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This week is very exciting as I am going on holiday to Italy. I want to take this opportunity to talk about what it is like to travel when you suffer with chronic pain.
But before I start, I want to apologise to anyone who read my last blog and is expecting this post to be about my pain. I edited my post before publishing it but for some reason the sentence didn’t get deleted. I will publish that post soon. It’s not often I go on holiday so I want to make the most of it and write about it while I could.
Before my flight
This section of my blog is about my preparation and build up to my holiday. When you have chronic pain there’s much more to think about and plan for. As well as finding your passport, printing your boarding passes, and checking you have the right clothes for the weather, you have to do other things too. For me, this means making sure I have my coccyx cut-out cushion; making sure I have the right day bag or rucksack so that I don’t cause more pain in my back and shoulders; and thinking about how I can manage my pain when on the plane or waiting around at the airport.
All of this is mentally draining. Having chronic pain in itself is mentally draining, but I find it even more so when I’m away from my normal every day environment. Everything is that little bit harder, and this is not what holidays are about. Thankfully I have an amazing partner who makes things that little bit easier by doing what she can and understanding my needs.
I say in my blog that I don’t let my pain dictate things, and I’m not going to let it. So, I am packing my case and I’m starting to get excited. We’ve never been to Italy before. We are going to Rome and Venice as they are on the ‘holiday to do list’. We can’t wait to try some proper authentic Italian food. My partner loves tiramisu so we will be hunting down the proper thing and savouring every bite; well she will anyway. I’m looking forward to trying some local beer and coffee. Oh and a proper carbonara.
The day of my flight
The day began at 2:45am. This in theory would give us enough time to have a relaxing journey to the airport. But no. A road closure diversion meant we parked up 30 minutes later than planned. This meant a quick dash to get on the terminal bus to the airport.
By this point I was feeling very stressed and was also desperate for the loo. Stress automatically makes my chronic pain worse so the time on the bus was not pleasant. Eventually we got through security (which was the quietest I’d ever seen it – thankfully) and we were able to relax with a bite to eat before boarding the flight.
When in a car or flying, I always use my coccyx cut-out cushion. It doesn’t stop my pain when I sit, but generally it does mean I can sit for slightly longer before my pain kicks in. This isn’t always the case, but I brought it on my holiday to help whilst on the plane. I’m too embarrassed to carry it around all the time and it is too bulky to do so anyway.
On the plane it didn’t really help at all. I had an aisle seat so I could fidget and lean to the side as much as possible. I’d also taken a tablet to help me relax as I’m not a big fan of flying. This means I always fall asleep, which is a good thing in that I’m not in pain when I sleep, but when I wake up from being in the same position for a long time, then my pain is bad. You can’t get comfy and sleep on a plane at the best of times, but add chronic pain to the mix and it’s even worse.
My first few days in Rome
We arrived at the guest house, dumped our stuff, and had a quick coffee from the Nespresso machine before heading out. The coffee was a necessity to help wake us up after our early start. We found a super little restaurant around the corner and shared a pizza and had the biggest Peroni beer for only €5. This is what I’d been waiting for!
The rest of our first day mainly involved us doing lots of walking, trying proper Italian food, and having a few more beers and cocktails.
The next day we did a guided tour of the Colosseum. I don’t like crowds but that couldn’t be avoided. And we were pretty much pestered until we signed up to do the tour. But this worked out really well as we were able to skip the queues and the price also included a guided tour of Roman Forum. We did lots more walking and learning some fascinating facts about church history, the 3 elements that make a good emperor (money, power and an ego) and where the word salary came from.
I hadn’t slept well the night before and I had skipped breakfast so I was hungry and was really fancying that carbonara. I wasn’t disappointed – we found a local Italian pizzeria and despite the seats being uncomfortable we had a cracking meal and of course another beer.
What I’ve remembered is how draining it is trying to avoid my pain. When away from my normal environment (home) I’m constantly thinking what to do to try to prevent being in pain. Whether that be avoiding sitting, sitting awkwardly, preventing someone accidentally knocking me in a crowd (this can also be painful if they catch my lower back area), or trying to stand as comfy as possible to not cause any additional pain elsewhere. It’s constant and it’s draining. Thankfully my other half understands and never gets annoyed with me or pressures me to do anything.
The evening ended by us chilling in the guest house and planning our next day while watching Happy Valley (we had a couple of episodes of series 2 to finish) and the film The Tourist.
I look forward to sharing more about my holiday in my next blog post, as we have a couple of more days in Rome and then we are off to Venice.