More than packing a suitcase

by Erin Kelly
March 13 2010

When planning for a trip, one usually thinks of booking the flights and hotels, and packing the suitcase. If you’re going to a particularly exotic or tropical destination, you might have to get an immunization shot for some mosquito-carrying disease. But when you’re traveling for long periods of time between a large number of countries, the number of vaccines and traveler’s visas that you need to get can really add up.

Last week I received shots for the yellow fever and hepatitis A vaccines (first dose), as well as typhoid pills. This morning I got shots for the polio vaccines and tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis booster, as well as prescriptions for 100 malaria pills (which I’ll need to take for four months) and zithromacin (meds to help with traveler’s diarrhea – yikes!). I would have needed more shots if I hadn’t already received the meningitis vaccine and all three doses of the hepatitis B vaccine, and if I had decided to get the Japanese encephalitis vaccine (two doses of $400 each, no thanks). This doesn’t include all of the special insect repellent, sunblock and clothes we’ll have to get, as well as the second dose of hep A that I’ll need to get after we return.

All of this preparation has really opened my eyes to how different the levels of medical resources available are around the world. Sure, some of these diseases are dependent upon the climate and other environmental factors. But others, like polio, have been eradicated in many areas. Many countries are still fighting disease, but lacking the resources to do so. It just makes me appreciate what U.S. citizens often take for granted.

On another note, I’m very excited to announce the people we will be visiting in Peru and Australia. We recently have connected with Gina Low of APECA Peru, an organization that brings medical services and educational resources to remote villages along the Amazon river. In Sydney, we’ll be visiting two people: Ronni Kahn of OzHarvest, which delivers leftover food that would otherwise be wasted to hundreds of charities; and Captain Paul Moulds of Oasis, a shelter and community center that helps homeless youth among Sydney’s streets. We are so grateful that such inspiring people will be sharing their stories and organizations with us.

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