When I was about 5 years old, my big brother mixed melted vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce together in a big bowl, stirred it up, ate it and told me, “It’s poop.” Of course, I believed him.

This is the same brother that persuaded me to sample Tabasco sauce out of the bottle because it “tastes like sugar.” He put some on my tongue and I ran away crying. These are the obligatory big brother-little sister tortures that come written into big brothers’ DNA. There’s probably an evolutionary mechanism at work.

Other than these incidents, I honestly did not suffer much torture from my siblings because they were so much older than me. My brother was 11 and my oldest sister was 16 when I was born.

Perhaps because of the age difference, the poop incident stayed with me. I truly believed my brother. I don’t know at what age kids’ fascination with poop peaks, but I do remember around the age of 8, I watched another 8-year old friend torture her toddler brother by making him eat his. I was simultaneously in awe of the power she had over him, and disgusted.

What does all this have to do with travel? Well, if you’re going to be a traveler, you might need to re-explore this childhood theme and get re-friendly with your poop. Not eat it, of course, but at least get more familiar with it than you would probably like.

*****Warning***** The following contains poo pictures.**

So far I have done and redone seven poo tests and I still don’t know what’s wrong with me. The “traveler’s diarrhea” that many sojourners get has not fully resolved itself in over a year.

Three of many poo tests.

I’ve been tested for parasites, Giardia and stool leukocytes. I’ve seen four doctors in three countries, had ultrasounds and blood tests. I’ve tried four different types of probiotics. The most effective ones were the little blue capsules that I bought in a Skopje, Macedonia pharmacy. The second best came in a little glass jar from an Istanbul pharmacy and cost about $2 dollars. The most ineffective was purchased off the shelf in a health food cooperative in Olympia, WA after I returned.


I’m now trying a $16 bottle of refrigerated probiotics from Whole Foods, hoping that will do the trick. In the meantime the MD is using the dreaded ‘colonoscopy’ word and the acupuncturist is giving me herbs that taste like dirt. Some one or combination of these things may help, and I suppose that is just the price I pay for the adventure of traveling to strange lands, eating strange foods and strange bacteria. I probably wouldn’t trade any one of my travel experiences for a year of chronic gastrointestinal distress; but if I had I might have enjoyed things a bit more along the way.