Dating back to the 4th Century countless pilgrimages have been made to the Holy Land, especially Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem. Millions of Christians make pilgrimages to St. Peter’s in Rome, the Basilica at Lourdes and Mexico City, where the Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe receives more than 20 million pilgrims each year.
Muslims travel to Mecca for Hajj, Buddhists to India and Nepal, and non-religious pilgrimages include the Mausoleum of Lenin in Moscow’s Red Square, even Graceland, Elvis Presley’s home in Memphis, which is considered a shrine by his ever-faithful fans.
Whatever your personal reasons for making a pilgrimage, the journey can prove to be one of the most rewarding and memorable experiences of your life. However, no matter what visions guide you on the way, don’t lose sight of the risks inherent in travel, which inevitably increase when thousands of people congregate in one place.
However peaceful the gathering of faithful souls might be, it is important for you to be aware that, in a large crowd, the chances of coming in contact with a virus or any number of diseases is amplified.
Airborne and skin-borne viruses spread much more quickly within a crowd, even more so in a hot climate. Add to this the fact that many pilgrimages involve a great deal of tiring walking in groups, and take into account the effects of jet lag, stress, an unfamiliar environment and climate, and the risks really do stack up.
Stay fit and healthy on pilgrimage
1. For a couple of months before you leave on pilgrimage, spend extra time on physical exercise. Walk, run, get more sleep and be careful with your diet. Eat more fruit and veg, cut out caffeine, alcohol and tobacco, and drink more water. Doing all this will make you fitter and healthier, physically ready for the trip.
2. Visit your doctor for a full check-up to make sure you are fit and healthy. Get renewals for the prescription medications you normally take and ask your doctor to provide a signed letter, proving your medicines are necessary. In some countries you’ll need to provide proof that your medications are prescribed by a doctor.
3. No matter where you plan to travel, make sure you book an appointment at one of our Travel Clinics in London so we can review your itinerary and recommend the vaccinations and medications you need to stay safe during your travels. It is important to remember that some regions on your itinerary might demand vaccinations and some won’t, so we’ll need all the details, including every country you’re travelling to and through. It’s also important to share how long you’re planning to stay abroad and talk to us about the medications you usually take. All this will help us advise you about essential and recommended travel vaccinations.
4. Visit your dentist and optician to review tooth and eye care abroad.
5. During the journey, take extra care over personal and general hygiene. It’s extra-important because you’re likely to be in close quarters with groups of people, and simple habits like regular hand-washing might not always be possible because of your accommodation, day-to-day travels or schedule. To help avoid infections, carry an anti-bacterial hand cleaner and use it frequently.
6. Eat! Drink! Your pilgrimage, while being an enriching event, can also be physically taxing, and eating high-energy foods, fresh and dried fruits, high-fibre cereals, whole-grain breads and honey can go a long way towards keeping you healthy all the way through. Be sure to wash fruit or vegetables bought along the way from street vendors, and wash them with purified water. Drink only bottled or purified water, and refresh yourself throughout the day with water and fruit juices.
You are about to embark on an incredible journey, and we look forward to talking with you before and afterwards. Please contact us if you have questions at all about health and safety on pilgrimage.