Frequent traveller: Food for thought

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  • Anonymous


    Lurid desserts, malfunctioning sick-bags and over-zealous doctors – for our dyspeptic correspondent, it’s just too much to stomach…

    Travelling isn’t good for you. Visiting all those far-flung places may expand your horizons but, unfortunately, it also expands your waistline. I’m not sure when exactly broadening my mind became broadening my belly, but this last month has seen me reach a kind of plateau. I simply cannot put on any more weight without buying a new wardrobe, one supplied mainly by a tent manufacturer. Four days of three meals a day, the majority involving either entertaining clients or being entertained, and I realise I must get a grip, if only to lever myself out of that restaurant chair.

    It was the dessert that did it. An Asian dessert so rich in coconut milk and syrup that if it could have been converted into biofuel it would have powered the B747 home. As I finished it (I don’t leave food), I could feel that something profound was happening to my body. Arteries were hardening, face flushing, legs complaining and heart racing.

    Of course, you can eat what you like, as long as you exercise. My gym kit is well travelled. It goes on every trip with me and, two times out of every three, returns just as well folded as it departed. This trip was one of the three and, of course, I overdid it – the sudden shock of exercise meant I was hobbling around looking like a fat old man, instead of just fat.

    It wasn’t always this way. My first ever business trip was to Jakarta, a place I’d only heard of four days before I arrived. I was in the central finance department of a large construction company and I was tasked, along with a seasoned traveller as my companion, to visit the Indonesian subsidiary to conduct an internal audit.

    I enjoyed the trip and was in good health for its duration. For several months after my return, however, I was less well. In fact, any meeting lasting longer than an hour was sure to have me dashing for the toilet. Colleagues grew so accustomed to this that they automatically ceded me a seat close to the door because it was easier than being knocked over. I don’t know whether it was the illness or all these sudden sprints which kept my weight down, but I now know there are several reasons its called the runs, and I have the Olympic gold medal and an equity stake in Andrex.

    Since then, I have made a point of eating at “safe” restaurants and avoiding ice in my drinks in certain countries (mainly India). As a result, it’s always a shock when I get ill. A few years ago, returning from Portugal with food poisoning, I learnt that air sick bags are only infrequently used, and that the particular batch on my plane were not fit for purpose. It’s bad enough throwing up into a bag without realising halfway through that the bottom of it has become unstuck and you are throwing up on your lap. I made do with duty-free carrier bags but I left the plane with wet trousers and a huge stain looking and smelling like I had lost bladder and bowel control.

    Then there was the time I was ill in India about 15 years ago. I was suffering from stomach ache and severe chest pains and after three days I decided to seek medical treatment. I had chest X-rays and blood tests but they could not work out the cause. Fortunately, I had my own medical kit with me and rather than use the hospital’s stainless steel syringes, I gave them one of mine. It was clearly a novelty as I remember the needle being used afterwards to pin my notes together.

    I had a flight that day to Bangkok where, on arrival at the hotel, the in-house doctor, called Dr Rat, came to see me immediately. He popped pills in my mouth the moment he arrived and left me with a prescription which required 22 pills a day to be taken for four days. The memory of him remains dear to me even now, although returning to the hotel the following year, I found he had left, and no one would admit ever having known him. I still believe I will bump into him again some day, somewhere.

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