I knew I would fall ill at some point on my trip around the world. Somewhere on the way, there was going to be an ice cube, a mosquito bite or some questionable meat that was going to get me into trouble.
I took all the precautions. I went to the travel doctor. I got the shots (Hep A, Typhoid, Yellow Fever vaccines). I got the preventative medications to protect myself from altitude sickness, malaria and Delhi belly (or as they call it in Mexico, Moctezuma’s Revenge). I watched how and where my food was made. I avoided salad for months at a time. I thought of everything.
Except Chicken Pox.
I had never had chicken pox as a child. It was not for lack of trying. My mother practically rubbed me on infected children throughout elementary school. I even shared a room with three other teenagers who had it at summer camp. Not so much as a spot.
Yet one week into my visit in Mexico City in 2009, I woke up and saw a blemish by my nose. I thought nothing of it, figuring my skin was breaking out with all the sunscreen I had been wearing. I felt a little run down. I took a nap and felt better.
The next morning there were four pink marks on my face. I almost fainted on the crowded bus at noon, but I chalked it up to heat exhaustion. By the afternoon there were seven spots. By evening there were seventeen and they were spreading down my neck and arms.
I was supposed to be flying to Chiapas the next morning before starting a bus-tacular crawl south through Central America to Costa Rica. I rushed over to a private hospital (after confirming my travel health insurance would cover the expenses) called Medica Sur. Four doctors examined me, which I thought was excessive, but later I discovered they were initially concerned I might have swine flu. This happened the month before the H1N1 epidemic began in Mexico. A dermatologist laughed at them and diagnosed me with varicela. I do speak Spanish but I do not speak medical Spanish, so I had to ask my friend to translate the diagnosis.
Part of me was relieved it was only chicken pox and not some horrible foreign parasite. The other part was crestfallen that Chiapas was definitely out, as was the entire Central American leg of my trip, since I had to be in semi-quarantine for a minimum of 7 days and was not allowed to travel for at least 10-12 days. I recovered well enough, with few scars (thank goodness!), and managed to fly directly to Costa Rica 11 days later to continue on with my trip.
I learned a solid lesson that week to always leave room for the unexpected in your travel plans. Something is bound to happen and all you can do is be ready to adapt when it does.