Thursday, August 13, 2009

First-class medical care for travel, anywhere!

We here at Passport Health New Jersey are very excited about our entrance into the weblog community. This is Worldbloc, and I'll be your blogger for the duration of your stay. The first order of business: why does travelling smart mean travelling with PHNJ?

Well, there's a story to answer that...

It began with a bagel in Seoul and ended in a bathroom stall in Phnom Phen. New Year's Eve 2009, I met up with eighteen college-aged women at JFK airport around 10PM. After about an hour of waiting for our primary guide to arrive from the Union of Myanmar (Burma) after a stint of field reporting, we spotted her from across the concourse. Her bedraggled body shivered like a leaf in a blizzard under the hollow, yellow lights. But she swung her teal and fushia pashmina back with determination. We boarded the plane, slightly stirred but not shaken.

... Until we realized that our layover in Seoul was for twelve hours and thirty-two minutes, and not thirty-two minutes. It was twelve degrees that morning, which was New Year's morning, and almost none of us were prepared to face the cold. But we made the best of it, loaded a bus and headed for the Capitol City, proper.

The sunrise on the road between Incheon and Seoul was breathtaking. The hills were frosted over in a magnificent shade of blackish-green in front of the red-orb sun, still low in the pale orange sky. Buildings propped up against the horizon in a way I had never seen in America.

Several of my friends opted to try the fried silk-worms served on the street... between that and the whipping winds that day, they were not happy campers on the second half of our journey. Our guide certainly was not looking any better at customs in Siem Reap.

At this point, I should mention the arsenal of PHNJ supplies I carried with me: everything from a Steri-Pen to a whiz to about 4875 band-aids. In the beginning, some of the girls laughed when I sterilized each and every bottle of water on the trip; by the end, everyone asked to use it. (Sometimes, I still whip it out at Rutgers!)

The weather in Cambodia was wonderful. From the moment we stepped off the plane, the air smelled of sweet incense and spices. Our guide did not seem to enjoy the fragrance, and spent the majority of the following day in bed, or asleep at our table. She was so ill by the third day of our trip that she was med-evaced out of the country (and ended up having brain snails... ew)!

There we were, in Southeast Asia, without our guide. And then my roommate got sick. At first, it was just a "little bug" in her system, but by the time we reached Phnom Phen, whatever she had swept over the up-stairs of our guest-house like the Black Plague. Needless to say, I was terrified. But I never fell prey to illness! Band-aids, alcohol wipes, whiz (so glad I brought that!), and so many other items saved my trip and really helped the people I was with. I would not have traded my experience for anything!

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for my friend. I had the unlucky job of ushering her into the bathroom of the Phnom Phen Airport (an hour before our flight) as she vomited into a clear plastic bag for all to see. The plane ride home wasn't pleasant, either...

Would I call these little mishaps a deterrent to world travel? Absolutely not. The experience made me realize that *life* happens no matter what you do, and sometimes things don't go as planned (and sometimes they go downright wrong!). Preparation and precaution salvaged my trip and ensured my health in Cambodia. The supplies and education I received from working at Passport Health New Jersey really did make the difference, and I am more than certain that it will for you, as well.

Wishing healthy (adventurous, astonishing, wonderful!) travels,