My Experience of Migraines & Travel

travelling with migraines

My Experience of Migraines & Travel

Do you suffer from migraines I used to have them when I was a teenager and they were horrid. Valentina from Valentina’s Destinations tells us about travelling with her migraines.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve had headaches. Often, migraine headaches. These are the kind of headaches that cause pounding pain behind your eye and make you nauseated. If that weren’t enough…these headaches also cause tremendous light and sound sensitivity.

They can turn a beautiful day at the beach into your worst nightmare. Sometimes, the lights are so bright that things look unreal. When you get one of these headaches, it’s impossible to function. They can be triggered by stress, anxiety, food and even your menstrual cycle (or all of the above).

travelling with migraines

These triggers can be anything! When you get a headache, you start scrutinizing your day. Did I drink enough water? Were there too many sulfates in my wine? Was that cheese I ate last night aged for too long? The list of questions is endless because triggers can vary person to person and situation to situation.

In 2018, I went on a trip to Serbia to visit my family. I visited the village of Zunice to visit my grandparents. My grandmother had surprised me and collected a few pounds of hazelnuts that had fallen from a nearby tree. She helped me shell the hazelnuts, and I packed them to bring home.

For those of you who have never tasted fresh, raw, hazelnuts –it’s an absolute delight! Nothing you can buy at a store compares. I loved them!

When I got back home, I ate them every day. It wasn’t until after 10 days of daily persistent headaches that I started to wonder what was going on… Hazelnuts (nuts in general) are a common migraine trigger, but not one that I had ever identified with before.

Eventually, I started to suspect their role. I stopped eating the hazelnuts, and my headache resolved shortly after. This was so heartbreaking! I gave the rest of my hazelnuts to my family, and haven’t been able to eat them since ☹

getting a migraine when travelling

There are certain medications that can help to end migraine headaches, but they don’t always work. It’s taken me a very long time to find a few things that help me! When I was a kid, I had failed all the medications that my neurologist tried. It wasn’t until I was in my early 20s that I finally found a few drugs that worked.

When medications do work, your problems don’t always end there! If you take pain medications for a headache too many days in a row, you can develop what’s called a “medication overuse headache.” These are the worst because you can’t take anything to alleviate your suffering. Taking more medication would only delay, and probably lengthen, your ultimate overuse headache.

When travelling, I often get myself into this medication overuse spiral. I push myself too hard. I’m often too stubborn to cancel plans or change my itinerary. When I’m travelling, the thought of staying in and resting sounds like an impossible idea. I take way too much Advil, push through, and suffer the consequences when I get home…for days.

getting a headache when travelling

I experienced an extremely bad headache spiral on my most recent trip to Costa Rica. I had planned this crazy busy day of driving, hiking, eating out, waterfalls, etc. After 4 hours of hiking, we realized we had barely eaten and gotten dehydrated. By the time we got back to the hotel, my brain felt like it was exploding.

It took tremendous strength to pull myself together to make our hot springs reservation. After the hot springs, I felt like I was dying. I spent the whole rest of the night in pain and fainted the next day at our resort. The rest of the story involves lots more pain medication, endurance and headaches for days when we got home.

This experience taught me how important it is to self-care while traveling. If you see yourself as this strong, fearless, person it’s hard to put your medical illness front and center. Although, if you ignore it, it will come back to bite you in the ass.

We all have our issues. It’s important to take the extra time to be prepared and set yourself up for success when you travel. If you also suffer from headaches, I recommend never going without snacks and water. Make sure you have your medications packed. Most importantly, don’t feel guilty about taking time to rest!

valentinas destinations author profile

Valentina’s Destinations was born from my obsession with meticulously researching, organising and planning my travel itineraries. I’m originally from Nis, Serbia. My family moved to the US when I was young, and I’ve been living in Chicago for the last decade. My passion is travelling the world with my boyfriend, Remigijus. When we’re not travelling, I work as a physician assistant in the psychiatry field. The mental health field is as rewarding as travelling can be. Valentina has lived in Chicago for the last 7 years. She came to Chicago to attend college at DePaul University. Since then, she has fallen in love with the city. Whenever possible, she enjoys exploring the city’s attractions, restaurants & events.

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