expat life / travel

Why Do I Always Get Sick After Traveling?

I’m wrapping up another couple of weeks of traveling, and once again, I’m sick! I don’t know why this happens to me almost every single time I travel…but unfortunately, it does. 

Back in college, I always got sick right after finishing my last final. It’s like the stress managed to keep the cold or whatever at bay until I had time to really be sick.

But it’s not like spending my week taking gentle seaside strolls, visiting beautiful churches, and eating thousands of delicious pinches was exactly stressful. Still, for whatever reason, I’ve lost my voice, my whole body aches, and I’m sniffly and verging on grumpy. 


Photo credit: Corbis via The Guardian – I only wish I looked this stylish while sneezing! 

It happened in May while I was in Ibiza, which was decidedly not a stressful trip. Trying to figure out where to find your friends in a 15,000+ person nightclub is hard enough, but try doing that without a voice. Okay, the endless partying wasn’t exactly an optimal health choice and may have contributed to my sick state…but still!

It happened while I was in Asturias, forcing me to go home from a sidra-tasting when I couldn’t even croak out an “hola” anymore.

It happened when I got back from California after the holidays, making me even less happy about not having hot water or heating in my freezing apartment.

The same thing happens every couple of months. I’m consistently voiceless, making my guiri attempts to communicate even more absurd (OK, that’s an exaggeration – I speak good Spanish!). It doesn’t seem to matter where I go, what I do, how I get there, or what the weather’s like; I’m just always sick after traveling. 

The only upside? I’ve learned a variety of ways to communicate to the pharmacist or doctor that I am afónica. The nice ones don’t even laugh at me.


Even the nice ones, however, smirk.

I guess my psych degree might come in handy here. Even though travel’s not stressful in the negative sense of the word, it’s stressful in the sense that it  mixes up your routine and makes you adjust to new situations constantly. Maybe that’s part of the reason?

My mum’s theory was that I’m too tough to let myself get sick during an important event. I’m not sure that’s exactly true, but I do let myself relax fully after a big event.

Either way, when my parents left on Friday, I was feeling pretty terrible. Even though I was very sad they were leaving, I was also so relieved that I could just go home and stay in bed.

That’s pretty much all I’ve done this weekend – stayed in bed and watched T.V. (yay So You Think You Can Dance and Lo Sabe, No Lo Sabe – thanks to Kaley from Y Mucho Más for recommending this one!). Of course, this was the weekend that lots of fun stuff happened (a dinner party, a giant outdoor free party in front of a palace, and lots of friends who wanted to celebrate the ends of their finals). The universe also taunted me with a steady stream of overexcited hen and stag night parties going on right beneath my window.


JEALOUS if this was your weekend. 

That’s probably the best sign I’m on the mend. When I start feeling well enough to feel jealous of people at parties, it’s a sure sign that I’ll be back on my feet in a discoteca within days tonight. Or at least, I hope so!

Also, one last note – thanks again to my guest posters this week! Paul from Take Ya There wrote about 5 secret things to do in Madrid, and Alan and Daniel from Entra en el Menú had some fabulous restaurant recommendations for Barcelona. 

Do you ever get sick after you travel? If you do, any theories why?



32 thoughts on “Why Do I Always Get Sick After Traveling?

  1. Hi, yep, not always, but lot of times I get sick after I travel. My theory is simple, even it´s not stress, you are in a good way anxious when you travel, getting excited to know things, to not get lost, to hit the best places, etc, sometimes you eat well and sometimes you don´t, anyway your normal routine is changed and therefore you invest a lot of energies in a trip and since sometimes you don´t feed well, there must be some kind of unbalance in your body, your defences go down… and well you get sick… and perhaps your mom is right, the adrenaline of traveling makes you too tough to get sick during the trip, but after you relax then you let the sickness come in… 😦 anyway it happens to a lot of people! so don´t worry and just try to eat better when you travel …

  2. Hey Jess! I get sick sometimes when I travel. I am a yoga instructor so doing some deep breathing for a few minutes sitting with my back up straight helps me calm down my nervous system (beating stress if that’s what lowers your immunity!) and then I do some physical yoga with lot’s of twists because they are detoxifying! Gentle poses of course. I can definitely get you more details on that if you like. On top of that eat your greens, get that Vitamin D and C in your body and plenty of water! Alllllll natural. Hope you’re feeling better!

  3. I sometimes get sick when I travel to. I think it has to do with the fact that germs on planes spread like the bubonic plague. I know (at least I hope but I doubt Easyjet and Ryanair do this since they are budget) they clean the plane before new passengers get on but you are always guaranteed to have a few sick people on a flight.

    I remember once being sick with a cold with what seemed like weeks. I took a service trip out to the AZ desert during spring break and it seemed I was getting better in the desert air. On the flight back, I started to get a sore throat–it was ridiculous, I got another cold barely a week from recovering from the first one so I ended up being sick a total of about 6 weeks that semester.

    I actually just got over a cold last week. I was staying late at work for a huge project that FINALLY launched after about 6 months of working on it. The stress got me sick and then I infected the rest of my team too. Oops!

    • Oh I’m sure Ryanair doesn’t have time to clean the entire plane between flights! As soon as you get off, people are waiting to board the same plane.

      I’m glad you’re feeling better! I hope the rest of your team does soon too. 🙂

  4. Aside from the stress factor, maybe your diet isn’t the best when you’re travelling? I know that when I’m not at home, I eat far less fruit and veg, because it’s just too inconvenient to buy and prepare it, and restaurants only serve comparatively minute quantities.
    Qué te mejores 🙂

  5. Hi Jessica! I’m currently taking my masters in health psychology, and i must say that i think what you are experiencing is normal (i’m not a qualified health psychologist yet, but i’ll give it a go!)

    i’ve learned about symptom reporting and you wouldn’t believe how much our external environment actually affects our internal status (you may have heard of this already too!). women especially, rely heavily on external cues to infer how they are feeling. I’m guessing that since you get back from your travels, you are no longer focused on all the exciting things that is happening in your external environment, and getting back home is the only time your mind starts paying attention again to your body (plus of course the stress and fatigue from the actual travel!)

    there has been real studies on symptom reporting…when the external environment becomes too boring, people show more symptoms (ex. students in class actually coughed more when the experimenters intentionally gave them a boring lecturer vs an interesting one)

    haha, sorry for going all geeky, but that’s one theory for ya 😉

  6. I came home a couple days ago, and LA was a stop on the way home. I got severely ill while I was there – stomach bug, ear infection, cold/flu, etc. You name it, I probably experienced it, and all within a week or so! I didn’t really experience post-travel sickness while all over Europe, though. Funny how it works, considering the difference between Madrid weather and LA weather when I arrived was minimal compared to the differences within Europe!

    It’s the worst thing that can happen – being sick while traveling – but it makes you appreciate your health all that much more!

  7. This is a common theme for me, I always seem to get sick traveling. I take emergen-c or airborne before traveling (and pack extra) and it’s helped so far! I also used to never take the drinks that were offered on flights because I didn’t want to have to use the restroom and it would make me feel worse. I found that staying hydrating and having the extra vitamin C has helped!

  8. It is definitely the planes…they are pretty gross. As an OCD person, I try very hard to keep my mind off of the germs floating through the airplane air. I am usually ok, but when coming back to the US, I got headlice from the little pillow they give you. Next time I fly I am wrapping myself in saran wrap, and wearing one of those rubber swim caps.

  9. I’m always one to get sick when I’m on holiday too! I remember when I arrived in New York last summer – it was the city right at the top of my bucket list so, subsequently, I was more than annoyed when I came down with the flu and ended up spending my evenings tucked up in bed rather than exploring the area more! But hey – gives me another excuse to go back again 😀

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