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What to do when you get a bout of off-the-rock fever Unwell away from home advice and precautions for travellers

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“I dislike feeling at home when I am abroad.” George Bernard ShawTip one: as I felt my head collide with the cold and though I usually am a staunch supporter of hostels and dorm rooms, I felt the need for my own space. Unfortunately in the Netherlands the hostels did not seem to offer single rooms. Luckily I was able to find a lovely, cheap hotel on booking.com.

Perhaps it was the lengthy flights or my dorm-room mate who threatened to dismantle the hostel with her snoring, but I didn’t want to be in the Netherlands anymore.

I wanted to go home.

There were, however, 3,600 miles between me and my own pillow, so even though I felt like I had been hit by one too many bricks, I would have to ... deal.

The problem? The head cold ame at me like the cycle’s on the Netherlands’ roads: a ton at a time with stealth; finally shaking your body with bells until you have an out-of-body experience.

It’s too bad because, if you can recall last week’s column (which you can find on www.robynswanderings.com), I had just spent an amazing few days in Haarlem. The plan was to spend a few days, after Haarlem, travelling around the Netherlands.

My head cold decided to put a kink in my tracks.

Which brings me to this week’s Rock Fever column: travelling while sick! Sure, last year I touched on planning your medications before you go, but what happens while on the road? Before I go on, in no way am I a doctor or trained medic. I’m just simply a travel writer who has been sick on the road a number of times so ... I suggest from experience. Take it with a grain.

Where did I book it? Well, I decided to go to The Hague, which is an easy train ride (about half an hour) from Haarlem. Which brings me to

tip two: how you should travel sick or not is slow. I gave myself three nights and four days in The Hague, which meant I was able to spend at least two full days in bed resting and still see the sites.

The sites? As I arrived on the train, I was completely intimidated by this centre of justice. Enormous, modern building tops greeted me from the train and I wasn’t sure I could handle a metropolis when I was not feeling well. Luckily a tram ride away was the quaint, streets of the older Hague. The centre is a quarry of canal houses filled with restaurants, bars and diplomats. That’s because, though Amsterdam is the capital, The Hague is the seat of the country’s government and parliament, the Supreme Court and the Council of State. Fun fact: all foreign embassies, 150 international organisations, including the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) are also located in The Hague.

I was quite keen, even through the haze of my head cold, to visit the ICJ. Unfortunately, cold or not, the courts were actually closed for trials while I was there! Darn criminals, they never cooperate.

At least the closure meant I could rest, guilt-free. Luckily, I also brought along some medicine from home and

tip three is: if you have prescribed medications bring them in your carry-on. You do not want the airline to lose your bags and your medications.

Personally, I do not have any prescribed medications, but I do travel with a basic cure-all kit and

tip four. The kit includes: Alka-Seltzer (solves everything from tummy troubles to head colds), ibuprofen, band-aids and a general disinfectant for cuts.

Tip five is that I always travel with a sewing kit, which can also come in handy if I run into splinters (happens more than you think).

What I would also suggest bringing with you is random and

tip six: a spork (spoon-fork-knife combo). Failing a spork, a plastic knife, spoon and fork are very helpful and easily packed in your checked luggage. What has this got to do with being sick? In The Hague, the last thing I felt like doing was eating out, but I wasn’t at home so I couldn’t cook. So.....I found a grocery store nearby and with my plastic utensils I could create some food in my room.

As a side note: for celiacs this is really about the easiest way to go when you are sick abroad. It ensures you will be able to monitor what is in your food and ensure you do not end up with a head cold and an allergic reaction!

Even better is

tip seven: find a room with a refrigerator and be able to save the food, which is healthier for you than take-out.

Luckily in the Netherlands,

tip eight is the tap water is potable and my hotel, like many out there, had tea and coffee service in the lobby all day! With a kettle in my room I could drink as many cups of herbal tea as my cold needed!

By day two I had run out of Alka Seltzer and ibuprofen, but luckily the nearby grocery store also had a pharmacy to restock. I did not need medical advice for a head cold, but if you do need some non-emergency advice

tip nine is pharmacists abroad are easier to find than doctors, can usually speak English and are also able to give advice for various ailments. When a salad decided to turn my tummy upside down in Egypt, a pharmacist saved me. In Italy a spider chomped on my arm and a pharmacist immediately recognised the red line moving towards my heart. She stopped it with medications.

Finally, on my last day in The Hague my head finally cleared, but I had to check-out. So,

tip ten is: leave luggage with the front desk for the day! I did and meandered past the Peace Palace, which is the home of the ICJ. From the Peace Palace it was an easy walk through tree-canopied streets to the coast and the fishing port/harbour of Scheveningen. Of course I brought my plastic utensils and enjoyed a picnic on the blustery beach (because no Bermudian actually enters the North Sea!) Weird fact: During the Second World War, resistance groups tested suspect Nazi infiltrators by getting them to say “Scheveningen” which is impossible for Germans, apparently.

After enjoying my picnic, I wandered through Den Haag’s suburbs and to the centre. Narrow streets that meander around the Grote Kerk (or main church) leave little to remember, but then they expelled me in front of the Binnenhof, which used to be the home of the country’s bicameral parliament. Since 1992, however, parliament has been housed nearby in a flashy, modern extension.

Not really in the mood for museums and running out of time, I gave these sites a miss, but if you are interested in Flemish and Dutch paintings, then the Mauritshuis museum is supposed to be a must!

For now, I must finish this column, catch a train and return to Schipol Airport to meet up with a travel buddy for the next two weeks. So stay healthy, visit www.robynswanderings.com and return here next week for a visit to Bruges.

Bikers pass the Binnenhof, the former seat of Parliament, in the Hague
The coastline near the fishing port and harbour of Scheveningen
The Peace Palace in the Hague, Netherlands.
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Published September 14, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated September 14, 2011 at 9:42 am)

What to do when you get a bout of off-the-rock fever Unwell away from home advice and precautions for travellers

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