Dealing with Invisible Illness: 10 Travel Tips
As a solo woman traveler, I have found that one of the best ways to discover and explore parts of myself is through travel. I have found similar growth through my journey with multiple invisible illnesses. With chronic health conditions, a large part of my life revolves around health and medical needs. I’ve found when I travel it helps me tap into the health that is within me. I’ve had to make adjustments to how I travel but it reminds me of all that I can do, including enjoying the journey.
You may be asking, “what is invisible illness?” Invisible illnesses are chronic health conditions that are not apparent by just observing someone. A lot of invisible illnesses can be very debilitating and life altering, yet you may have no idea that someone is suffering from any ailments at all unless they tell you about it. There are many types of invisible illnesses such as fibromyalgia, lyme disease, mental health issues, chronic fatigue, etc.
I had to let go of traveling when I was really sick. Sometimes it felt like I would never be able to feel that type of freedom again.
There are often misconceptions about these illnesses. The symptoms can present in different ways, be unpredictable and can come on quickly and unexpectedly. A few of the key symptoms I deal with on a regular basis are multiple forms of pain in multiple places in the body, constant fatigue and exhaustion, a feeling of brain fogginess, hightened sensory sensitivities, and digestive issues.
I had to let go of traveling when I was really sick. Sometimes it felt like I would never be able to feel that type of freedom again. As I begin to bring travel back into my life, I find it has brought back a sense of empowerment for me. It has been challenging at times. I can no longer pack a bag and quickly set off for somewhere. Travel takes more planning now. I need more precautions and contingency plans for when symptoms arise. Proper food, rest and a slower pace are mandatory.
I can no longer pack a bag and quickly set off for somewhere. Travel takes more planning now.
But I’ve noticed I stop and take in more of the experiences I’m having. I tend to stay at each location a little longer and go for more quality instead of quantity. I take the time to let my senses soak up the pretty view or to sit and have a conversation with a complete stranger. I am able to do more of what I desire rather than having to do everything. By pinpointing areas of interest, I am able to focus my time and energy.
On my latest trip I will be setting sail on a 10-day cruise to the Caribbean. As I plan for this trip I’ve found several key tips I use for traveling with chronic invisible illness.
1. Have a “base camp”
Having a consistent location during your trip can be extremely beneficial. I recommend a private space where you can rest and take care of yourself. You can journey out from there but it will provide a sense of stability and reduce stress. Also be aware of the surroundings of where you will be staying taking into considerations business, noise level, access to services and dining.
2. Find ways to create ease and simplicity to the travel experience
Have meals included or use of a kitchenette can be very beneficial. Arrange transportation ahead of time or ship your baggage to you destination beforehand. Any details that you can take care of before traveling will help you save time and energy when traveling.
3. Be aware of pacing during the trips
I know I will have a limited amount of energy each day. If I push too much one day, it can take days or weeks to recover. So building a lot of rest into my schedule is essential. One of the ways I am doing this on my upcoming trip is to schedule excursions and activities at ports with days of rest on the boat in between. I find the more rest and down time I allow myself, the better my trip goes.
4. Do research ahead of time
See what interests you the most. Focus your time doing the activities you know you will enjoy or that you really want to see. Also know the area you are going to and the resources available, should needs arise.
5. Work with known companies especially when traveling alone
Not only does it add an element of safety, but it can reduce the chance of getting caught in unknown situations. When you work with known companies, it is easier choose the right experience that will fit with your needs and to find out ways you can modify your plans or activity level if need be.
6. Let go of expectations and be flexible
This is important when traveling and a necessity when dealing with chronic illness. You never know when symptoms may arise or plans will need to change. There are times when you can have the best laid plans, and your body may not be able to do it that day. Find a way to bring compassion for yourself during these times.
7. Use your resources
You don’t have to figure it out all on your own. Reach out to the companies you will be using on the trip. Let them know your situations. Often times they are very willing to work with any special needs and appreciate knowing that you may need some assistance. They may also have some recommendations to make your trip go more smoothly.
8. Listen to your body
Nobody knows what you are experiencing better than you. This is especially true with invisible illness. Give yourself permission to do what is best. Take care of yourself. It will help throughout the entire trip. If you are traveling with others, make sure they know how to best support you during the trip. They may not know that you are struggling. Communicate with them as much as possible.
9. Have compassion for yourself
Travel can take a lot of physical and emotional energy. So does dealing with chronic illness. What you can do may be different than it use to be. That is okay. Appreciate that you are choosing to step out and experience things through travel. Allow adjustments and modifications and most of all remember you are dealing with extenuating circumstances. That is okay.
10. Embrace it!
The more we try to push things out of our lives the bigger it becomes. Instead work with what you have. It may bring a new perspective or a new opportunity. Enjoy the experience!
It is definitely possible to have travel be a part of your life when you have a chronic illness. With some planning, letting go of expectations, and a willingness to take things as they arise; you can get out and enjoy the world. It may bring you some of the greatest opportunities of your life. Give yourself permission to listen to your body, do what feels right and enjoy it!
Dealing with Invisible Illness: 10 Travel Tips