If you are an American, traveling or living in Europe will be one of the best experiences of your life- no matter which country you go to.
As a professional basketball player, I have been fortunate enough to live in 4 different countries in Europe.
Living in Europe has made me love many new cultures, foods, people, and other aspects of life I would have never imagined.
There are so many memorable aspects of living away from the United States, it would be impossible for me to say my favorite part.
However, I can easily tell you about the area of life that has been the most interesting to me.
During my time overseas, I have spent more time in Eastern Europe/Eur-Asia than in Western Europe, which has provided me some of the most unique experiences with healthcare that anyone could have imagined.
I am not a person who will ever tell someone their culture is worse or better than anyone else, so I will just say that other countries throughout the world have very interesting ways of helping you to become healthy.
Want to learn about some of my more “unique” experiences dealing with health issues overseas?
Keep reading below!
Treat Yourself with a Cabbage Leaf! It’s That Simple!
My first season of professional basketball was in Macedonia, a small country which used to be a part of Yugoslavia.
To be perfectly honest, I loved living there.
Macedonia is still the most beautiful country I have seen in-terms of raw nature, and I am always shocked of how many people have never even heard of it!
While I was there, I went through a normal array of health issues.
My second week in the country I god serious food poisoning from eating a peach off a street vendor cart (completely my fault), and this was just the start of my fun while living there!
While living in Macedonia I learned two very crucial aspects about health.
- Drinking wine and rakija is a perfectly healthy way to treat every sickness.
- Cabbage has magical abilities.
You should take my words with a couple grains of salt here, but it is relatively how I was living while there!
One of my favorite stories to tell people about my time living in Macedonia is how they taught me to treat bruises, sprains, and other injuries like this by wrapping a cabbage leaf on them and leaving them overnight.
Believe it or not, it works!
Cabbage has a lot of uses in Macedonian culture, and the leaves are especially useful.
“Cabbage juice” is what they use to cure for hangovers (this works amazingly), and cabbage leaves are required to make my favorite national food of theirs (sarma).
Nothing could surprise me as much though as when I discovered that using a cabbage leaf on an injury does reduce inflammation faster than anything else!
The physiotherapist for my team in Macedonia first told me about this, and it wasn’t until a few months after I left the country I tried it myself.
I honestly have no idea what the reason for this phenomenon is, but I can honestly say that using a cabbage leaf to treat sprains or other inflammation-based injuries is one of the coolest life-hacks I have ever learned!
Bear Fat? Badger Fat? Yeah, this is True Medicine!
During my second professional basketball season I was playing in Kazakhstan, which is where I met my wife.
For those of you who don’t know, Kazakhstan used to be a part of the Soviet Union.
In Russia and other countries in that part of the world, bear fat and badger fat are commonly used as dietary supplements to aid health.
Along with this, they can both be used topically as a massage lotion or to simply help with pain and inflammation.
I literally never thought I would ever try this, but my wife (of course) got me too after a little hassling.
Believe it or not, these two types of animal fat are amazing for your health.
Both bear and badger fat are loaded with healthy Omega 3 fatty acids and other vital nutrients that our bodies love.
Since I first learned about this, and my wife taught me even more, we have been using bear and badger fat to treat a lot of different health issues.
Personally, I prefer to use this on my sore muscles compared with anything else!
I started to fully believe in this because while I was playing in Kazakhstan I broke my left ankle and was out of basketball for almost a full year.
During this time, we started using bear and badger fat in pill form each day, and we also massaged it in to my ankle multiple times per day.
Within just a day or two I could already feel much better circulation in my ankle and foot, and my strength started to come back at a much better rate.
I am not entirely sure the source for both of these products, but from what my wife has told me no animals are farmed and killed in this process.
Apparently, there is an outrageous number of bears and badgers running around Russia, Siberia, and other countries of this regions, and they have been naturally using them for medicinal purposes for thousands of years.
I have always loved traditional medicines, and this is one secret of the Slavic people that I am happy to have found out!
“Just Treat with Massage, it will Be Okay”
If I sound like I am writing this part with a little bit of contempt in my voice, it is probably because I am!
My most recent (partial) season of professional basketball was spent in Bulgaria, which I can confidently say I would only go back to if I was on my own vacation time.
The country itself is beautiful, and their food is not too bad.
However, I did not receive much in terms of “healthcare” while in this country.
About 3 weeks after being in Bulgaria I suffered a fracture in my spine, and this is when everything gets very interesting.
The first unique event which happened to me is that the General Manager of our basketball club took me to, what amounts to, an old guy living in a village.
Literally, it was just an old guy in a village.
Mind you- this was before even sending me to get an MRI or x-rays done.
His plan was simple, give me a 5-minute massage and send me back on the basketball court.
After driving for about an hour to the middle of nowhere, Bulgaria, we ended up with the result that the old guy in a village couldn’t fix my back.
What an amazing surprise!
After our General Managers first failed attempt, he decided to “step up his game” and take me to a sports physiotherapist for a massage.
At this point I can say I am only fortunate that my wife is a native Russian language speaker and can understand most of what Bulgarians are speaking in their language.
The sports physiotherapist refused to work on my back without an MRI or CT scan, but my General Manager of the team insisted on him lying to me that I was alright, and to just “give me a massage.”
The physiotherapist refused to do this, and I was finally taken to a real hospital to see what was wrong with my back.
I can say I am fortunate enough to have left my team, and Bulgaria, shortly after this incident.
I don’t know what would have happened if I had stayed there the whole year, but I don’t think it would have been good!
Health Care Overseas: One Big Adventure
My third professional season was spent in Belgium, and I sadly don’t have any unique stories like this from living there.
Belgium was very much like America, and I was treated there the same as I would be here.
Personally, I have loved living in each country (except probably Bulgaria), and I would happily go back at any time.
One of my favorite parts about living overseas is learning all about new cultures, and medicine is a very big part of this.
From what I have learned, and still am learning, every country has incredible ways of treating health issues holistically.
Everyone has their cultural remedies, and I find it fascinating what people can use that I would never have thought of otherwise!
Even though my most recent experience was a bit more dangerous than I would prefer to deal with, I still cannot wait to go continue my basketball career internationally again.
I hope these stories gave you a little bit of insight in to healthcare around the world, and a lot of entertainment!