I’m retired and need to journey however am involved about my well being
I had a vision of retirement that included travel to the US and internationally. But an ongoing health problem has taken hold and restricted my ability to travel. Any thoughts on how I can take to the streets while being in control of my surroundings?
GM, Essex Junction, Vt.
There is an undercurrent of stress and uncertainty when booking travel. Fronting an airline or tour operator with thousands of non-refundable dollars prior to a trip is a leap in confidence.
Travel insurance is an option. But dollar for dollar, you’re likely to overpay for the amount of coverage you get – and policy exclusions can prevent or reduce reimbursement. (Why do you get so many requests to purchase travel insurance when booking a trip? It’s because the product is so damn profitable.)
Pre-existing medical conditions are difficult enough to control when you are at home. You can be more annoying when you take to the streets.
Read: Fully Vaccinated and Retired After a Year at Home. Here’s where to go and how to do it
As a lifelong allergy sufferer, I experienced a flare-up years ago on a cruise. As I drove through the Strait of Gibraltar, my eyes were so red and itchy that I could barely see the famous rock.
If you are determined to travel – and I admire your drive – lay the foundations first. Ask your doctor for travel tips, store your medication, and confirm that you can refill it at your destination.
Print out a summary of your medical information and bring it with you, including a list of your chronic conditions, medications (along with allergies to drugs), and contact information for all of your doctors, says Quratulain Syed, an internist and geriatrician in Atlanta.
If you are struggling with an ongoing health problem, you have an advantage: experience in dealing with it. Hopefully you can spot the onset early enough to contain it.
“Know what a flare can do and avoid those triggers,” said Syed. If you know that lactose can cause diarrhea or sitting in a folding metal chair can cause leg cramps, maintain your vigilance. When you find yourself in a new place, you may become disoriented or delighted with your surroundings and lower your guard.
Think like a pessimist when planning your trip. Think about negative what-if scenarios and how you would deal with them: What if I miss my plane? What if i lose my medicine? What if my wheelchair breaks?
“Deal with your worst fears and find solutions to each of those fears,” said Candy Harrington, founding editor of Emerging Horizons, which offers travel tips. “A lot of people don’t travel because they’re afraid of moving from a familiar environment to an unfamiliar one.” However, once you’ve considered what can go wrong and have contingency plans in place, you’re one step ahead of the game.
Start networking with potential allies on the ground at your destination. Call the hotel where you are staying, explain your health and ask about accommodation (e.g. skip check-in at the front desk). Ask to speak to the manager and be sure to leave this person’s name on arrival at the hotel.
Find out about health care providers or hospitals wherever you are going – then call and ask about their services. Check with your health insurer, and even your credit card company, about the perks, coverage, and other resources they offer for travelers.
Would you like to opt for an organized tour? You pay for the convenience of having the travel company arrange everything. But you lose your autonomy.
“Group travel is not the best for people with low energy consumption or other health problems,” said Harrington, author of several Barrier-Free Travel books, including National Park Lodges for Wheelers and Slow Walkers. “There may not be an opportunity to relax. You need flexibility, not ‘the bus leaves at 7:00 am’
Ambitious travelers may prefer a peripatetic route that jumps from place to place every few days. However, if you are worried about a medical flare-up, stand there longer. Pick a destination or two that appeal to you, spend a week or two in each location, and explore at your own pace.
Elderly travelers with medical conditions who have spent their entire lives waving off help may need to reconsider their gung ho attitudes. There is nothing heroic about turning down help when in pain.
For example, you can insist on going to the gate at the airport. But a last minute gate change can get you running through the crowd for another 10 minutes.
“Take wheelchair assistance when you think you might need it,” said Harrington. “Some people say, ‘Oh, I don’t need this,’ or ‘I don’t want to take it away from someone else.’ Then they regret that they did not take it. “