For many people, flying is already a nightmare. For people with endometriosis, there’s an added layer of difficulty. In this multi-part series, “Flying with Endometriosis”, I want to talk about some of things we can do to make travel a bit easier.
Sorry about my recent absence! My computer is utterly broken and I’m still adjusting to the app so there has been a bit of a break. I’ll try and return to more regular posting now, noting I’ll jet-setting off this very day, but expect posts to have a slightly funny format whilst I familiarise myself with the WordPress app.
Ok, we’ve gone through our pre-flight checklist, packed our carry-ons for maximum comfort, and dressed to impress our endo bellies. What else do we need to do?
This is less a post and more a list of things to consider for your trip that didn’t really fit into my previous three articles, but are still really important. I’ve divided them up into topics below.
Is your carry-on manageable, or will it put pressure on sore joints if you have a flare-up? Think about the type of bag that is most comfortable for you. Although I’ve gone for a messenger bag for its capacity and great storage, it’s probably not the best choice if I start to end up in pain as the weight is not easily distributed across my body. A backpack or small wheeled case (although I often find I’m too tall to manage these comfortably) would be the more sensible option.
Is your main luggage easy to manoeuvre? I prefer a suitcase with four wheels to the traditional two. Firstly, it is easier for my tall self to handle without it running into my heels, and secondly, it trundles along happily next to me with minimal effort – great if my pain starts to flare. A large rucksack/hiking pack is not so great for me as it presses on my lower back and requires me to bear a fair amount of weight, which my battered bod doesn’t love.
Have you packed it for best weight distribution? Remember, heavy stuff near the wheels, light stuff at the other end. I find packing cubes invaluable for organising everything inside the suitcase.
Is your hotel close by? After a long flight, it isn’t always a good idea to jump straight into sightseeing. You want to dump your luggage and explore in freedom, and possibly get a bath or shower to help relax your pelvis and work out any knots. Make sure that your hotel is either possible for you to walk to without inducing a flare-up, or that you can easily acquire transport there.
Have you scouted out local food options? If you are on the endo diet, low FODMAP diet or similar, you may want to know in advance where you can safely eat to prevent you having to go traipsing round the city in search of options when you are exhausted from your flight. A lot of travel bloggers and the like will turn up their nose at people who aren’t prepared to try all the wildest local cuisine, but it isn’t always practical when you have dietary restrictions. Don’t feel bad if you can’t or just don’t want to – food is not the only part of travel and you are not a “bad” tourist if you can’t handle the local food.
Are you near a doctor or chemist? Make a point of knowing the closest one to your hotel. Most chronically ill people are going to be pretty well-prepared to manage their conditions on the go, but things can go unexpectedly wrong, luggage can get lost or stolen, and medications can get confiscated by unsympathetic security staff. You never know when you will need a bit of medical assistance so better safe than sorry.
Are you confident you can manage the activities you have scheduled? Make sure you know the refund policies of any booked activities just in case, and make sure you know your limits. I love guided tours as a good way to familiarise myself with a new city, but many involve a lot of walking. If you think it will be too much, consider a tour that involves transport such as a car, bus, bicycle, rickshaw, boat or tuk tuk.
Have you scoped out wheelchair hire? Many people with endo won’t need to fall back on a wheelchair, but I often do. Knowing where I can pick one up offers me far more flexibility than I would otherwise have.
If you do need a chair, are the places you want to see wheelchair-friendly, and will getting there in a chair be an option? You want to make sure that the chair helps you, not limits you. Using it as much as possible in accessible locations will ensure that you have the energy and spoons to get around less accessible locations on other days.
Do you have a couple of catch-phrases in the local language? Being able to say “help” and “I don’t speak X, do you speak English?” may just make the difference between being alone and in pain and being able to get the help you need. You don’t need to memorise the phrase book, but a couple of sentences can be so useful.
Do you have a map, either physical or on your phone? When I get a flare and have serious pain, my ability to think, plan and act is totally compromised. Being able to access the map function on my phone and have it tell me where to go is so useful. All I have to do is push through and follow instructions rather than try and navigate my way back to bed through an unfamiliar city.
What other steps would you take, endo-havers? Anything you always try to think about in your travels? Let me know in the comments!