This post is guest written by ChronicBabe Michelle R.
I’m Michelle. I’m currently attending school in Stockholm to multitask on my dreams of going back to school and living in Europe. I also have an autoimmune disease called ITP (Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia Purpura if you feel sassy), in addition to Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Living abroad with health challenges can be annoying, but it hasn’t stopped me from exploring my new surroundings.
I travel when possible, and it usually turns out to be solo. Being a “sick” single gal on the go is tricky, but often more rewarding. I found that with extra planning, trips by myself are possible! Each journey I discover something new about managing my health, and here are some self-care tricks and practical tips I’ve learned so far.
Shyness is nice! (eh, sorta)
The Smiths song “Ask” has some of my favorite advice: “Shyness is nice, and shyness can stop you from doing all the things in life you’d like to.” When I need help or advice I buck up and just ask someone. This is essential for me despite feeling anxious to do so. Asking around has also led to making new friends or getting some tips that make the journey more enjoyable.
“Just in case” Case
Stranded at a bus stop in the middle of nowhere in a country where you don’t speak the language is not a fun place to be. I make sure to carry extra water, snacks, meds (don’t forget the Rx if you have it), tiny first aid kit, and extra charger until I can get somewhere where I can get something to eat/directions. I’m hopeful, but I try and anticipate any sticky situations.
Self Aid Bonuses
I also carry some supplemental bonuses that help with anxiety or just well-being in general. This could include pedialyte packets, headphones for calming podcasts or music, and scented oil when I need more zen. The headphones/music helps especially when I know I’m going to be in crowded, unfamiliar areas that might trigger anxiety, such as a subway or major tourist spot where everyone’s loud and slapping me in the face with their selfie sticks. It’s happened more than once.
It sounds obvious but sometimes I forget to just sit and take a breather! It’s amazing how you can turn anything into a seating arrangement. Window sills, curbs, concrete street barriers. Anything. Most recently in Rome while trying to find shade outside the colosseum I found some tiny space around the base of an ancient pillar ruin to sit on. If you need a rest but there’s no actual seating – give MacGyver a run for his money and get creative.
Pace is the Place
This goes with sitting. At times my body will give me signals (for me that includes bruising or spots on my skin) to slow down and pace myself. Often I’ll see people going up a hill for a hike or a more scenic view, and get ahead of myself thinking I should. But sometimes you just gotta say “not worth it,” turn around, and go relax in the town square with a smoothie.
Usually I’ll pay extra to get a local SIM card and have access to a data to find food/transport. If you’re traveling somewhere that has great wifi (lookin at you, Dublin) then you can probably skip this. Pop into a local mobile store and ask what their temp options are if you don’t already have a good travel plan with your current provider.
– If unable to walk a lot, budget extra for supplemental options. Shuttle buses or nicer trains with more comfortable seating/disability access/AC can be a relief during longer trips!
– You don’t have to go into detail, but a simple “medical condition” or pointing to your med ID might help people get the idea pretty easily when needing assistance. If anything, you’ll become a pro at charades.
– Being vegetarian is so common that if you can’t convey dietary restrictions in a native language, just saying ‘vegetarian’ will be enough and they’ll usually bring something you can work with. Alternately, seek out markets to make something tasty on your own and hit the local park to dine al fresco!
And remember, if you’re on Prednisone and start crying at a restaurant for no reason (been there) – just tell them the food was THAT good.
**This is the third of many in a guest contributor series. If you would like to be considered as a guest writer for ChronicBabe, visit this link.**