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Can We Keep it Au Naturale?

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Right now I am crying. Not just crying, sobbing.

Uncontrollably sobbing like a child.

 

A gecko the size of a kitten just crawled up the wall across from me and I desperately willed it to come cuddle me.

It never did.

 

Now I’m laughing while crying.

I have a fever and it’s made me a bit delirious.

 

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Two weeks ago on Gili Air I stepped on a sea urchin and the stingers became imbedded into the pad of my foot. A local at my homestay insisted he take a smooth stone and pound each stinger repeatedly until it bled. Miraculously, after that the pain became tolerable.

 

Until I got to Kuta, Lombok.

 

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My first night I danced with the enthusiasm of Lady Gaga barefoot on a dance floor coated in a sand, dirt, and Bintang sludge. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that the sea urchin wound became infected the next day.

 

So here I am five days later, in a small town on an under developed tropical island, with a fever and a throbbing swollen foot, in unbearable pain, crying because I am about to do something I vowed I would never do again: take antibiotics.

 

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If you’ve read My Travel Wellness Kit, you already understand my hesitation.

 

Taking antibiotics throughout my life, and in a disturbing concentration since I began traveling, obliterated the healthy bacteria in my gut. Consequently, I was constantly sick on the road. But last summer, by changing my diet and lifestyle, consuming probiotic foods, and doing some serious cleansing, I finally took control of my health.

 

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I am terrified that after an intense course of fifteen antibiotic pills with no access to probiotics, even buying a bar of soap is a challenge here, I will destroy my many efforts to rebuild my immune system.

 

Since breaking my water kefir jar (my never get sick traveling secret weapon) on a flight to Indonesia, I’ve had two stomach flus, one fever, and now I’m bedridden from a foot infection.

 

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About to ingest my first chemical drug in nearly a year

I am starting to question my beliefs about natural health.

I wonder if pharmaceuticals may in fact be a necessity.

I wonder, can we all actually heal ourselves without Western medicine like I believed?

 

Honestly, I feel like a failure.

So desperate to be well that I’m about to pop a pill that supports an industry I vehemently abhor.

 

This is a bit shattering for me to wonder and to admit.

 

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But despite these emotions

I’ve gotten quite attached to having ten toes, two feet, and two legs

and I’d really like to walk again

ahem and maybe even dance again

 

so I am setting my fears aside

I am being a mature grown ass woman

and I am taking the damn pills

 

yes, yes, I know

it is not the end of the world.

 

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I acknowledge that strong drugs can be miracles in emergency situations, but I wonder

why do we find ourselves in emergencies in the first place?

 

Are emergencies inevitable, accidental, or just bad luck?

Or do we in fact have the power to prevent dire circumstances from transpiring?

 

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In my experience every severe situation comes with a warning. The problem is, most of us don’t listen. If we did, perhaps we would never have to resort to these extreme measures like antibiotics, surgery, radiation, in the first place.

 

How often do we ignore our bodies and allow our desires to lead us, until the all-knowing voice within us becomes a deafening roar?

 

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Do we take our bodies, our detoxification process, our immune system for granted until it can no longer handle the strain?

 

Will we wait until we develop a fever, our foot doubles in size, our liver fails, or cancer spreads to take a step towards proper self care?

 

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In my case, I ignored the dull pain that never totally went away after the sting.

 

When my fever set in, I had some locals treat me with natural medicine. One removed the stinger with a thorn from a bush, another massaged out the pus, and one actually chewed up a betel nut and spat on my infection while he prayed.

 

But concurrently with these natural treatments, I left the wound uncovered, allowed a drunk Indonesian security guard named Kitty to cut at the wound with unsanitary materials, walked barefoot in the sand, drank and danced in bars nearly every night, and instead of resting, pushed my body beyond it’s limit.

 

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I disregarded the pleas that came from my throbbing foot because, well,

after spending most nights in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Bali dedicating myself to my writing and to this blog

I wanted to remember what it felt like to bare my soul on the dance floor instead.

 

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But I know that no matter my age and no matter my desires

I hold myself accountable for my health.

 

Despite their generosity and kindness

and my absolute gratitude for it

it’s not the responsibility of the family next door

the staff at the surf shop

the doctor in town

nor the pharmaceutical industry

to nurse me back to health.

 

That is my job.

 

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Just because drugs and doctors stand ready with life rafts doesn’t mean we should swim in riptides and just because locals lived to tell their tale doesn’t mean we trust untrained strangers with our lives.

 

Wellness can only be attained when we give our bodies exactly what they tell us they need when they need it.

Those are the messages only you can hear.

 

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Moving forward I will work to rebuild my immune system every single day.

I will be more mindful of where I place my body in space

to prevent accidents in the first place.

I will listen to my body when it tells me to slow down and rest.

 

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I will try

despite my pura vida free spirited attitude

to take some things

like my beautiful fabulous precious life

a little more seriously.

 

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And when I fail to do all of these things

I will not judge nor punish myself

for not being perfect.

 

Alright, the narcotics just kicked in.


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Comments

  1. I am so so sorry you are going through this :( As someone who works part time in a pharmacy while studying to become a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (I’ve already done a BS in Nutrition and Food Science) I can confidently say you have not failed. Just like with everything in life, it is about balance. Is it right to rely on chemicals to stay alive? No. Are you a failure for needing to turn to them? No. Keep doing what you are doing, with a positive attitude. You will be okay, and although antibiotics do a number on your GI, I have read enough of your posts to know you will be able to bring your body back to “normal” in no time.

  2. I dont think youve failed at all by turning to antibiotics. I actually dont have anything against antibiotics in and of themselves. I think that its all about balance but there are sometimes when you just need them. If I have a cold I’m not going to run to the doctor, I let it pass. But if I get hit with a urinary tract infection… thats a different story.

    • Camille Willemain Says: February 3, 2014 at 6:17 pm

      Thanks Kimberly. I think the best thing is to whatever you can naturally and if that doesn’t work, well, you gotta do what you gotta do. I’m working on building my knowledge of natural treatments so that I don’t have to turn to the chemicals nearly as much. Wishing you health and wellness :)

  3. Amen, sister. Really enjoyed this post (not in a sadistic way, just to clarify haha) and the one you linked to about your travel wellness kit. I’ve been traveling in SE Asia since last June, and have been sick nearly the entire time. Like you, never had the strongest immune system to begin with even back in the States, and six months in India took a real toll. But, I loved India so much that, save for the occasional doctor’s visit and round of antibiotics, I largely just accepted it as my new state of normal. It was only maybe a week ago, in Pai, that it got to a point of exhaustion and fever and intestinal agony that I too realized that my passion for travel can only be lived out fully with my body in good health. Since then, I’ve been focused on nothing but drinking lots water and fruit/veggie shakes, eating well (no more Thai spices for now, despite how much I love them) and tuning in to my body over the intrigue of the new environments. As such, I really appreciate the tips given in your travel wellness kit post, and I know you didn’t ask for a life story from a stranger but just wanted to say I can sympathize, and…do whatever you gotta do girl. Health first. No shame in antibiotics when that’s what it comes too. Well wishes from a fellow crippled American girl in Thailand. Hope you feel better soon so you can move about the world in exuberance, not slowly stagger to the top of a wat or around a new village. :)

    • Camille Willemain Says: February 3, 2014 at 6:19 pm

      Thanks for sharing your experiences Rachel! Really probiotics in my opinion are the #1 difference between health and illness while traveling. If you can, try to get your hands on some and if you’re stationary for a bit make yourself some sauerkraut. I’ll write a post soon on making your own probiotics :) Good luck and perhaps see you in Thailand!!

  4. My husband and I have been travelling for almost 7 months now and to be honest we can either live in the city or near by the beach. We are narrowing everything down and we are coming up with a list on which areas should we consider migrating. This is awesome!

  5. Hope all the delirium has passed and you are on the road to health again.

    Your story reminds me of what a girl told me recently about her uncle’s favorite saying: “Everything in moderation, including EXCESS!”

    Get well, be well and continue to follow your heart, your adventures, and what it teaches you along the way.

    You make me reflect about the good and not so good parts of your journey and how they apply in my own life — for that reason, you remain invaluable to your readers and followers

    • Camille Willemain Says: February 18, 2014 at 8:38 pm

      Thank you Wyman for your words of encouragement. I’m all healed up now and feeling healthier and stronger every day :)

  6. joselle Says: April 5, 2014 at 4:17 am

    Hi Hannah. I ‘ve also stepped on a sea urchin TWICE. I’ll tell you a secret, the best way to remove the spines: immerse your foot into a tub of white vinegar. It’ll take a while, like an hour or two, but it’ll go no antibiotics, no doctors, prayers, pills, etc. Another foolproof way? Pee. Seriously. I promise you. These will melt those spines like you never had them.

    • Camille Willemain Says: April 6, 2014 at 6:30 pm

      Yes, I’ve read this and wish I had known when it first happened to me. Instead a local grabbed a rock, pounded the urchins repeatedly, rubbed my foot with lime and sent me on my way.

  7. […] followed in Indonesia and Thailand I contracted debilitating food poisoning three times in Bali, stepped on a sea urchin and developed an infection in Lombok, and was bitten by a rabid dog in Koh Lanta. Out of sheer necessity, I allowed myself to be […]

  8. You make me cry like a child who lost her teddy bear in the supermarket.
    Thank you to have opened my eyes on all of this.
    (Sorry for my bad english, but i’m french !)
    Your blog make me discover some wonderful places. You might travel a lot and i’m jealous !
    I love so much traveling and meeting new people all around the world but i don’t really have the time and the money for all of that.
    I’m asking you an important question, “Are you happy ?”

  9. GARLIC! I have used slices taped onto my hand or foot after hot salty soaking to remove infection AND A SPLINTER OF GLASS much to my surprise!!