With only six days to go until my trip, I have been contemplating strategies for remaining healthy while I’m traveling. Of course, “healthy” is a relative term when you live with fibromyalgia. Obviously, with concerns in the media about a resurgence of swine flu this fall, my goal is to remain virus-free. But I am also aiming to maintain my basic health, such as my energy level , so that I avoid a severe fibro flare.
For basic health, I am carrying a 3-oz bottle of hand sanitizer for those situations in which I find myself far from soap and water. Especially handy while flying across the Atlantic or zipping around Europe on trains. I have also packed travel-size Kleenex for a variety of sanitary uses (hand-washing, sneezing, even toilet paper in a pinch). I will also be vigilant about washing my hands before every meal and snack.
I plan to carry a stainless steel water bottle in my day pack to keep myself hydrated and avoid unnecessary waste of plastic bottles. (At two bottles a day, think of how many bottles I will be saving over the course of five weeks!) I will also carry small snacks such as nuts and dried fruit to keep my blood sugar steady between meals.
Diet is a very important concern when traveling and the key to staying healthy, especially with fibromyalgia. I have worked so hard this past year to change my daily diet so that I can manage my fibro and have more energy, and traveling could easily wipe out all my progress. My first major test will be when I set foot in Chicago O’Hare airport and realize I need lunch before my long-haul flight to Germany. When I’m on vacation, I often adopt a very typical mindset that, well, I’m on vacation! I then proceed to eat whatever I want, no matter how greasy or sugary. This is a surefire way to land myself in bed with a very bad flare of symptoms and depressed that I’m missing out on my European experience.
My food strategy? The same common-sense advice we read and hear about constantly – eat rich foods like sweets and red meat in moderation, and load up on whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Avoid anything greasy and deep-fried. In order to maintain as much control over the ingredients and preparation as possible, I plan to picnic for two meals a day. At breakfast and lunch or dinner I will assemble a picnic of healthy food purchased from the local store or from the outdoor markets so common all over Europe. By preparing my own meals, I control what I eat, how it is prepared, and get to experience a slice of local life, browsing their markets and interacting with the people. I will also save money in the process – no 20% Value Added Tax (VAT) or gratuity! I will still indulge in the local restaurant scene, just only once a day.
Indulgences will still be allowed in small doses. I will be in regions of the world where some fantastic wine is produced, so a glass of red wine with dinner will be mandatory! While caffeine and coffee can aggravate some of my symptoms, Eastern Europe hosts some of the best coffeehouses in the world, so I will still allow myself to sip some marvelous cups of espresso. Again, moderation is key. And of course, I absolutely MUST sample the gelato in Venice. It would be a crime not to!
To maintain my health and keep my fibromyalgia manageable, I plan to maintain a regular sleep and eating schedule, with a very forgivable exception for the opera in Vienna and Budapest. (Seriously, as an employee of the local performing arts center, NOT to partake in the amazing theater and opera scene in Eastern Europe would be blasphemous!)
Armed with these strategies, I hope to make the most of Eastern Europe, even with the daily physical trials of fibromyalgia.