Traveling alone with pain is hard. I just spent a week in the Napa Valley, working on the update for Moon Northern California (to be released in the fall of 2012), alone. My fiance was supposed to join me, but we had a cat emergency (which has been resolved–Miss Kitty is fine) so he stayed behind. For me, this meant six days of driving, walking, getting lost, getting found, shopping, tasting, dining, and sleeping by myself.
I figure that traveling alone with pain breaks down into the following recipe:
- 1 part knowledge
- 3 parts decision-making
- 2 parts luck (good or bad)
Pour all parts into blender and set to frappe. Pour onto the road for a fabulous and fascinating voyage.
First, knowledge. As in, don’t take your first trip with pain by yourself if you can possibly avoid it. Traveling alone is hard enough for perfectly healthy people, and a chronic health problem makes for heavy, complicated baggage to lug every step of the way. Start out by traveling with your spouse, a family member, or a friend. You can even hire a traveling companion who knows how to help people with special needs. (Ask for Nancy–I bunked with her on the SATH cruise last year and she’s a wonderful, entertaining travel companion.)
As you take trips with companions, take lots of mental notes. Figure out what’s hardest for you to deal with, what’s moderately painful or difficult, and what’s easiest. I’ve done enough traveling to know what works for me and what doesn’t. For me, standing in slow-moving lines is absolutely the worst. That means that airports and amusement parks are super-hard for me. Moderately difficult activities include long walks, long car or airplane trips, multiple flights of stairs, and heavy meals. Easier-than-average are short flat walks, short plane rides, and sleeping in hotel rooms.
Also based on experience, I know that I can only “go” for 4-5 hours at a time before I need to lie down and rest for at least an hour. I know that I need 10 hours of sleep, minimum. I know I need to eat a big breakfast almost every day that I travel.
Decisions make or break any solo trip. Make good decisions, and I’ll have a good trip. Make bad decisions, and I’ll have a bad trip.
I use the all the knowledge I’ve built up to make good decisions when I travel alone. I plan for rest breaks every day. I go to bed early if I have to get up early. I find breakfast daily. I get maps of hiking trails when I go to parks, and pick trails that are flat and less than a mile long, round-trip.
Some other decisions require as much common sense as prior knowledge. I check the oil in my truck when I gas it up to full before I leave on a road trip. I bring food and water with me wherever I go. (Actually, I forgot to bring food on a recent trip and referred to the ensuing hunger and thirst as my “total rookie mistake.”) I get to the airport at least 90 minutes ahead for a domestic flight, and at least 2.5 hours ahead for an international flight.
Finally, there’s luck. Luck can be good or bad. The length of the security line at the airport, the amount of traffic on the road out of town, whether or not the hotel has given away the specific room I’ve requested…these things are all matters of luck. No traveler can control these kinds of circumstances.
But the knowledge and good planning can influence luck. Good planning can mitigate bad luck. For example, if I’ve kept up with my AAA roadside assistance membership, it’s an inconvenience rather than a catastrophe if I get a flat tire. If I’ve arranged for 90 minutes of lead time for a flight, I’ll still make it if I hit a traffic jam on the way to the airport and arrive a half-hour later than I’d planned. If I’m stuck standing in a long line, I’ll be comfortable if I thought to bring along a lightweight folding stool.
So there’s my philosophy about traveling alone. Does anybody want me to write about the nuts and bolts of how I do it?