Many of you may already know about my allergies, especially PMLE (sun allergy).
Some of you may also be thinking : why in the world would she go to SE Asia where the sun barely ever stops shining.
I simply didn’t want that to stop me from living my dream.
I was also convinced that I can do this, not sure how but I believed I’ll make it through somehow.
Two and a half weeks later I ended up in the hospital, completely on my own, on the other side of the world.
I decided to write this post hoping that when you start seeing any signs like I had at the beginning, you will not let it get to the same extreme as I have. It’s probably the most personal post I’ve done so far and one that I struggled writing the most.
– When I Nearly Quit Travelling Due To Allergies –
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When I was in Ubud (my favourite place on this planet, more to come very soon) I started getting a sun rash on my right arm – which, I thought was pretty impressive as I’ve been in the sun for over a week already.
I didn’t think anything of it and just used my trusted steroids cream. Couple of days later, more rash started showing up on my back and the one on my arm wasn’t getting any better.
That’s when my travel buddy went back home and I started the second part of my adventure – by myself.
I started realising my my mosquite bites or any little irritation were turning into simillar thing as my skin rash – to the point where it didnt look like a bite anymore but something very angry and nasty.
I kept using Elocon (steroids cream) and increased the antihistamines dose to two tablets a day. That’s when I decided to head to the Gili Islands – one of the places that I really wanted to see during my travels.
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Things Getting out of Control
On my very first day in the Gili Islands (Gili T) I started to feel unwell – unbelievably tired and very weak. My skin was also getting worse – strangely my creams seemed to make the reaction worse, which has never happened before.
During dinner, I only had a few bites of food (and I am the biggest foodie you’ll meet). I felt like I was getting a really strange cold and at night time I ended up sleeping in my leggings and a hoody – let me remind you that I was still in the Gili Islands, where even the air-con was struggling with the heat. I started taking my ‘cold & flu’ medicine.
The next day I went past the doctors and got them to give me some stronger tablets. I also managed to get a bargain too – original price was 200 rupiah but after some chatting I managed to get it down to 50 rupiah as long as I gave them my name (which possibly was not the real one..), they said it needs to be written in the locals book so I could pay their price – okay!
These are the tablets I received:
Two days later, the only time I felt fine-ish was when my cold & flu medicine was kicking in. Because Gili T is known as the party island, I headed over to Gili Air – known as the more chilled and relaxed one.
By that point, my ‘rash’ was turning into an open wound, especially on my arm. I noticed a few girls looking at it confused, trying to figure out what possibly could it be – making me so incredibly uncomfortable that without thinking, I put powdered foundation on it. BAD IDEA.
If you ever see someone with a strange condition, or whatever – please, please, please try not to stare.. try to be aware that what you are doing is making that person feel super uncomfortable. If you are really wondering what is ‘that’ thing – just ask. Honestly.
I haven’t taken pictures of the reaction when it was really bad, but this was just before:
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Trouble in Paradise
As soon as I checked into the hostel in Gili Air, I asked the reception for the nearest hospital / doctor.
My skin was getting out of control, and the pain was becoming unbearable.
I also felt weaker day by day, but I was convincing myself it was just a slight dehydration.
I went to the doctors and showed him my wounds, to what he replied in shock : ‘Europeans and Americans have verrry, verrry weak skin, but I not see this before..” Great.
I showed him a picture of the injection (Solu-Medrol, read post below) that I got in Croatia when my allergies were really bad.
How to Travel with Prickly Heat & Sun Allergy / PMLE
Turns out the place didn’t have what I needed but he had something else instead – “less stronger injection, same same, but a little different..” the statement of SE Asia, but I went for it. He also said I should take antibiotics, but because I am not the biggest fan, I kindly declined his offer, believing that the injection will sort me out.. just like the one in Croatia..
And I started feeling more powerless and weak than I ever have before – with daily fever, headaches and pain on my skin everytime I moved.
This is the doctors in Gili Air and the injection I was given:
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Mum Always Knows Best
I tried not to worry my mum and described the situation in the least stressful way. However, by that point I was getting slightly worried and started searching for a hospital that had the injection, which proved to be extremely hard. I then found an Australian one in Kuta – the part of Bali I was least interested in visiting. But the receptionist said they have what I need, and that’s all I cared about at that point.
Bali is a well-known island for the Australians, it’s a similar thing as Spain for the English, which is why they have their own hospitals around.
BIMC is the one that said they have my injection:
The next day I got a message from my mum asking to call her. She answered – with a shaky and extremely worried voice : “why are you not telling me what’s wrong, I know it’s bad – you need to go hospital as soon as possible. This is dangerous.”
She said it’s an infection, and it can be life-threatening if I don’t do something about it (which is why she was crying by that point), she also said I’m by myself and I can’t let it get any worse. Shocked and incredibly impressed with her mum skills of knowing exactly what’s going on, I tried to calm her down a little and said that I found a hospital and will be heading there soon.. realising just how serious this could be getting.
“You need to go as soon as possible..” and so I went the next day. Barely.
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The Complete Break Down
The journey to Kuta was 100% the worst one I’ve ever experienced. What was meant to be ‘4’ hours max – turned into 7. A boat and then a crazy mini-bus ride. The driver was dropping everyone off in the worst order possible, he then stopped and told me to get out. Checking my maps, it was still another 15 mins drive, I tried to argue my point across that he dropped everyone off right outside their hotels, but he just took my backpack out and drove away.
All I wanted to do is cry by that point, but I didn’t even have the energy to do that. Trying to hide from the sun, then barely managing to put my backpack on the wound covered back, I asked the policeman standing on the other side of the street for the taxi. I was not walking for sure.
When I finally managed to get to the hospital and was called in to see the doctor, I sat down and broke down completely.
I think that’s when it all hit me. I was like a zombie, with no energy whatsoever, this weakness I felt – it was crazy. I had no idea what to do and I just wanted to be home in my bed, with someone I know by my side.
I couldn’t get a word out – so I just showed my skin and a picture of the injection with the begging look in my eyes. He asked me a few questions – how I’m feeling etc.. and then said it’s a serious infection external and internal. THIS IS WHY I’VE BEEN FEELING LIKE THIS. It wasn’t just the dehydration. My mum was right, of course.
When I managed to get my crying under control, the doctor looked at me confused and said : “Why are you travelling alone..? Why is no-one here with you?” Are you kidding me? I couldn’t find the strength to even respond to his question.
He said I need three different injections, antibiotics plus an antibiotics cream. The thing that really got me worried however, was the dose of the steroids – three times more than what I was given in Croatia. Could my body take it when it’s so weak? That’s when the doctor decided to tell me that the injection is not the same as what I am looking for but similar. I didn’t even care by that point and just lay down on the bed as I was told.
Next thing I know, the nurse was inserting what seemed like the biggest cannula I’ve seen into my arm. I am terrified of needles, looking away, the tears started falling down the side of my face. I just wanted it to be over now.
I then must’ve passed out, I just remember waking up and the room was empty. After a while, the nurse came in and double checked if everything was ok, then took that horrible thing out of my arm.
When I finally managed to get up, I went to pay the bill – £135. Which thinking now, it could be so much worse. Relieved that I’m insured, I paid it. The bill will have to be claimed on my return home, which is not ideal, especially if it would cost a lot more so always bare that in mind – have some extra / spare money when travelling.
The list of treatments and the antybiotics I was given:
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Feeling Trapped on my own
For the next two days I stayed in an AirBnB apartment close to the hospital. It was very simple but nice and the owner was the kindest person I’ve met on this journey. She couldn’t understand much English and unfortunately, as you’ve probably figured – I don’t speak Indonesian so the language barrier did not make it easy. However, she still made sure I was ok in her own adorable way. She was incredible. Below is where I’ve stayed:
My AirBnB Apartment
Two days later I had to move on to another place as my room was already booked up. Because of the doctor saying I have to stay close to the hospital, and me still feeling absolutely horrible, I found a hotel near by (and got a pretty sweet deal).
It took about 3 days for the antibiotics to kick in and start getting rid of the infection. I cannot explain, how lonely, powerless and fragile I felt for those four days. I felt like my mind was in a different body – one that I have absolutely no control over.
My super nice hotel room:
My day looked something along these lines:
Wake up at 8ish, trying to get dressed, the pain kicking in, tears falling down my face, realising I have no-one with me so I would sit back on the bed and cry like a little kid. After speaking on the phone to my close ones back home, my mood lightened up slightly and so I headed into Kuta town for some food and water at about 1pm – I was walking like a zombie, things didn’t fully sink in. I would order a meal and as soon as I saw it – I had to move it away, every single time.
I haven’t eaten anything other than watermelon for about a week.
Let me just clarify – that when it comes to allergies, I am pretty strong and don’t let it get to me often – I am used to it by now. So this situation caught me completely off guard.
I started worrying about collapsing somewhere as the heat made it so much worse and got to the point where I generally wrote down my name and address of the hotel, plus where I live back home and put it in my purse in case something happened.
The only thing that made me leave the room was the thought that I had to keep sane and do some things that the normal me would do, even if it was extremely difficult.
I would try to work on my blog, but after a few minutes I found myself lying down on the bed. I hate doing nothing, so this feeling – where my energy was not letting me do anything productive was making it so much worse.
I was so close to going back home, I would break down numerous times a day. I had no more energy to carry on.
But I knew I couldn’t give up just yet.
After about four days, my skin started feeling better and the pain went away completely, I started getting some of my energy back very slowly and I decided to move on – somewhere else. As incredible as Bali was, I had to move on and start a new chapter.
I booked a flight to Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Two flights later and a 14 hour stopover in Singapore (more on that coming soon) plus one whole subway sandwich – I made it to Chiang Mai, one of the two places from my Thai bucket list, Pai was the other.
To be completely honest with you, by that point – the excitement was long gone. It felt like my mind and body made a switch deal, the mind has given up in believing that I can still enjoy this, but my body kept pushing me to carry on. I felt much better physically and my rash was slowly disappearing completely.
Now I needed people in my life – the only thing that was left, that could possibly help me feel more positive.
As tired as I felt- I was desperate for human interaction.
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Coming Back to Life
When booking the hostel, I made sure it will be clean, friendly and most importantly – social. And as soon as I walked through the door, this was exactly it.
By the time I checked in, sorted myself out after the long journey – I have already met a bunch of incredible people. During the next few days, I could see myself how quickly I was coming back to life, it was fascinating.
My Hostel - Potae's House
I finished my antibiotics and started eating better, I was laughing for the first time in over a week and..
I was loving life again – the feeling that deep down I was seeking from my travels.
I felt like Thailand has brought back the old me. It’s incredible how much difference a change of place and new people can make.
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Learn From My Mistakes
As hard as the experience was – I don’t want you to think badly of solo travel.
Yes, it would’ve been so much easier if I had someone with me, but it was an experience that made me stronger and to be honest.. I believe that there is always a little storm before the good comes and that was exactly it.
1 – Don’t let it get out of control
Whether it’s allergies, or any other conditions you may have, do not ignore any unknown signs, don’t let it get to the point that I stupidly have believing it’s nothing serious.
If it’s allergies like mine, seek antibiotics as soon as the rash gets out of control – I promise you, you don’t want to be in my position. If I haven’t started taking the antibiotics when I did (still well too late) I have no idea what would have happened.
2 – Trust Your Gut (Or Mum in my case)
As friendly as the people you meet while travelling may be – mostly no-one will understand exactly what you are going through or how you feel, not because they don’t want to, but because they never experienced it before. So, trust your gut, even if it means leaving your new travel buddies behind – do what needs to be done.
3 – Seek Help
If the local doctors won’t help – search for western hospitals. I am sure that Asian medicine is good as well, but our bodies are used to something different and annoyingly may not always let it work. I gave it two tries and both times were a failure. Search for English speaking hospitals in the closest city, you may have to travel for a while like I have – but this might be your only possible option before getting stuck somewhere you do not want to be when ill.
4 – Alone Time
If you’re feeling unwell, it’s absolutely fine to seek some alone time – you need it to gain back the energy for the upcoming adventures. However, too much of that can become unhealthy – especially if you’re in a new place with no-one you know around. I’d say 2/3 days is max before you start going loca.
4 – Seek Social Interaction Afterwards
After you spend some alone time, even if you don’t feel like having the energy to speak to anyone or make new friends – you need to give it a try. As in my experience, I was convinced all of the enjoyment has completely ended, but I couldn’t be anymore wrong and could not be happier with my choice.
5 – Pain gives you Strength
Remember the saying ‘no pain, no gain’? Exactly – as cheesy as it sounds, I feel a lot more stronger now. I am also more careful and know the signs of that horrible infection to try and stop it from getting to the same point again. Being alone doesn’t feel as scary, and the fact that I didn’t give up – gives me the best satisfaction.
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I will be writing a list of products I am using while travelling very soon, also how I managed to get around all the complications such as needing my own washing powder etc. So stay tuned! <3
Please Please Please – If you know anyone with any allergies, share it with them, so they don’t make the same mistakes that I have <3
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[…] As you can see above, it’s just a really sh**ty picture that I took when receiving the injection for the first time. But it helped me big time during my travels. […]
Eli, I’m so glad you feel better now. I am sure that experience will stay with you for a long time but try to get the good out of it – you went through it and carried on. Well done!
Thank you so much! I really appreciate it! xx