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Traveler Bodies Adapt to Jungle Climate

FINCA TATIN, Izabel, Guatemala- Traveling a fast path across the world means jumping climates, changing environments, time zones, expanses of longitude and latitude — it means providing your body with a good wholesome shock as it must quickly adapt from one clime to another. Travelers now go from the freezing cold to tropical heat in [...]

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FINCA TATIN, Izabel, Guatemala- Traveling a fast path across the world means jumping climates, changing environments, time zones, expanses of longitude and latitude — it means providing your body with a good wholesome shock as it must quickly adapt from one clime to another. Travelers now go from the freezing cold to tropical heat in a matter of hours. Our technology has vastly outrun the time it takes for our bodies to adapt to new climates, like a block of ice dropped into room temperature liquid we sometimes crack.

When jumping into a new region, a traveler’s meat and bones often need time to play catch up with the pace of travel: as I entered the Guatemalan jungle my body was still attuned to inland El Salvador.

So we get a little sick, we cough, we hack, perhaps crap profusely, perhaps become bound up, we get headaches, infections, our skin blemishes, day and night flip flop — we falter, then adapt. Within a week, we are often relatively adapted to our new surroundings, our bodies catch up.

I have watched the bodies of my family adapt to our new hub in the jungle of Guatemala. It has not been pretty, though necessary.


I woke up two days ago, I walked down from my room to the Casa Grande, I turned on the telephones, I began raising up the blinds, just as I do each morning. I had to run to the bathroom. I though I traveled long enough to outrun these sorts of stomach rumbles. Nope.

I thought little of the encounter. I went to Livingston, I returned. I did not feel so well. I told my wife that I couldn’t take care of the baby because I was sick. I really became sick soon after. I felt worst inversely proportional to the day’s waning light — by night, I was sick. Real sick with a fever and stomach woes. I commandeered a bathroom, I vomited all over the forest, I stumbled around deliriously, yelled nonsense at my wife, woke up with pains in my kidneys in the middle of a nighttime thunder storm. I begged my wife to help me.

In the nighttime jungle the crickets chirped, the frogs croaked and Wade the vagabond, with the self professed stomach of steel, ralphed. He ralphed all over the vegetation, ralphed into a water ravine, and nearly fell on his face as he dry heaved under some guests clothes airing out on a line.

Even the roughest of men tend to become hapless babies when sick, we want our mommies. We appropriate wives as adequate substitutes. I wailed for my wife in the night. She shown brightly, massaged my dehydrated kidneys at 2 AM, went out in the lightning of a tropical thunder shower to get her larger sized baby some more water.

The big baby was sick.

I remained a larger sized baby for the next day. I left all of the work of the hotel, the small baby, and myself to the care of my noble wife. She took care of it all. I curled up like a dog on a couch of the Casa Grande in between frequent bathroom runs. I was sick, delirious with fever.

“Stomach problems are common here, don’t worry,” the hotel owner reassured my wife. He laughed whenever he passed me lying green faced on the couch — he is an old traveler, he knew exactly how I felt.

A Maya woman made me a local remedy which involved a leaf from the jungle called Tres Puntos.

I got better, my body is adapting to the jungle, altering to meet the demands of a change in climate, a rapid move between geographical regions.


Two days into living at the Finca Tatin, my baby Petra broke out in spots. Her body soon blistered so many red spots that she turned from gringo white to tomato. There were small dots, there were larger dots, there were all kinds of red bumps and blemishes all over poor Petra. We took here to the NGO clinic down the river from the finca. The doctors said heat rash mixed with allergies — an allergy to something, maybe the river water, maybe insect bites.

They gave us allergy medicine.

We returned to the finca, gave Petra the medicine, gave her some of our stock of hydrocortisome cream, and in a couple of days she was better. No more allergy spots, only a little heat rash remains.

Though the heat rash is something that babies just need to deal with in the tropics. Traveling babies and local babies all battle heat rash. It does not really do anything other than appear unsightly — it does not seem to itch or hurt. Petra had heat rash in El Salvador, and she definitely has it here in the jungle of Guatemala. Here at the Finca Tatin, Petra not only has heat, but humidity to face. Her little baby skin has been being pushed hard against the elements, though nearly two weeks in to this jungle stay, Petra’s skin is clearing up: she looks like a gringo baby again, not a tomato.


My wife sneezes once, she sneezes again, again, again, she sneezes like eight times in row without rest.

“What the hell is wrong with you?”

Chaya was allergic to something in the rain forest. For the first three days of our stay at the Finca Tatin my wife Chaya sneezed, her eyes were all swollen big, and her big Jew nose amazingly expanded to an even larger size — it was running, dribbling — my wife was allergic to something. She was laid out with a snot head and a fever for a night. She guessed mold. I guessed that she was probably correct: in three days of being exposed to the damp jungle air, much of our travel gear was growing fur.


Everything was caked in mold.

My wife was sneezing.

We changed rooms, washed our clothes, and Chaya’s body eventually adapted to the microorganisms of the Guatemala rain forest.

At least she does not sneeze anymore.


When traveling rapidly between regions of the world, drastic shifts in environment sometimes happen quicker than a body can adjust to. New bacteria, a change in altitude, humidity, temperature, aridity, viruses, different foods are all criteria that the traveling body must handle.

It sometimes takes a little time to adjust.


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Filed under: Central America, Guatemala, Health, Rain Forests, Weather

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3706 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

6 comments… add one

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  • Caitlin June 11, 2010, 11:38 pm

    Shit, man.

    Kidneys feeling better?

    I only ask because I’m suspicious of kidneys after my unfortunate illness.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com June 13, 2010, 6:47 pm

      The kidneys are doing alright, think they were just a little dehydrated — which is a recipe for kidney stones — but I drank a lot of water, they stopped hurting after being massaged.

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  • Debbie Goss June 12, 2010, 10:09 am

    Good to hear from you guys – been worried about you.

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  • Paulo Martins June 12, 2010, 11:00 am

    Hey Wade, Forgot to tell you about the mold.

    My suggestions:
    the room is well ventilated BUT you must remove all your stuff from your backpacks.
    In the room you guys will def. see a long stick between two windows. Put all your clothes on it.
    Unfold your sleeping bags/tents/etc and hang ’em around the room. even your backpacks.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com June 13, 2010, 6:42 pm

      Good suggestions! Chaya keeps putting clothes away to keep the room looking nice and I keep dumping them out all over the room. Though we compromised by putting everything on that long stick or hanging in the windows. Good idea to wash everything once a week.

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  • Paulo Martins June 12, 2010, 11:06 am

    …NEVER fold up your clothes and put them on the shelves.
    AND every two weeks just wash everything on the washmachine.

    So you lot are adapting to the jungle ways eh?
    In the time spent at the finca I never got a stomach bug. I got a horrible ear infection though.

    Hope you guys get better!

    Welcome to the Jungle!

    Ciao 4 now


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