Some ideas for anti-sun? Sunscreen, chapstick, long sleeves, hat, sunglasses, and umbrella.Hand Sanitizer and Sanitizing Wipes – Be especially mindful of your hands, and avoid letting your hands go unclean for too long. Keeping hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes (for electronics and frequently handled items) will give you a fighting chance at staying healthy throughout your trip. This should be the number one habit that you incorporate into your travel routine.12022423_10153308146686783_3388330349724927965_o
Bug Protection – Mosquitos are carriers of disease and infection, so don’t be fooled by their small size. While many people itch and scratch the pain away, many mosquitos can ruin your trip and potentially lead to hospitalization. Bug spray and bug patches are effective tools to combat your skin from becoming a mosquito meal.

Southeast Asia should be an enjoyable, memorable experience, so don’t forget to laugh! Getting lost can be stressful, but find joy in wandering. Overpaying for a taxi can be frustrating, but learn to forgive yourself. Sometimes, the greatest health tip comes from within. So, take a deep breath, smile at others, and embrace a new culture with confidence.



All photos in this article have been taken by Derek Craker.

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