How to have still fun traveling with a chronic illness
Guest Post by Sherly who blogs at A Chronic Voice
Travelling with a chronic illness can be daunting. A plethora of doubts are bound to surface in your mind. What if something goes wrong? How will I get home? How much will hospital fees cost? Will the doctors there understand the severity of my conditions? Will I be able to get the medications I need? It’s easy to become exhausted before you even step out the door!
Chronic Illness Travel Tips
I have a multitude of chronic illnesses which include antiphospholipid syndrome (a blood clotting disorder), Lupus, Sjögren’s syndrome, epilepsy, PSVT (a heart rhythm disorder) and a mitral valve repair.
The extra steps I need to take before, during and after each trip can be a hassle. But travelling is something that brings me a great deal of joy and reminds me of what life is all about in the first place. So I travel in spite of these obstacles, and here are a few tips on how to have fun in the process!
1. Prep, Prep and More Prep
Yes I know, the word ‘prep’ isn’t fancy or fun (weren’t we supposed to talk about fun stuff?!). But even if we want to live that nomadic dream, the need for daily medications and doctor appointments is a splash of reality. If you want to enjoy the moments while travelling, then careful planning is how we’ll have to roll.
Do remember to obtain a summary of your pre existing conditions from your doctor. This should be in your carry-on luggage, together with all your medical supplies. Speaking of which, you should always bring extras in case of a delay or emergency. The drug regulations and brands may not be the same overseas, and you might have trouble getting what you need.
A good rule of thumb is a 20% buffer of total medications needed for the length of your trip.
Do print out your transport and hotel bookings, especially if you’re going to a destination with poor internet connectivity. I have seen tourists denied their rooms despite email confirmations from Agoda because they had no paper verification. It is also easier to show the address to taxi drivers, especially if it’s in a foreign language.
It is also always a good idea to buy travel insurance with medical conditions, no matter how short your trip is going to be. My insurance provider has a plan that covers existing health conditions as well.
We may not need it 99% of the time, but that 1% is when it’s crucial. We needed an emergency helicopter to transport my grandmother home from China after she suffered a heart attack and stroke. While the damage to her health was already permanent, it would have been even more distressing without travel insurance.
Everything that you prepare for is in order to get to your hotel with as little effort as possible. That is going to be your base over the next few days or weeks. You will want to take a little breather before proceeding.
2. Practice Your Emergency Drills
It is always a good idea to keep your family and friends up to date on your location whereabouts. Make it easy for them to contact you in the case of an emergency. Which hotel are you staying at? How can they contact it in case you’re unreachable? Will you be off the grid and for how long?
Run your travel companions through the emergency drills. Show them where you keep that doctor’s letter, your medications, and other important IDs. Find out where the closest hospitals of international standards are, and how to get there.
Make sure you have data or a decent phone that can connect to the Wi-Fi in case of emergency. Traveltorecovery uses a Samsung 7.
3. Let Go of All Worries and Ask for Help
Phew. Everything I’ve mentioned so far sounds heavy, boring and unfun! Worst case scenario – you have a good plan that might save your life. Best case scenario – you won’t need it at all!
Your routines will differ from your norm while travelling, and you will be far from the comforts of home. You will most likely be going to do a lot more moving around than a normal day. New cities to explore, sights to see, and nights to indulge in!
We all have different bodies, needs and limits. Keep this in mind as you go about your day. Set aside a few minutes every now and then to assess your current state of health. Are you feeling okay? How many ‘spoons’ do you have left? As they say, prevention is better than cure. You don’t want to stop only when you start hurting.
If you think that you only have enough energy left to get back to the hotel, then do so. If you think that a short rest at a café will do the trick, then go ahead. Pay attention to what you need, or you will spend the next couple of days knocked out, which is no fun for anyone.
You may be the kind of person who has trouble asking for help and value your independence. But the truth is, those of us with chronic illnesses will need more help to ‘adult’ than the average person. That doesn’t mean that we’re ‘losers’; think about it this way, if our chronic pain were the norm in society, how would everyone else behave? From that perspective, we’re doing pretty good!
There is no shame in asking for help, especially when you’re way out of your comfort zone! So cut yourself some slack. It’s not going to benefit just you, but your travel companions too. For one, I’m sure they’ll be happy to help and it probably takes the little effort on their part. For another, it brings out the best in us as human beings and allows for both parties to have more time for enjoyment. It’s a win-win situation really!
4. Sometimes, You Need to Push Yourself Just that Little Bit
While I try not to take too many pain meds or steroids back home, these days I make an exception while on holiday. Achy joints? Fine, I’ll take a painkiller for today so I can go out and explore. A flare on the rise? Yes, I’m definitely going to up my steroid dosage for the length of the trip.
There have been a few occasions where I’ve had to either go home or delay my flight due to flares. Crying the nights away in pain is scary and not much fun in a strange room.
Work out a pain plan with your doctor beforehand – what should be the first line of action? If the pain persists, how long should you wait for before trying something else? What is the maximum dosage of each medication that your body can handle? Once again, no two bodies are the same, so make sure you have a tailored plan for yourself.
I’m done wasting those hard earned holidays because I’m struggling to do basic things like walk. Painkillers and steroids are not long-term solutions, but I think are fine for a few days. I get to spend some quality time with my companions, creating memories that will last a lifetime. I get to discover the beauties of our planet that stretches far beyond my imagination.
Yes, I’m aware that I will have to pay my body back for this later, but these timeless memories are worth the pain. Having said that, if you’re in a major flare, then please do take it easy.
It can be disappointing to postpone a trip you’ve been looking forward to, but sometimes that’s for the best. Or, hanging out in a hotel can have its perks too; go wild and indulge in the spa treatments or whatever they have available! I hope that these tips are helpful and that you and your loved ones will have a fabulous time.
Traveltorecovery uses Magnesium oil and has a walking cane when travelling to aid when she is suffering.
Some more bloggers share about their experience of travelling with a chronic illness
Guest Post – Author Bio – My name is Sheryl, and I live with a host of chronic illnesses. I have had a mini stroke at 14, multiple blood clots, a gore-tex band for a heart valve, seizures, scars all over my body from various surgeries and more. I would like to share my experiences with you, in hope that it raises awareness on silent disabilities, and to let others know that they’re not alone in this. You can follow Sheryl on her blog A Chronic Voice, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Instagram
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