Travel health gift guide: what to get the incessant wanderer on your list

travel healthTravel junkies are a special breed. Only a very distinct personality type gets a rush from being on the road as much as possible, or relishes the discomforts and situations most people go to lengths to avoid. Homesickness is a foreign concept.

I know, because I too suffer from this malady. It started early, because I have a vivid memory of bursting into tears when I was six or seven, after we dropped a friend off at the airport.

“What’s wrong?” my dad asked. “I’m sad because we’re not getting on an airplane,” was my reply (ironic given my aviophobia, which had its onset about 12 years later).

A paralyzing fear of air travel hasn’t stopped me from roaming, however. So, whether you have a loved one who practically lives at Club Med or one actually enjoys sleeping on the ground or in janky Third World hostels rife with cockroaches…lucky you. You have a travel addict in the family or as a friend.

One experience incessant wanderers don’t go looking for? Illness or injury. While not inevitable, the more time you spend abroad, the greater the likelihood of suffering from anything from an infected bug bite or Bali Belly to…worse. But as I’ve always said, you can get hit by a bus crossing the street.

Of course travel isn’t inherently unsafe, but there are precautionary measures that minimize the odds of having health issues on the road. Below, my road-tested gift picks for frequent travelers (especially those who visit sub-tropical or tropical climes) and outdoor enthusiasts.

SteriPEN or LifeStraw portable water filter
Reasons why one of these is a worthwhile investment:

  • Saves money on purchasing bottled water in developing nations/places without potable water
  • Better for the environment (see above)
  • You can contract giardia or other nasties from improperly “bottled” water (trust me)
  • You don’t have to be out in the backcountry to have a potable water shortage; owning a filtration system is good insurance you stay hydrated and healthy, even in the city.

[Photo credit: Flickr user fauxrealphotos]travel healthTravel first aid kit
Even infrequent travelers should carry basic first-aid supplies: band-aids, gauze pads, Neosporin, OTC meds, etc.. Personalize your gift by tailoring a pre-purchased kit (REI is a great place to find different types and sizes) to suit the interests and needs of your recipient.

Wilderness first aid class
CPR or a general first aid class is a good idea for anyone, but if any of your loved ones live for backcountry pursuits or traveling off the beaten path, a WFA course can be a lifesaver–literally. Look one up in your area through the American Red Cross.

Controlled-release DEET and/or Insect Shield apparel
There was a time, several years ago, when I shunned DEET unless I was in a malarial region. Why, I asked myself, would I willingly douse myself in a pesticide? Why would I inflict said poison upon the environment?

That philosophy is all well and good until you get bitten by something harboring an infectious evil (in my case, it was sandflies carrying the Bartonella bacilliformis bacterium) that anti-malarials can’t prevent. Also note that malaria prophylaxis is not without considerable side-effects and may not protect you against certain strains of the disease. Be sure to talk to an infectious disease, tropical medicine, or travel physician experienced with actual working experience in these regions.

These days, I’m all about DEET if I’m traveling somewhere with potentially harmful biting insects, especially now that there are controlled-release versions on the market (there are various brands on the market; Sawyer Products is highly recommended). One application is good for up to 12 hours.

As for clothes, I love my Insect Shield long sleeve button-up shirt from ExOfficio. Good for up to 70 washings (after which you still have a good-looking, lightweight travel top), bug-repelling garments are treated with permethrin, EPA-registered, and free of toxic-smelling fumes.

Sun protective clothing
As you likely know, heat exhaustion or heat stroke can be serious; even fatal. In addition to a good sunblock, sunglasses, and a hat, sun protective clothing is a seriously smart idea for outdoor types. Once again, I recommend ExOfficio, or REI own brand, which will save you a few dollars.

Bear bell or spray
Google “2011 grizzly attacks.” ‘Nuff said.
travel health
SmartWool
socks
What they say in the military is true: you gotta take care of your feet. Once your dogs go, you’re SOL in the backcountry or tropics. Keeping feet clean and dry (and warm, if applicable) is of utmost importance (at the very least, fellow travelers will appreciate your hygiene efforts). These moisture-wicking, stench-resistant socks are invaluable even if you’re just planning an extended trip.

Ibex woolies
Getting chilled can quickly become serious or fatal, and hypothermia prevention in the form of extra layers is key. These 100% merino wool underlayers from Vermont-based outfitter Ibex are the bomb. Comfortable, warm, moisture-wicking, and seriously odor-proof (anything that remains fit to wear in public after a month-long backpacking trip from the Andes to the Amazon–sans laundry–is a product I heartily endorse). Plus, they come in cute stripey designs as well as solids.

[Photo credit: Band-aids, Flickr user m.gifford, feet, Flickr user Cin]

How Deep Vein Thrombosis Develops

Australian ultrarunner to attempt pole-to-pole run

Australian ultramarathon runner Pat Farmer has announced that he plans to run from the North Pole to the South Pole in an attempt to raise money for charity. The endurance athlete, who once served a decade as a member of Australia’s parliament, has already completed long distance runs around and across his home country, as well as across the United States twice.

The expedition will get underway in March of 2011, beginning at the top of the world, 90ºN. From there, it’s a 13,000 mile journey, heading south the entire way, crossing through Canada and on to the West Coast of the U.S. From there, he’ll run down into Mexico, before proceeding through Central and South America, and eventually ending up in Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world. From there, he’ll hop a flight to Patriot Hills in Antarctica, where he’ll resume the run until he reaches the Pole at 90ºS. The entire journey is expected to take about 11 months to complete.

Farmer’s charitable goals are just as lofty as his physical ones. He hopes to raise $100 million for the Red Cross to help fund their clean water and sanitation efforts around the globe. The inspiration for this endeavor comes after a recent trip to Southeast Asia, during which he witnessed children living in poverty and lacking common resources that most of the developed world takes for granted. Upon his return home, he decided that he wanted to do something to help.

All told, when the run is complete, Farmer will have traveled through 14 different countries on three continents. He also says he expects to shred about 40 pairs of shoes and 300 pairs of socks along the way as well. As an extreme endurance athlete, he is use to running for 50-60 miles per day on a regular basis, but he also admits that this will be the biggest challenge of his life, and that he has been in heavy training to get ready.

Come next March, we’ll see if all of that training can sustain him in the harsh Arctic conditions.

Photo of the Day (04.24.10)

Between the ash cloud and the tragic plane crash that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski (amongst other news stories), the world’s attention has shifted away from Haiti. But, lest we think that the Caribbean nation has fully recovered from the devastating earthquake in January, Flickr user rexa.ch reminds us that there is still a long way to go to fully rebuild.

Back in January, America focused much of its attention on Haiti after the natural disaster. Since then, life has returned to “normal” here in the US and people have gone back to their day-to-day business. Meanwhile, the people of Haiti continue to struggle while putting together the shattered pieces of their lives.

You can still help by donating to the Red Cross. It’s as easy as texting “Haiti” to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Even if you donated back in January, consider helping again. We appreciate you taking the time (and, yes, money) to help our friends in Haiti.

Have a picture that personalizes the news? Have you witnessed history? Submit your images to Gadling’s Flickr group right now and we might use it for a future Photo of the Day.

Eat out for Haiti: Participating restaurants give 10% to Haiti relief

It doesn’t take much to donate. In an effort to help Haiti, we’ve reported the travel companies offering ways to donate miles and points to the Red Cross, and we’ve listed the phone numbers for you to call or text your pledge. Now there’s news of an entirely other type of hospitality getting into the donating spirit, and it’ll be hard for anyone to not contribute.

This Sunday, January 24th, restaurants in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and Las Vegas will be raising funds to aid Haitian relief efforts with Dining Out For Haiti. All you have to do is show up, order a meal and pay your bill, and up to 10 percent of the restaurants sales that day will go to Doctors Without Borders, Partners in Health, and Action Against Hunger.

Among the restaurants participating are the Gramercy Tavern and Tribeca Grill in NYC, Mario Batali’s Carnevino in Vegas, and Pizzeria Mozza in LA. A list of participating restaurants can be found here.

Stay at a Sage hotel, donate to Haiti relief

There are countless ways you can donate money and supplies to help the victims of the Haiti earthquake. Here’s one more way you can help, just by going about your travels. Stay at a Sage Hospitality Group hotel, now through the end of January, and the company will give $10 per room, per night to the Red Cross.

54 Sage hotels throughout the US are participating in the promotion. Guests do need to book the special “Help Haiti” rate, which has limited availability, in order to make the donation.

The Sage group is offering a few other promotions that benefit victims of the disaster. Coco Key Water Resorts, a division of the hotel group, will offer 1% of all food and beverage purchases to the Red Cross, and will offer a $5 pass on January 26, with all proceeds going to the Red Cross.

Sage has a history of offering great rates and promotions to help others. In the past, they’ve offered free nights to volunteers, service-people, and teachers.