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How To Be Sick Abroad

I try to live my life in such a way that I never spend money as if I am poor so that when I really want or need something I can easily spend without making myself truly poor. Because of this, I can travel. 

But going to Germany I knew was still going to be a huge test for me. To be honest, when I'm not tired or stretched for time, I still love shopping and buying new-to-me things, especially dusty books and floral dresses. 

But the money wouldn't be my only problem. I also had the matter of space to think about. I brought one suitcase and backpack with me, which meant if I didn't want to spend more money for checked-in luggage on my return flight, I could bring only an additional duffel bag on my return flight. 

To save space, I brought the bare minimum that would make me feel like I still had a variety to wear for six months. To save money, I also brought bulk items I might need while in Germany, including razor blades, two tubes of Young Living toothpaste, three bamboo toothbrushes, q-tips, two tubes of Native deodorant, soap, hair stuff, lotions, THM vitamin pack drinks, and other necessary personal items. 

The only thing I had to leave behind was my shampoo and conditioner due to weight. But my first Au Pair parents were very nice and bought me some, which lasted me my entire stay in Germany. 
Shampoo and conditioner bought by my first Au Pair family 
Everything I brought lasted up until the time I left, with maybe a bit of pinching here and there. I did have to buy some new toothpaste, and while I was at it, I bought some Camille cream as my elbows became really dried out while in Germany. 
Bottom to top: toothpaste, two things of vitamin c and calcium tablets, and Camille cream. 
There are only a few things that I wished I'd packed for Germany. The first was ground oatmeal for facemasks, as oatmeal turned out to be a little harder to come by than I thought it would be. Also, baking soda, the way we have it in bulk. Everything is in such tiny packets there. 

But the main thing I didn't think of bringing was vitamins. 
You see, I didn't plan on getting sick, silly me. 

Before I left Germany I did use the whole summer and month up unto my departure hiking and getting as much fresh air as I could as well as eating plenty of nutritious foods to build up my immune system. I also ordered a month of the NingXia Red drink packets. Not only was it supposed to give me energy and strengthen my immune system, but I was also helping out a friend with her Young Living ;p I do think they helped me, though, with energy and health.

One other thing I'll note for my readers who don't know, due to religious beliefs I've never been vaccinated. And because my grandfather is a naturopathic doctor and my mom is also health-minded, I've never been to a doctor. So, not only did I go to Germany unprepared ... I went forgetting that the rest of the world is very much unlike me in these two aspects. 

And yet, either I was very lucky, or everything I did before leaving really helped, or I just have an overall AMAZING immune system.
One of the things I'd wished I'd brought with me was charcoal, powdered or tablets. But I was able to find some at a local pharmacy. 
I had food poisoning shortly after I arrived in Germany. I woke up in the middle of the night and retched my guts out in a toilet, then was miserable for a few hours into the next day. I listened to an audiobook in the morning, kept my eyes closed, and held my stomach. But when the afternoon came, I felt fine enough to get back to work. The experience made me realize though that I had no charcoal, colloidal silver, or any of my natural go-to's. 

And after that, it seemed as if there was always someone sick. I managed to mostly only catch colds which I quickly nipped in the bud by doing a few of the following: 
  • Chewing on raw garlic cloves or pieces of ginger, whichever was accessible 
  • Making tea and filling it with lots of honey
  • Cooking and eating a whole onion with eggs, if I had eggs for breakfast. I actually did this a lot anyways with my second Au Pair family as they had an abundance of onions. Basically, my mantra became "an onion a day keeps the doctor away". And as I've never been to a doctor or a doctor to me, it's a safe bet to say it's true. 
  • Lemon water with honey, ginger, or garlic
  • Raw onion saturated in honey, then drinking the broth from that
Pfefferring (pepper ring). Not really good for you when you have a sore throat or cold, but still yummy.

Once when I felt a violent sore throat itching its way into me, I devoured a whole head or more of garlic along with many. Here I am eating two cloves of garlic in olive oil on a Pfefferring with a glass of strong lemonade sweetened with honey. Who says medicine can't be tasty?
Even then there were a few things I wished I had: Charcoal (for stomach flu and for facemasks), Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Colloidal silver.

Here's why ...

When I Just Wanted To Throw Up, But Never Did
After coming to stay with my second Au Pair family I fell sick with one of the worst stomach bugs ever. My mind was not my own. I was freezing even though wearing every wool garment of mine. My stomach felt bloated and empty and everything awful at once. I needed to throw up. I couldn't make myself.

Activated charcoal would have killed the bug, and possibly resulting in me vomiting. I had no charcoal at this time, so I slept and sweated it out. Meaning, I wore as much as I could, then crawled under as many blankets as I could find, then woke up hours later completely drenched, but much better.

But even after the bug went away, my stomach continued to hurt, and that bloated desire of wanting to vomit hadn't gone away completely.

I realized that my health had deteriorated a lot in the last couple of months while in Germany. I'm not sure if it's because of the stress I was pretending to not have and as a result of not eating enough of the right things and too much of the wrong things, and then of not getting enough physical activity.

But as a result of that stomach bug, I cleaned up my mind my resuming my daily long walks, cutting out as many excess foods as I could and implementing as many vegetables and eggs as I could find. Shortly after, I began to do cardio dances every day, too.
Pink eye is miiiiiserable 
All Was Good ... And Then My Eyes Started Bleeding 
It took a couple weeks for the bloating to go away, and then a good month before energy resurfaced, and then two months before I started feeling like myself. The dancing really boosted my confidence and eating better helped, too. When others were coming down with colds, I took lemon, garlic, and onion. Because (I think) the bacterias here are different from what I'm used to in the states it took a lot more for me to fight anything I caught. But fight it I did, and I was usually able to keep on living life as I did so.

And then I got pink eye.

That is when I wanted colloidal silver so very badly. I'm not very good at explaining just what colloidal silver is, except that it is made from silver (somehow) and is like magic water. There are conspiracy theories about how it's more magical than some say, and a lot of doctors don't like it, because they say it causes blood poisoning, or that it is just overall very dangerous. But I've used colloidal silver my entire life, as has my family, most of my extended family, and many of my friends. And we are very healthy people, because of it or despite it. I love it ;)

 But I didn't have silver in Germany. Nevertheless, my eyes needed attention and there was no way I was going to take eye drops or whatever it is doctors treat pink eye with. So I made a really painful concoction:

A cup of boiling water, two spoonfuls of honey, a teaspoon of salt. Let cool. Then drip into the inner corners of your eyes, then blink to get it in, then dab away the water and anything that comes out with it with a clean cotton ball. Or use a q-tip and dab the water into your eyes. Always make sure to use clean q-tips or cotton for every dab or touch.

It is important that the water not be hot. And it's important that you always use fresh q-tips or cotton balls. And it's important to wash your hands as much as possible, and to wash your face a lot, and your hands again if they've touched your face, and to never touch one eye and then the other eye without washing your hands. The stuff is extremely contagious.

It was really bad for the first day in only my right eye. I treated it every half hour or hour. and woke up several times in the night to treat it. I treated both eyes as if they were infected. I tell you, that honey really stung, but my eyes toughened up.

The worst thing about it all was the timing as I was going to Vienna the very next day. Thankfully, the day of leaving my eye was mostly better, but all the same, I put my honey-salt water in a small baby food jar, brought it along, and applied it when I could. The pink eye was dormant while in Vienna (thankfully!) but then returned full force in both eyes after I was back. I continued to treat it and after about a week it was completely gone.

"So, did you really need the charcoal and colloidal silver after all?"

Obviously, I survived just fine without my go-to favorites. All the same, they would have been nice and next time I will bring them with me if I travel for long periods of time. And there were times this winter in Germany when I really felt like a vitamin C or vitamin D would have really boosted my system. That's why I bought those two tubes of calcium tablets, which lasted me about a month, and they were definitely helpful

And yet maybe it was good I brought none of that because it expanded my horizons and I learned some very interesting things ... delightful surprises, if you will ...
  • Noone berated me for choosing to treat myself as I pleased. In the states, people often have been very critical of me or my family for being natural-minded and have gone as far as to say "Told you so" when my father was in ICU for ten days and the hospital for a month due to his car accident. Just because we prefer to treat ourselves doesn't mean we ignore emergencies. And just because we prefer to use vitamins and herbs rather than Advil or Ibuprofen doesn't mean that we think doctors are monsters. In fact, I don't think doctors are monsters at all. I just prefer to not go to a hospital full of germs and put drugs into my body when I can treat myself with things God gave me. 
  • Many of the people in Germany were much more open to natural health remedies. Both of my au pair families were adept, in fact. They still went to the hospital a lot more than my family does, but overall I was quite impressed with how they treated themselves as much as they could. I was also impressed that they knew about using onions for earaches and chest poultices, and I even learned some things from them. I was also impressed that my second au pair mother was very conscious about which vaccines she gave her children, and she said that some people could refuse all vaccines, technically. Except daycares won't take kids that have not been vaccinated, and this spring a law was passed that all children are now required to have the measles vaccine. 
"Everyone is so paranoid. I mean, they take their kids to the hospital over everything, even a runny nose." ~ A fellow au pair friend

Maybe, though, I just happened to have two very rare families. Because the other au pairs spoke of how their families went to the hospital often over every little thing from "colds to earaches" as one au pair girl from Mexico said. "I told her she could just use onion, but she thought I was crazy."

Sometimes modern people who live in such small first world mindsets amaze me. I mean, don't they even want to get out and smell the beauty of ... the onions? 
Made after slicing over twenty pounds of onions when working at Above Rubies years ago.
And then I survived coronavirus, and I never even washed my hands

Ok, so not totally true. But I only had corona for like a day. Lol. 
A week before I left a bad cold did go around. Some freaked and went to the hospital. Some simply went to the hospital and got tested. I? I ate garlic, onions, honey, lemon, and drank lots of water and slept more. 

To be honest, I didn't understand the panic over a virus that can hardly do any harm. Yes, it's definitely a threat to anyone with a very poor immune system or someone who is terribly old. But so is pneumonia, heart attacks, and diabetes. Yet, we are dealing with all of those as we should, rationally when and if they come along. 

And. Why do we care so much about such an insignificant virus, yet we care nothing about the many babies being aborted every moment, about the millions of people both imprisoned and homeless, about people in general whose lives (or deaths) will continue to be miserable long past the paranoia of this virus? 

But ... on a funny note. My friend screenshotted a bit of our conversation concerning coronavirus, and I thought you might enjoy it. (I'm ENTJ and she's pink). 

The only serious way this virus could have affected me and given me cause to worry was all the travel restrictions and quarantines. I was slightly worried that the USA would put some sort of travel ban on Germany, especially as Germans love Italy, and you know all that went down there. 

But I didn't worry about it too much. If I did end up getting stuck in a fourteen-day quarantine ... I would certainly hate it. But then, writing material, yeah?

Updated Note: I wrote all of this before things got crazy over the world. Two days before I was to leave Germany Trump announced a travel ban from Europe. I was freaked for half a second as I wasn't sure if the ban applied to Americans returning home. I couldn't find any solid information on it, so I just decided to take it cool and see what happened. Nothing was sure until I boarded my plane. Even then, nothing was certain. The entire flight was crazy. Forms, people wearing masks, paranoia everywhere. It's when I first realized people were really taking this virus seriously. I was screened, then advised to self-quarantine when I got home. After home, my brother was let off of work because I'd returned home from Germany. I lost nearly all of my cleaning jobs. Back in Germany, it was a joke. Now it's the hugest annoyance of the 21st century. I've written lots of controversial stuff for Facebook on it. I'll try to write a good post on it for the blog. To be honest, I hate talking about it. But sometimes you don't get to choose the topic, but just have to engage with it all the same. 

Back to the matter of money ... 
As an au pair, I made under three hundred a month. I had savings, too. But I rarely let myself touch it. I spent most of my money on gifts, traveling, and doing things with friends. I rarely spent money on food, snacks, or such small trivial things if I could help it. 

My planning certainly helped, and being sick didn't put me back at all as garlic, onions, and honey were "free". In fact, I had little to no need while in Germany. Both au pair families treated me very well and beyond, taking me with them on their vacations and buying special foods when they noticed I liked them, a blessing I realized fully after talking to other au pairs and hearing how awful they were treated ... 

... One au pair I hung out with a lot always wanted to go out and eat. "Wow, I teased him. Are you ever not hungry?" 

He said that he felt bad for eating at his au pair parents' place because they always told him how much everything cost, and said he ate a lot. I mean, he was a growing boy. I told my au pair mother this and she was as appalled by this just as much as I was. 

I definitely had to pick and choose when to spend my money more than I do in the states. But it was a very good practice, and I've come back with my banking account still plenty full, memories made, and lessons learned. 

No debts, no significant scars, and as healthy as ever. 

I've lived an experience. 
And now I'm ready to clean houses again. 
(If only this stupid coronavirus will be gone)

How would you spend your money as an au pair? How do you deal with being sick when traveling? Do you try to be more healthy-minded? Do you have any tips for me for future reference? Would you have been freaked about the virus if you were traveling, for any various reason? 


  1. Breast milk cures pink eye in a day. Used it for all my boys and for me when I was nursing. I wonder if your au pair mom was nursing? Denise

    1. She was and I did think about asking, but I wasn't sure how she'd take it. So I just used salt and honey 😂

  2. Wow crazy. Pink eye does not sound fun.

    1. Crazy for sure! Pink eye is not fun. It's not something I usually get, but you know, bugs are new when you're traveling ;)

  3. I'm sorry that you were sick a few times on your trip! Your remedies sound really good, though! I get sick so often (well, not lately because I haven't left my house) and so I might try some of these next time.

    (Sorry that I've been such a terrible commenter lately! I read posts but always forget to comment!)

    1. Hey, the sicknesses were so worth these remedies!!!!!

      (Hey, never apologize when you leave such awesome comments. I want to hear how the remedies work for you whenever you try them out ;D ... So leave your home and get sick! JK, not wishing any ill-health your way.)

  4. Always love hearing about your travels and that you tried to do it as cheaply as possible.

    1. Ah, so glad! It really is a great experience that I hope you can someday have, too!


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