I was replying to a comment on a support group when I realized something about why I’m able to travel even with all my “special needs” and unpleasant disease-based idiosyncracies:
I give myself a break. Two or three breaks, even, if I need them.
I sit down right flat on the ground if I need a rest. If I’m feeling pain, I take my prescribed medications before the twinge becomes agony. If I need a bathroom break, I take one. I get myself a glass of water, a bite to eat, and a nap if necessary. If I’m feeling unwell, I ask my travel companions to help with water or food or an arm to lean on. Sometimes…(wait for it)…I let myself do every single one of these things in the same hour.
It took me years to learn to cut myself some slack on travel–this was not an easy lesson. I wanted so much to be “normal,” not to bother my friends and family with my body’s endless and (to me) unreasonable demands. For a plane trip, I packed the same as I always had, expecting to be able to heave a 50-pound carry-on up into the overhead bin and to need nothing “special” (like medication or food) throughout a transatlantic flight.
On road trips, I insisted on sitting in the non-adjustable back seat of the car. And after that, I set up my own old-fashioned cabin tent and lugged all my things into it before bedding down in a sleeping bag on an inch-thick foam pad over the cold, bumpy ground.
This “head in sand, ass in air” approach to travel failed. A lot.
I literally ended up flat on my face. The exhaustion and pain got me one night after an 8-hour drive to a primitive campground, and I collapsed in my tent. I was alone within the nylon walls, but four of my friends were setting up their own tents less than 10 feet away.
Did I call out for help? No. I laid there for 15 minutes, studying the weave of my tent floor and whimpering as quietly as possible so as not to disturb anyone. Eventually my then-husband found me, forced some painkillers down my throat, and shoveled me into my sleeping bag. Ironically, I’d been reaching for the painkillers when I collapsed–the pills were actually in my hand as I lay unable to move on the floor of the tent.
But the biggest shock came months later, when I owned up to the friends who’d been just outside my tent the whole time. They were more than horrified. They were offended that I hadn’t asked them for help. The looks on their faces haunt me.
My how I have changed.*
Now I ask for help, even before I need it. I ask my companions to carry my luggage. I get the wheelchair at the airport. I pack right for my condition. If I need to sit down, I sit down, embarrassment be damned. If I need a nap, or to lie down, or to eat, I do it.
It is amazing how much easier travel is now. I have more fun, my companions have more fun, and I haven’t collapsed on the road in years.
* I’ll send a free copy of a Moon California guidebook of your choice to the first person to correctly identify the source of that quote.