Who doesn’t love a great vacation away from the stresses of everyday life? When you think about taking a vacation, images of restful days in tropical places, or even experiencing a myriad of adventures unique to the chosen vacation spot come to mind. For me, and for many of my fellow MS warriors, there is nothing more stressful than a vacation, from planning and packing, all the way through to getting back home afterwards.
Heading out for our most recent road trip.
In the last few years, Bruce and I have taken shorter vacations (long weekends) within driving distance, for many reasons. First and foremost, being able to move on our own schedule is a huge stress-reliever. We don’t have to worry about getting to the airport, going through security, or any unforeseen delays out of our control. I don’t get exposed to the range of germs in one of our cars as I do on an airplane, which may seem paranoid to many, but those of us with compromised immune systems are hyper-sensitive and we are affected quite easily, regardless of the precautions we take. It’s also nice (and a necessity!) to travel with ALL of my prescribed medications, especially the one that is not federally recognized and I am not allowed to have with me when I travel on an airplane. Yes, I’m talking about my medicinal marijuana, without which I can not sleep, and I’m unable to find relief from the constant neuropathic pain. Additionally, crowds and small spaces cause me so much anxiety because I can’t maneuver through them like I used to, and can push me into a full-blown panic attack at any moment.
Luckily, Bru is a pretty cool guy. He understands that things are different for me now and he is open to road tripping to destinations within driving distance for us. This allows us to stop as necessary, whether to use the restroom, or simply to stretch my legs without fear of being knocked over by turbulence or even the vertigo that happens when I’m in a small, crowded space, such as an airplane. The trade-off here is that we stay at beautiful hotels and resorts because we aren’t spending so much money on airfare. Plus, having our car with us means we can go out to pick up things we might have forgotten to pack, and not have to spend a fortune at the hotel gift shop trying to get those same items.
We research our destinations and we have an idea of the things we would like to do and the local attractions we’d like to see, but we remain flexible in case I need to rest in between activities. Plus, we try to go to popular places, but off-season in order to avoid the crowds. Inevitably, certain attractions have shortened hours, but with a little advanced planning, we enjoy everything that much more because there are so many fewer tourists around. When I am able to enjoy myself more, Bru is able to enjoy himself more, which makes it all worthwhile!
Sometimes we even do things that don’t involve eating or drinking, like this stop at Indian Echo Caverns near Hershey, PA.
I’m not saying I’ll never get on an airplane again, but I really wouldn’t mind if I didn’t. I am fortunate in that I did my share of traveling while I was young(er) and healthy. I haven’t been everywhere I dreamed of going, but these days, vacations have taken on a whole new meaning for us. Of course we still enjoy seeing new places and experiencing new things, but now it’s more about spending time together, enjoying each other, and getting away together. It’s about laughing and eating and drinking and more laughing.
Life with a chronic illness such as MS forces me to make compromises every single day. Those compromises don’t just involve every day activities, but also things seemingly as innocuous as a vacation away with my husband. Gone are the days of long, epic trips to exotic and exciting locales, such as Alaska (where we finally took our dream honeymoon for our tenth wedding anniversary), but that’s ok. We have discovered that we love exploring anywhere, and we actually really love road trips! And the truth of the matter is that vacations are also about relaxing and taking it easy, which we do a heck of a lot more of now.
Most healthy people would say I’m crazy, and perhaps even some of my fellow warriors out there (although I know at least four others who get me here!), but Bruce and I have never followed the herd, and we aren’t about to start now. We do things our way, and we don’t look back. While you take your fancy vacations to places like Europe or Hawaii, Bru and I will be at some craft brewery somewhere on the East coast, drinking beer and playing Sesame Street Chutes and Ladders.
(You know you’re jealous!)