Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

H is for Health

Day 8 of the A to Z Blogging Challenge – Thoughts on Being a Nomad

“Your health is the most important thing in life,” my paternal grandmother told me (in Dutch) when I was a teenager. I looked at her and shrugged. I had much more important things going on, like making sure that my friends and boyfriend liked me.

“You are so right about seeing the world while you are still young,” my maternal grandmother said, when my nomad behavior was frowned upon by everyone else. “So many people wait until they are too old and their health is not what it used to be,” she wisely added. I was in my twenties and I agreed with her. About my age being perfect for living outside the box, ignoring the possible health issues part. I kept traveling.

Good health is required to hike in the tropics

Good health is required to hike in the tropics

“And, how is your health?” my mother would ask after we talked for a while on Skype about other things going on in our sailing life. “Fine, of course,” I answered, thinking, What’s with the health? Always the health? Mark and I are in our thirties. We are totally healthy. Ignorance is bliss.

“At least you are still relatively young and in good health,” a retired cruiser friend uttered, when I was complaining about always having to be careful with money, because we barely have any. Mark, 42, and I, 38, nodded in agreement. Except, we weren’t healthy. We just didn’t know it yet…

Sending Mark off from Tahiti to the US for surgery and treatment

Sending Mark off from Tahiti to the US for surgery and treatment

With health comes health care. When I was backpacking and traveling by camper in my earlier years, I had health insurance in Belgium and bought additional international year plans. I never read the small print, saying that I could only be abroad for three consecutive months at a time. I was gone years on end… Ignorance is bliss. Luckily, nothing serious ever happened. Later on, no more travel health insurance was purchased. I have my annual dentist and doctor check-ups done when I visit friends and family in Belgium. When things needed immediate attention, I would take care of it locally. Health care outside the US is usually pretty affordable, especially in less developed countries. Mark is in the same situation. He is only covered in his own state (Massachusetts) and in all of the US for emergencies. For health care abroad, we rely on our savings and appreciate the lower costs for doctor visits (sometimes free in French Polynesia). For serious stuff, we return to our home countries at our own expense. Recently, I have health care in the US as well.

Dana Farber cancer center in Boston

Dana Farber cancer center in Boston

Now, I am 40. Ignorance in regards to my health is not allowed anymore. When my mom asks me how our health is, I don’t scoff any longer. I dutifully answer her questions, appreciating her concerns. Over the years, a lot has happened and many items have been added to our list of health struggles. We discuss topics like headaches, painful joints, tumors, cancer treatment, Lyme disease, tennis elbow, foot issues… or nothing, which is a good day. Fortunately, because of the amazing health care we have experienced everywhere, we are in pretty good shape again these days.

Steep hike for a great view

Steep hike for a great view

Remember how I wrote that freedom is the main draw to my life as a nomad? Well, that freedom would be worthless, if one is not healthy enough to enjoy it. Health is important. My grandmothers were right. Now, let’s travel!

Have you had to deal with health issues during your travels? Do you buy international health insurance when going on vacation? Do you have an interesting, or funny, health story to share from being abroad?

(Tomorrow is Sunday, so the A-Z bloggers take a break. Monday, I will be back with “I is for Internet” in the “Thoughts on Being a Nomad” series.)




  1. John & Carol

    April 9, 2016 at 10:39

    You are such a talented writer! We enjoy every word. Of course you have a lot to write about. John & Carol. S/V Sweet Caroline

  2. We don’t worry about healthcare as much traveling overseas, as costs are so much more reasonable, but it is a worry here in the States. We have ACA insurance and took a gamble with a high deductible plan this year. The gamble didn’t pay off and I’m looking at some pretty huge medical bills to have to pay soon. As we get older, we worry about our health more, especially as we see friends and family our age get ill and read about stories like Mark’s. All the more reason for us to travel now and enjoy life while we still have our health.

    Cheers – Ellen

    • For sure, Ellen. You are doing it right! We also heard and knew about the stories and health issues of others, for years. You just brush it off, until it happens closer to you. First to Mark’s sister and one (!) year later to him. Luckily, he survived, but it was a lesson that anything can happen, even when you are still relatively young! Enjoy the boat and the camper life!

  3. Thankfully, we are in good health and appreciate it every day!

    • That’s great about your health, Lucy, and almost greater that you appreciate it! I try to remember and realize the days I feel very healthy and happy as well, but sometimes, small things throw it off, while they shouldn’t!

  4. When we were in New Zealand, we had a big lung cancer scare but were able to handle the expenses out of pocket because of the low health care costs (it turned out not to be cancer but a growth from a previous case of Valley Fever). If something happened now that we’re based in the US, it’s a different story. Like so many other Americans (David’s actually British), a medical emergency could ruin us.

    • Glad the scare in New Zealand was just that, a scare! Phew! Some Europeans I know take out extra health care in their home countries when they visit the US. For Americans, health care is now a whole different and more affordable story with “Obama Care”. It is what I am covered under now as well, with my Greencard. And, there are the public hospitals and some free clinics as well, in the US. It doesn’t have to be as bad or outrageous as everybody makes it out out to be. But, some states might have higher fees than others still… Keeping our fingers crossed that nothing goes wrong, right! 🙂

  5. Such great advice, traveling while you’re young. I’m no longer young and my travel bucket list is a mile long. Very tempted to just take a year and do it all in one go before it’s too late!

    • You are never too old to travel! 🙂 Based on your photo, you are not old at all yet. Get on with that bucket list, I would say. You can always start with a sabbatical for a few months! Or, mark three items off the list every year… Good luck, Lissa!

  6. I don’t have a good story for health issues while traveling, but I do understand the importance of being healthy. After the winter of 2012, I started to feel like I was losing muscle mass and stamina. I went from cycling over 1200 miles between 2011 and 12, to barely being capable of 200 in 2013. No doctors could tell me what the issue was, and I started looking into non traditional medicine. I was diagnosed with Adrenal Fatigue in 2014, and since then have been on supplements that help with my energy and stamina. I appreciate my health so much more now and am constantly aware of any changes or setbacks. I’m back on the bike, which makes me so happy, and am able to ride longer distances again.

    • I’m glad they figured out what was wrong, Ryan and that there are medicines that help with the Fatigue. One of the worst things is when you have a serious issue and you have no idea what it is from. My husband had lots of fatigue and a foggy head as well, for months. We first thought it was due to his cancer medicine, but it didn’t improve when he stopped taking it. Then, we thought chronic Lyme disease, since he was unlucky enough to get bitten by one (infectious) tick during treatment a year earlier (the health stories we can tell!!! :-)), but now, over a year later, it is a bit better. We still have no idea what caused it and the doctors have no clue. Weird stuff happens. Just like with mysterious issues on the boat, it takes the longest and most frustrating time to figure out what the problem is, but once diagnosed… fixing or healing can (hopefully) start! Knowing your body is a good thing. Happy cycling!

  7. sarahallanauthor

    April 9, 2016 at 18:57

    Taking care of yourself and monitoring your health is so important. Both hubs and I have chronic illnesses, but we try our best to not let it limit us. To be on the safe side, we always buy travel insurance that includes health/hospital if necessary, then we can enjoy our travels without worrying.

    • Sorry to hear about your illnesses, Sarah, and good for you to not let it keep you from traveling and seeing the world. Because of your situation, you are always “prepared” in regards to health insurance, which is a good thing! You are so right about not (or less) worrying when you have insurance during your travels. Every year, my husband and I debated getting boat insurance again (VERY expensive) and every year, our hearts told us to cave in and buck up. But, we always felt good about it, because it gave us that peace of mind…

  8. Nothing like a health scare to remind you of life’s true priorities! Glad you’re okay. (We had one too, now thankfully it’s been 10 years since that event

    • You are so right about that, Jaye. We try to remember and focus on the priorities, but often, that goal slips and we return to some petty complaints…. 🙂 Happy to hear that you guys are fine as well. I hate scares like that!

  9. I always buy health insurance when I travel. Some tours even require it.

    The only time I’ve been sick while traveling was in Romania’s Haunted Forest (which is a common side effect) and Bali. OMG, the Bali belly! Nothing got rid of it, and it lasted for months after I got home. 🙁

    Sorry to hear of your health challenges, but I’m glad you’re okay now.

    • You suffered for months after the Bali belly? That is awful. It must have been more than a bug or food poisoning. I hope you are totally free of the symptoms now! Why am I not surprised that you visited a place called “Haunted Forest” in Romania? 🙂 Sounds intriguing, apart from the side effects after visiting!

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