Controlling my body’s massive inflammatory response to traveling is one of those things I can’t quite figure out. Maybe once I do I’ll write a “How to Travel with Chronic Illness” post, but until that day comes I’ll settle for my usual fare: Here is my dilemma, let me go into a detailed explanation of it, and then I’m going to express how okay I want to be about it all because acceptance is my ultimate goal.
Does that work with everyone?
For me, travel of any type is a total racket. I have enough trouble slightly veering from my typically slow-paced often predictable life. You see, the crux of navigating my chronic illness and chronic pain without prescriptions or surgeries is to carefully curate my day. From the moment I wake up and brew my low-mold, small-batch, practically toxin-free coffee to my extended evening soak in a bath of magnesium flakes or Epsom salt while diffusing one essential oil or another, I’m often doing something in the name of symptom management. Currently, as I write at my kitchen table, I’m seated in a way that I recently learned takes pressure off my hips without hyperextending them. I’m munching on organic cucumbers that I hope will help decrease my inflammation and maybe even help pull an annoying virus that’s plagued me the past few weeks from my body. Find me in almost any situation, at any moment, on any day and I’m probably in the middle of doing something to help me feel better.
Needless to say, I can’t easily take this act on the road, and I think that’s the center of my travel conundrum. To add a touch of fuel to this fire, my recent autoimmune disease diagnosis taught me that I’m immunocompromised and likely have been for years. It’s really no wonder I usually get sick after I take a trip.
But I’m determined to solve this dilemma of mine. Visiting the people I love who don’t live near me and exploring new places are among my favorite activities. It’s hard enough for me to wrap my head around how I can’t ski or hike or participate in many of the activities people usually enjoy on vacation. But when a quick weekend trip to a neighboring state to celebrate the first birthdays of my best friend’s twins takes me out for weeks after, I know that I need to go back to the drawing board and work hard to figure this out.
Perhaps I should worry less about overpacking and more about traveling with extra supplies to ensure I’m giving myself the best shot at staying healthy. Or maybe this is a lesson in speaking up for myself (and my body) and incorporating more rest and downtime into the busy days. This all seems fairly simple and reasonable until I think about how all I want to do is live a life that doesn’t make me look and feel like a sick person, and that often my tools and tricks can feel like a direct contradiction of that. When I go on vacation I want to take a break from my normal chronic illness routine in the same way that I’m trying to step away from work, household chores, and other responsibilities.
Regardless of whether or not I ever get a handle on this, traveling is something that brings me so much happiness that it’s worth whatever I experience on the backend. Like everything else I do, I weigh the opportunity before me with the most likely outcome and hopefully make a responsible decision. As one of my physical therapists likes to remind me when I’m trying to complete an exercise without subluxing or dislocating my joints: The goal is to go right up to the edge. Sometimes the only way to find that is by going over a little, but make sure that you can quickly ease off if you do. Just try to learn something in the process so that next time you can find that line without going over it.
Until I’m able to figure out how to travel a bit more easily, I’m going to work harder to learn something from every difficult experience. And during this period of trial and error, I’m going to try to be okay with not having all the answers. After all, acceptance is the ultimate goal.