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What You Should Guard Against While on Vacation
"THE most obvious purpose of vacations is contrast, interlude, a break in the pace," wrote journalist Lance Morrow. However, he observed that some come home from their vacation so stressed out that they vow "never to do it again." Yet, rather than forget the idea of taking vacations, it would be wise to examine in advance possible pitfalls and take steps to avoid them.
Many have returned from vacation to find that in their absence
their home had been burglarized. So before leaving on a vacation, ask friends or
neighbors to check your home regularly. They may even be able to spend some time
there to make it less obvious that you are absent. Ask them to collect your
newspapers and to empty your mailbox daily, for nothing advertises your being
away more than a pile of newspapers or a mailbox visibly bloated with
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You also need to protect your valuables at your vacation site. In
some countries foreigners are thought to be rich, and every tourist is a
potential robbery victim. A good practice, therefore, is to leave extra cash and
valuable papers in the hotel safe or in another secure place. Be cautious of
strangers, without being unkind.
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Each year Miami,
Florida, U.S.A., hosts
millions of foreign and domestic vacationers. Criminals are particularly active
in such tourist areas. Time magazine reported that during 1992, "in
Florida alone, 36,766 visitors, foreign and domestic,
were murdered, raped, robbed or otherwise
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When on vacation, especially beware of pickpockets. Men should keep
their wallet in an inconspicuous and protected place, such as an inside pocket
of their jacket or their front pants' pocket. Experienced travelers often
conceal money in ingenious ways on their person. For example, some carry their
money, passports, and visas in a small, flat pouch around their neck and tucked
under their clothing. Women should be careful lest bicycle or motor scooter
riders snatch loosely held bags from their grasp.
Criminals keep finding new ways to prey on tourists. On
long-distance express trains, sleeping passengers in European countries have
been robbed during the night. A sleep-inducing agent may be released into
compartments to make sure the occupants do not awaken while their belongings are
being rifled. On one occasion, according to The European, "robbers
are thought to have calmly left the train with more than $845,000 [in] cash and
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"My only solution for the problem of habitual accidents," said humorist Robert Benchley, "is to stay in bed all day." But then he added: "Even then, there is always the chance that you will fall out." The point is, accidents happen everywhere! So fear of suffering an accident while on vacation need not frighten you into staying at home. But there is special reason for caution when on vacation.
Traffic situations can be treacherous during vacation periods. Germans have grown accustomed to 50-mile [80 km]-long traffic jams during such times. Time magazine of August 14, 1989, stated: "Across Europe last week, millions of families started their traditional August holiday - and a grim and grueling time was had by all. . . . Virtually every major highway out of Paris was clogged to a standstill. . . . Between July 28 and Aug. 1, 102 people died in highway smash-ups." Therefore, wisely make brief stops to relax nerves frayed by stop-and-go traffic.
The European reported an advisory that motorists "delay their journeys until Sunday - or travel by night." Yet it admitted that most vacationers "still insist on taking off at the same time." The result? Europe in gridlock. Although it is wise to travel when roads are less crowded, do not overlook the fact that traveling at night can be dangerous. A person does not see as well at night, and hence the chance of accidents may be increased. Early morning may be a better time to travel.
Do not ignore other possible accident sources after arriving at your vacation destination. If your muscles have been on vacation for most of the year, they will rebel when pressed into service without proper conditioning. So limit sports activities on the first few days, when your body may be particularly susceptible to injury.
According to the book 2,000 Everyday Health Tips for Better Health and Happiness, "the most common health problems travelers encounter on trips overseas are centered on food, water and a few infectious diseases." Travel agents may offer advice on how to avoid such problems, and it pays to follow their suggestions.
In many areas it is important to avoid drinking tap water. And remember, ice cubes are likely made from such water. It may also be wise to avoid eating leafy vegetables, mayonnaise, creamed dishes, raw or rare meat, shellfish, and fresh fruit, unless you can peel it yourself. In the Tropics, fresh milk should be boiled before you drink it.
A major source of danger to lightly clad vacationers is the sun, and in recent years the danger has increased dramatically because of the decline of ozone in the atmosphere. The number of new cases of malignant melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, doubled in the United States between 1980 and 1993. T-shirts have been spotted in Australia bearing the slogan "SLIP! SLOP! SLAP!" (Slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, and slap on a hat.) But do not be lulled into a false sense of security. Sunscreens are not foolproof.
Air travel that traverses several time zones can result in jet lag. Although not a disease in itself, jet lag can upset a person's physical well-being, particularly if one is not healthy to begin with. A study made of air travelers between London and San Francisco, an eight-hour time difference, revealed that "physiological adaptation . . . required no less than seven to ten days." The book The Body Machine also reported that some travelers who quickly crossed several time zones had "a tendency to be inarticulate, hesitant and twice as likely to make mistakes. Concentration and memory also suffered."
Additionally, jet travel facilitates the spread of disease from one continent to another in a matter of hours. The German newspaper Nassauische Neue Presse noted: "Doctors are particularly worried about 'exotic' diseases like malaria or hepatitis that vacationers bring back from Africa, Asia, or South America. Every year about 2,000 Germans return home with malaria." After the bubonic plague caused deaths in India in 1994, strong preventive measures were taken to keep it from spreading to other countries.
People with chronic health problems, as well as pregnant women, should take extra precautions when traveling. Although in most cases there is no compelling reason for such ones to refrain from traveling, they should seek the advice of their doctor beforehand. It is wise for everyone who travels to carry the name, address, and telephone number of a friend or relative who can be reached in case of emergency.
A person who requires regular insulin injections to keep his blood sugar stable must keep in mind that crossing several time zones will disrupt his careful schedule of meals and injections. He will have to plan accordingly. Or a traveler with a heart pacemaker should make sure that he has the phone number of his cardiologist.
Moreover, anyone dependent on certain medication will want to keep it in his carry-on luggage because lost or misdirected luggage could otherwise be catastrophic. Doing without a fresh change of clothes for several days may be unpleasant; doing without necessary medication for only a few hours could be life-threatening.
The dangers of vacation travel are not to be
underestimated. Yet, there is rarely good reason to let them frighten you into
staying home. Just be cautious. Remember: Proper preparation helps combat
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