Welcome back to Women Who Wander. This series focuses encouraging women to seek out solo travel. Empowering and inspiring both seasoned Solo Travellers and those who have yet to venture out on their own. The response to this series has been amazing and I just want to thank you all for embracing it. Hopefully many more Solo Travel stories to come Next up is Kelly with an unfortunate tale of how she celebrated her 25th birthday in China with food poisoning!

Meet Kelly

Food Poisoning

Kelly Duhigg is a nanny by day and a passionate world traveler any other time. She is also an avid writer who loves to share her travel adventures, in the hope that she may inspire others to let go of theirs fears and follow their dreams. To see more of her travel stories and obtain some of her travel tips, check out her blog at www.girlwiththepassport.com

You can also find her:

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The Kung Pao Chicken Fiasco of Lugu Lake

The date is August 5, 2009, and I celebrate my twenty-fifth birthday hunched over a toilet, puking my brains out and praying to God that it will all go away. Then I hear my stomach start to gurgle. I feel the bubbles rise and fall in my stomach. And then it hits me, all at once. The pain and the urgency come as I rush to undo my pants in time before the volcano of awfulness arrives.

I make it just time but there is a pounding on the door. All I can think is, “Leave me the BLEEP alone because I literally, CANNOT go anywhere.” I want to move. I dream of moving without pure awfulness coming out of every orifice in my body, but that dream will not come true today. I’ll just have to hunker down and wait it out, like a World War I soldier weathering the blood and mud soaked trenches Only today, my battles is with the bacteria laced, Kung Pao chicken that I had last night. Oh the joys of food poisoning.

An Unfortunate Time for Language Barriers

I moan again and instantly regret not having the sautéed vegetables last night. Then I wouldn’t be commandeering the bathroom for twenty-four hours straight. And I get it. They need to use the bathroom. But in my infinite wisdom I had chosen a cheap hostel, with one communal bathroom. There were no other options for me or anyone else. Therein was the whole problem.

My only hope was that if I moan loud enough, they will get the hint and leave me in peace. I don’t speak Chinese and I am the only American here, so wailing in agony will have to be the universal language of the day.As I moan even louder, they seem to interpret this animalistic noise as my version of, “go away”. They leave me in peace to drop five pounds in three days; and not in the sexy, juice cleanse kind of way. In the dry heaving, body shaking, dehydrated, food poisoning induced, wrecking of twice digested Kung Pao chicken kind of way.

Three days later, I am not five but ten pounds lighter and shaky on my feet. I eventually made it from the bathroom to my room, but just barely. I just keep questioning, “Why did I ever come to this remote part of China?”
That question still haunts me as I wobble out of my room with my once pink, now dark gray, rolling bag that has been useless since the day I arrived in China. I should have been cool and bought a backpack like all the “normal” backpackers.


The Need To Push On

As I try to keep my bag envy in check, I drag my suitcase over the boulder encrusted, dirt road. It takes all my strength to walk the 50 meters to the van that will take me away from this retched place. I mean in fairness Lugo Lake was really cool, but I just can’t think about that right now.

I peer at my watch, which reads 5:45 am. This is the one and only van that leaves, daily, to take you to the bus station, which is an hour away. As I contemplate whether my body will cooperate with such a long journey, with no bathroom breaks in between, I throw my bag in the trunk and limply hoist myself onto the closest seat possible. I lean my head against the cool glass of the window and it soothes me, until I get five, Chinese, high school students saying to me, “Hi! How are you?” in the most sing-song way ever. Al I can think is that they are too damn chipper and that now is really not the time to practice English with me. Somehow amidst the gas fumes and canyon riddled road, I must have passed out because I am jolted awake as the van stops abruptly. All around me I hear desperate Chinese murmurs that signify something is not right.

The Last Thing I Need

I take a deep breath in an effort to gather enough strength to say, “Excuse me, why aren’t we moving?” The student can hear the nervousness and exhaustion in my voice. This seventeen year old has kind eyes that want to tell me it will all be okay. Instead he says matter-of-factly, “Oh, there was just a landslide. We’re gong to have to take our luggage and walk over the rocks, so that we can meet another van that will pick us up on the other side.”

I momentarily think I have said something, but words never escape my lips. I am overcome by anger, frustration, and fear, that my body may actually explode before I make it to a bathroom of some sort. Even a trough in the ground would suffice at this point. After all, beggars can’t be choosers.
Briefly, I contemplate having them just leave my body there as an ominous warning that other travelers should stay away from the Kung Pao Chicken, but I know I have to at least try.

Food Poisoning

Happy Birthday To Me

Mockingly, I sing myself a pissy and resentful version of happy birthday, in an effort to generate the anger needed to get me to move. It works as I attempt to drag my bag across the mountainside that passes as a public road. After about a half a mile, I prepare to ascend the landslide of doom and sarcastically think, “Well, at least it’s only 5,000 more steps until I find a working bathroom”. Then I see the van. And I force myself to always remember to stay away from the chicken whenever I’m in China.

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food poisoning

Linking up with FlyAwayFriday and WanderfulWednesday


80 thoughts on “Women Who Wander: Celebrating with Food Poisoning”

  1. I’m sorry to hear you had to deal with such unfortunate circumstances on your birthday, Kelly. We can be as cautious as possible when it comes to selecting food, but still run into food poisoning. I’m glad you survived and kept going, I’m sure it was a hard task to do. #flyawayfriday

  2. Oh god that sounded awful – my worst nightmare. I think I will be avoiding chicken full stop in future when travelling!! My daughter was once sick all over a bus load of people on the Amalfi Coast. A horror at the time but it gives us a story to tell. `#FlyAwayFriday

  3. OMG – that sucks. Wow, poor thing. At least moaning gave people the idea to leave you alone. I got it once so bad in Berlin I had to go to the hospital. That was no fun either. The did speak English, and had full command of all the bad words.

  4. Food poisoning is terrible on any day but on your birthday, hell! At least you have a great story to tell and a more realistic one of how traveling can be tough sometimes. It’s not always beautiful scenery, exotic people and delicious food. It can sometimes, just suck!

  5. You poor thing!! I had a similar experience in Pakistan many years ago. I was so sick that I lost 10 kgs in 5 days – none of my clothes fitted me by the end of my trip. I was also travelling alone and I had no idea how I kept going but I just did. As soon as I arrived home I was rushed to hospital.

  6. That sounds absolutely horrific! Were there no doctors or pharmacies around? I can’t believe there was a landslide as well – pretty much everything that could go wrong, went wrong. At least you can look back and laugh (one day)!

  7. Oh no, that does not sound like fun! I have yet to discover the joys of food poisoning, but I am sure it’s just a matter of time. I just hope I am not in a one bathroom hostel.

  8. I think this comes to everyone who travels widely. I once used to be supercautious, earning looks of scorn and amazement when I refused tap water in Birmingham. But you’ve got to eat and drink, yeah?

    I collect airsickness bags – I’m an Uber driver, and they come in handy at home – so I’ve always got one or two on me when travelling. And a few handi wipes.

    But sometimes, well, you need a bucket.

    Or a travelling companion. My daughter, standing in line to check in for a flight out of Vietnam, found herself using her souvenir straw hat for a purpose not intended, and when she reached the counter, swayed down out of sight.

    “Is she okay to fly?” asked the check-in clerk.

    “Oh, she’s fine. Just having a rest,” said my daughter’s companion.

    She made it home in one piece, with a story to tell.

    And no hat.

  9. How awful that you had such an experience but I must admit the way you’ve told the tale made me chuckle!! I really felt your frustrations too. Hope the rest of your trip went smoothly! June

  10. I remember my food poisoning event in Nepal. I ended up dehydrated in the hospital with a drib as I could not even keep water inside of me. Luckily I had a private bathroom in Kathmandu. Can’t imagine having to be a bus, let alone having to walk over a landslide.

  11. That’s unfortunate! If it happens to me, it will totally ruin my trip. I have a very sensitive stomach that’s I am very picky when it comes to food as well as where to eat.

  12. I had food poising on vacation once (had some bad fish) and it was our departure day so it was truly awful. I basically took enough meds to kill a dog I think so I managed to get home alright but it’s definitely still an awful memory 😀

  13. So glad you were OK! Food poisoning can be very dangerous if you become severely dehydrated. It happened to my husband in Italy and we were so worried about him. After an IV in the hospital ER he was much better. It soundslike the second part of your journey wa shard too. But all in all you made it and now have a good story to tell all your life!

  14. Awww, being sick like that is the worst, especially on the road!! I love this because it really shows the “other side” of traveling that people don’t often highlight. It’s definitely not all rainbows and butterflies. <3 Good work!

  15. Great interview, but poor Kelly 😬 I’m quite impressed though, when i had food poisoning in India I only migrated back and forth between bed and toilet 😂

    Jacky 🌞

  16. Ok that is not the way to spend your birthday but I think almost everyone had a crappy Bday at least once in the lifetime, it’ll become a comic memory as time goes by, don’t stay mad with China.

  17. What an unfortunate situation that could happen on your birthday. I must have been really terrible. Eating in a different country can be quite an amazing experience but sometimes it just fires back! But you do have a wonderful article and a memory to remember.

  18. Inspiring story in spite of the food poisoning episode. The thought of using wailing as the universal language is so witty and ingenious. These articles always give me encouragement to do solo travel, something high on my bucket list

  19. Hahaha you sound like my kind of girl! I’m the type of person who will eat everything but the minute that I get sick, its dramatics galore (in the sensationalized, my life is a story kind of way). I’m so sorry it put you off to Chinese chicken for life but hey, you told it well and it will be something you laugh about forever!

  20. Owww poor thing! I bet it really sucked with the language barrier and not to mention a landslide. It must have been totally dramatic.

  21. Aww getting food poisoning while traveling is the worst!! I got it while we were in Dublin for St. Pattys Day and it was horrible!! I still mustered up the energy a little bit but it was painful lol!

  22. Yep, I’ve had food poisoning, monopolised the toilets, shared toilets with other people who also had food poisoning … horrible. Not something you would wish on anyone, but also great to survive and get out the other side. Great that you saw the humour in it as well (afterwards I’m guessing!).

  23. Oh gosh what a tale. I had a similar experience in Morocco but at least had my own bathroom! Thanks for your honesty in sharing what can go wrong on trips, we don’t often get to hear about the more challenging experiences. #FarawayFiles

  24. Yikes! Not the Kung Pao Chicken Fiasco of Lugu Lake! Sounds awful you poor thing. Puts my emergency dentistry in Bali experience into perspective. I’m sure many people have said these challenges are sent to make you stronger but really.. no one needs to go through that! #farawayfiles

  25. Food poisoning is the worst when you’re travelling, and, of course, it always happens when you’re in the cheapest hostels. I have so many memories of near-constant bugs in India – I only ever ate meat on the rare occasions when we ate in smarter restaurants. Great to read your story on #FarawayFiles

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