Beating the Sun! : How I travel the world with my sun-allergy

I suffer from sun-allergy or photo-sensitivity, a so called skin disease that all of us face to an extent – we go out in the sun and our skin gets tanned or burnt or we have rashes which stay on for a week and then disappear. In my case, the sun-sensitivity issue cropped up a few years ago. Coming from an armed forces background, I travelled extensively across India in my childhood and never faced any issues. I could play whole in the sun and I would be okay. Over the past few years, I started developing severe rashes and burns when exposed to sunlight and these would just not go. It became worse with my body immunity mechanism not able to produce pigment on its own- which meant a severe sun burn would leave vitiligo kind of white spots. It was a complete disaster for a person like me who loved travelling and wanted to continue travelling. My dermatologist advised me to “stay out of the sun” at all costs except early morning, but the traveler in me just wasn’t ready to take on that advice – I loved traveling and wanted to keep on traveling as much as I could – Sun or no sun!!

After years of getting tanned and sun burnt whilst traveling (and cribbing about it), I decided to take matters in my own hand and take action. I devised a handful of tips which I believe have helped me over the years in continuing my travel spree to any and all remote locations, including the very hot and sunny locations!

I took to Green Tea in a BIG way

A cup of green tea goes a long way!

A cup of green tea goes a long way!

I have always been interested in ‘healthy living’ and alternative health therapies but I saw the benefits of Green Tea in combating sun-allergy when I visited Ladakh this year. A week prior to leaving for the Ladakh trip, I upped my green tea intake from 2 cups a day to 5-6 cups a day. While I increased the number of cups on a general note, I realized during my trip that I was able to walk in the sun without any rashes or major sunburns. I was also experiencing less stress on joints and was able to breathe more easily in a high-altitude location like Ladakh. I did not feel ‘too’ breathless at Khardungla Pass which is one of the highest passes in the world and where most people feel severe loss of breath. All in all, since the trip I have turned into a complete believer and continue to drink at least 4 cups of green tea a day.

Green tea benefits:-

  • No major sunburn or skin irritations
  • Greater mobility in joints / no cramps
  • Able to breathe easily at high-altitude areas
  • Able to walk more without getting tired

I personally prefer TULSI brand of green tea (with leaves) which is an Indian brand but any locally recommended brand will also do (check on internet or with green tea lovers in your area)

Water, water and more water for me!

Say yes to H2O!

Say yes to H2O!

This is the most well-known health tip but almost no one follows it. On an average, an adult is required to drink at least 8 glasses of water on a daily basis but if you face sun burn issues like me, then increase the intake even more. It may sound crazy but I drink around 4 to 5 liters of water every day, not because of an addiction or compulsion but because it helps keep my skin sane and healthy when I am out in the sun. For the past few years, my skin has not had any major eruptions and I believe that water’s superpower to renew skin cells has played an important role in easing my sun-allergy issues.

Drinking water benefits:-

  • Kept body hydrated
  • Skin remained healthy and minus any major eruptions
  • Skin renewal process seemed to help keeping skin eruptions at bay

Note: – Whenever travelling, do ensure that you stick to bottled water and avoid drinking local water.  This is to avoid stomach upset caused by frequent ‘change’ of water.

Vitamin E – my savior!

Vitamin E capsules

Vitamin E capsules

I highly recommend this if you are a regular traveller. A week before embarking on my journey, I pop in a vitamin E pills on a daily basis. This helps strengthen the skin and increases its resilience.  I do this on a regular basis (definitely for long journeys) and while my skin does get tanned, it does not break-out into rashes anymore or end up with white spots. Note: Please check with your doctor on taking any supplements including this one. I don’t think it harms anyone but do check with the doc!

Vitamin E benefits:-

  • Makes skin softer and stronger
  • Increases resilience to sun burns
  • Sun tan fades away faster

A bowl of cold water and a clean hand towel does the trick for me

Cold water and clean towel for anti-tan scrub

Cold water and clean towel for anti-tan scrub

This is my favorite and most trusted tip. It’s also a traditional cure and many members in my family have been doing it for a while now. If you have been traveling out of home, especially in the sun, then the best post-exposure thing to do is to clean the tanned part of your body with cold water and a clean hand towel. And I don’t mean just once – do this repeatedly for 20 minutes or so to see the tanning fade away slowly. If the tanning is too severe (like it is for me), rub on cold cream and then wipe it off with cold water. Do this three to four times to see a marked difference in the tan.

Cold water, towel clean benefits:-

  • Fades tan quickly
  • Removes dirt and grime
  • Relaxes muscles and soothes hands, feet
  • Visibly cleaner skin

I book my Spa even before heading out for my journey!

Skin repair therapy at Spa

Skin repair therapy at Spa

Once you’ve come back beaming and happy from your journey, it’s a good idea to do one round at the spa to soothe your tired skin – something that I am almost religious about now J. If Spa is too expensive for you or if you aren’t the spa types, then go in for a massage at home with coconut oil. The therapeutic properties of coconut oil are perfect for any sun related issue – it’s‘cooling’ oil by nature and best remedy for sun burns with its healing, vitamin E enriched properties.

Spa/ massage benefits:-

  • Relaxes body overall
  • With the use of right oils, it helps rejuvenate your skin
  • Coconut oil significantly reduces tan and calms down your skin

Finally, the regulars such as sunscreen, hats are important too but keep these tips in mind while traveling next time and feel the difference. Happy Traveling in the Sun! J

PS: Ending with a picture of me shopping in the afternoon in Manali –  in crazy, strong sun! J

That is ME!! Happy in the sun! :)

That is ME!! Happy in the sun! :)

Cheers & keep traveling!


JISPA: More Than a Transit Town

Jispa, Himachal Pradesh

Beautiful in its anonymity, JISPA, Himachal Pradesh

Beautiful in its anonymity, Jispa is a village in Lahaul in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Frequented by travelers as a transit town, Jispa hasn’t earned its rightful reputation as an incredibly beautiful destination for a stay-over and relaxation.

Chances are you’ve skipped this destination in your past trips to Ladakh or just breezed past it. I don’t blame you. It’s a speck of a town and until my recent trip to Ladakh last month, I hadn’t seen it either.  As luck would have it, this time an overnight stay at Jispa was in our itinerary. We could have pressed on the pedal and skipped it altogether but I am glad that we didn’t, it would have been a mistake. Here are my thoughts on why this little town should be on your map.

Incredible Scenic Beauty

Most travelers visit Ladakh in lure of its amazing landscape and virgin beauty. And rightfully so -Ladakh’s kaleidoscopic beauty is famed, a canvas of art where every turn on the road reveals a new sight, a new view and a new gasp of sigh. Jispa is the perfect point where every view meets – a picture perfect destination, nestled in the valley of lofty barren mountains, flanked by green trees and a gurgling Bhaga river flowing right besides the town. All the earth’s elements creating a beautiful symphony in this little destination – a perfect place for you to enjoy the beauty of nature and indulge in some long walks along the river.

Comfortable Stay Options

A key challenge with transit towns is that they don’t have good accommodations and are therefore skipped by travelers for lack of facilities. Jispa is lucky on that front and seems to have picked up a bit of attention from hotels & camping brands. The town offers decent to good options ranging from hotels to great camping sites. Hotel brands such as Ibex and Yak have 3 star properties located on the main Jispa road and are good stay options. We stayed at The Yak Hotel and found it clean, comfortable and efficient in service. Rooms were modern in amenities, including a TV (you won’t need it here) and hot water service. In case you prefer the ‘closer to nature’ approach, the town has quite a few camping sites. Some of the known tented accommodation names include Padma Lodge & Camp Jispa Journeys but that’s not all. There are also local camps for bikers and travelers who want to stay (on a budget) right next to the river, in their tents, gazing at the stars in the sky. We came across one such local camp, it was buzzing with bikers and they seem to be having a great time! The town has also small shops so getting any items of necessity isn’t an issue .

Yak Hotel and room picture:

Yak Hotel, Jispa

Yak Hotel, Jispa

View from my room window

View from my room window

Homestay Experience

Every traveler has a quest, a reason to travel. There isn’t a traveler that doesn’t have a reason for travel and if your reason is to explore different cultures and meet new people across the world, then a homestay is a good option to explore. Interestingly, for a town as little as this, Jispa does have quite a few homestay options and while we couldn’t stay in one, we saw many homestays and noticed how beautiful some of these homes were – their essence and beauty unaffected by the modern hotels standing right next to them. I did a bit of search and found a couple of them listed online – Riverview Homestay, Greenland Camp and Homestay and Padma Lodge but I recommend talking to a local friend or guide to check more local options. A definite tick for next year.

Jispa town. Pic: Internet

Jispa town. Pic: Internet

Overall, our time at Jispa flew and we wished we could stay longer to see the Jispa Rural Museum (where you can see how the people of Tod Valley lived years ago) and the local Monastery but we had to move on and I guess that’s okay because I knew I would be coming back to Jispa, next year, same time.



PS: Trivia on Jispa:

Jispa (elevation 3,200 m or 10,500 ft) is a village in Lahaul, in Himachal Pradesh. Jispa is located 20 km north of Keylong and 7 km south of Darcha, along the Manali-Leh Highway and the Bhaga river. There are approximately 20 villages between Jispa and Keylong. The village has a helipad, a post office, a monastery and a small folk museum. Jispa is a BSNL network area only which means you need to have a BSNL number to make & receive calls (Vodafone or Airtel don’t work here.)



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