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Travelling with Chronic Pain and Illness

Travelling with chronic pain and illness is a topic that's at the front of my mind right now because I’m just about to leave for a vacation. I'm really excited because only a few years ago I was doing so poorly I figured I would never be able to travel again. Yet here I am, heading to a fairly distant exotic destination. Eleven hours of flying is distant for me, in any case.

The other day my friend was over and laughed at what I had packed in my carry-on:

  • 24 plain oatmeal packets

  • 16 meal replacement bars

  • A big box of chamomile tea

  • Natural laundry detergent for sensitive skin

  • Six books

  • One Kobo

  • My personal pharmacy

  • Colouring books

  • Felt pens

  • My traveling pillow and blanket

“Why are your bringing all of this?” He asked. “You can just buy it when you get there.”

Can I though?

When you live with chronic pain, illness and the resulting fatigue, you can’t just assume that you’ll be able to dash out to the local grocery store, bookstore, pharmacy or Laundromat to pick up what you need. A dash isn’t a dash, especially when you’re going somewhere you’ve never been before, aren’t familiar with the area or available transportation, and are staying in a hotel that might be a distance away from these conveniences.

In my case, a dash can become a three-day ordeal. One day for planning, one for executing and one for recovering. Managing the pain and anxiety that surrounds a "dash" can be overwhelming. Ugh. That's why I go prepared. That way, I can make much better use of those three days - lying on the beach with my books, snorkelling and floating in the water, enjoying my holiday properly.

The key to travelling with chronic pain and illness is planning and preparation.

For my upcoming trip I have planned and prepared as follows:

  1. I've planned my flights with a stop at the halfway point on the way there and on the way back, so that I don’t have to fly more than 5 hours in one day.

  2. I booked only direct flights for the days I am flying.

  3. I always reserve an aisle seat on the plane so I can get up frequently and move my body without disturbing my neighbours.

  4. I bought a travel guide and read ahead about my destination (I know, it's all on the internet, but I like real books).

  5. We chose our hotel carefully, making sure it is in a quiet area rather than party central.

  6. I am bringing necessities that I might be able to buy when we get there, but will make my life much easier to have on hand to begin with (my suitcase and carry on have great wheels, so that helps with the extra weight).

  7. We booked shuttles ahead of time to get to the hotel from the airport, and then later from the hotel to the house we rented for second half of the trip.

  8. I've started resting an extra 5 days before my trip starts, so I will have enough energy for the journey there, and won’t be worn out going into the holiday.

  9. So far I've made extremely minimal plans for while I am on holiday. We've booked a snorkelling trip and a spa visit and that's it. We can plan other things more spontaneously based on how I feel once we get there.

It takes extra work to be able to travel with relative ease when you have chronic pain and illness, but for me, the additional effort is absolutely worth it. I like to set myself up for a good holiday, rather than scramble once I get there. I’ll be able to relax and enjoy myself once I arrive because all the details will have already been taken care of.

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