I should be packing my suitcase right now. One of my Favorite People is getting married in a much-anticipated celebration on the Central California coast this Saturday. My husband has a New Pastor’s Orientation just a few hours down the beach starting the next day. It has been cold and windy and grey for months and I could desperately use the sunshine.
Instead, I am sitting on my couch. Because right now I am not well enough to trek 1300 miles.
Perhaps the greatest struggle I have in this season navigating Congestive Heart Failure is learning how to travel well. I quickly transformed from being an easy-going navigator to someone whose name jumps on and off the No-Fly List. (Not the one held by the FBI. The more intimidating list stored in my Cardiologist’s brain.) For years it was easy to hop into the back seat of our mini-van to drive across the state or the country. I never gave it a second thought to drive out of town to friends for a weekend catch-up. I flew in and out of dozens of airports for far-away adventures. Now there are days I struggle to get across town.
So what does this mean for my life moving forward? Do I throw away my passport and decline every invitation outside of a 10-mile radius? As much as I enjoy exploring Northeast Kansas, I am not willing to give up precious time with my family and friends out of the area. And for that reason, I have changed the way I travel.
Caitlin’s Packing List for Those Who Love To Travel and Sometimes Annoyingly Can’t
Prior to Ticket Purchase
- Before every trip* you should ask yourself, “Is this really something I want and can I give it my full energy?” Travel to see people you love, to celebrate important milestones, to experience life-giving adventure. Don’t take a trip out of friend-induced guilt or familial pressure to be in photos. Reconsider if you are feeling lousy or lethargic. FOMO is a real concern but rarely the reason to move forward with plans.
- If the answer to the above question is a resounding “Yes!” talk to your health care team. This includes medical professionals, of course, but it also means having a conversation with others caring for you: your significant other, family members, a therapist or close friend. They can weigh in on how well you are doing (physically and emotionally) and help you think through the risks involved.
- * SIGNIFICANT SIDE NOTE : If you are traveling for work or another community obligation, consider speaking with your supervisor about how this trip will affect you. If someone else can vouch for you in the meeting room or if you can watch the seminar online, opt out for your own wellbeing.
As You Create Your Itinerary
- While you plan your adventure, build in extra time for everything. If you are flying, get to the airport early. If you have multiple flights, choose a longer layover. (I don’t think I can physically run more than twenty feet, much less an entire terminal trying to board a plane.) Don’t book your calendar too full–expect that it will take you longer to walk through the exhibit or shop in the market. Plus, the more buffer time you have built in the greater chance you have to rest.
- Review your limitations and apply them to your destination. If you, like me, have an elevation restriction make your doctors proud and Google the height of the cities you will travel through. Research restaurants to see if they can accommodate your diet. Talk to your family members and ask if they are willing to leave the wedding early should you feel fatigued.
- Know where the nearest hospital/medical provider is and keep that information on hand. Contact your insurance company about where you can receive care in case of an emergency. American carriers are notoriously nit-picky about what facilities are considered In- and Out-of-Network.
En Route to Your Destination
- Stay hydrated. And not just with pit stop Slurpees. Drink water.
- Keep your medications on hand and bring extra. Instead of tossing them in the trunk with the rest of the road trip luggage, put them in your purse/satchel/Ziploc bag and place them on or under your seat. NEVER put them in a checked bag to be stored (and then potentially lost) on an airplane.
- Make it a point to get up and move. I wear high-grade compression socks on all trips over ninety minutes and get up to walk every two hours. Sometimes this will require you to pull off the highway onto a gravel road in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes this means you have to awkwardly walk the center aisle of the plane and try not to make eye contact with other passengers. Whatever the case, it is worth it.
You Have Arrived!
- Once you have made it to the wonderful people and/or places you have been so excited to see, remember to take things at your usual pace. If you normally nap in the afternoon find a way to get back to the Airbnb for a siesta. If you are supposed to stay out of the sun consider time with friends at a coffee shop instead of the park. Don’t give up your usual habits in the name of adventure–it will drain your energy and potentially put you in harm’s way.
- Drink lots of water and stick with your dietary plan. If you have the temptation to overindulge consider using a food tracker app to keep you within your limits. Be cautious when exploring new and/or unusual cuisine–you need to feel your best for your journey home.
- Soak up every moment.