What do we do about water?

TRAVEL TIP:  When traveling, accessing safe drinking water can be complicated and questions linger. How do you know if it's safe? Can I brush my teeth with local water? And, what about all the plastic left behind? To begin: 1) Research your destination's water quality. 2) Decide what additional items you might need to pack to stay healthy. 3) Be mindful of what is left behind.

Dear Venturer,

Water: A basic human need. We take it for granted but, can't survive without it, for more than three days. And, a little bit of the wrong water when traveling could ruin one's trip for days.

To stay healthy when traveling, here are a few traveler rules of thumb you may or may not know. In developing countries, avoid items washed with local water, eat only cooked foods, drink bottled water (nothing with ice). In industrialized countries, the rules are more flexible.

But, there are other issues to consider when traveling which have an impact on our health and environment. In a recent article by the Guardian , a new environmental report states, the world’s oceans will have more plastic than fish by the year 2050. Think about that for a second.

And, cancer research suggests our health can be compromised from chemicals in plastic water bottles that have been heated or scratched.

So the questions, "What do we do about water?", "Can I brush my teeth in the sink?", "How do I stay hydrated?", "How can I be mindful of the planet?" are valid questions. Here are a few tips and resources to help when getting ready for your next trip.

Before your trip.

Do your research. Understand where you are going and what water precautions to consider. Here are few sites to make your job easier.

* To get started, check out the CDC (Center for Disease Control) website for region specific health information and a guide to healthy drinking water when traveling. They include helpful healthy packing lists for the country you are going to. Or, download their savvy app called “CDC Can I eat this?" to help you determine if something is safe to eat or drink.

* There is also the WHO (World Health Organization) website to research more about any health risks of where you are going.

* For those even more curious, here is a super interesting chart outlining a rating of drinking water safety around the world. Prepared by Safe Water for International Travelers (SWIT).

During your trip.

Let’s get down to actually being on the road. Once you arrive in a country, you may need a few new basic survival skills when it comes to water.

  • What does potable mean? You may see this word traveling and wonder what it means. So, let’s get this out of the way — it means “drinking water.” For the most part, it means the water is safe to drink but, depending where you are, you still may want to purify it some how.
  • When in doubt, ask a local: Even if you think the drinking water may be safe in the country you’re traveling to, it's always a good idea to double check and ask either your guide, hotel staff or other reliable local resource. "Is the water safe to drink?"
  • Purifying water: From multi-day treks in the mountains to developing countries, you may need to prepare yourself with the right tools to purify water. Navigating this information for the first time can be complex. "Do I filter?" "Use tablets?" "Or, boil my water?" Without getting into too many details, here isa great article from REI (http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/water-treatment-backcountry.html) with expert advice on water treatment options for travel and trekking.

After your trip.

You may not think too much about water after the trip. But in reality, it is equally important. How you travel has a lot to do with what you leave behind. The convenience of plastic isn’t always the best answer.

  • Plastic or BYOB? It wasn’t until a year ago, I started traveling with my own stainless insulated water bottle. It was in the mountains of Morocco, I learned to appreciate my own water bottle. It saved me money. It comforted me with hot mint tea on the road. I refilled it from a larger source of filtered water, when needed. And, I felt good I wasn’t leaving plastic water bottles behind in the beautiful communities and natural spaces we visited.
RECOMMENDATION: My favorite water bottle is made by Thermos and can be purchased here. I have been talking about this water bottle with my friends non-stop since I returned from Morocco. Now I find it consistently next to me, whether I am at my co-share space in Thailand, or on a local hike in Chicago. For me, it's perfectly designed. From, the compact size fitting into the side of my backpack to the stainless steel flexiblity of holding cold water or hot mint tea trekking. The drink lid easily opens with the push of a button and locks to assure you it won't spill inside your backpack. And, I can easily clean it inside and out.

With gratitude,
Lesley Ames
Chief Venturer, BonViage

ABOUT NEWSLETTER: Many questions are asked from travelers about what to expect before, during and after a trip. From simple packing lists, to personal safety, or the welfare of animals in tourism. The answers discovered are valuable because, travel at times, pushes us out of our comfort zone. And, answers comfort us.

This newsletter features these questions, to create better travel experiences, as we explore the world. Have a question? Submit it here.