So I had a minor accident the other day (fell off a ladder) and as I was rummaging through my medicine cabinet for arnica and Advil (I’m an equal-opportunitist) I realized that a substantial percentage of my medical supplies are from other countries. When people talk about traveling, they talk about all the romantic things: the adventures, the sights, the people they meet…and they leave out all the times they got sick, the scrapes and the bruises, and the trips to the pharmacy. I, however, not only talk about these experiences, but have a whole cabinet full of mementos. As I was going through these packages, tubes, and spray bottles, I was handling them lovingly, as if they were reminders of “the good times.” Each one held a memory and a story, some of which I’m going to share with you here!
Q-Tips (Italy): I got my nose pierced in Italy with three girls I had met and gone on adventures with in Venice. It was awesome, it was unplanned and yes, it hurt like hell. Afterwards, the people at the parlor were trying to explain to us how to care for our new piercings, which was difficult, because none of us spoke the same language, but after acting out various techniques and supplies we were finally able to understand (“ohhh….Q-Tips!!”) and we dutifully trotted off to the pharmacy to stock up.
Antibacterial Creme (France): I must not have completely understood the directions, because three countries and two weeks later, my piercing became infected. I speak not a word of French, but it was pretty easy to walk into a pharmacy, point at my gross red nose, mime the look of pain, and be handed in return a tube of antibacterial creme. Life savers, those French pharmacists…
Tums (Mexico): My second day in Mexico, I got sick (surprise, surprise). However, I was not yet comfortable in my new home with 16 roomies to stay in bed in my shared room, periodically vomiting into a bucket. So instead, I got myself out of bed, bought some Tums, took the bus to the town center, proudly walked into the fanciest hotel around (and the only one with air conditioning), and plopped myself down in the back lobby. For the next six hours I periodically slept, puked in the public bathroom, and read my book on their courtesy couch overlooking the town square. It’s amazing what you can get away with when you pretend you know exactly what you are doing and are where you’re supposed to be.
Sunscreen (Spain): Two weeks before I returned home from Spain, I ran out of sunscreen. Now, sunscreen is surprisingly expensive in Spain and I was getting down to my last euros. But then, joy of joys, while in the discount grocery store, I found a bottle of sunscreen. Before hitting the beach the next day I smeared that baby all over my body…only to end up fried like a lobster. Discount grocery stores are NOT the place to buy beauty products. (This bottle I tossed in the trash.)
Various “Salon Services”: When you spend a lot of time abroad, basic beauty services become necessary (or at least recommended). In Prague, I got my hair cut, and ended up with some weird bangs and a “chic” asymmetrical style. In Mexico, Rose and I decided to wax our eyebrows and get a pedicure before our return to the States. We promised each other not to look too closely at the wax and allowed the woman to put fake nails on our TOES.
…oh, the good times. But seriously, as much as I have enjoyed tours of foreign pharmacies, I don’t necessarily recommend them. It’s a good idea to have at least some medical necessities on hand when you travel, so you’re prepared in case something happens. And if something does happen, and you need to go to the pharmacy, buy something with a pretty label. Because if you’re anything like me, you’ll end up treasuring those funky little tubes and bottles from adventures abroad…