Keeping Healthy

Before you take off to Europe for that much awaited backpacking adventure, make sure that you’re ready to endure the rigors and physical hardships that are synonymous with this activity.

When you decide to go backpacking, visit your doctor first and have a general check up. You need to know the exact status of your overall condition so you would know what parts of the body you need to work on. Even if your doctor gives you a clean bill of health, you should still hit the gym. You will need to work on your legs, back and abdominal muscles. Give yourself an additional year to work your muscles out for the trek.

Lying curled up in a dingy hostel burning up with fever is not how you want to remember your backpacking adventure, right? And looking gaunt and coming home ill is not a good way to prove that you’ve really gone out backpacking. Therefore, when you are finally in Europe, make every effort to maintain your general health and physical well being. Though drinking vitamin supplements would help, the basic steps to follow are these:

Drink lots of water and eat properly
Nothing nourishes, strengthens and keeps the body in tip top shape than the proper amount of food and drink. Consuming too little food would hasten your fatigue, subject you to dehydration, lower your resistance and make you susceptible to unwanted infections. Ingesting too much would not only cause indigestion but make you feel ill at ease and sluggish which might affect your backpacking itinerary. If you feel hungry, keep some energy bars at the top of your pack, to make it easy for you to reach them.

When you feel tired, rest
Backpacking is not a race and it is not about competition. If you are getting tired or weary, don’t wait until you collapse out of sheer exhaustion before you decide to stop and take a break. Don’t force yourself to reach a particular destination or goal before you pause to rest. Forcing yourself beyond your physical capabilities at the risk of getting injured is never a good idea.

Wear protective clothing
When you are out backpacking, make sure that you put on the right clothes for the right kind of temperature. If you go during summer, wear light clothes and shorts; if you’re out in autumn, wear warmer clothes. Leaving your body exposed to the elements may increase your chances of getting a virus and getting ill in a strange country does not sound very appealing.

Also, you need to pay special attention to your skin and your feet. Bring several bottles of sun block (ideally, at least SPF 25) to protect your skin from the strong UV rays of the sun, and increase your shield by using caps or hats to protect your eyes and face. Since you’ll most likely be walking a lot, it pays to invest on good fitting shoes and padded socks. These not only make walking more comfortable, they also prevent the skin of your feet from getting blisters. Even if you are confident about the quality of your shoes and socks, bring ointments to combat blisters.

Protect yourself from insects
Aside from protecting yourself from the elements and other physical injuries, you also need to arm yourself against bugs and insects. Though most bugs and insects are harmless, there are still some that carry harmful diseases. Since you cannot select the insects that bite you, might as well protect yourself from the whole lot. To ward off insects, apply bug-off solutions to exposed parts of your body (usually the arms, legs and neck) and always wear socks (especially at night).

Lift your backpack properly
One of the most common injuries sustained by backpackers is due, not to external elements such as bugs, ravines, cliffs, storm, sleet, hail or snow — but by their own carelessness. When you are backpacking, your back carries least 35 pounds of dead weight most hours of the day. A good way to injure your back is to jerk the backpack off the ground and hoisting it over your shoulders. You may not feel the pain at first, but constant repetitive movements may (in the long run) damage tendons and muscle tissue. To care for your lumbar area, lift your backpack carefully and properly.

If you consciously make an effort to follow these tips, hopefully, you would be able to return from your journey stronger, healthier and happier than before you left. If others doubt that you’ve left because you’re not sallow and all skin and bones; just show them your pictures (and watch them turn green with envy).