Allowing “Silence” in a Travel Itinerary

I am currently immersed in my favorite part of planning a trip – the jigsaw puzzle of deciding where I want to go, how to fit together my itinerary, and deciding how long to stay in any one location. My puzzle is complicated by the unavoidable fact that I have fibromyalgia. No longer may I pursue a never-ending check-list of sightseeing and activities, jumping from city to city, town to town in brief stays as I pack in as much sightseeing as possible. I would be out of commission within 24 hours.

This glaring limitation has turned out to be a blessing in disguise and I have been learning about the art of slow travel. I have to slow down and allow myself time to rest and recuperate. The upside has been unexpected – when I am forced to slow down and walk, not run, to the next discovery, I begin to notice the swirling of daily life around me. I observe, appreciate, savour, and leave myself open to meeting new people. Slowing down gives me a richer, more authentic travel experience.

This ethos of travel informs all of my plans for Greenland, Iceland, and the Faroes. This Nordic corner of the world is a hiker’s paradise of ethereal landscapes, fire and ice, mountains and lava fields, hot springs and remote black sand beaches, wind-lashed sea cliffs and remote sheep farms. I cannot wait to lace up my hiking boots.

However, I have to remain cognizant of my body’s limitations. A day hike requires I remember to let my body rest. Some activities, such as sea kayaking and glacier hiking, means at least a day to recover. I must plan accordingly in my itinerary. So I am practicing the art of pacing as I plan.

My overriding guideline is simple: plan 1 day of rest for each strenuous activity. For example, I want desperately to go sea kayaking in one of Iceland’s eastern fjords. Instead of planning 1 day and 2 nights as most on-the-go tourists do, I am planning 2 days and 3 nights in Seydisfjordur. One day to sea kayak and explore the harbor town; one day to rest, lounge in a cafe, and soak in the ubiquitous hot pots at all of Iceland’s neighborhood pools.

This kind of planning unavoidably lengthens my travels, but I find I am okay with that. It is in the moments of unplanned space, silence in my itinerary, that I often discover the essence of the local culture and community. I feel a sense of freedom from any planning constraints – freedom to browse a bookstore, linger in a gallery, or chat with a potential new friend.

So as I piece together my itinerary, I am resisting the urge to plan every moment of every day. My overambitious, perfectionist side resists, but the reality of fibro has taught me it’s often better to allow space to go with the flow.

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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.
This entry was posted in Faroe Islands, Greenland, Iceland, Staying Healthy, travel with fibromyalgia and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Allowing “Silence” in a Travel Itinerary

  1. Tiff Hortin says:

    It is unfortunate that you have to plan for 2 days, 3 nights at one location but you do have one thing up to us non-fibro people: relaxation on a trip. I always get home and need a vacation from a vacation and I am sure you might need a little R&R but not another vacation to recoup. 🙂

    • chronictraveler says:

      It really is a catch-22! I could see more in fewer days and save money, or spend a bit more to stay longer and see everything at a leisurely pace. Of course, fibro makes the latter option my only option. :/ So I am definately embracing the gifts of it – more time to process what I’m seeing and doing, meet locals, and rest. I have no choice but to include R&R! 🙂

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