In the Can: Travel’s Not-So-Pretty Side

My Friend at 30,000+ Feet
My Friend at 30,000+ Feet

All the cool kids seem to be doing it. Justin Bieber did it in September. Lady Gaga did it multiple times while in Spain. There’s no reason I should be ashamed of my, um, “performance” Saturday night at the Rio de Janeiro Airport and at a cruising altitude of 30,000+ feet.

View of Rio de Janeiro from Corcovado
View of Rio de Janeiro from Corcovado

As travelers, we snap photos of pristine beaches, gourmet meals and activities with serious bragging rights with hopes of making Facebook friends drool. But for me, travel isn’t always about rainbows and unicorns. There’s a not-so-pretty side and I’m gonna be crude; for 10 freakin’ hours my body purged some tasty Brazilian food (and caipirinha) and decided to do so just after clearing airport security, a couple of hours before boarding my flight to Atlanta.

Sure, I walked Rio’s famous Copacabana Beach, gasped at the view from Corcovada and sipped from an ice-cold coconut last week but gave up my dignity by vomiting in an airport trashcan. I just couldn’t make it to the other can, so to say.

At Least it Was All in the Can

Several years ago I had a similar situation and spent the night with the porcelain god in Scotland and had to decide whether to catch my flight to London or spend another night in Edinburgh recuperating. I chose the former and according to my wise travel agent, I made the right choice.

“You don’t miss the flight,” she said, “You always take the flight.”

Her words stuck with me all these years and although I knew the 10-hour flight would probably be the worst experience of my life, I just wanted to be home. I purged what I could while in the airport bathroom, about three or four times, then sucked up the nausea to board the plane.

My youngest sister was traveling with me and told her if for some reason I wasn’t able to board the flight, she should continue on.

Whatever was making me ill kept reproducing and bubbling up, down and out. Ironically, I watched Flight of the Living Dead the night prior and was afraid I was part of some sort of experiment and turn into some kind of zombie.

For about eight hours of the flight, I was in the bathroom paying homage to the plastic god and the little white paper bags at least a dozen times. I saw other passengers talking about me as I made my third or fourth trip but I really didn’t care. The nausea was worse than anything I can ever remember experiencing (and remember, I had an appendectomy this year) and just couldn’t get comfortable in my economy seat.

Nothing stayed down, if ya know what I mean. About an hour into the flight, a can of ginger ale was the coldest, most tastiest thing I’d ever sipped in my life but it didn’t taste so nice coming up. A couple of hours after that I attempted a half-cup of water. Nope. Up it came. In case you’re wondering, I’m a clean vomiter and never did it while at my seat and didn’t leave a mess outside the toilet.

I was thankful I had some Cottonelle Fresh Care wipes with me, too. Do you know how rough airport and airplane TP is? That soft touch provided some relief and um, freshness…

Refreshing Coco Gelado in Rio
Refreshing Coco Gelado in Rio

That Delta Touch

One flight attendant knew of my unsettled stomach because I told her right before take off but I’m a little disappointed in Delta’s lack of attention. She only asked me once, just after takeoff , if I was feeling better. After that, even after hearing me in the bathroom, hearing my then-raspy voice, and seeing me enter and exit the lavatory several times, not one of them acknowledged me with a, “Are you ok?” Or a, “Can we get you anything?”

A little recognition would have made me felt a little more human and lifted that death-warmed-over feeling. Maybe that type of attention comes with Business or First Class vs. Economy.

As for dealing with food poisoning while traveling, all I can say is godspeed. It’s miserable and there really isn’t anything you can do except let your body purge, get rest and keep hydrated when possible. Exercise common sense and seek medical attention when necessary.

Anyone else have a vacation horror story they’d like to share?

Oh, and posts about Rio will follow over the next few weeks…

FTC Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Hey, a gal’s gotta support her traveling habit…



Jennifer A. Huber is an award-winning travel and outdoor blogger and writer in Southwest Florida. Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led her to a career path in the tourism industry for more than 30 years. She spent a decade with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley, and Everglades National Parks. She founded the travel blog, with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely. The unexpected death of her former husband in 2008 reminded her how short life is. His passing was a catalyst for sharing her experiences with the goal of inspiring and empowering others to travel solo. Jennifer holds a Travel Marketing Professional certification from the Southeast Tourism Society, is a certified food judge, member of the NASA Social community, and alum of the FBI Citizens Academy. When not traveling, she is either in the kitchen, practicing her photography skills, or road tripping with her dog, Radcliff.

Temple of Serapis located on the coast of Gulf of Pozzuoli. Image credit: Joseph Walker.
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