or, alternatively, what it's like to go to the hospital in a foreign country
Budget: A lot. Make sure you have travel health insurance. Do it.
The first time I went abroad was in fifth grade. My sister and I went to immersion French school and our fifth grade school trip sent us just outside of Paris for two weeks to stay with a family and go on daily field trips with our classmates.
My mom recalls meeting up with other parents as they relayed horror stories of their children calling them in the middle of the night, crying and wanting to come home, to which my mom replied, "oh, your child calls you?"
During my two week stay, I spoke to my family once, only because they called me on the day of my eleventh birthday, midway through the trip.
If it’s not clear yet, I don't get homesick.
Embarking on my current journey brought only feelings of excitement. People kept asking me how I felt about leaving for five months. "Aren't you scared?" "You're going to miss your family right?" "Wow, Australia is FAR away!"
Obviously I love my family. I won't pretend to be a completely unfeeling rock–I'm very lucky to have a wildly cool family back in the states sending me love across the globe. But I don't miss them. With today's technology, I'm able to hear from them constantly–our family group message blows up my phone 24 hours of the day and I've come back from field trips off the grid to 700+ text messages (some of which I could do without).
All of this being said, being sick in a foreign country puts into perspective the fact that you're on the opposite side of the planet, very far from your usual support system.
On the same list of things I don't tend to do, I also don't get sick very often (thanks Mom for your kick-ass immune system genes <3). So this came as a wonderful surprise as I found myself in the tiny local hospital of Noosa, about an hour and a half north of Brisbane, thanks to a miserable encounter with fish and chips.
After an entire night of laying on the cold, tile bathroom floor in our hostel, making friends with a gecko on the wall while I tried to hold water and vomit down, I ubered to the hospital.
Let's just say when I arrived, I wasn't looking my best, and the nurses and office ladies took it upon themselves to assume that I had gotten too drunk and was simply looking for an easy IV fix.
Knowing that the people who are supposed to be taking care of you are instead judging you is a really shitty feeling.
However after taking my heart rate (a whopping 150bpm) and ignoring my warnings that hospitals give me anxiety, they quickly ushered me into a bed, nervously whispering about tachycardia and what a medical phenomenon I was. Five minutes later, much to their surprise, after some slow breathing, I had dropped it down to 70bpm. I have anxiety super-powers. Clearly the medical community isn't ready to accept them yet.
The next fun adventure was to find the veins in my very dehydrated body. Despite my protests that I had not been able to keep water down, this woman was determined to find my retracted veins if it was the last arm she stabbed (and it should have been).
I've got a very high pain tolerance, but the physical act of searching for one's very deep and shriveled vein with a pointy stick of metal is enough to sour the face of any seasoned bad-ass with 10 body piercings to their name.
It was right about this time, mid-needle stab, that I found myself missing home.
Say what you want about technology, but it was definitely a nice feeling, laying in a hospital bed on the opposite side of the world, in the opposite hemisphere, to have my family text me that I'm an idiot and to drink more water.
The doctors thankfully concluded that I was not dying, despite my phenomenally high heart rates and lack of circulatory vessels. Turns out that watching what you eat is important no matter where you go, and the fish and chips I had enjoyed so thoroughly on the beach earlier that morning, that I conveniently ignored as being slightly undercooked, were the culprit of my condition.
On the logistical side of things, as the budget suggests, it is always smart to sign up for a travel insurance plan while abroad. Luckily, my insurance will cover this bill when I go back home, but I did have to pay for it up front and that bill was too damn high.
Conclusions: Drink water. Make sure your fish and chips are fully cooked. Buy travel insurance. Drink more water.