Avoiding the Guilt Trip

In preparation for my travels, I am developing a set of guidelines for traveling with fibromyalgia. My latest thought came to me while gardening this morning. I was digging out a particularily stubborn weed and thinking about how all my effort would require a nap later in the afternoon if I didn’t want to collapse in exhaustion before a friend’s birthday dinner. The perfectionist in me began to complain, claiming it was lazy to nap away an afternoon that could be spent cleaning, writing, reading, or gardening. That’s when it hit me – to avoid the extremes of either constant guilt-trips or landing myself in the hospital, I will need to adjust my expectations of what I can physically do while traveling.

 Key #2: Adjust your expectations. The days of non-stop, go-til-you-drop sightseeing is a thing of the past. It is physically impossible for me to see and do every sight and activity in a tightly condensed schedule. I have to accept this reality and avoid feeling guilty. Besides, travel is supposed to be relaxing, an escape from the daily routine – guilt is not welcome!

Of course, this is easier said than done for a recovering perfectionist. I need to rewire how I think about travel and daily life. Instead of rushing to the next big sight, I should instead live in the moment and savor the experience. Find a cafe and nurse a cup of espresso as the people parade passes by. Lounge on the glittering waters of the Adriatic. Leisurely stroll the streets and interact with the locals. Try the locals’ method of relaxation, like the Turkish baths in Budapest.

In other words, instead of trying to fit as much as possible into 24 hours, I should choose one major sight a day, such as a museum, and expect to spend the rest of my day living. By slowing down, I will give my body a chance to restore its energy, and I will experience the world from a different, possibly even better, perspective. I will notice the details I would have otherwise missed while rushing to the next crowded museum. I might even make some new friends! The less I behave like a tourist, the more open I am to new people and experiences.

In the end, if I expect less of my sightseeing itinerary and allow myself a leisurely pace, I’ll have a richer, healthier travel experience. Without the side of guilt.

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About chronictraveler

Chronic Traveler starts as a dream, one that I thought I had lost, but that has slowly changed into a mission to realize and live that dream every day. In December 2007 I became seriously ill and the doctors did not know what was causing my illness. I had to stop teaching as my life tumbled into a never-ending nightmare of doctors, hospitals and tests. Finally, in May 2008 I was diagnosed with a chronic condition - fibromyalgia. I was only 26 years old at the time. I have had to give up teaching, and now work part-time at a performing arts center as I learn how to manage my condition and improve my quality of life. What helped me through the months of uncertainty and sickness, and continues to inspire me, was a new focus on what truly mattered to me: family, friends, gardening, the arts, and especially travel. I have always fed my soul by traveling, ever since I first stepped off the plane at age 16 in Kathmandu, Nepal to help with an orphanage's building project. Meeting new people and experiencing how they live and how they view the world infuses my life with a richness I was so afraid I would lose when the doctor first said, "You have fibromyalgia". This blog is my story, as I begin to forge a new path. I am embracing my life as it is, with the fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, and learning to do what I love regardless. It may mean I have to go slower and take more naps or breaks! But I am determined to learn how to travel and experience the world, and hopefully what I learn will help others like me who believe their medical condition stands in the way of their travel dreams.
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