Travelling With The Flu…

Suck it up princess.

The dates are set, you have packed your bags and then the 2 days before the big event you start to feel a tickle in your throat. 4 am the next morning the throat tickle has turned into a raging fire, your glands swell into your ear drums, your bones are filled with concrete and your sinuses pound into your brain.

Just the thought of getting out of bed makes you whimper, let alone travelling vast distances.

There is nothing you can postpone, you just have to suck it up and be on your way.

Getting sick from time to time is a fact of life for most humans. But when you are travelling it can be a completely different proposition to calling in sick and snuggling on the couch watching reruns of Judge Judy.

In the last year I have been sick with a knockout flu 4 times…


Ecuadorian delights

Last September in Ecuador our visa’s were running out and we stayed right to the last minute to jump off bridges and get tattoos. The day before we left I got the flu and felt soo bad!

Sometimes you get the flu, you take the pills and it is not impossible to push through, other times (like this time) you get the flu and you end up with a football sized bladder because getting out of bed more than twice a day to pee is too big an effort.

We were able to postpone a day, and then with a shopping bag full of vitamins, decongestants, pain killers and tattoo goo from the local pharmacy, we boarded the first taxi in our 4 bus, 4 taxi, 32 hour journey to Huanchaco, Peru.

My biggest concern was looking like a deranged heroin addict at the notoriously intense border, but at 2 am the border was quiet and I just had to slip off the bus, queue for 5 minutes and then slip back into my little bus cocoon.

New Zealand dreams

Fast forward to December, John and I arrive back in NZ after 2 years of travel in the America’s and back into the bosom of my family. A couple of weeks later I come down with the flu 2 days before we catch an 11 hour bus down the country.

Buses in NZ don’t quite have the comfort or space (or recline) of long haul tourist buses in South America – the one we took smelled like dead skin cells, the toilet was locked and our driver forgot one of his stops (yes really!), so we had swerve off the motorway and return to Auckland to pick up the worried passengers waiting outside a shopping centre.

This flu was a long stayer – 3 weeks! Which was perfect as it lasted right through Christmas and up to New Years Eve which was the deadline for my new book. I also managed to share it (sorry mum!) which lets face it, is a crap thing to bring home.

Australian deliciousness

Its now April and we are zooming around Australia! First up – South Australia to review a lovely cruise on the Murray River. We fly to Brisbane and drive to Byron Bay to film the Roots and Blues Festival. There, we meet up with my friend Amanda for the festival and her new man Jason.

Then it happened. We were all enjoying a good time when someone sneezed in Jason’s face. We were all grossed out and joked about him getting sick.

A few days later we had flown back to Sydney and were staying with Amanda for 2 days before driving up to Canowindra to film an awesome hot air ballooning festival and tick hot air ballooning off my bucket list.

On the morning we were supposed to leave, we wake up sick. Fevers, chills, headaches, weakness… the works! Amanda and Jason are sick too – that sneeze!

We don’t think we will survive the 6 hour drive so we tell them we will come the next day, then the next. I am gutted to miss it, but we are so pathetic it takes a whole morning to organise putting on shoes, walking to the corner to buy some lemons. We are sleeping on an airbed that leaks slow enough to let you fall asleep before you gently roll on top of each other, but we don’t care.

Sunrise balloon

Irish thrills

Last week I was starting to feel really healthy! Yoga every day, eating well, planning on doing one of those hot yoga 30 day challenges – you know – like some sort of super hero! We set the alarm nice and early to head down to immigration on Thursday morning and we woke up in a foggy haze of pain and brain dead confusion.

You guessed it!

This time however we have our own bed. We did not have to travel anywhere (except to Immigration!) we did not have to arrange extra days, or let anyone down. We were able to sleep until lunchtime, snuggle up, watch a few movies online and then sleep some more.

Compared to some of our recent experiences this is flu heaven!

Travel and sickness

The reality is that if you travel long term, you are likely to get sick once in a while – hopefully not as often as me! But it does happen!

Especially if you are in developing countries, you will probably have all sorts of adventures like; violent gastro, diarrhoea on long bus journeys, explaining symptoms to doctors or pharmacists in other languages, self diagnosis and hoping you give yourself the right prescription!

It is all part of the adventure, and the worst situations usually end up being the best (most gruesome) stories, and sometimes you just gotta suck it up and travel on!

Post By Serena Star Leonard

Serena Star-Leonard is a business coach, writer and blogger travelling around the world for 3.5 years and counting. As well as capturing stories of inspiring people who are making a difference to their communities, her passion is to help people find a way to do the things they love for a living.

Website: → How to Retire in 12 Months


  • You do indeed need to “suck it up and travel on”! I have a whole host of ill-while-travelling stories…some of which even involved hospital visits in foreign countries. Thank goodness for travel insurance. (Found you via the Wanderlust link up!)

    • Yes we have never had to use our travel insurance – which is a good thing! I can imagine a hospital visit when you don’t speak the local language could be so scary 🙁 Thanks so much for stopping by!

  • Malinda

    My worst experience was having dysentery while stuck in a remote game park in South Africa where we were not allowed to leave our bungalow at night! Needless to say our sunrise safari was cancelled and they rushed me off to the doctors instead. Turns out swallowing half the Zambezi River while white water rafting is not a good idea.

    • Oohhh that sounds so awful! Malinda! We got violent gastro in Bolivia! but at least we were close to loos and just had to wait it out! I can’t imagine how awful that must have been for you. We are heading to Africa sometime, maybe I will skip the river drinking!!

  • Oh gosh Serena, that does not sounds fun!! My worst sick times travelling is when I was pregnant. When I was pregnant with Eli we travelled for 3 1/2 months (I got pregnant right at the beginning), and so I was sick nearly the entire time! Yuck! Definitely needed to sit out a few of those days, but on such a long trip, we could manage that!

    Thanks of much for linking up with Wanderlust. 🙂 Hoping you come back next month, and maybe even share some of your videos!!

    • Oh no! Actually I have wondered if that may happen to me sometime! Thanks for setting it all up Talia, it was fun reading the posts!

  • Sharon

    Lol I got sick right before hopping on my first flight to Europe from Tasmania when I was 21 and travelling alone. It was quite frankly terrible. I actually fainted on the plane (only time I have done that) and copped a ridiculous amount of crap from the flight attendants who said I had drunk too much (when I had had nothing which they should know). I was lucky a nice passenger who was a nurse looked after me and demanded they get me water as they weren’t even going to do that. In London, I was taken off the plane by paramedics. it was all very dramatic.