Dream it, Plan it, Do It!
Last week I did something that has been firmly on my to do list for the last couple of years. I travelled overseas, for the first time since my diagnosis! Although when making the plans with my friend who was flying in to meet me there, I was cool calm and collected I was beyond nervous about going.
Previously I have done a fair bit of travelling on planes for work and leisure. The trips have all been interstate travel with the longest journey being to Perth approximately nine years ago. This was all pre MS, so I didn’t struggle with pain, fatigue and and brain fog. Now short plane trips to familiar places are not so scary, though the longer the trip the harder the journey and the more anxiety attached.
When I made the decision to go to Fiji this year there were so many more elements I needed to now consider. No doubt every traveller asks similar questions like, what’s the weather going to be like, which airline will I fly with, what should I pack. You know the general questions you ask no matter where you are going.
This time for me, it was different! Every question led me to other questions. How will I manage sitting for 5 hours, what if I get cramps? Should I get stronger pain medication? How well will I be functioning if I don’t sleep on the plane? Will I be able to negotiate the customs on the other end not being familiar with the airport layout? Oh so many questions and that was just the flying, there were many more about the resort and my stay there!!
There were many times leading up even the week before leaving that I thought about not going, and allowing the MS to win. Throwing it into the too hard basket. As I was travelling from my end by myself, it added to my anxiety though in the end I was determined to tick this off my post diagnosis list.
I am a strong believer that disability or chronic illness, where it allows, should never stop you from achieving a dream. Yes, we may have to adapt our idea of that dream and approach it differently to others, though where there is a will there is a way. At times we just need to become a little creative. Think outside the square and if that isn’t how our minds work, engage with someone who can suggest ideas outside the box.
So with that in mind, here is how I prepared for my overseas trip.
Research! Read everything you can about where your going. I’m not talking about the history, what I am talking about is the general things. What is their weather like at that time of year you are thinking of going ( I used that information to decide on when the best time for me to go was. ) Their currency, do they deal in Australian dollars, do you need to tip, what forms of payment to they accept (I found out that the resorts prefer card, as a security measure)? Public transport, getting around. Their health system (this is extremely important for people with health conditions) where is the nearest hospital? Read reviews from other travellers. Look and print off a map of the airports (I got caught out at Fiji airport as they are doing renovations I failed to read about) immerse yourself until you feel like you have been there before.
Plan for the worst, hope for the best. As I was travelling to Fiji and aware that the weather could be hot, I packed a cooling necktie, though also allowed for the unseasonal cold spell and packed a cardigan. Allowing for layers if I needed. I made sure I booked a air-conditioned room and that I would have access to fresh water. Again ask the questions, do they have elevators, can you have a room on the ground floor, if you need.
Medications. If you need it at home on a regular basis, then take it with you. When I was packing my suitcase I became so aware of all the medications I regularly take and had a moment there where I thought, do I really need those. The answer was yes, if I didn’t pack them and needed them it could ruin my trip. Also I couldn’t be sure that where I was staying would have access to the medications I needed. Take the stress out and pack what you need.
Get travel insurance. Yes, it is a given and another unfortunate bi-product of living with a disability or chronic illness that travel insurance is going to be more expensive than the average traveller. However, if something happens while you are overseas, it will be far more expensive than what you pay to have the insurance. Shop around, and listen to recommendations from people with MS who have already travelled. There are a few companies out there that do cover existing conditions.
I chose to sit in the aisle seat on the plane, yes there was the inconvenience of people walking past and the flight attendants and their trolleys, though it took the stress out of needing to climb over people to go to the toilet. Travelling with incontinence I am forever scoping out the easier toilet access I can find to avoid accidents. It also gave me more space to stretch my legs.
Things I would do differently next time. As I flew direct from Melbourne to Fiji the flight was overnight. Next time I would look to fly during the day and maybe fly to Sydney and then on to Fiji. This would also mean that I am able to stretch my legs and have a break from the cramping on the plane.
Now the ultimate question (which I have been asked since I returned) Did I feel refreshed when I came back! Honestly, the answer is not really. It wasn’t as if I could leave my MS at home and have a holiday from it, although that would have been nice. Did I have a relaxing time? Yes! There is nothing more relaxing than lying on the beach, drinking cocktails on Fiji time!
Was it worth going then? Absolutely! The experience of going somewhere new, unplugging from my normal life and spending quality time with my friend, completely outweighs the inconvenience of travelling with Multiple Sclerosis. So much so, we already have our next overseas trip in the planning stages.
Its as great big world out there waiting for you. Dream it, Plan it, Do It! As they say, we only live once, so why not fill it with adventures.