Traveling Without the Baggage of Fear

Traveling Without the Baggage of Fear
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Traveling with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis is challenging. International travel adds some extra lengthy steps. That said, I have the bug. I’ve always had a hunger to see and experience new people and places. From a young age, I traveled alongside my parents, which gave me a cultural education I will always be grateful for.

I continued to travel with my husband, even after my diagnosis. We sojourned to Europe the following year, and I noticed a profound difference. My gait was slower, and my foot drop more pronounced. It was harder to navigate unknown terrain. I would arrive at monuments, unable to see everything.

London’s Tube and the Paris Métro are incredibly efficient, but both are underground. While there are escalators, they don’t always run. One may run down to the platform but not up to street level. The steps are too many and too steep for me to ascend.

The excitement with each discovery became overshadowed with questions. Can I stand or walk without falling? Are there stairs? Is the terrain steep? Is there a bench? Is there wheelchair access? Will a wheelchair fit? Is there access to water?

As my list of questions grew, so too did my anxiety. My desire to travel remained, yet the realities of my situation left me fearful. While MS leaves me without some ability, fear renders me paralyzed. That situation is unacceptable for me and you.

The only viable option is to push through the fear. This disease commands nothing less. Therefore, with education and preparedness, I seize travel opportunities. Some places may remain unseen (think Machu Picchu). However, I have far more travel possibilities ahead than I’ve left behind.

I will continue to recreate my possibilities.

Being disabled in an able-bodied world has opened my eyes. Travel only takes that vision to 20/20. My perspective changed with my diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. I could not have known this before my diagnosis and subsequent progression. It continues to morph as I progress.

I thank God for this new pair of glasses. They are unique. For along with a fresh perspective, they came with a bigger heart, a giving hand, a loving touch, and an open mind.

When we know better, we aspire to do better. I want to know more and do my best. I want to see more and help others do the same. Through trial and travel, I will.

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Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Jennifer Powell is a health writer and weekly columnist on Multiple Sclerosis. She is also an active advocate in the MS community. Jennifer imparts her hopeful optimism into real-life challenges facing the MS community. Prior to writing her column, Jennifer freelanced for several online periodicals including WebMD. When not writing, Jennifer enjoys volunteering with animal rescue, traveling and spending time with her Golden Retriever.
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Jennifer Powell is a health writer and weekly columnist on Multiple Sclerosis. She is also an active advocate in the MS community. Jennifer imparts her hopeful optimism into real-life challenges facing the MS community. Prior to writing her column, Jennifer freelanced for several online periodicals including WebMD. When not writing, Jennifer enjoys volunteering with animal rescue, traveling and spending time with her Golden Retriever.
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10 comments

  1. Teresa G. Melendez says:

    Thank you, Jennifer, for an article of optimistic acceptance of this disease and its effects! It emphasizes my own “pushing through the fear” as an SPMS woman! Best wishes to you during your travels.

    • Jennifer Powell says:

      Teresa,

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. Pushing through is not always easy (as you well know) but sometimes necessary if we are to grow and thrive with MS. Cheers to you for your own drive and decision to THRIVE!

      kindly,
      Jenn

    • Jennifer Powell says:

      Liz,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment.

      I traveled to London and Paris the year after my diagnosis. The only assistive device I used was a cane. My MS had not progressed to the degree it has now, however, I continue to travel to foreign countries. I write this from Mexico. It is important I feel comfortable with my surroundings. Prior to any travel, I map out the landscape to make sure I will be able to walk with my cane. I am cognizant of cobblestone streets or areas without even sidewalks. if I need a wheelchair I am careful to find locations that will accommodate one. I then make sure wherever I stay is accessible. I make sure there is an elevator and that doorways are wide enough. I then ask that my airline have a wheelchair. International travel is exhaustive as there are customs. I cannot stand that long so it is good to have a wheelchair to help me through both customs and immigration. I try to map out destinations wherever I go based on accessibility to ensure a pleasurable trip. The codes abroad are not like those here so it is important to ado your homework when traveling.

      I have also become an avid road-tripper. I enjoy the journey as much if not more than the destination. I hope this has helped.

      Kindly,
      Jenn

      • Carole Sachs says:

        I’ve just read your very uplifting reply! So good you still like travelling with SPMS. I have the same ‘brand’ and also love travelling. I walk with two poles which suits me.

      • Meredith says:

        Jennifer, thanks for that important information. It seems I have aged into my disease, and have accepted my limitations, of cours no willingly. I look back at all that seen and done in almost seventy years with gratitude.
        I have come to enjoy cruises particularly. My husband doesn’t mind driving. And cruises give him a break from cooking.
        Thank you for sharing.

  2. Suzanne says:

    I appreciated reading about how you look at things. I’ve had MS since 1989. Was able to push through most of the obstacle courses I encounter every day up until about two or so years ago. I don’t have a partner. As always, what I endeavor to push through is limited by unknowns. Unknowns have grown in number and consequences more harsh, I have let go of so many things. Without an partner/advocate, to catch me, warn me, allow me rest, remind me that much of me is still functional when I get discouraged, it is simply exhausting to push at everything all the time. I envy those who have gotten thru this with love and support intact. On the other hand, I ask myself if I even could scrape up relationship energy since I seem to have so little energy in general. Ive decided there are far too many “buts” and “what ifs” so I’m learning to accept that some things are simply insurmountable or I might just be worn out and I try to enjoy what’s left over.

  3. Michelle says:

    Daunting enough to go out in the U.S. I am chairbound. What good is a handicapped restroom stall if a) employees use it to change into their work uniform, b) mom’s with multiple kids use it to let multiple kids “go to the bathroom”, and/or c) the stall is large but the toilet not elevated. Not fun to have to urinate in undergarments and especially not fun when you have to do the other. People just do not get what it is like to not be able to stand or move without significant restriction. As for my dreams of visiting Europe, dreams they will remain for the foreseeable future. MS delivers low blows. Foot drop I dealt with and fatigue…physically MS has bested me.

  4. Gardenlady says:

    I totally get this! My physical disabilities left me with a fear of traveling. I took the plunge in December and traveled to Singapore! Extremely handicap accessible with lifts and escalators at their metro stations. Also, most buses had handicap accessibility. Was a wonderful trip.
    This site helped to give me the nudge. I didn’t use the service but read her articles!
    spintheglobetravel.net

  5. As an avid traveler have you tried cruising or river curses? Prior to my wife’s MS which is now secondary progressive, involves a Cain and sometimes a wheel chair due to distances, we traveled all over Europe and never got around to river cruising, any thoughts or experiences there

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