A trip abroad used to mean simply that you obtained a passport, packed and went. Now modern science has made travel, like everything else, complicated. This was borne in on me at a cocktail party where my wife and I met a physician who had just returned from girdling the globe.
"How thrilling, doctor!" my wife said. "We've been saving for years to go around the world!"
"A most rewarding experience," the doctor said, carefully testing his drink, "If you take the necessary precautions."
"Oh, we plan to carry lots of traveler's checks," my wife said. "We'll take a Cunarder from New York—"
"First, you'll both need a physical," the doctor went on firmly. "Then shots. Take along spare glasses and a prescription. And if you have a condition requiring emergency care—"
"I'm hipped on cycling through the English countryside," I put in. "Stopping at little wayside inns, you know."
"Wayside inns remind me," the doctor said, "of an emergency operation I performed in one. It was in Sussex, as I recall. Diabetic mortician from Grand Forks, Iowa. He had forgotten to wear his wrist tag giving instructions in case of—"
"Then Paris, the shops, the Louvre," my wife said. "After that we want to motor through the southern provinces, sampling wines, cheeses, bouillabaisse—"
"Beware of salads," the doctor warned. "My wife caught the devil's own dose of diarrhea eating some leafy concoction in a little café in Provence."
"Spain is what I'm really looking forward to." I said. "Gypsy dancers, amontillado, the bullfights in Seville."
"Speaking of bulls," the doctor said, "I'll never forget Pamplona. A foundation-garment salesman from Puyallup, Wash. was trampled during the running, and we almost lost him. Lockjaw. He'd forgotten to take his tetanus booster."
"Tell me, doctor," my wife said, "is it true the gondolas in Venice are being replaced by outboards?"
"Couldn't say, really," the doctor replied. "You see, I was laid up with dysentery the whole of our stay there. The drinking water. Don't touch it. Also watch out for ice, raw milk, uncooked fruits and vegetables."
"Ah, Oktoberfest in Munich," my wife said, with a sigh. "Christmas in the Tyrol. Skiing at Kitzb√ºhel."
"Overexertion is the danger in high altitudes," the doctor said. "On our first day in St. Moritz a sewage inspector from Trenton, N.J. had a coronary."
"I'm hoping conditions will allow for an African safari," I said. "What was it Hemingway wrote in The Green Hills?"
"Be sure and take your yellow fever shot," the doctor said. "The disease is endemic throughout much of Africa. The shot is quite simple. One inoculation insures immunization and is valid for six years beginning 10 days after."
"Then to romantic Cairo, the Nile, Shepheard's," my wife said. "Did you view the Sphinx by moonlight, doctor?"
"Yes, but I couldn't enjoy it," the doctor said. "I'd picked up a skin infection from using the pool in a native bathhouse. Take my advice, never swim in unchlorinated pools."
"To me, India epitomizes the East," I said. "The holy Ganges, Moslem fakirs, the timeless beauty of the Taj Mahal—"
"Cholera," the doctor said. "That's the thing to guard against in India. It's endemic. However, your vaccination certificate is good for six months, beginning six days after the second injec—"
"We thought we'd stop over in Hong Kong and pick up some handmade suits," my wife said. "I suppose, doctor, the name arouses a host of memories."
"I remember there was a lot of louse-borne typhus around," the doctor said. "But you've nothing to worry about if you take your shots. Two inoculations spaced seven to 10 days apart will—"
"For some reason, Australia has always intrigued me," I said. "Maybe it's the vast uncharted bush, the aborigines with their age-old customs."
"You can say that!" the doctor shuddered. "They hardly know what a thermometer is, and as for bathing!" The doctor looked at his watch. "Excuse me, folks, I've a patient to see. Charmed to meet you both."
"It's been marvelous hearing about your trip, doctor," my wife said.
"We've enjoyed every minute of it," I said.
"Instead of spending our money on a round-the-world trip," my wife said, "maybe we'd better both get a complete physical. We could just about pay for two weeks at the Mayo brothers'."
"A good idea," I said. "And the sooner the better."