The danger that no-one is talking about.
The internet is full of helpful articles warning people of the higher risk of car accidents in the summer months, or of how to protect ourselves from food poisioning while on vacation. A few sites even tackle the dangers in taking up an adventure sport like windsurfing – or even jet skiing – without proper preparation or training.
But there is something fundemental to everything we do – whether on vacation or not – that no-one is talking about. It’s so important yet for most of our lives we go about doing it unconsciously.
But it can still ruin the entire holiday if we neglect it.
The ability to balance, and the risk of falling, are not just issues for the very young or very old.
Aside from frailty, two of the biggest impacts on our balance are from fatigue and lack of attention. When we travel, we have to deal with fatigue: from jet lag to sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings, being too hot or too cold, staying out later, becoming dehydrated, or simply becoming tired by all the sights and sounds of the new location.
When we’re out of our habitual surroundings, there is a lot more for our brains to notice, process and understand. And it doesn’t have to be as difficult as making yourself understood in a foreign language. Navigating an unfamiliar city in your home country also requires more effort from your brain.
All of that is tiring. And when we are tired, not only are our reaction times (to the uneven pavement, for example) slower, but the vigor of our response is also lower, making it more likely that a stumble will result in a fall all the way to the ground.
At home, in familiar surroundings, we can pay more attention to where we walk, how fast we turn around, and thereby mitigate the risk of a fall on days when we feel weak or tired. But on vacation, the chances are that, even while tired, we need to use our attention to help us find our way in the new location, to understand that different accent, to absorb the new sights and sounds. We don’t want to miss out. And so we are doubly vulnerable.
Help protect your vacation and come home injury free:
- Plan for time to catch up on sleep while away
- If you’re crossing time zones, remember it takes about a day to normalize for every hour of time zone
- Give your fitness a boost by exercising before you go away, and plan to keep doing something while away – walking, using the hotel gym
- If you take medications, try not to start a new one just before going away. And make sure you take them in your hand luggage as changing the dose either up or down can impact your balance (not to mention your health!)