Traveling with a chronic illness might slow you down from time to time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy seeing the world. You may need to do a little extra preparation and adjust your pace to accommodate your body’s needs to keep things fun and safe.
Depending on what health challenge you’re facing, there may be some adventures that are outside your range of possibility. That’s frustrating, but remember that you won’t enjoy the trip if it’s not well suited for your current reality. The best solution to frustration is to let yourself grieve for lost possibilities for a time, and then refocus on the things you can do and the places you can go. The world is a very big place with lots to offer. If your health situation makes it impossible to fulfill your lifelong dream of climbing Kilimanjaro or diving at the Great Barrier Reef, for instance, go ahead and be angry or sad about that, and express your feelings. Then start figuring out what you can do instead.
Involve your doctor in your plans as early as possible, and ask specifically about your medications. Drugs that are common in one country are often hard to find or even illegal in another, and counterfeit medications can be a problem in some countries. Educate yourself by running a web search on your medications plus your destination before you go. In most cases, the best advice is to bring all the medication you’ll need in its original packaging.
Don’t overload your travel schedule. Running from one tourist attraction to another is grueling even when you’re in perfect health. Plan to spend whole afternoons sitting in sidewalk cafés and people watching. Don’t skimp on lodging; stay in places where you’ll enjoy spending time and have good service available. Break long overland travel into shorter trips and schedule overnight stays along the way. Choose easygoing travel companions who appreciate a leisurely lifestyle over goal-oriented types who will get frustrated by a slow pace.
Make sure your travel companions know what to expect, what you might need from them, and what kind of emergencies could arise. Research English-speaking doctors in your destination cities ahead of time (these are easy to find on expat websites and message boards) and carry their phone numbers with you. If you’ll be on a cruise or at a resort, make sure any onsite doctors are aware of your condition. Join a travel health program like MedjetAssist that arranges emergency medical transport to a facility of your choice in a crisis. Be sure your travel companions know where you keep your insurance card, medications, and doctor list.
Travel, like life, is more difficult when you are facing chronic health challenges. You may need to adjust your expectations and modify your travel style to make your trip enjoyable. But with a few adjustments, you can see the world and have some life-changing experiences on the road, across America, or even around the world.
Photo by DeathByBokeh via Flickr Creative Commons