When you live with Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue, travelling for business and/or pleasure can become a real challenge. In the course of my volunteer work, I sit on 4 different committees and one working group, and of those, 2 of them require travel from my home in Langford, BC (just outside of Victoria) to Vancouver on the Mainland. It’s a short flight, only 30 minutes from runway to runway, but with everything that goes into it, it can end up being quite exhausting by the time the trip is over.
On my most recent trip to Vancouver, I came down with what was either food poisoning or a severe case of gastroenteritis on Thursday evening before my all day Friday meeting. I was in the bathroom every hour all night long, plus I had the stomach cramps and nausea, along with feeling extremely cold yet having the sweats. I haven’t been that sick in years!!! On top of all that, I had a flare-up of my Trigeminal Neuralgia which combined to make me a very, VERY miserable girl.
I survived to the next day, made it through the meeting still having the shakes and sweating and still with facial pain from the TN, and all I wanted to do was get home as soon as possible. I arrived at the airport for my 7pm flight, only to find out it had been cancelled!! The next flight was for 8pm so I had no choice but to wait. Then there came notice of a delay for that flight. Then another delay and another delay and still ANOTHER delay. In total, there were five delays for the flight and I didn’t get home until just before 11pm by the time it was all said and done.
I was so wiped out from being sick, from the travel, the intensity of the meeting…just everything. I went to bed immediately and didn’t wake up (except for pee breaks) until Sunday at 8am. I completely slept through Saturday!!
Travel, in general, is not easy when you have Chronic Pain and being sick makes it worse. If you do have to travel, for business or pleasure, I’ve gathered a few tips to help make YOUR travels a bit easier the next time you’re flying or on the road:
- Plan a realistic itinerary.
- Allow plenty of time.
- Keep a small, lightweight, hands-free bag with essentials handy and check your main bag if traveling by air.
- Ask, “How accessible are handicapped accommodations?”
- Pack for all temperatures and environmental fluctuations. I get hot easily, so I pack clothing that is easy to layer. With careful coordination, I can make many outfits from fewer articles of clothing and lessen the load.
- Make your bed as close to your bed at home as possible. Ask for extra pillows or blankets. (I always check the closet when I first arrive for these).
- Use earplugs and a sleep mask.
- Stay as close to your usual routine as possible, but also adjust with the local time to avoid jetlag.
- Throw in an extra pair of reading and sunglasses from the dollar store so if you lose them, you don’t mind so much. A book light comes in handy and serves as a light that is easy to access when your unfamiliar hotel room is dark.
- Carry a medical letter or a medical history summary that includes diagnoses with your physician’s contact information. This letter is handy and often available from your doctor. Ask if they might have such a thing or create your own.
- Carry your medications with you and follow the tips for traveling with medications.
- If you need a wheelchair, contact your airline and arrange to have one available.
- Carry your insurance cards and identification at all times.
In the air, over the rails, and on the road
- Take advantage of rest stops. Move about and stretch every chance you get. If you are traveling in America, Google has a map of rest stops across the U.S.
- If you are confined to an airplane seat, keep blood and lymph moving by flexing and relaxing your joints every 20 to 30 minutes. Compression socks are helpful for circulation too.
- Avoid alcohol and stay hydrated. Dehydration stresses the body as a whole.
- Carry a healthy snack bag with fresh fruit and non-perishable foods, like protein bars, in case of a delay.
- Dress for comfort in loose non-restrictive clothing and a pair of comfortable fail-safe shoes. This is not the time to try out those new sandals you bought!!
- Make sure your plane, train, or bus is on time before leaving home – sign up for notification alerts when offered.
Travel comes with challenges for everyone, but especially those of us who live with conditions that cause chronic pain. But, if we respect our limitations and listen to what our body tells us, we can enjoy our time away from home.
Remember, there is always hope