On Sunday I returned from a weekend trip to West Palm Beach for my sister’s wedding. It was pretty fabulous, but it also required a lot of energy. I definitely created some of my own speed bumps along the way. Before I left I had envisioned capitalizing on the things I have read and learned first hand about traveling while chronically ill, and organizing myself appropriately. If I had though, I just wouldn’t be me. I prefer the spontaneous and sometimes even the chaotic, which I am learning to balance with the predictability my body needs to perform at its best (read: to work at all). Originally I thought I would write a “how to post” about how I overcame my natural tendencies and did it all right, but yeah, that would require actually doing that first…
Instead what I am sharing is a much more honest and probably amusing look into what my trip actually looked like, and what I’m taking away from it. I’m all about balance and honesty. Besides, there are tons of posts with tips and tricks on traveling, but not so many on what people screwed up. With that in mind, here we go:
- If you travel a distance of more than a couple of hours over a weekend, you’re probably going to feel like an extra from The Walking Dead. When you have chronic illness, your body needs time to recover from long trips, and if you don’t allow for it, it will probably go right ahead and sabotage any grand plans that you have. This is why I’ve been dead to the world since returning from Florida! Whatever, I’m celebrating the fact that I successfully made a weekend trip at all!
- Definitely do not stay up hours after your bedtime the night before traveling, even if you are hosting family members who you would like to visit with. (Yes, I’m 28 and I have a bedtime. What about it?)
- Do not work late the night before your trip. (Even if your boss asks nicely, and the kids you work with are being sweet.)
- Do not wait until the night before you leave to pack your bags. I’ve been pulling this one forever. I definitely packed for college as a freshman beginning at approximately 11 PM the night before I left. If you are like me, you can’t pull this off anymore. Really, I promise.
- Related: Double, triple, and quadruple check that you have the correct amounts of all of your medications. Keep them close in case your luggage gets lost! (I actually did this one right this time!)
- DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES pack a bag that doesn’t roll because your able-bodied husband suggests it will be less likely to be gate checked. You will be embarrassed (albeit probably unnecessarily) when you have to rely on your parents and younger brother to lug it around for you.
- Do not forget sunglasses and earplugs. If you do, don’t be too proud to ask your parents to stop for a few so that you can pick some up at a store.
- Don’t forgo airport trains because you want to believe that you are still able bodied – just don’t!
I did do a few things right though. Here’s what I managed:
- Rest when you can. Sleeping in planes, trains, and automobiles is totally acceptable and probably necessary. Pillows are helpful.
- Stay hydrated.
- If you have dietary limitations, try your best to stick to them. Stock up on snacks that meet your specific needs. Make time for nutritious meals.
- Skip minor events in order to make it to major ones. This is the vacation form of pacing. For example I skipped the party the night before the wedding to make sure I actually went to the wedding.
- If events involve alcohol, only drink if you feel up to it, and think it will not hinder travel home. Don’t drink because you feel you “should.”
- Don’t be afraid to make time for the things you love. They recharge you. Yes, I NEEDED a couple of hours to chill on the beach (and lucked out because it was a breezy day and I was able to tolerate the sun and heat).
The most important thing I learned? If you need it, ask your family members for help! I know it hurts to do it sometimes, but that’s what family is for.