Travel: 1. to make a journey, usually over a long distance: 2. to move or go from one place to another
For many humans, travelling is just a normal aspect of daily life. The thought of going on an adventure to a foreign destination is filled with excitement and the possibility of cramming in as many fun activities as possible. Going on the hairyplane is an exciting start to a wonderful adventure.
Unfortunately, for some travel invokes only one feeling – terror, filled with anxieties of the worst case scenario and of course the few unwanted opinions from those “who know best”. I often have humans ask me for advice about how to travel with a chronic illness. For the sake of this post I have decided to combine visible and invisible chronic illnesses. This advice has allowed several humans to go on holidays; ranging from weekend breaks close to home, up to an exotic adventure to a far flung continent.
It’s never to early to plan your next adventure (this Adventursaurus is always looking at new places to visit!). Giving yourself plenty of time to plan, especially if you’ve been recently diagnosed with a chronic illness can vastly reduce stress. Here are some of the tips I give to people wishing to travel:
Before you go:
Obviously I have to mention the boring things first. Check with your physician as they know the ins and outs of your condition and the climates that may worsen it. Plus, you know yourself best (don’t let anyone say otherwise), so together you and your physician can find the perfect trip to go on. Making sure your travel vaccines are up to date, a fitness to fly letter, medical history and medication list are other important things to sort.
Tempting as it is to go without. You need it! It’s one expense which will make sure you can get medical treatment in the unfortunate event of becoming ill abroad. If you’re travelling with other humans, make sure to get travel insurance with them, then if you have to stay longer than the initial trip you have someone with you.
First things first…. How to get there? As tempting as it is to go to a far away exotic island, be realistic with yourself. How long can you sit for before the pain starts can you eat irregularly or go with a lack of sleep?
When flying; how do you fare with all of the waiting around and potential lack of sleep. I know you can go further in a shorter time but does the lower cabin pressure make you feel a bit rubbish. Awkward flight times really annoy me. So nowadays I tend to fly with Jet2.com or Emirates because they often have early morning or evening flights so I won’t miss out on food or sleep.
Trains are my favourite, and they are great ways to travel across Europe. In my experience the seats are more comfortable, there is a better view and more leg room (bonus!).
Organised tours are wonderful, all you have to do is turn up and everything is sorted. Same goes with cruises, you have everything you need on the boat, with an added option of getting off to explore.
Short breaks close to home are a great way of finding out how well you cope with travel if you’ve been recently diagnosed with any chronic illness or are recovering from an exacerbation or your condition.
I have a travel diary/ planner which I try to use each time I travel. And yes I plan lazy days too! I like to get a map of where I am going and highlight my top 3 places to visit. Then organise things to do close by. The less unnecessary travelling, the better. For my upcoming trip to Asia, I’ve even scheduled in some beach days. And I’m going to visit two cities.
Even healthy humans (and dinosaurs) need time to relax. Even those who have crammed itineraries. Here are some of my favourite silly phrases you should ignore:
“You didn’t go all the way to [insert location here] to lay by the pool/ on the beach/ laze around”
“If you aren’t going to [insert huge list of tourist sites/ activities here] you’re wasting a trip and should have stayed home”
The best part is, if you don’t get to see all the sites you wanted to on your trip. It’s a great excuse to go back again, then you know exactly what to expect!
Oh how I envy those who pack light. It’s a great skill that makes travelling a lot easier. Unfortunately medication boxes are bulky but you have to take them with you, some countries have different laws about what is classed as an illegal drug.
Hand sanitizer and baby wipes fill up my carry on as I don’t want to think how many people have sneezed on the tray table before my flight (eurgh). Anyone who is immunocompromised may even want to travel in a surgical mask, to avoid the germs living in the airplane vents. Bed socks are perfect for hiding those oh so sexy flight socks. Blankets help keep you warm and cosy. Stock up on books, magazines and (my favourite) colouring in books. I always fly with a big bottle of water as we all dehydrate on flights, we don’t want anyone turning into a prune mid-flight!
Remember ABC – Always Bring Cereal (bars) or a tasty snack equivalent. My photographer always travels with enough food to stock a mini fridge, but it’s great because if I get hungry while travelling, I just go in the bag and et voilà food! If you don’t feel like going out for a meal you have food to keep you going until you feel up to going out again. If you have a condition or medication which requires food at certain times, taking snacks stops any problems arising.
A hard part of travelling if you are a herbivore (like me) or have any form of food intolerance or allergy, is finding restaurants to cater to your need. After learning the hard way whilst in Prague, I now like to make sure I know exactly where there is an Italian restaurant and a Starbucks. I know this sounds stupid, but there is no better feeling than knowing you can find at least one good coffee and a bowl of pasta. I also know how to say I am vegan in a whole host of languages.
Before I travel I always use TripAdvisor to find restaurants near my hotel, that are reasonably priced and cater to my diet.
Ask the hotel staff for advice on things to do, they may well know some alternatives to what you had planned.
Hope for the best and plan for the worst. Since you have a vague itinerary, you can pick and choose what to do depending on how you feel when you wake up. Including knowledge of a nearby pharmacy and hospital.
Travel out of season, you can be totally flexible as many places are quieter so you can go at your own pace (and not get stood on by a human).
Don’t feel bad if you want to lay in bed all day eating wine gums, it’s your adventure and no-one else can tell you what to do.
Adventursauruses everywhere can travel no matter what the chronic illness. As long as you play to your strengths, have prepared well and fill up your carry on with the all important ABC of travel.
Don’t forget your passport! Happy travelling!
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