Travel, I find, is often romanticized and reduced to elusive concepts such as “escapes” or “adventures”. While there may be inherent elements of both, much of what makes travel both exhilarating and exhausting is ignored when the predominant discourse is based on marketing labels. The traveler, now ‘customer-king’, is emphasized, not the extraordinary opportunities to connect across cultures, learn from each other and share moments, human to human. The result is a de-humanization of both local culture and the experience of the traveler.
In this sense, I think it’s important to contextualize these ideas by reminding ourselves of some travel realities that make our journeys both exciting and frustrating and turn them into enriching learning experiences.

With this in mind, here are a few thoughts relating to contaminated food and water.

This can affect travelers in various ways:

It affects the body. Obviously, food poisoning is a concern travelers share. Bacteria and  parasites affect how our body is going to react, which can turn a clean toilet into a new best friend.

It influences what and how we eat. For example, you might get used to boiling water or adding water purifying tablets before using it. You might cook and eat meats differently. You might decide to become a vegetarian for the duration of your trip. You might decide to only eat fruits and vegetables that contain relatively little water or some that you have to peel. Or you might decide to just eat everything, get sick a few times and hope your body is going to adapt.

It affects our everyday routine. You might decide to brush your teeth with boiled or bottled water. You might close your lips tightly when taking a shower to not accidentally swallow contaminated water. You might spend more time thinking about clean water than at home.

It can be a lesson in humility when something you might take for granted at home suddenly turns into something vital you have to figure out how to access.