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Dec 072015
 
Travelling with chronic illness

This is an article I’ve been meaning to write for a while, and a number of you have emailed me asking for tips for travelling with a Chronic Illness.

Travel is fantastic- an opportunity to experience something knew, whether you’re travelling down the road or 10,000 miles away. However, due to the often unexpected nature of travelling, it can also be a total nightmare. It’s this unexpected and ‘what if’ element of travel that doesn’t body well with illness, and we can often stress ourselves out on the ‘what ifs’ and deplete our energy before we even leave our house.

After trying and tests are number of different methods over the years, here are my top tips for travelling with a chronic illness.

5 Tips for Travelling with a Chronic Illness

Travelling with chronic illnessImage by danist_soh for Unsplash

1) Don’t imagine what going to go wrong before you’ve even left the house

As I wrote about here, don’t convince yourself weeks or months ahead of the journey that something is inevitably going to go wrong on the trip, or you’re not going to have the energy to get there and/or enjoy yourself, because (you guessed it!), you might just get what you’re asking for! Either that or you’re so tired from future-tripping that you’ve totally exhausted yourself.

No-one knows what’s going to happen, so just take it as it comes. Every time your ‘monkey mind’ tries to convince you otherwise, give him a little pat and send him on his way.

2) Plan, plan and plan again

Boring, but very necessary…

Have all of your tickets, reservations or details printed out, or in an accessible place on your phone, ready to go well in advance of your leaving date.

Because I’m a slightly nerdy combination of teacher (I’ve had to organise a lot of school trips!) and recovering type-A, I always put together ‘a pack’ before we go travelling. (My husband finds this hilarious, but I love doing it!). Not only does it get me excited about the holiday, but I know that if I have everything printed out, I’m going to stress about things going wrong a few days before or into the trip.

Even if you’re just getting a train up the road, you’ve got to leave to get there at a certain time and know how you’re going to get to where you need to be at the other end. Don’t let this exercise stress you out, however- reframe! You’re basically kicking stress in the teeth by preparing yourself- clever, eh?!

3) Grab your Comfort Kit

I slight confession- I’m one of those people who never manages to sleep on planes. I’m not afraid of flying, but I’ve always found the atmosphere a little bit unnatural. My husband on the other hand can sleep through the whole flight without a flinch (dagnamit!).

Luckily, I’ve got ways to keep myself happy and healthy while everyone else is dozing in the form of a ‘Comfort Kit’ (the term ‘survival kit’ doesn’t sit well with me). This might also work if you’ve got a long car, bus, boat or train journey, but works especially well for flights.

In my comfort kit, I have:

  • A big fleecy blanket
  • Books (plural!)
  • A tiny bottle of organic moisturiser or hand cream
  • An eye mask (I try to bring my own, as often the ones provided smell of plastic)
  • A bottle of this gorgeous essential oil (also great for time of the month or times of general stress)
  • Some of these beadlets, especially if I’m flying.
  • Water, water and more water (not a drop of caffeine or alcohol, thanks- I don’t seem to handle it well at the best of times, but especially not when travelling. It completely throws me off.)

Throw in whatever you’d like to bring- it might be a neck pillow or some fleecy socks. If you’re not flying, you might also be able to bring some healthy food or supplements with you. Have a bit of an experiment and see what works for you.

Bali

4) Have a travel companion (but choose wisely!)

Looking back when I was very ill, I’d probably say that my parents were my travel companions, giving me lifts to and from train stations and really looking after me. (At the time, I might not have shown my gratitude, but I’m so grateful for this now.) Having someone you can travel with is even better, but this also comes with a warning!

Choose your travel companion wisely! You don’t want someone who is going to chat and want to have a conversation for the whole journey if you’re not feeling up to it. You don’t want someone who’s going to nag you if you’re not feeling so great. It’s often worth explaining to someone how you’re feeling on the day and being honest with them, just so they know where your boundaries are.

If you can’t travel with someone, points 2 and 3 can help.

5) Know that might be a little tired after the journey

Travelling is tiring for everyone, whether it’s the daily commute or a 15 hours flight with jetlag. You might be a little tired after the journey, so don’t try and do anything too crazy when you arrive. Aim to have a few days just to float around and see how it goes. The worst thing is to arrive and go headlong into a schedule of planned activities.

This might involve a little bit of honesty on your part, especially if you’re being picked up or staying with family, for example, but honesty (in advance) is always the best policy. That way, you’re not going to feel guilty if you can’t do something when they’ve had it all lined up. Advise them well ahead of leaving, and if it’s family or friends, let them know of any dietary requirements or sleep requirements you might have. If you don’t ask, you’ll never get…

Also, try and drink as much water as you can on arrival- it works wonders

So there we have it- a few tips for travelling with a chronic illness. I still use many of these today, because my journeys always seem to run smoothly this way, especially if I’m flying to and from the U.K. and Australia (that’s a long trip!).

Do you have any other travel tips my darling? I’d love you to share them below, so we can all learn from your experience.

Safe travels!

Love, Katie    xx

  2 Responses to “5 Tips for Travelling with a Chronic Illness”

  1. Travel is one of my great joys, and since the onset of my “issues” 6 years ago I’ve struggled to continue to include some travel in my life. The planning alone can be exhausting, but planning a manageable itinerary is key. I’m always keenly aware that my husband is not bound by the same limitations I have, so it’s a tight-rope act — making sure I get rest days, and he doesn’t feel “stuck”.

    After almost two years of real recovery, we took a 3-week European trip last summer that, unfortunately, brought me to my knees within a month of returning home. My main problem is that, in the moment, I tell myself, “I might never visit this amazing place again. I’m going to go for it!” This past summer we did hikes in the Bavarian and Swiss Alps, followed by several days of walking up and down hills in 95+ (F.) heat in Lyon, France, followed by days of village-hopping, still in excruciating heat. (I’m also 64 years old.) I thought a few days on the beach at the end of our trip would be enough to restore me. How wrong I was! Long story short, I truly hit bottom upon our return. It’s now been 5 months, and I’m back where I was several years ago. Not as bad as “me” at my worst, but certainly far from the “me” I was before embarking on that glorious trip.

    Though it’s very disappointing to revisit this level of incapacitating fatigue and pain — especially after feeling about 85% for two years! — I’m nurturing the knowledge that I recovered before, and I can recover again. My brain chemicals get very disrupted when I hit a low point, and that’s where I have to begin my repair. I’ve found St. John’s Wort to be quite helpful in fending off the two-pronged depression — that caused by neurotransmitter disruption; as well as the very natural depression that comes from the fear and uncertainty of what lies ahead. But until I get a handle on the depression, I’m just a total wreck!

    The Holiday Season is also rife with pitfalls. I learned long ago that there were things I had to let go: the personalized gift wrapping I was “famous” for; my palmier cookies; and the decorations around my home. On the other hand, how liberating this has been! There will always be that person who asks, “Where are your cookies? I can’t believe you didn’t bake this year!” And I have to admit, I still experience a little pang when I reply, “Oh, I’ve found an amazing bakery for those!” But in many ways, the experience of examining one’s life with respect to what “you should do” — versus what “you want to” — is a gift in itself.

    I will not abandon travel, as it brings me great joy, and I believe joy is an essential recovery tool. But (hopefully!) I’ve learned an important lesson with respect to manageable travel strategies. Even a little of something wonderful is always better than none!

    Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, and
    The Brightest of New Years to All!

    • Vicky, thank you so much for your gorgeous reply. It’s true that we want to take advantage when we can of travel opportunities (and I believe joy is essential to recovery too), but as you say, it can sometimes be too much all at once.

      You have such an inspiring attitude to everything, and I love that the holiday season has helped you examine what we ‘should’ to versus want we ‘want’ to (I wrote a little about this here).

      Happy holidays, my darling, and lots of love for 2016. Thank you for being here.

      Love, Katie xx

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