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Archive for the ‘Travel Humor’ Category

Ya gotta love the occasional reverse psychology post…

  1. Don’t plan your trip to accommodate your pain. Or plan your trip at all.
    Pretend you’re a perfectly healthy college student who can buy a plane ticket and pack a backpack and go–that’ll work! You’ll be away from your home, your doctors, your routines, and your comfort zones while you’re on the road. But that doesn’t mean you need to plan anything in advance–after all, nothing’s likely to go wrong. Really!
  2. Don’t research your destination.
    Everywhere in the country/world is just like your home, so you don’t need to read anything about your destination. You’ll have no problems at all carrying your pain meds, getting the foods you need, etc etc. Right? Oh wait…
  3. Act rude, nasty, mean, and short-tempered with service workers.
    The best way to get someone in the service industry to help you get what you need is to snap at them. Treat service staff at the airport, in the plane, in the hotel, and in restaurants like dirt to make sure they know your status. You’ll get the best service that way.
  4. Ignore your body’s warning signs.
    Starting to feel a little bit of pain? Getting dizzy, nauseous, weak? Ignore it–it’ll go away! You’re having fun, and if you ignore your symptoms you’ll keep on having fun. No worries.
  5. Pack your meds in your checked luggage.
    The flight’s only an hour long, your meds are bulky or heavy or liquid or inconvenient to carry. So pack ’em in your checked luggage. Only 1-5 bags get lost or delayed per flight on average–yours won’t be one of them. Probably.
  6. Rent yourself a sublet or Air-B-n-B room in a 6th floor walk-up.
    You’re in Paris/New York/whatever, and you’ve read Paul Theroux or one of his disciples, and you feel like you couldn’t possibly experience your destination if you stay in a hotel with an elevator and a private bathroom. So you rent yourself a Real Apartment you saw on Craigslist. Great. Now every time you want to rest, you get to walk up seven flights of stairs that were built more than a hundred years ago. You’re going to get a Real Travel Experience that way, for sure.
  7. Decide not to get the wheelchair at the airport.
    You don’t really need it–you can walk! And carry/roll your luggage. And stand in line, shuffling forward with your heavy bags. And walk some more. And stand in another line. And walk some more…
  8. Let your self-care routines go.
    This is vacation–you don’t need to think about your self-care. Don’t bother with regular stretching or exercise, eat whenever and whatever you want, and take your meds when it happens to cross your mind. Your body will love it.
  9. Don’t take your meds on time (or at all).
    This builds on #8, ’cause med schedules don’t count on vacation.
  10. Don’t plan your trip to accommodate your pain.
    Did I mention this one already?

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I write a lot about how to travel with chronic pain. But what about the opposite–what shouldn’t you do when you travel with chronic pain or a hidden disability? How have I screwed up my trips in the past? Which screw-ups have caused major pain flares, debilitating exhaustion, or a post-trip crash that was worse than expected?

Oh, where to begin? I think I could come up with 100 ways I’ve messed up over the years. But to begin, here are 10 major screw-ups that could seriously mess up a traveler with pain. How do I know? I’ve committed most of them. Learn from my mistakes…don’t do any of this stuff, and enjoy happier, healthier, comfier journeys.

  1. Be spontaneous! Decide to take a weekend getaway…on Friday afternoon.
    Spontaneity is great when it means picking up flowers for my sweetie on the way home from work one night. For traveling with pain–not so much. Spontaneous travel means no time to research anything at my destination, no time to prep my meds, little time to pack properly, and no way to relax or prepare myself physically for the rigors of travel.
  2. Don’t research the destination.
    Going someplace I know nothing about sounds romantic and exciting and adventurous, right? Yeah, right up until I find out at my arrival airport that my medication is illegal in the country I’d tried to visit and I ended up right back on the plane home, or stuck in a tiny windowless room answering questions for hours, or in a foreign jail.
    No, this one has never happened to me. But it’s an example of something that could really happen to a traveler with  pain who didn’t do her research on her destination.
  3. Plan out every minute of every day of your trip.
    Now this one I’ve done. I’m most guilty of it on business trips. I plan to spend whole days in sessions, attending lectures, and walking exhibition halls at conferences. And after about one day of trying to be “up and at ’em” all day long, my concentration tanks, my pain revs up, and if I keep it up, I end up collapsed on a floor in an incoherent heap. Usually in some embarrassingly public place.
  4. Travel like a  healthy, broke 19-year-old boy.
    That is, pack a big ol’ camping backpack full of gear,  budget $25/day for lodgings, refuse to book any motel rooms so as to “stay flexible,” don’t carry any food or plan for any prescription refills, eschew phrase books, and end up “sleeping” in third-rate hostels or on train station benches half the time. Oh, and be sure to stay up all night clubbing and drinking as often as possible.

    I’d be dead within a week, no matter how many aggro travel writers claim that this is the only true way to experience the world.

  5. Get up early whether it feels good or it hurts like hell.
    My family has a lot of morning people in it. These people expect everyone traveling with them to be out of bed and ready to head out on excursions by  7 a.m. on a daily basis. When I try to keep up, I end up with severe pain flares. My body hates mornings, and doesn’t give a good ******** that Haleakala is prettiest at sunrise.
  6. Stay out late, hanging out at dive bars or crowded clubs.
    On the other hand, I have friends who are major-league night owls. They like to stay up all night dancing to trance music in the woods at Burning Man-style weekend-long parties. I can’t do that any more than I can do the dawn patrol.
  7. Drink too much.
    ‘Cause there’s nothing like alcohol to make an already difficult physical situation better. Especially if the liquor will be blending with multiple medications. Whee!!! *splat*
  8. Don’t use the wheelchair at the airport, even if you need it.
    Pride is important. So is being able to stand up and walk around. My pain requires me to choose between these two important items. The times I’ve chosen pride and walked through airport security, I’ve regretted it. Every single time.
  9. Cut transit timing close.
    I once decided that one hour would be plenty of time to catch a flight at LAX on a holiday Monday. I was right, by a margin of about 5 minutes. They were actually calling my name at the gate and threatening to close the doors by the time I made it out to the concourse. The stress this caused definitely did not diminish my pain.
  10. Fail to keep emergency food and drink close at hand.
    Why carry water and food when traveling? There will always be something on hand at my destination to eat and drink, right? Nope. Not if I arrive at a small town near the Kern River at 9:12 p.m. Even the convenience store in that town closed at 9 p.m. And that’s not even going into that time in Tuscany where the four of us in the travel party had to make dinner out of saltless crackers, apple sauce, powdered Ensure, and a bottle of Limoncello donated to us by a bunch of Aussies who took pity on us.The bright side of that trip to Italy? I lost five pounds.

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Liz Hamill in the Hotel Triton Lobby, San Francisco

Me and my delicate condition lounging in the lobby of the Hotel Triton in San Francisco

I’m now going to admit something scandalous: I hate Paul Theroux. Not the man himself–I’ve never met him; he might be lovely in person. I hate Paul Theroux’s writing. Yes, that pretty much revokes my membership to all travel writing guilds. Theroux is the golden boy of post-20th century travel writing. With his overblown verbiage, highfalutin literary references,  and eye-crossing self-indulgence, Theroux’s work embodies everything I despise about travel writing as a literary endeavor.

In his recent essay for the New York Times, “Why We Travel,” Theroux makes his ever-present case for backpacking across war-torn deserts, climbing ugly mountain ranges, and strolling through criminal-infested cities. He spends a full page using half his Roget’s to describe the “joys” of visiting Baghdad, Russia, and Pakistan (among others). Then he says, and I quote: “But unless you are in delicate health and desire a serious rest, none of this is a reason to stay home.”

Well fuck you and the stinky flea-bitten camel you rode in on, Mr. Theroux.

I bet it’s never once occurred to Paul Theroux that there are, quite literally tens of millions of travelers out there who are in delicate health, as he so snarkily puts it. I certainly am. Physically weak, in constant pain, and prone to unpleasant bacterial infections in personal places, I don’t need to travel to Somalia or Tibet to overcome adversity. I overcome adversity every time I travel to the supermarket around the corner.

My fiancé suggested that we might bottle up some tap water from Mexico City and let Theroux drink it on a nonstop plane trip from Mexico to Taiwan. He would get to overcome a whole bunch of travel adversity! His trip would look, smell, and feel remarkably like that which my friend Andrew, who suffers from severe Crohn’s Disease, gets to experience every single day of his life. Perhaps Paul might gain a new perspective, as he spent hour after miserable hour locked in an aluminum tube with his bowels roiling uncontrollably. He might learn what it’s like to actually be in delicate health while traveling, and he’d stop sneering at those of us laboring along inside of imperfect bodies.

Yet…examining Scott Rains’ opinion of Theroux’s recent discussion of travel writing, I realized that in a strange way, I actually agree with the pompous jerk. (It’s not just our mutual adoration of polysyllabic verbiage.) Adversity is not a good reason to huddle at home. In fact, everything I write here aims to help readers overcome adversity both in order to travel and while traveling, so as to enjoy adversity-free vacations and successful business trips. I make no guarantees for travelers to high school reunions and family holidays. If you insist on undertaking serious high-risk travel, my tips may not help you.

Every trip I take has its troubles. As a travel writer, I turn common difficulties into “10 tips” articles, while the weirder ordeals evolve into humor essays. (Though said weird ordeals rarely have anything to do with chronic pain or illness. Fishing and in-laws, on the other hand…) It turns out that I’m all about overcoming adversity through travel.

Liz Hamill, Kauai

Me and my hat are a serious travel writer. Serious, dammit!

Where I break from Theroux is on the ground, at my destination. (Also in my writing, wherein I have a sense of humor.) I do not seek out adversity, court unnecessary risks, or clamber around in search of pain when I travel. If I want adversity, I can go to the doctor and ask for a cure for my condition and listen to the endlessly frustrating non-answers. For risk, perhaps I’ll get to endure yet another surgical procedure. If I need intense pain I’ll stand in a TSA line for a few minutes.

When I travel, I seek joy.

I love looking out over the tropical sea from the lanai of a luxury condo. Floating in warm salt water eases my pain; swimming after colorful fish brings me a sense of wonder and happiness.  Wandering through the historic district of an old European city marveling at centuries-0ld architecture engages my brain, and sitting in the gallery of a great museum, absorbing the beauty of great art lightens my heart. Sleeping on a memory foam mattress made up with 800-thread-count sheets rests my weary bones, and soaking in an oversized tub laced with lavender-scented bubbles relaxes my racked-up muscles.

Okay, fine. I’m jealous of Paul Theroux. He’s got so many more options than I do when he chooses destinations and activities for his trips. He goes places without worrying for a moment about pain flares, medication transportation, or whether he’ll be able to find a clean public bathroom. He has a limitless supply of spoons.

On the other hand, I’ve got an awareness that this lauded bestselling author couldn’t dream of. In fact, in a strange way, all of Theroux’s unpleasant trips to terrifying places might be viewed (by an insanely jealous twit ) as attempts to observe what we who travel with pain and illness and disability experience every day. We live real life. He just watches it from the outside. Poor Theroux. Don’t you wish you were me?

I don’t know what’s up with all the Shakespearean tragedy quotes, though. Yeesh–pretentious much?

I know in a way Theroux won’t until his own health craps out on him what a truly amazing thing it is to board a plane and fly across an ocean. I understand the value of warm sand trickling through my fingers as other tourists kick over my sand castles. The sights and smells and sounds inside the hallowed halls of the Louvre mean more to me than Theroux could ever comprehend. So does having the energy to leave the Louvre to find a decent croissant.

Theroux can keep his misery and pain and his endless search for so-called authentic experience when traveling.I suppose somebody’s got to go examine the famine, poverty, and destruction in places like the Sudan, Uzbekistan, and the Democratic Republic of Rape…er, the Congo.  Rather him than me. Really.

But I’ll remain aggravated by his opinion that other travel writers must lock-step with him across minefields both literal and figurative. I expect I’ll find plenty of problems to overcome and then write about, even square in the middle of the beaten path.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to travel and write for the best and most important reason of all.

Fun.

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Just for fun…

On the first day of holiday travel, my true love gave to me an endless ‘script for Vicodin.

On the second day of holiday travel, my true love gave to me two short TSA lines and an endless script for Vicodin.

Oh the third day of holiday travel, my true love gave to me three first-class upgrades, two short TSA lines, and an endless script for Vicodin.

On the fourth day of holiday travel, my true love gave to me four clean public toilets, three first class upgrades, two short TSA lines, and an endless script for Vicodin.

On the fifth day of holiday travel, my true love gave to me, five afternoon naps, four clean public toilets, three first class upgrades, two short TSA lines, and an endless script for Vicodin.

On the sixth day of holiday travel, my true love gave to me, six comfy hotel rooms, five afternoon naps, four clean public toilets, three first class upgrades, two short TSA lines, and an endless script for Vicodin.

On the seventh day of holiday travel, my true love gave to me, seven working elevators, six comfy hotel rooms, five afternoon naps, four clean public toilets, three first class upgrades, two short TSA lines, and an endless script for Vicodin.

On the eighth day of holiday travel, my true love gave to me, eight gentle nature walks, seven working elevators, six comfy hotel rooms, five afternoon naps, four clean public toilets, three first class upgrades, two short TSA lines, and an endless script for Vicodin.

On the ninth day of holiday travel, my true love gave to me, nine convenient padded benches, eight gentle nature walks, seven working elevators, six comfy hotel rooms, five afternoon naps, four clean public toilets, three first class upgrades, two short TSA lines, and an endless script for Vicodin.

On the tenth day of holiday travel, my true love gave to me, ten helpful strangers, nine convenient padded benches, eight gentle nature walks, seven working elevators, six comfy hotel rooms, five afternoon naps, four clean public toilets, three first class upgrades, two short TSA lines, and an endless script for Vicodin.

On the eleventh day of holiday travel, my true love gave to me, eleven private hot tubs, ten helpful strangers, nine convenient padded benches, eight gentle nature walks, seven working elevators, six comfy hotel rooms, five afternoon naps, four clean public toilets, three first class upgrades, two short TSA lines, and an endless script for Vicodin.

On the twelfth day of holiday travel, my true love gave to me, twelve free massages, eleven private hot tubs, ten helpful strangers, nine convenient padded benches, eight gentle nature walks, seven working elevators, six comfy hotel rooms, five afternoon naps, four clean public toilets, three first class upgrades, two short TSA lines, and an endless script for Vicodin.

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