Do you find traveling with fibromyalgia a big challenge due to the many variables? Living with fibromyalgia and related conditions since a very young age, I can attest to these challenges and I would like to share some of the various tools that I use to counteract some of these and in fact, create a space in our minds and bodies where vacations and travel can become something we look forward to rather than dread.
I do know very well the challenges. I know the feeling of concern or fear. When your spouse or family member announces it is time for a vacation, wouldn’t you love for your first thought to be of excitement and “I can’t wait” instead of “how will this go?” and all the fears that come in when living with fibromyalgia.
Traveling should be a time of inspiration. A time when we can let go, reflect, get inspired by traveling to places we’ve never been and also a time to re-connect with family and close friends.
Some of what I talk about regarding vacation and travel correlates well with my “straw theory” where it is not so much about avoiding activities, but more about avoiding toxic places, environments, and even people that are not good for us. You see, the more we limit ourselves, the more we become limited. With fibromyalgia, we have to continually learn how to navigate around the illness so that it does not put so many limitations on our lives. What follows are a few suggestions for traveling with fibro.
1. Remind yourself that getting out and doing new things is good for the soul. Do not allow negative thoughts to come in about any limitations or perceived barriers.
Isolation, staying at home, and avoiding traveling with fibromyalgia on vacations only perpetuates fibromyalgia and related conditions. Yes, I know what it is like to travel with the co-condition of MCS, and have to protect myself against toxins in hotels, planes, rental cars, etc. We have to be assertive, refer to #3 regarding MCS factors and more ways to protect yourself.
Also, I like to pray to be inspired by something during my vacation. I do this before leaving as well as praying for safety and protection. I remind myself that I am not in control and try to approach the vacation as a child would, with wonder and imagination, and most of all excitement!!
2. Remember that the first few hours and days of travel are often the most challenging, as your body works to acclimate. This is also the time where you are likely sitting for longer periods of time, putting a strain on your legs, lower back and neck. It is not uncommon for a fibro body to have increased symptoms during the first 24-36 hours of travel. You might also find that the mornings of any vacation are more challenging, and you will really have to support your mind and body, working together to keep your spirits high, and remind yourself why you need to “push on those walls”
The reason I make this reminder is that many non fibro people land at their destination with anticipation and joy. With fibromyalgia, you may be working through symptoms at this point, so a reminder to yourself AND those around you may be in order. They need to know that you are excited, but you need a little decompression time. This is YOUR vacation too.
3. If you live with the co-condition of multiple chemical sensitivity as I do, then you want to protect yourself whenever possible while exposed to airplanes, buses, rental cares, etc. These can be toxic places. I carry a face mask that I show in one of my MCS articles, scroll near to bottom, and you can see one of my favorites. These are more effective than the disposable ones, so try to be prepared, but even a paper mask will be helpful at the last minute.
Environmental toxins can easily increase fibromyalgia pain and symptoms, so be prepared, call ahead to hotels and rental homes to be sure they do not use things like plug in air fresheners, toxic cleaning chemicals, or any fragrances where you will be staying and sleeping.
4. Support from family, friends, and your spouse is essential. One thing I know is that when we have options, we are more able to manage symptoms when traveling with fibromyalgia. It has taken years for my husband to be more understanding of my travel needs, but now that he does, this makes a huge difference for me. There was one vacation, where my husband and I walked into a very toxic rental home, and because of his understanding as to how that would affect my symptoms, we turned around and found another place.
Yes, for many family members and friends, this level of understanding is a process when traveling with fibromyalgia. It just takes time. As much as I want you to be able to adhere to point number one, if you do not have good support that will lend you options, this can and potentially will cause more suffering. I would never want you to be in that position, because as always, I am on your side, I get it, and I know that there are many variables with traveling.
5. Bring some things from home that make you “feel at home” while you are traveling with fibromyalgia. Some of these may be things you need anyway like your favorite neck pillow or a weighted blanket to help with sleep. At the same time, try to keep it simple and don’t feel that you have to bring everything. Allow yourself to “miss” a few things. While packing, breathe and let go.
Many of us are perfectionists. Try not to worry about packing just right. I used to worry I wouldn’t have something I needed, and would over pack. That seemed to cause more clutter. Instead focus on the basics and essentials like warm clothes (jackets and sweaters) and comfortable shoes. Even if traveling to a warm climate, do not forget the sweaters for night time and unexpected drops in temperature.
6. We all tend to have different ideas of what a vacation means to us. For some, it is about packing in as many activities as possible, or a lot of sightseeing. For others, it might be a time for total relaxation. One of the worst things is to be traveling with fibromyalgia on vacation, and feel like you are on a different page than those you are with. Talk ahead of time about what your intentions are. There is no right or wrong when it comes to vacations.
This is another area where you might need options. If you are with someone who wants to do an activity that you do not like, or may be dangerous for you, then there is nothing wrong with separate activities part of the time when traveling with fibromyalgia. You know what is best for you.
7. Vacations usually go by quickly, yet when you are experiencing an increase of symptoms or flare, it may seem that it is never going to end. You might have a tendency to panic. This happens to me, especially when I am not sleeping well on vacation. Even one sleepless night will make you wish you were back at home. When that happens, focus on what you CAN control.
Remember that when we “push on those walls” it is not always about pushing them down, but rather about learning things about ourselves, getting inspired, and creating empowerment. Some of the very first words I wrote in this website some 6 years ago was that this condition is about the very opposite of that. It would like nothing more than to keep you down. NO fake smiles, NO “I'm okay” when you're really not. No, I am talking REAL empowerment that comes when you have one small success after another.
Remember my Five Keys : Love, Belief, Determination, Consistency, and Proactivity.