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You can prevent depression from taking the world from you

December 2011

Traveling with sickness is no fun, but not traveling at all is no life. This was the sentiment voiced by Anna (not her real name), who suffers from a debilitating mental disorder affecting almost 25 per cent of all Canadians.


Now in her early 50s, Anna, who has traveled and spent years working in foreign countries, believes that travel is an important challenge for those who suffer from mood disorders.

“Traveling can be very good for the soul, for the spirit. Going places makes a big difference, especially bright, sunny places. The light makes a big difference.”

Anna is a victim of a “functional” category of mood disorders, commonly called depression. She says that a change in environment can go a long way toward chasing away a sense of boredom, anxiety and a feeling of not being satisfied—the blahs that limit sufferers from living a full life.

“Like the climate, mood changes a lot. There are a lot of therapeutic places that are a lot more beautiful than home in winter,” she says. “You don’t need to be trapped at home. But you also have to know your limitations.”

Anna suggests that people should first talk with their doctor about going away, since the advisability of traveling often depends on the actual illness. “You have to determine what is wise for you to do.”

Anna has lived and worked in places as far afield as Colombia and Egypt because she took precautions.

She says you have to make sure through a Canadian embassy that a doctor is available who can speak English and that your medications are available in an emergency.

Anna stresses the importance of traveling with a friend who knows the sufferer’s condition and who can pitch in to help out should an episode flare up. “Sometimes the stress of a new language or culture can cause anxiety and discomfort.”

Consider insurance, she adds. “If a massive attack does take place, you have to have some means of leaving, even if it means getting a helicopter.”

Sometimes a small issue at home could turn into something more significant away from home. “You have to start on a short trip to a well known place at first,” she advises.

Anna says the most important alerts she offers sufferers to are to stay near people and “Know yourself.”

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That loathsome, pandemic scourge of bedbugs is back in the news again, given the sheer number of holidays and vacations over the next few months. Here are tips that can help you win an inglorious battle with that miserable little “vampire.”

Inspect the sleeping facilities. According to travel writer colleague Kate Pollack, you should “check for blood spots on the sheets, tiny-apple-seed-like bugs in the mattress seams or signs of black poo marks behind the headboard.” Yech!

You have to operate on the principle that bedbugs love warm, comfy hideaways, seeking surfaces that resemble a wall-to-wall rug. Avoid laying your luggage on the bed; use a rack, never on the floor.

The best place to unpack is in the bathtub. Then, hang all the clothes you can and don’t be afraid to ask for extra hangers. These little buggers absolutely despise shiny, smooth surfaces.

Check to see whether the hotel had the forethought to wrap their mattresses in a plastic, zippered envelope. If they didn’t, you should expect them to remove your sheets and use one that you’ve brought along.

This extra precaution provides that smooth, shiny surface. And while you’re at it, tell the concierge that you would like the skirt that ribbons your bed to be removed for the duration of your visit. The pests climb up the surfaces onto the bed and lay their creepy little eggs in the folds. These requests should testify to the quality of service your hotel provides.

If you’ve been provided with a comforter, have it removed, and opt instead for covers that have just gone through a high-heat drying cycle.

As some of your soiled clothes will find themselves in a pile, you will want to bring along plastic bags (large with secure fittings) to contain them.

At home, toss your clothes into the dryer before the wash and dry cycles. Before storing your suitcase, spray a certified-friendly pesticide throughout.

You can never be too careful.



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