One of my all time favorite hobbies is traveling!! Even better if it involves a tropical destination where I can surf ! Most of my trips have included all of those elements ,but one thing I wish it did not include was my migraine symptoms ruining my vacation . I was born with a genetic defect called Cavernous Angioma Angioma Alliance | Because Brains Shouldn't Bleed . This condition causes the veins in my brain to become weak and bleed . I have had three different brain bleeds in my life and because of this my brain is very sensitive. When I am exposed to too much physical or mental stress ,like traveling, it causes me to experience migraines.
My migraine symptoms include: head pain and muscle tightness across the top of my head, a rocking sensation when I walk, nausea, fatigue, feeling overwhelmed, brain fog and ringing in my ears. These are all things you DO NOT want to feel when you are on vacation !!! The discouraging thing is that I can feel great at home and have days where I feel 100%, but once I step on that plane my brain freaks out.
On my recent surf trip to Puerto Rico I wanted to be prepared and do everything possible to feel good !! So I did my research. Since I experience migraines I went to one of my favorite websites Migraine Strong - Migraine Support, Diets, and Healthy Living and read up on all the helpful tips they have for traveling with migraine (link added below). I know that we all don't suffer from the same chronic illness so I encourage you to find a facebook group or website and talk with your doctor about how you can help your symptoms when you travel.
I found ways that I could be proactive to help myself before and during my trip (tips listed below) and I also talked with my doctor. Even though I take a daily migraine medication I knew that would not be enough for my trip . My doctor was able to prescribe me medication to take when I felt a migraine come on when I was traveling . I was SOOOO grateful to have this quick acting medication because even though I did all of the things listed below to prevent my symptoms from coming on I still got migraines and absolutely needed it . Since I had this medication I was able to feel well enough to enjoy my trip !!!!!!
I have been the type of person my whole life that never wanted to take meds and always tried natural remedies for relief, but unfortunately they do not always work for me. I have decided that it is ok to take prescriptions to improve my quality of life. I am not a failure and neither are you if you need them. I try to remind myself that it is not natural that my brain bleeds so if the natural remedies don't work it is ok . Ultimately I want to enjoy my life to the fullest if taking medications to achieve this than why not. This also doesn't mean I rely solely on prescription medications to help me. I believe that by taking good care of my body that when it is necessary for me to take a prescription medication it works that much better because of all the work that I have already put into keeping myself healthy.
I was so grateful that I was able to enjoy this surf trip with my friends. I snorkeled, surfed , hiked the rainforest, traveled to other islands and enjoyed some of the most pristine beaches I have ever been to . I would say I felt great and would rate this trip a 90% out of 100%. The only reason I would not rate it a 100% is what happened when I came back home.
Once I got home my migraines spiraled out of control again and as I am sitting here writing this I haven't surfed since I got back home which has been 3 months. Was I disappointed that after the trip I felt like crap again? YES ! Did I cry about it ? YUP ! Does this mean I am going to give up on traveling and surfing ? NOPE !! What this means is I had to go back to the drawing board. I visited with my doctors and talked with them about what happened and we are working on trying out new medications now to help me get ready for my next surf trip .
It's not easy having to pick yourself up . It's not easy trying new medications. It's not easy being out of the water for long periods of time . It's just not EASY having a chronic illness, but we just can't give up ! I have hope that I will learn more about myself each time I travel and I have hope that you can do the same . Below are a few things that helped me and I hope they will help you as well. If you are a surfer with a chronic illness and have tips that have helped you when you travel please message me ! I would love to hear about them! firstname.lastname@example.org
- Book a flight mid day. This way you don't have to get up too early. No matter what chronic illness you have, getting enough rest is so important.
- Pack Early. Once you book your trip, start packing early, purchasing items for your trip , renew your prescription medications and schedule who will take care of your pets or be house sitting. Doing all of this early will help you avoid a lot of stress!
- Pack snacks for every day of your trip. Make sure these snacks already agree with you and won't flare up your symptoms ( this is not the time to try something new) . Almost every single day of my trip I needed my emergency snacks!! Since I had them on hand I never got hangry or crashed !! A plus for myself and everyone around me , lol.
- Stay Hydrated and make sure to pack a reusable water bottle.
- Avoid trigger foods. Caffeine and chocolate trigger my symptoms. So I strictly avoid these while on vacation.
- Ear Planes : These ear plugs help your ears compensate for the pressure in the airplane cabin and could prevent a migraine. Amazon.com: New Super Soft Adult EarPlanes® Ear Plugs Airplane Travel Ear Protection 3 Pair : Health & Household
- Pack emergency migraine meds and natural treatments. I take nurtec for my emergency migraine medication , peppermint beadlets for nausea , Magnesium glycinate, caffeine free tea bags and an insta hot pack to put on my head when the pain comes on.
- Take it easy the first day . I know it's easier said than done. Especially when it is a surf trip !! I usually don't surf the first day , instead I like to take the time to check out the surf breaks and beaches.
- Know where the hospitals are, how to call the local authorities and I also make sure my husband and I are up to date on our CPR training. I am at a higher risk for seizures than most people and many times we are surfing where there are no lifeguards, so it is a good idea to be prepared.
- Know your limits. You don't have to surf everyday. If you pace yourself you will be able to enjoy more of your trip.
- Have a plan for what you will do if you have a bad day on vacation . Make it a day you would actually look forward to. I know this sounds crazy, but hear me out . Instead of lying in bed at your Airbnb or hotel feeling sorry for yourself, maybe you could bring a book/magazine you have been wanting to read, order some take out or room service , book a massage, watch a movie or get creative and bring your drawing tools and sketch your surroundings etc.... make it more like a lazy day in and try to keep a positive attitude.
If you would like to read the full blog post about Tips for Traveling with Migraine by Migraine Strong click here : Traveling With Migraine - How To Avoid Airplane Headache And Other Migraine Pitfalls - Migraine Strong