For the past five years, my husband, Dan, and I have been living a rather nomadic existence – dividing our non-traveling time between New Orleans, the Florida Keys, Los Angeles, and northern Michigan. Not surprisingly, many people have asked us why we do what we do. The ostensible answer, of course, is that both of us were, to quote Lee Marvin's character in Paint Your Wagon, “born under a wand'rin' star.” Favoring both the vibrant city life of places like the Big Easy and the City of Angels and the peaceful country existence of the Great Lakes State, we've found it difficult to settle upon one place to, well, settle down. Besides the fact that no one locale suits us all year long – and that, frankly, we adore traveling in general (though not packing and unpacking, I must admit) – there is another reason for our constant upheavals: the climate.
You see, after living in Chicago for several years, Dan is reluctant to dwell in a place that experiences extreme cold, so as much as we both love Michigan, the idea of spending nearly half the year buried under heavy snowdrifts just doesn't sit well with him. On the other hand, my severe aversion to heat (from a medical standpoint, not a personal inclination) keeps us from permanently moving to southern Louisiana or southern California. I'm reminded of this fact every spring, when the daily temperatures in New Orleans embark upon their not-so-steady uphill climb. Although summer doesn't technically begin until June 21, the date of the Summer Solstice, that doesn't prevent the southern U.S. states from feeling as though summer has already arrived.
Two weekends ago, in fact, I experienced a two-day bout with heat exhaustion after spending a few hours outside for the annual French Quarter Festival  – despite the fact that I had liberally applied sunscreen (as my fellow Moon author Michael Sommers  advised back in February), drunk plenty of water, opted for shade whenever possible, and worn a light summer dress, a wide-brimmed hat, and foot-freeing sandals. Yes, to say that I have a physiological aversion to heat would be an understatement.
But, for most people, following a few simple guidelines will help them overcome the summertime heat and enjoy the outdoor activities of their choice. To avoid heat exhaustion, you should:
ᴥ Apply and reapply liberal amounts of sunscreen (with at least SPF 30).
ᴥ If possible, avoid the hottest part of the day, which is typically from late morning to early afternoon.
ᴥ Wear light, airy clothes, such as shorts and sundresses.
ᴥ Don sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat (like the well-dressed doggy in the picture above).
ᴥ If necessary, wear a dampened bandanna around your neck and carry a portable fan with you.
ᴥ Drink plenty of cool (thought not cold) water, meaning at least an 8-ounce glass every hour (two to four glasses per hour if you're engaged in strenuous activity).
ᴥ Drink a sports beverage to replace the salt and minerals lost by sweating.
ᴥ Avoid the intake of alcohol, hot foods, heavy meals, and sweets, at least while you're outside in extreme heat.
ᴥ Find shade (or a swimming pool!), whenever and wherever possible.
ᴥ If you're working or exercising in extreme heat, try to pace yourself.
ᴥ Never leave anyone, including children and pets, in a parked car, even if the windows are cracked open.
ᴥ Keep an eye on high-risk individuals, such as infants, young children, senior citizens, and people that are overweight, overexerting themselves, suffering from heart disease or high blood pressure, or taking certain medications.
ᴥ Never venture into extreme heat alone; always take a “buddy” with you.
Prolonged sun exposure, high temperatures, and little water consumption can cause dehydration, which can lead to heat exhaustion – a harmful condition whereby your internal cooling system begins to shut down. Symptoms may include clammy skin, weakness, vomiting, and abnormal body temperature. In such instances, you must lie down in the shade, remove restrictive clothing, and drink some water. While eating something cool and refreshing like a popsicle, snowcone, or ice cream bar might sound tempting on a hot day, such yummy snacks are simply no substitute for fresh water.
If you do not treat heat exhaustion promptly, your condition can worsen quickly, leading to heatstroke (or sunstroke) – a dangerous condition whereby your internal body temperature starts to rise to a potentially fatal level. Symptoms can include inflamed skin, a rapid pulse, headache, dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea, and confusion, if not unconsciousness. If any of these occur, you must get to a hospital as soon as possible, and on the way, your companion should remove your clothing, lower your body temperature with cool water, and avoid giving you anything to drink.
Hopefully, most of you can handle the heat better than I can. Nevertheless, no one is immune to heat exhaustion, so while you should certainly take advantage of warm, sunny days (especially if you're used to brutally cold winters), try to use some common sense while doing so. After all, a little precaution can go a long way.
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.
Disclosure: While I occasionally accept free or discounted travel assistance when it coincides with my editorial goals, my opinion is never for sale, which means that everything written in my American Nomad blog and Moon travel guides is my unbiased reflection of the things that I see, do, and experience while traveling across the United States.
Photo / Text © 2011 Laura Martone
Laura Martone is Moon’s American Nomad  and the author of Moon Florida Keys , Moon Michigan , Moon Baja RV Camping , and the upcoming Moon New Orleans, which will be published in Winter 2012.