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Photo by Sampor Burke, Mekong Semester.

Traveling, Planes, and Health

Hi Everybody,

Your instructors are gearing up to head to Bangkok, Thailand, where we’ll be having our own orientation and training with the other Dragons Asia instructors before heading to Kunming to finish some last minute tasks before we meet you at the airport in Kunming on the 17th! Whew, a lot of travelling ahead. Fitting for a Yak about travel.

As you’ll see from our tentative itinerary Yak, we’ll be traveling a lot. Bus, van, plane, boat, train—we’re going to be seriously getting around. How travelers decide to get around dictates the type of experiences that arise. Whenever we can, travel during our course will be all about taking the ferry instead of the cruise ship, the public bus instead of the private one, and about walking the paths regular people walk to get where they’re going. It’s only when you travel this way that you experience a place as local people experience it, at the speed they experience it, and hopefully know it—and know them—better.

And you all will have an ever-increasing responsibility and opportunity to shape our travels! Over this course, we hope to give you the skills to buy tickets, to sort out the problem when the boat doesn’t show up, to navigate a new city, and to do so respectfully and while connecting to the people around you. To start, below are some tips for the first leg of your journey and some reminders about staying healthy on course.

After making this flight across the Pacific dozens of times among us, we’ve accumulated some tips that will help you arrive here ready to jump into travel.

  • Have a pen with you on the flight to fill out immigration forms before arrival. Having these ready to go before you deplane (can you believe that’s a word?) can help you speed through the customs and immigration lines.
  • Long flights are hard on your body. Drinking tons of water helps. After you get through security, you can usually buy water or fill up your water bottle. We suggest you drink about a fourth a liter every fifteen minutes to avoid the dehydrating effects of altitude and the recycled air. Being hydrated also seems to help shed the effects of jet lag.
  • If you can, ask the agent at the ticketing counter for an aisle seat so that you can get up and move frequently. Doing some stretches in the back of the plane can keep your blood flowing and your body feeling good. An aisle seat also allows you to go to the bathroom whenever you need to, which is going to be pretty often with all the water you’re going to be drinking. Minimizing the luggage you put under the seat in front of you will also give you room to move your legs around.
  • You may want to bring a warm layer onto the airplane as it can get cold at 35,000 feet. You can also ball this up and put it on your shoulder as a makeshift pillow. If you have a hoodie, you can pull down the hood to keep your head warm and to make a makeshift eye-shade.
  • It never hurts to toss a pair of underwear, your toothbrush, and an airplane-sized tube of toothpaste in your carry-on bag in case you want to freshen up on the plane or your checked bag decides to fly to a different country than you do. It can also be nice to have a pair of sandals to change into on the plane.
  • Make sure you always know exactly where your passport is. Put it back in the same place every time. Don’t put it in the seatback pocket in the chair in front of yours—ever.
  • Before you leave the plane, grab anything free. Slippers, eye shades, headphones, and earplugs may come in handy later in the trip.

Health on course: We’d also like to remind all of you to make sure you have the things you need to keep you healthy on course. Though we’ll mention it again, we would like to go ahead and say here that health in the places we are traveling to (mostly tropical) looks very different from health in temperate areas. You need to take seriously the idea that even tiny cuts and scratches can get infected and therefore ought to be given attention and care to prevent that. Likewise, avoiding skin rashes, protecting against mosquitos, and caring for your feet will all be more important and look different than at home.

  • You’re going to be pushing your body hard. You’ll go through jet-lag, be exposed to new germs, ascend and descend altitudes, ride on all manner of transportation, and carry your possessions on your back the whole time. You need your body to work. So before you even fly, in the coming days make a conscious effort to exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet, and drink tons of water. Consider starting some probiotics or learning to love yoghurt. When you’re the only one who isn’t catching a cold or suffering from funny-stomach the second week in, you’ll appreciate what you did to get ready, and you’ll be ready to help your friends
  • If you wear glasses or contacts, bring extra.
  • If you have medications you use regularly, whether prescription or otherwise, please bring enough and label everything clearly. If you get motion sickness, bring non-drowsy motion sickness medications as this is one of the few things our extensive medical kit does not have.
  • Bring some band-aids of your own in your mini medical kit. We suggest bringing several different sizes.
  • Please bring enough of anything else you feel like you need to stay healthy!

We can’t wait to see you when you come out of the security area in the airport! Please post any questions you have.

Stay healthy,

Steve, Som & Shuier.