The holidays are over; the snow is ever-present, it’s the perfect time to cozy up with a cup of tea and start dreaming of warmer places. I’m enjoying the snow in Canada right now but I know I’m looking forward to heading back to Spain in the spring for some sunshine and beach yoga. However, if you’re living with a chronic illness, planning a holiday can be stressful. It takes time and energy, especially if a partner, friend or your family are joining you.
When I was in University, I always knew I wanted to travel. I spent almost a year planning my round the world trip and haven’t stopped travelling since. Travel has become second nature to me, so I’m always taken aback when people are impressed at my ability to be on the road with a chronic illness. I haven’t consciously thought about that in several years, it’s just part of my planning process now. If you’re ready to take a holiday, short or long, here are a few steps to take to make sure it’s enjoyable and not detrimental to your health:
1. Plan for comfort
Being able to rest is an essential part of enjoying your holiday. If you go somewhere that has uncomfortable beds, pillows you’re allergic to, or a bus seat that gives you pain - it won’t be a very enjoyable holiday.
To make sure you'll be comfortable during your stay, call or email your accommodation in advance to ask about furniture, or let them know if you have any allergies or sensitivities and see if they’re able to accommodate that. If you’re going on a group tour, it can help to look at photos of the transport. A smaller group or private tour often means travelling in a van instead of a bus which can have more comfortable seating.
You should also plan to make room in your suitcase for items that can help you rest like an eye mask, your favourite essential oil, a small blanket.
2. Ask for help
Planning can take a long time. You’ll need to do a lot of research to decide where to go and where to stay. If you’re going with a partner or friend, ask if they’re able to help with the planning. It can also be worth it to reach out to a travel agent, and they can find the best hotels and transport for you.
3. Go slow & plan time for rest
It’s exhausting to pack your days full of activities or travel to a new city every day. Plan to go slow and enjoy your time getting to know one place, rather than trying to see everything in a short amount of time. You should also avoid cramming your days full of activities. Make sure you schedule time in your day to rest, do meditation, yoga, or read a book. Some of my favourite travel memories are sitting in a cafe or beautiful guest house sipping on tea and reading or journaling.
4. Take a ‘mini’ vacation
Before going on my year-long trip around the world, I went on a two-week vacation to the UK. This holiday helped give me a taster of what my longer trip would be like, and how I could adapt for my health on the road. On this trip I discovered I had more energy travelling than I did at home - I think because I’m mindful and in the present moment when travelling, rather than letting my mind run wild like I do when I’m working. I also realized that it was helpful for me to take ‘mini yoga’ breaks during the day. I would find a quiet park or head back to my accommodation for a 10-15 minutes stretch and a short meditation. This helped soothe sore muscles from walking and re-energize me for more activities.
If you haven’t been on holiday for a while, I recommend going away for one night or a weekend somewhere nearby to see what it’s like to be away from home. How do you sleep? How are your pain and energy levels? What do you wish you had brought with you that you forgot at home?
5. Set expectations for your travel partner (s)
If you’re travelling with a friend or family, let them know before you go what to expect from you. Let them know you won’t be up for full days of activities but are happy for them to enjoy while you stay back and relax. If you’re going with a family, it might be helpful to schedule rest periods in advance and share those times with them, so they know not to plan anything they want you to attend during those times.
6. Check your medications
If you take prescription or over the counter medications and are travelling internationally, double check that you’re able to cross the border with these medications.
7. Follow your joy
Going to a place you’ve always wanted to go to, or doing an activity on your bucket lists, are great ways to boost your wellness and find joy on your holiday.
Any other tips or bad experiences from going on vacation? Let me know in the comments!