Traveling With Fibromyalgia – 7 Lessons Learned, 6 Things We Did Right
Doing anything with fibromyalgia is hard. Getting in and out of the shower takes a lot of energy. Going grocery shopping is exhausting. His work such as laundry, dishes, vacuuming is difficult, sometimes downright impossible. So if doing these ordinary daily activities is so difficult, why would anyone with fibromyalgia consider traveling?
Many who suffer from fibromyalgia don’t travel. I don’t blame them at all. There were many years when I was one of them. I didn’t have the energy or the right medicines to manage my illness, let alone travel. The chronic pain, chronic fatigue and fibro fog of fibromyalgia feels like it is sucking the life right out of you.
In the last four or five years, after spending six or seven years trying different medicines and therapies, I am at a stage where I can manage my illness better, at least until a flare comes up. While I have traveled some since fibro came into my life, I still don’t travel as much as I would like or as much as my wife would like.
However, I have been able to travel on occasion and I want to share some experiences about traveling with fibromyalgia and hopefully others can learn from my experiences, good and bad, and have better vacations as a result.
When people go on vacation, they do so to leave their work and stress behind. The Fibro traveler doesn’t have that luxury. That includes the pain, the fog and fatigue. We can just leave it at the office or at home and take a vacation from our illness. We have to take our illness with us.
The first trip I took after my Fibro became advanced was with my wife, Colette to Yellowstone. I think that trip was about five years ago. She made the initial plans and before she booked anything we went over what she wanted to do and what I thought I could do. It involved give and take on both sides, but most I did the giving and taking.
We compromised, mostly she compromised because I had to scale back a lot of her plans, according to what I thought I could do. It involved a lot of driving the first day, the days in the middle were much less driving and the drive home was divided in half. We drove half way home, then stayed in a Hotel. The next day we drove the rest of the way home.
It was five nights and six says all together. The first day we saw a lot of beautiful Idaho farm country and wilderness. This was a learning experience because we drove too much the first day, but had to get to our motel because of reservations. With the help of a tens unit while in the car and a heating pad in the hotel room I did it well enough. It wasn’t perfect, but it went well enough. I did have a certain amount of adrenaline going on, which helped to a point. My legs and hips were strained, stiff and sore.
The first mistake so far was in driving too much the first day. The second day we made a mistake by not staying to our schedule. We asked the locals at the motel what some cool sites were in the greater Yellowstone area that the typical Yellowstone tourist wouldn’t see. They told us about some waterfalls on the Snake River.
It sounded great. It was a great stop for nature lovers, but it was off the travel plan we had made. In my adrenaline induced ambition, I walked far too much including several flights of stairs built on the side of the gorge.
When we got to our Yellowstone cabin, we were late again. I was extremely worn out. So much so that I couldn’t even drag a small suitcase into the Cabin. All our luggage had wheels except for a couple of backpacks. I managed to carry my CPAP machine and my laptop into the cabin. The manger of the cabins carried a great deal of our luggage, thank goodness.
I soaked in the very hot, hot tub that night. It was nice because we were deep in the country and the night was very dark and the stars were very bright. The next day was a planned day off for relaxation and recuperation. I soaked a few times in the hot tub and rested. The cabin rental had a nice restaurant twenty yards away. I didn’t do anything all morning, but rest. During the afternoon I started feeling restless. I was still tired and sore, but I was also bored sitting around. Should have brought some DVD’s or books to occupy me while I rested.
Off we went to places closer than Yellowstone. We saw some wonderful things like the headwaters of the Henry river which is one of two sources of the Snake River. We returned to the cabin and I was worn out, but not exhausted. I soaked in the hot tub.
The next day started in the hot tub which is a great way to loosen up along with a hot shower. We finally got to Yellowstone. Saw some big Elk in the distance. We saw a Buffalo walking on the side of the road. We saw a lot of wildlife but no bears.
When we were in the car for more than an hour, I used my tens unit. That really helped the back and neck, but my legs always got very stiff and sore. We spent two days in Yellowstone, I think. While we were in a small town in Montana, I think it was called Yellowstone, my wife went shopping alone. I did a little shopping but mostly I sat at a table with a soda pop and rested. Then we left for home via a hotel half way back. That was the best decision we made while planning our vacation.
Because of the ability to really rest on the way home, we were able to stop at a wilderness drive through park. We drove through the park slowly with our windows rolled up. We saw up close a lot of bears, a wolf, deer and an albino elk among other animals. I was very good at taking all MEDs right on schedule. When we got home, I was completely worn out. I spent four or five days in bed (bed for me is my recliner). It took that long to get back to my normal sick self.
Seven lessons learned from that trip are:
1. I did more than I thought I could, but I still did too much.
2. Drove too much the first day.
3. Didn’t stay on the schedule.
4. Hot tubs are essential to loosen up quickly in the morning and relaxing at night.
5. Did not take rest stops to walk around. That is very important on road trips.
6. Tried to manage expectations, but didn’t do as well as we should have. We did learn from that trip about managing expectations that we applied to future vacations.
7. Get a stronger convertor. The stronger the better.
Six things we did right that saved the day:
1. Allowed for recuperation time. I should have used it all.
2. Tens unit was very helpful.
3. The heating pad was very useful in the hotels and cabin, but the converter wasn’t strong enough to get the heating pad hot enough in the car.
4. Went on the first trip without kids. This was as much a learning event as it was a vacation.
5. Took a couple of days worth of extra MEDs. Didn’t need them, but It was good to have them.
6. Planed for extra money not included in our vacation budget. In case I needed something I forgot and couldn’t do without. We used some of it.
This was my first fibro vacation. I was glad I went and I have great memories. If you haven’t taken a vacation since you came down with fibromyalgia, I would recommend a small vacation and plan for it not to go as planned. Keep expectations low and you should be fine. Make it a small, test run vacation to learn from. Consider a day long road trip or a one night test vacation for the experience of it.
To answer the question posed at the beginning, why would anyone with fibro want to travel? I would answer the question by saying that we want to be as normal as we can. We want to see new things and have adventures just like anyone else. We know that some vacations are impossible for a fibro patient to do. But sometimes you can rest and sit and still see new sights and hear new sounds and be refreshed by a change of pace. We want to get away from it all as much or more than most. With a little foresight and planning, many types of vacations are possible.
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