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Travel With Chronic Illness Requires Patience and Good Planning


When I was younger, my family moved around a lot. I also spent a lot of time traveling all over the Philippines with my mom, due to her government job. I especially loved going to the beach, whether to swim or just listen to the soothing sound of the waves crashing against the shore. I visited fishermen’s homes, sailed on the open sea, tagged along on mountain retreats, and enjoyed road trips to distant rural regions.

Now and then, my parents and I also would go on family vacations with other relatives, exploring tourist spots we’d never been to before. Our memories from those trips often occupied several rolls of film and filled dozens of pages of photo albums that I still lovingly browse to this day. I have an entire box of travel albums sitting in the attic of my current home. Even without looking at the photos, I can still remember how I felt in those moments: light, stress-free, and problem-free.

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But as I got older, I realized that taking vacations isn’t as simple as packing a bag and running off to a distant mountain anytime I feel like it. There are a lot of responsibilities behind every successful trip, from planning to budgeting, to preparing for potential emergencies.

And with chronic illness in the picture — my husband, Jared, has hemophilia and seizure disorder, and I have attention-deficit/hyperactivity and bipolar disorders — the decision to go on vacation isn’t an easy one.

Though Jared and I have gone on numerous spontaneous trips to nearby places and enjoyed the experience, traveling to a faraway province is a completely different story. We can’t simply impulsively drop everything and go on a long-distance trip. We must first consider our budget, then think about safety.

Some questions we must answer: Is the trip long enough for both of us to require more medication? Will we need to add stopovers so Jared won’t strain his back during a long drive? If an injury does occur, do we have money to spare in case he needs to be taken to a hospital? Or do we at least have insurance? Can we quickly contact other people who can help?

The reality of chronic illness is that our basic expenses tend to be greater than for people who don’t have health concerns. We must first budget for necessities, such as food, medications, and daily transportation. Only then can we think about other expenses, such as vacations.

However, as a person with mental illnesses, I recognize that I need opportunities to decompress and unwind. Jared’s physical conditions can be mentally stressful as well, and he also needs a break now and then. Plus, we have a young daughter, and she needs reassurance that life will be OK despite our physical and mental health struggles. Vacations serve as “happiness anchors” for children, reflecting the happiest memories of time spent together as a family. These can bring relief and respite during darker moments.

I used to think that material things would fill the void in my mind and soothe my anxieties. But as it turns out, material things tend to get old quickly as we get used to having them. Over time, they become less interesting. Experiences, on the other hand, leave an imprint on our minds that lasts for a long time. Positive experiences may even alter our psychological state permanently, for the better.

So even though vacations can be costly and tough to plan and their immediate opportunity cost may be apparent, there are advantages to taking them, even if only once in a while. A recent family vacation to the beach reminded me of this. I initially had apprehensions, but once we were there staring into the infinite horizon and feeling the foam of the sea tickle our toes, I realized it was all worth it.

Life is a balancing act, particularly with chronic illnesses. We must attend to our basic needs while also recognizing our human need for leisure and rest.

Note: Hemophilia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Hemophilia News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to hemophilia.

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