When we're finally able to get away from it all and have a vacation, the last thing we want is to have our partner regret traveling with a chronically ill spouse. Vacations are meant to be relaxing and enjoyable, which is why communication with our spouses or travel companions is vital, before and during our trip.
If our partners work outside the home, they're not going to witness the ins and outs of our daily routine. And while parts of our habits may be commonplace for everyone, other elements may be related to our chronic illness or pain. It's important to discuss what is most important to each of you for the trip, as well as any concerns either of you, may have. This open communication will alleviate or significantly reduce the chance of misunderstandings that result in conflict. (and this works when we're not traveling, too!)
Tips for traveling with a chronically ill spouse
Take a look at your sleep patterns when you're home. Are the two of you in sync? If not, how will you adapt your schedules while away from home? Big D and I typically go to bed at the same time, but mornings are an entirely different story. He's an early riser, while my body requires significantly more rest. When we were planning for our recent cruise, we discussed Big D's desire to get in a daily workout, along with my physical need for more sleep. Our solution was for him to get up early and work out, while I continued to sleep. I'd either be out of bed when he returned or get up so we could go to breakfast together.
And I must tell you, figuring this out in advance made all the difference. I didn't take on the guilt of sleeping in, and Big D didn't resent me for not getting up with him. We knew what our bodies needed and meeting those needs meant our days always got off to a good start.
Getting Cleaned Up
When it comes to showering, getting dressed, makeup, hair, etc., our routines likely depend on whether or not we're working outside our homes. I work out of my house, and because Big D isn't here during the day, he
doesn't didn't have a clear understanding of how I handled these things. And the truth is, each day is a little different, depending on how I'm feeling and whether I need to leave the house. More often than not, the mere act of taking a shower, shaving my legs, and doing my hair wears me out. And on those awful days, I pull my hair back and only wash the critical body parts. I needed to let Big D know so that we could plan accordingly while we were away.
It turned out to be an easy adjustment on our cruise, based on our plans for the day. I never once stressed about looking all pulled together first thing in the morning and then, to meet our evening reservation times, I'd return to the cabin early, or shower while he rested, so I didn't feel rushed or get worn out. Sometimes, just like at home, I'd do my makeup in one part of the day, my hair at another time and then finally, a shower before heading out. Both of us were flexible and everything worked without stress.
Activities & Sightseeing
Whether one partner has health issues or not, advance planning and discussion about vacation activities and sightseeing is always a wise move. Cruise travel is vastly different than traveling to a place like New York City and they both require advance planning when traveling with a chronically ill spouse. Before we left home, Big D and I discussed onboard activities and port excursions, determining there were only a few that we were even remotely interested in and none we wanted to prebook.
We ended up doing our own thing while in the ports, including enjoying the beach when available. On board, we laid in the sun and took advantage of a few of the games, including mini-golf (Big D won). We also participated in activities that showed up on the daily schedule, such as a free-throw tournament, where we were the only two participants. Big D won that, too. The slot tournament had lots of participants, and in the end, I was the big winner!
We also saw a few shows and went to a couple of art auctions, which are a fascinating study of salesmanship and manipulation. The only thing we talked about doing and forgot about was going down the waterslides. Something to add to the list for next time!
Nightlife & Drinking
One of the things I've learned to love about cruising in addition to seeing lots of places without having to change hotel rooms is the abundance of choices for things to do. Nightlife on a cruise ship includes shows, comedy clubs, piano music, dancing and more. And those events and venues all have bars.
Decide before you leave home, whether attending these nighttime events is something one or both of you are interested in experiencing. I was concerned I would be too tired or sore to enjoy late night evenings. I've also learned that with the medications I'm taking, I can't drink as much as I used to. Or rather, I can still drink the same amount, it just hits me harder and faster than it did before the meds. Take it from me; this is not something you want to discover on vacation!
We looked at the daily schedule each morning of our cruise during breakfast and came up with a game plan for the day and evening. When we wanted to go out at night, I'd take things slower and easier during the day. The only thing I didn't think through in advance was my heels. The sexy heels I wore for dinner, were not friendly to my feet by the time dancing came around. Next time I'll take two pairs, instead of one!
Intimacy & Sex
I get the fact that lots of people prefer spontaneous sex, vs. planning for it. However, when someone has a chronic illness or is living with chronic pain, failing to talk about sex, often results in no sex at all. And that can lead to all kinds of other issues, including resentment, whether you're traveling or staying home!
From a practical standpoint, planning for sex when traveling with a chronically ill spouse means we may need to pack certain things. Whether condoms, toys, lube, or other items you enjoy together. This is one area where you can't afford to leave things to chance. And planning ahead will even allow you to be more spontaneous sexually while on vacation!
Traveling with a chronically ill spouse will have the two of you spending a lot more time together than when you're at home. It will also give our non-ill partner a close-up of what a day in our lives is really like. Whether or not you live with a chronic illness or chronic pain, vacations are meant to be relaxing and enjoyable. Communicating with each other about your concerns and hopes for your trip will make your next vacation more enjoyable for both of you.
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