kidney atone

Having a kidney stone while traveling is no fun.

This is a little story about short, but painful experience. It happened on a small island in the Philippines.

People often ask me if I have ever gotten sick when traveling. The answer is, not really. During my 32 years of roaming the globe, I have barely been to a doctors office or a hospital (except when I work as a tour guide, where I have taken sick tourists to hospital many times).

I did actually not go to the hospital either when I had a kidney stone. But it was by far the most painful experience I have ever had.

I had my kidney stone while I was cycling around the Philippines.

cycling philippines

It was during cycling around the Philippines that my kidney stone incident happened.

I was on a cycling tour around the Philippines when it happened. My trip started in Manila and moved on to the island of Mindoro and crossed that island by bike. Cycling from Calapan to Roxas, I had a hard time to find much food with proper nutrition. Not being able to eat, meant that I just pushed through and also drank too little, because of the lack of pausing. So I was quite dehydrated by the time I arrived to Roxas. From Roxas I had to take the ferry to Calapan on Panay Island, where I would then again take another ferry to the little tourist island Boracay. On the ferry between Roxas and Calapan, I lied down on the deck and tried to rest a little and fell asleep. After 30 minutes I was woken up by a crazy rainstorm that hit the ferry. So I got totally drenched. And even if I was in the tropics, I actually got a little cold.

So I was in a pretty miserable state by the time I arrived to Boracay the next morning. I found a nice little family run guest house. Checked in and took a rest. After about an hour of sleeping, I was awoken by a weird feeling in my right kidney. I have never previously had any pain in my kidneys. But I knew right away that it was kidney pain, for some reason. And from feeling a little weird, it went from 0 to 100 in about 30 seconds, when talking pain. The pain in my right side was so massive that I was sure that I was about to die from acute kidney failure. Strangely enough, I was not scared. Even if I am a non religious and non spiritual guy, who has no solution for what happens when I die. I was first of all dealing with the gigantic pain I had in my side. And I also needed to pee, poop and vomit at the same time. I have since learned that the vomiting happens because of the intense pain. Soldiers who die in the battlefield from their wounds apparently also commit and poop all over the place while they are dying from their wounds.

I crawled out on the bathroom floor, which I figured was a little easier to clean up for those who found me. But then, instead of being scared I became very practical and thought that I better e mail my brother my passwords while I still could. That way it would be easier to clean up after me electronically if I died. It’s strange, how I become practical whenever danger arises. But this is actually a really great help when I do my job as a tour leader.

As I opened my laptop, while still trying to pee and vomit, in order to write my brother a final note, it struck me that I could also try to google “Kidney pain”. Google suggested that it could be kidney stones. Suddenly I became a little normal again and tried to believe that I might actually make it out of this alive. Google suggested that I should drink a lot of water. Luckily I had a 2 liter water bottle next to me. I guzzled that down in less than a minute. Filled it up from the bathroom tap with some water that I should probably not drink. But after downing 4 liters of water in less than 5 minutes, I felt a slight improvement. I kept drinking for 30-40 minutes, as much as I could. And slowly but surely, the pain started to wear off. An hour and a half after it all started, I was only sore in my kidney. The sharp pain was gone.


Boracay is beautiful. But kidney stones are painful, even in pretty places.

Why didn’t I go to the hospital with my kidney stone?

I actually never went to see a doctor or a hospital after this incident, as it passed by itself. I was not sure whether there was a hospital on Boracay island, as it’s a fairly small place. Instead I went out for a big burger and a couple of beers, in order to get back to normal again. That worked pretty well. I was up and cycling again next morning. When packing my bike the next morning, I realised that there was a hospital on Boracay Island. In fact it was right across the road from where I stayed. I could have walked there in less than a minute from my guest house, had I known. But with the pain gone, I saw no reason to waste a day of traveling with a hospital visit. Most people would probably had gone for a check up. And it’s for sure the most sensible idea. But I am not really the most sensible guy. Had I been that, then I would not have been on the road for +30 years and visited +80 countries.

And as you can see, I am still here to tell the story 🙂

Finally, if you want to read about the nicest bar in Boracay, then check this link.



  1. Sympathies to you.
    Happened me in A remote part of Mexico.
    Keep hydrated. Travel on.

  2. Quite an experience but thanks heavens for Google. You got the advice you needed on the spot. It would have been very different in pre-internet days I guess. Then you might well have ended up in the hospital! I’m going to remember the ‘drink loads’ tip should I ever be unfortunate enough to feel such pain there!

  3. I know of other bicyclists suffering the same fate. Good that your stone was small. Also good that you were not in the Philippines now or you would still be on Mindoro 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *