Back in 2017, I shared the story of my stepdad, Tim’s, first time traveling abroad with MS.
While it was definitely an adventure for my family, what made this experience even more memorable was everything Tim, my mom and I learned about the challenges visiting different countries (or traveling in general) with MS and how to deal with the symptoms along the way...
It's true. Traveling with a disability is challenging. Many parts of the world were unfortunately built primarily for people without disabilities with no second thought to those who have trouble getting around. For example, while on our recent trip to Europe, my step-dad Tim, who uses a cane to get around, tried his best to avoid the countless cobblestoned streets and struggled with the long, narrow staircases in many bed and breakfasts.
However, despite inconvenient sidewalks and steps up to old buildings, Tim found his trip much more accessible than he was expecting. That's because, to quote Bob Dylan, "times they are a changing," and the world's view toward accessibility is changing with it. To put it in a more simply, travel is becoming more inclusive to everyone who has the desire. Destinations are finally acknowledging that people of every age and ability, no matter what their physical or mental hurdles are, deserve to get out of their homes and experience new places...
This past June, I had the privilege of traveling to Europe with my mom and my stepdad Tim, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2000. Tim has common symptoms of MS, including fatigue, sensitivity to temperature and numbness. But the symptoms Tim struggles with the most are cognitive. His difficulty with short term memory, word finding and delayed processing makes everyday activities challenging. Now, take all those problems and go to an entirely new city in a foreign country, and you can imagine how difficult it can be.
When it comes to MS, a lot of time goes into discussing the physical symptoms, although 50% of people living with MS experience cognitive symptoms...
If you have ever taken a flight, you know how stressful airports can be. Some flights run smoothly, while others are delayed with little warning. People walking as slow as they possibly can, others at full sprint. Predicting what a day at the airport will entail is almost impossible.
Basically, no matter how well you prepare, airports are generally one of the most hectic parts of a vacation. Multiple sclerosis adds another hurdle into this mix. After all, large airports, varying temperatures and gate changes test the limits of even the healthiest travelers...
As my trip to Europe with my mom and step-dad draws nearer, I’ve started to think about what I’m going to bring along. For me, one of the most stressful parts of planning a vacation is figuring out what to pack. What if I pack too much? What if I forget something? What if the weather is crazy?
Having a packing list can help you remember what to bring, especially if you have MS induced memory loss. To fight back against this symptom, I have a couple of suggestions.
Let me start by saying that I don't have multiple sclerosis. I cannot profess to know first-hand the everyday struggles of living with the disease. Nonetheless, MS has become a major part of my life over the last 12 years ever since my mom met Tim.
Twelve summers ago, my mom, Janet, met the man she would eventually marry. They were both single, in their early 40s and raising teenagers—a stressful time all around...