I traveled 133 days in 2019. Here are my personal tips for traveling with fibromyalgia.
On a good day, I have nerve pain in only four parts of my body. Usually, it’s the right shoulder to face, left hip to foot, both hands, and both feet. On a bad day, I have nerve pain throughout my whole body so everything I already mentioned plus the left upper body, right lower body, and back.
Overall, I get fatigued and moody very easily, I don’t sleep well, my muscles ache constantly, and I have a lot of food sensitivities. Yet I’m a travel blogger who travels for food… not the best job for me, right?
Well, my passion for travel developed before my fibromyalgia. I started traveling in 2005 when I was 17 and vowed to visit a new country every year since then. My fibromyalgia started in December 2012 and hasn’t given up, but neither have I. I’m as stubborn as my health issues so instead of giving in, I’ve just adjusted the way I travel.
Here are my tips for traveling with fibromyalgia or chronic pain to hopefully inspire you to continue (or start) traveling despite the continual pain you’re in.
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Understand Your Limits
Before you can do any type of planning, you need to be honest with yourself and understand the limits of your health. Get to really know yourself by asking yourself these types of questions:
- How long does it take for you to get tired after walking?
- How long can you sit for without being in pain?
- How much weight can you handle carrying to and from the airport?
- When do you feel your best, and when are you the most fatigued?
Once you are aware of what you can or cannot handle, then the fun of planning can begin! If you’re already feeling like you can’t do much based on those questions above, don’t worry. Even if you can only walk for 30 minutes or sit for an hour, there is a lot you can do while traveling, which includes traveling itself!
Plan for Traveling with Fibromyalgia
The best defense to fibromyalgia or chronic pain while traveling is to plan extensively. Here are some things to think about when planning.
The further a destination is, the more you’ll be sitting on a bus or plane and the more exhausting travel might be. If it’s your first time traveling with fibromyalgia or you’re in a lot of pain, aim for someplace closer so you cut down on travel time. If you want to go someplace further away, then consider adding in additional days for travel recovery in the beginning of your trip when you first arrive at your destination and at the end when you return home.
Type of Transportation
The type of transportation and how comfortable it is can impact the ease of your trip. Planes and trains give you the option to get up, walk around, and stretch, but you may be “stuck” on there for awhile. Driving gives you the option to make as many stops as you want, but you may be feel more cramped in a car. Weigh the pros and cons of each mode of transportation.
Some places can unexpectedly require lots of walking or climbing stairs so thinking through how you’ll be getting around once you’re in a place matters. Generally, cities are easier to explore than suburban areas because of the availability of public transportation and handicap accessibility, but some cities are not always fibromyalgia friendly.
Take New York City for example. Yes, there’s public transportation everywhere, but in between riding the subway or getting to a station, you can to walk blocks or even walk a few flights up stairs if you’re inside a big subway station. On the other hand, Amsterdam is a compact with a public transportation system above ground so there’s not a huge need for a ton of walking.
Choose Activities With Little to No Physical Activity
- Visit a hot spring or resort with a sauna and jacuzzi.
- Take a cooking class. (e.g. I took a baguette baking class in Paris where everyone stood the whole time. I asked for a high stool and sat.)
- Rent an electric bike. (e.g. I rented an electric bike in both Berlin and Lyon, which took out the need for me to walk to and from public transportation and made traveling easy.)
- Relax or enjoy a picnic at the beach or park.
- People watch in city center.
- Take a bus or canal tour.
- Dine at a Michelin star restaurant.
- Take a wine tasting class.
My favorite non-physical activities are riding an electric bike and eating, which made this food tour on an electric bike the perfect activity for me.
Sometimes if I’m feeling up to it, I’ll go on a light hike. But if you have sticky knee joints like you, you need the best knee braces for hikers to make it easier!
Plan Times for Resting and Working Out
Just because you’re abroad doesn’t mean you should stray from your normal routine. Plan in time for resting, working out, and stretching. You will be moving in ways that your body is not used to such as lifting bags or walking a little extra than usual so maintaining your routine is of utmost importance. Keep those muscles limber!
You might even want to get a massage or acupuncture treatment while traveling if you get regular massages at home.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Having a good night’s sleep can make all the difference in how our day goes so make sure to get a good night’s rest. Of course, this is something you can plan ahead for by looking at reviews of hotels or Airbnbs to see what other people have to say about the beds and noisiness of your vacation neighborhood.
To ensure a good night’s sleep, or at the very least, falling asleep asap, I bring my Nayoya acupressure mat with me when traveling! It’s a mat that has spikes on it and presses into your back. Like acupressure, it increases blood flow in the areas that it’s pressing on and relieves stress and soothes muscles. For me, it makes me quite relaxed and helps me fall asleep in 10 minutes!
Pack Light But Smart
Carrying around luggage adds extra strain on your already unwanted nerve pain, muscle tension, and fatigue so pack light. Try to aim for only a backpack’s worth of clothes and one pair of shoes so that you can use the rest of the space in your luggage to carry medicine, supplements, and exercise tools that’ll help you manage your fibromyalgia while traveling.
It may sound ridiculous, but I used to bring an exercise ball with me. I’d deflate it, pack it away, and pump it up at my Airbnb. Now I mainly bring my Nayoya mat and myofascial ball to get out knots.
For packing smart, I separate all my items out into my Lewis N Clark packing cubes, and for the million supplements I take, I use a jewelry organizer to bring them all. I don’t like to carry all the bottles ’cause that takes up too much space, and I don’t like to use the medicine organizers intended for travel because sorting out my supplements out by day isn’t ideal.
Myofascial release ball
For organizing supplements and medicine
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Pick Accommodation in a Good Location
Before I got fibromyalgia, I would stay at a cheaper hotel a little bit outside the popular areas to save money. However, since I need to go back to my place at least 1-2x a day to rest or stretch, I now get a hotel right smack dab in the middle of city center or very close to the places you really want to go to. It gives me the opportunity to go back to my accommodation whenever I need and makes it much less of a hassle.
Travel With a Friend or Solo
I travel a lot with my husband but have also traveled a couple of times solo. Each has its benefits. If you can travel with a friend who is aware of your illness, then your friend can help you out with your bags or even be there for support when you need to talk out your pain. However, traveling solo is great because you are completely free to move at your own pace and can do whatever you want. Each has its own pros and cons so figure out what may work best for you!
Fibromyalgia is the pits, but the worst part about it is that it prevents us from doing what we love. Don’t let it. Start small or go big. Whatever you do, just get out there. Despite having to push through the nerve pain and muscle tension, you’ll be happy that you’re out and about someplace other than the couch of your living (where I am right now).
Thanks for making it all the way down to the end of this post. If you found it to be helpful, you might like what I share on my Instagram @sarchetrit. You might like what I post on there too.
Till then, thanks for stopping by, and have a great day!