HAWMC Day 20: Going back on the waves…

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Welcome to the Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge brought together by WEGO Health – a social network for all health activists.  Again, I am participating in the annual Writer’s Month Challenge in which I will be writing about my health activism and health condition based upon given prompts.

Monday 20th April: Travel Time 

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?  Maybe you’ve already traveled to an exciting place and want to go back.  We know travelling with a chronic illness can be challenging, so any tips for others that you can share would be great!

“Don’t float through life, make waves…”
– unknown

Travelling has never been an activity that I have particularly enjoyed.

I am very much a home-bird; never happier when I am at home surrounded by the comfort of the familiar.  Packing for holidays, has also been something that I have found stressful, with my parents constantly barking at me to get everything I am taking with me ready, and then asking if there is anything that I have forgotten!

As my condition has steadily worsened over the years, holidays as a result has not been a priority and therefore have stayed with family whilst my parents have gone on holidays including a trip to Canada, and their first cruise to celebrate their thirtieth wedding anniversary.

The debilitating symptoms and love of the familiar are not the only reasons why travelling is just not my bag.  Living with a long-term condition in which the symptoms fluctuate, and as a result makes life very unpredictable.  Life with a chronic illness is often extremely unpredictable, never knowing how we are going to feel from one day to the next, and never knowing when symptoms are suddenly going to appear.  And it’s this unpredictability therefore that makes travelling particularly difficult and daunting also.  As my condition, and particularly the dizziness and vertigo worsens in buildings with high ceilings, such as airports for example, flying abroad is also very problematic and therefore has prevented me from being able to travel.  Because of this it just seemed easier not to travel and instead enjoy the sights on one’s doorstep as an alternative to travelling long distances.

However, two years ago and after experiencing difficult times as a result of the neurological condition I live with, my parents decided that we were all in need of a relaxing holiday and away from the stresses of illness, hospital appointments as well as those experiences in everyday life.  And somehow, they talked me around to going on a Mediterranean cruise visiting France, Italy, Spain and Portugal.

This beautiful picture taken during our last cruise is one I will forever treasure.  Even when experiencing debilitating symptoms, I appreciated the extroadinary beauty of my surroundings
This beautiful picture taken during our last cruise is one I will forever treasure. Even when experiencing debilitating symptoms, I appreciated the extraordinary beauty of my surroundings

All my research assured me that this type of holiday was ideal for those with disabilities or chronic illnesses; not only is cruising extremely relaxing but also has the benefit of having your cabin close by for when symptoms appear out of the blue and suddenly being taken ill.  Cruise ships are also fully accessible if a wheelchair is needed, and unlike air travel there are no long waits or delays at airports, so much less stressful than flying to holiday destinations!

Regular readers of the blog, will know about the trip which I wrote about in a past post.  The cruise was difficult for me due to a sudden deterioration of my symptoms which occurred a couple of months before the start of the holiday. As a result, I was unable to get of the ship at the different ports and go on the excursions.  Most of the holiday was either spent in the cabin reading or sleeping, or in the solarium relaxing, in the attempts to ease the excruciating pain in my legs.

Despite this however, this year I am once again going on another cruise, even going on the brand new Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Anthem of the Seas!

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A lot of you, are probably wondering why I would choose another holiday after my first experience last year.  Well, yes, the holiday did not go as plan and was left unable to do many things that I was looking forward to before leaving due to severe and debilitating symptoms, but that did not mean the experience itself was awful.  We needed a holiday to relax, unwind and switch off from the stresses from everyday life, which despite the pain and other debilitating symptoms affecting the holiday, I still managed.  The cruise was not an awful experience, and there were plenty of moments that I thoroughly enjoyed (such as dressing up) during the trip.

Furthermore, I thoroughly believe that we cannot let one bad experience put us off from trying again.  Just because I experienced a relapse in the debilitating symptoms last year before and during the cruise, does not mean that the same thing will happen this time.  This cruise will be my second, and therefore will be easier, as I am more aware of what the experience will entail and am able to put actions plans into place for when symptoms arise or when I am suddenly taken unwell.

In addition, the last holiday also helped me realise the need for a break from seeing the same four walls everyday and the same routines we live out; the cruise was a welcome break from constantly being stuck in the house, or held up in my bedroom due to severe symptoms.  It was an opportunity to see new sights, and experience things that I could never encounter at home.

Photos from Royal Caribbean Blog

This time around, however, we will be cruising around the Canary Islands and visiting ports in Spain and Portugal also.  It again will be a welcome respite from the stresses of living with a neurological condition, and endless medical appointments, as well as the opportunity to absorb plenty of vitamin D with its many health benefits.

With the first cruise on the new ship being imminent, and therefore being inundated with photographs of the beautiful decor and the many new activities to experience onboard via social media, I am beginning to get very excited about our cruise in September.   I am determined to forget about the disappointments caused by the previous cruise, and even more determined to enjoy and soak up as many new experiences as possible this year.

What about any tips that I could offer for travelling with a chronic illness?  There are plenty that I could offer after my experiences last year but here are some of my top tips:

  • Let the travel company know of your medical condition and any help that you may need.  When booking a cruise, or booking a hotel room, book a wheelchair accessible cabin/room, if a wheelchair is required for the holiday (it may be best to hire one if you do not own your own especially if symptoms such as fatigue is a problem).
  •  Carry all your medications and other necessary items with you in your carry-on luggage.  When cruising, your luggage is taken from you after arriving at the port and you do not see them again until you are in your cabin.  However, with a lot of passengers onboard delays can occur so any important items is best to pack in your carry-on luggage.  Also, include items such as swimsuits too so you can make full use of the amenities as soon as you are onboard.
  • Expect the best but prepare for the worse.  Chances are, you may not be able to participate in all the activities and trips during the holiday.  So, as a result prepare for some quality time by yourself in the cabin or hotel room.  Bring books, audio books, MP3 player or anything else you can do to keep yourself entertained whilst resting.  Wi-fi may not be available so perhaps try downloading some movies before you leave in preparation
  • Don’t overdo things.  It can be so easy to get carried away on holiday, and push your limits to keep up with everyone else, but don’t forget to listen to your body and take a break if you need to, because if you don’t you may pay for it later
  • Prepare yourself mentally before leaving and accept your limitations. Experience has taught me that you need to know your limitations and accept them before you leave, as chances are, you will not be able to do everything that you want during the trip and it’s best to accept this before you go and instead of worrying or getting upset by it, instead make the most of everything that you can do and enjoy them
  • Have a great time!
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