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Travel with Parkinson’s: Adapt & Overcome

Whether you are traveling near or far, a long time or short time, with friends or family or in the winter or summer, there is one thing that I have found to be true. You must be prepared for everything! I mean everything you do in your day, you must think about what is involved in the activities of the day and plan on how your mind and your body need to act in each situation. Our bodies don't react like they used to. We must think about moving every step of the day.' As you can imagine, this can be an exhausting endeavor.

But do not let PD stop you from traveling. If you prepare, your traveling days will be much more enjoyable. Let me give you some suggestions. As I have just returned from a 13 day trip to Italy’s southern coastline for a “relaxing” vacation with my husband, I realized what I could have done better to make my days a little bit easier. Some things seem like little changes and could hardly make a difference. But when you put a few of them together, they make a huge difference. You will understand as soon as I explain it. Our lives have become a life of body awareness, not moving the way we need it to and making adjustments in our new normal ways to move through the space that used to be so easy. I notice myself looking at other people move with such grace and agility sometimes and thirst for that to be me again.

First, I think the best way to be prepared for a day of travel is to be comfortable. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes. I have learned that you can be fashionable AND comfortable. No clothes that could get stuck on things, or in your way of walking or going up stairs. Things like flair jeans, long skirt, baggie sweater. You may be laughing, but I have gotten tripped up on a pair of flared jeans, and fell forward. I have gotten a baggy sleeve caught on a railing. And, going up or down stairs with a long skirt? Totally scary. Which reminds me. Always hold the railing both up and down. It is a rule of mine every single up and down, no matter what. Safe shoes are pretty obvious. Sneakers are great, even with a skirt or dress. If not sneaks, a low shoe with a back. One more item that we forget is our purse, backpack or whatever holds our “stuff” when we travel. Make sure it allows you to be hands-free and that it is not too heavy. Only bring what you need. I know I do not need 85% of what is in my purse. So, when traveling, I take a small cross body type bag for the necessities and leave the rest home. Now you will have what you need easily available while also having your hands to hold on for balance or leaning on something. These subtle tricks will be the start of your enjoyable day.

Before leaving the house, or the hotel, there are a few things to do to be prepared for your day. Know where you are going. Study your map, GPS or ask someone who knows the area. You don’t want to walk or drive miles in the wrong direction to find out you have to turn around and go back where you started. Minimize your steps and conserve your energy. Also, leave plenty of time to get to your destination. Rushing can cause stress which makes symptoms worse. We also need more time to do everything, so build in more time for yourself. The little things like tying your shoes, putting your coat on, getting in and out of the car/taxi/bus, getting money out of your wallet are all more challenging and take more time. Oh, and don’t forget to go to the bathroom. I have learned that every time I leave the house, a restaurant, a hotel, any venue, I go to the bathroom even it I don’t feel the urge. It does usually help prevent emergency runs to the toilet when arriving at your next destination.

With that said, the next thing I recommend is to bring water wherever you go. But then there is the bathroom issue. Drinking water is great for you and prevents dehydration, but you must balance drinking too much and needing the bathroom and not have one close when travel. Your medications also need to be planned out for your day. Be sure to pack your meds and keep them with you all day.

Once you are prepared and ready for your trip, I have a few suggestions to think about while you are off for your adventurous day. I think the main idea is to remain focused. Be aware of where you are, where you are stepping, how your body needs to shift, or how your balance will be effected. Watching for curbs, thresholds, brick walkways, grass, narrow pathways, dark areas, and crowded areas are part of my constant attention. I am focused on each step so as not to catch my foot on something and trip. Walking should be focused. IF talking on the phone, looking at the GPS, or eating an ice cream cone, have a seat somewhere or stand aside. Dual tasking is not good in this situation. You are on a vacation, so have a seat and enjoy your day.

As with everything in our lives, traveling has a new normal. We can either accept it and adapt and overcome or stay home. The choice is yours. Safe travels.

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