Thanks to John for pointing out that I’ve never done a post about the Spoon Theory here on TWP. Know first that I am not the originator of the Spoon Theory–read the fabulous origin story of the Spoons by Christine Miserandino here on ButYouDontLookSick.com.
Though I don’t have lupus, the Spoon Theory fits my situation like a custom-made glove and I suspect that most people with chronic pain (or any other disability for that matter) feel the same way. Simply put, a “spoon” is a unit of personal energy. Every thing I do during the day costs a spoon. Every day I have a certain number of spoons to work with. Though I can do some things that increase the number of spoons I have in a given day and other things to decrease them, and occasionally I can borrow against tomorrow’s spoons, once I’ve used up a spoon, it’s gone.
Given that I live my life by the Spoon Theory, how do I manage to travel? Easy enough–I use my spoons. Travel tasks cost spoons just like at-home tasks cost spoons. If I know how many spoons it costs to take a certain type of trip, I can budget those spoons just like I budget my money.
Here are a few common traveling tasks that cost spoons:
- Standing in line: 1 spoon per 10-15 minutes
- Getting through airport security: 1 spoon with a wheelchair and attendant, 2-5 spoons without, 2-6 more spoons if singled out for extra checking
- Riding in a car, airplane, train, boat, or bus: 1 spoon for the first 2 hours, 1 spoon for every hour after that
- Driving** a car: 1 spoon per half-hour
- Checking into a hotel: 1-2 spoons, depending on the level of hassle I encounter
- Walking and light hiking: 1 spoon per 20 minutes
- Buying a few groceries from a corner market: 3 spoons minimum
- Going out to eat at a sit-down restaurant: 3 spoons
- Spending one hour at a museum: 3-5 spoons (without wheelchair)
- Taking a 4-hour boat ride with 30 minuts of snorkeling: 9 spoons
- Hiking 2 miles round trip over uneven terrain with steep slopes and stairs: 6 spoons
- Browsing in a small town’s Main Street shops for an hour: 6 spoons
- Spending a summer day at Natural Bridges State Beach: 15 spoons
The reason I plan at least one day of total relaxation after I get home from a trip is that I know I’ll borrow spoons when I’m on the road. It’s the nature of travel to want to do more, see more, experience more–even when more spoons aren’t available. So that after-trip day is slotted in–its the day during which I pay back all those spoons I borrowed (usually by sleeping for an unholy number of hours).
On days when I’ve only got a dozen spoons to spend, it sucks to be out on the road. I can’t do much on a day like that. But you’ll notice I didn’t say “I can’t do anything.” Not much /= nothing. In my next installment of Traveling With Spoons, which will be a randomly popping-up series, I’ll describe how I plan travel days using spoons.** If I’ve taken opiate painkillers, I can’t drive.