Traveling Abroad with Multiple Sclerosis: A Trip* Over the Pond_*not the sudden gravity kinda trip, the kind you buy tickets for!_
In 2012 my husband, daughter and I did what had seemed like a pipe dream just a few months prior. We went to London, Paris and Berlin. This was unimaginable not only because our student loan debt consumes so much of our monthly budget; it was unthinkable because my life with MS had made it difficult for me to consider leaving the house, let alone flying to destinations unchartered by my apprehensive self. But the stars aligned and we were offered places to stay in all three cities.
Even more motivating was something I wouldn’t admit out loud. What I could do at that time might be better than what was yet to come. It was a realistic stance based on the squiggly line in the chart of my MS experience. And while optimism is my default, this realization added to the push to Just Do It!, and in that a couple of negatives made for a positive. I had an additional incentive to act now, while abilities last. ;)
It’s planning, planning & planning
(of course location is important too!)
Before I wheel us down the anecdotal path of the summer of 2012, let me share the resources I found most useful for peeps with challenged abilities. That way, if you are traveling this summer, next summer or anytime in the coming year, you can cut to the resource chase - and continue the read comfortably knowing you have a professional opinion on your to do list.
Rick has the approach that when you are traveling to distant lands you should think beyond the tourist traps and live as if you live there. There are peeps with challenges everywhere, even in historic towns with cobblestone streets. So your trip may be a bit bumpy at times (literally and figuratively) but there is a way to do what you want to do with a little preplanning. We all know that Running with the Bulls probably isn’t the best idea (for most humans) but there is always a way to do a variation on that theme if you know it exists. Rick is a great resource to tell you what exists and how you can get to it.
John Sage, author and travel guru, lives with physical challenges and I find his recommendations are spot-on. Even Rick Steves says John Sage is "all that." So there you have it - two opinions for the price of none. (If you’re a hard-copy-kinda person, Easy Access Europe was very helpful even though it’s now out of publication.) The Sage Traveling Facebook page is great for real time advice and answers to questions when you’re on the go - at any speed!
You CAN get there from here
Although I don’t use it regularly, I knew that if I wanted to see these cities I would have to play nice with my scooter. For me, my scooter creates its own MS struggle. Okay, It’s not my scooter's fault, it’s my brain’s fault. If it weren’t for my brain being victimized by my confused immune system, we wouldn’t be in this mess!
My MS differs day-to-day. Some days I can walk 158 feet, other days I can’t stand for 5 minutes. Some days I only need a walking stick to keep myself balanced, while other days I’m tied to my husband’s arm. With this ebb and flow of ability and inability, it is I who must make the call as to whether or not I need the scooter. And that, my friends, is truly a conflict of interest. While I appreciate that sometimes I feel better than other times, the internal debate can become more exhausting than the day is long.
I think that if I didn’t have any choice, it might be a huge pill to swallow at first but ultimately I would simply have to accept the reality.
But I am really good (we’re talking master’s degree level) at reasoning my way out of anything; so when asked, I will have a 3-tiered multimedia PowerPoint presentation at the ready. In this case, however, the tradeoffs were immense and I knew I needed to suck it up. Being able to see London, Paris & Berlin made it a no-brainer-or a no myelin-er as it were! ;)
Other summer posts from Amy Gurowitz
Summer Vacationing with MS Part 1
(In)dependance Day: How My Scooter Made its Parade Debut.
More from MS-expert Lisa Emrich who provides most meaningful posts for PWMS!