I was surfing around Facebook this morning and looking at everyone’s postings about their impending vacations. Seems as if everyone in the U.S. is leaving this week for some exotic locale, stretching out their July 4th weekend into a week-long celebration of summer. I was enviously watching the string of boasts (my term for Facebook posts where the only possible response is to be envious of the post-er) about people jetting off to the Galapagos, Europe, Alaska, you name it, when I came across an EveryDay Health article link posted by the lovely and talented Jane Sarasohn-Kahn entitled Unhealthy Vacation Getaways. It’s one of those articles that gives you the opportunity for a little schadenfreude when your vacation for July 4th is not exactly on the exotic side (hello suburban Missouri!).
The article starts out like this:
Vacations are supposed to be relaxing, enjoyable pursuits, but some exotic, unusual, or tropical destinations — though mightily tempting — can be high-risk when it comes to health and safety. Even wildly popular destinations can be unsafe or unhealthy for mind and body under certain circumstances. That doesn’t mean you should automatically shy away from these vacations — just be wise to the risks before you travel.
Basically this is an article that takes all the fun out of the idea of visiting somewhere new and exotic or even old and festive. I am pretty sure the article was authored by the same marketing people who would advertise sushi as “cold raw dead fish” and wonder why nobody ordered it. Or maybe it was someone’s old school Jewish grandma, the same one who would complain that the food at a particular restaurant is inedible and yet the portions are so small. You get the drift. Killjoy alert.
The article turns 8 types of common vacations into an invitation to hypochondria and an opportunity to break out your boy in the plastic bubble suit. But what really cracked me up about it was what the authors chose to characterize as significant health risks. OK, I get that Mexico and the Dominican Republic are rife with gastrointestinal and infectious diseases—no surprise there. Africa has malaria…yeah, yeah. Large sporting events and cruises are playgrounds for germs in close quarters. OK, thanks mom. Yosemite is plagued with hantavirus from its extensive mouse population. Yep, got it. All of these things would reasonably lead one to take advance travel precautions, such as to pack antibiotics and, in the case of Yosemite, a cat.
But in my opinion the most entertaining two cautionary tales in the article are these: Ireland and Las Vegas. Ireland is listed as a health risk because visiting there apparently leads to excessive drinking. Seriously, that’s what it says. I am pretty sure that is exactly WHY people are eager to visit Ireland, not why they should be worried. Pub crawls are the activity of choice on a vacation to Dublin, right? In Ireland I do not believe that excessive drinking should be considered a risk, per se, but a goal. By the way, the article also says that excessive drinking can lead to excessive eating. Once again, this is a highlight of a good vacation. It’s kind of like saying that “having fun” is a risk of vacationing in a particular locale. Best to stay in your room with the curtains drawn; wear gloves when closing them.
But my favorite part of the article is this: it says that Las Vegas presents a serious travel health risk because of the risk of…wait for it…excessive partying. I have been to Las Vegas many times and I can assure you that this is the ONLY reason to go to Las Vegas. One does not go to Las Vegas for the culture or the weather or the fashion (unless you are a fan of polyester). One goes because it is a giant excuse for excessive partying on a level that is unequalled anywhere on earth, including Charlie Sheen’s house. The biggest risk of going to Las Vegas is that you are there with work colleagues for the HIMSS or AHIP Conferences and thus you are unable to professionally engage in excessive partying because your customers might see you.
According to Moshe Lewis, MD, a San Francisco physician quoted in the EveryDay Health article, who apparently is allergic to fun, “Las Vegas can be unhealthy for the mind. It has been shown that happiness often comes from nonfinancial values such as family, friends, love, laughter, and nature. Vegas promotes a mirage that quick cash won at the tables, getting plastered with booze, and exciting sex-capades at the strip club will lead to a good time — an illusion worth dispelling.”
Dr. Lewis, we don’t know each other but let me give you a tip: People don’t go to Las Vegas for “happiness,” they go to Las Vegas for an excuse to let their mind be as unhealthy as possible for a few days and thus give them relief from family values. Apparently you haven’t been to Las Vegas because my own scientific research has proven time and time again that quick cash won at tables while getting free drinks is in fact a clear path to a good time. As Charlie Sheen would say, “Winning!” It’s the remembering how to get back to your hotel room afterwards that is the real risk.
So eager are people to party excessively in Vegas that no one would ever come home from there claiming to feel great. The ritual hangover flight home is a badge of honor. Upon returning to work Monday you would be mortified to tell your friends that while in Vegas you ate only broccoli, drank only wheat grass and spent money only to tour the Wax Museum and see Picasso’s 2nd tier works. Nope, you want to be reporting to your friends how close you came to being arrested, how you won a pile at the craps tables and wantonly spent it on crap at Sephora, and that you wore enough glitter to be seen from space.
The good news: you probably aren’t going to get hantavirus in Vegas because the casinos are airtight to prevent you from leaving. And even better, you can kill two birds with one stone in Vegas by partying excessively while avoiding the health risks of actually visiting Italy (Bellagio, Venetian), the big Apple (Cosmopolitan, NYNY), France (Paris), and even Asia (Mandalay Bay). And of course there’s the added advantage that all of the free alcohol kills germs on contact. Happy vacation everyone!
Ps—yes, I am going to Vegas with my best friend, Lynne, later in July. Winning!