Go traveling with ME/CFS, you can be tired anywhere!
As weird as it might sound, traveling is a good recommendation for when you are having ME/CFS. Not the type of traveling where you get drunk, climb mountains before sunrise or sleep next to a karaoke bar of course. From those three bad examples, The last example happened to me by accident when I was brave enough to travel.
During the months where I hardly left my bed, I listened to a recovery story from an English teenager who was sick and tired of being tired and went traveling as an adolescent. She was supposed to come back after 2 weeks, but returned 8 years later. Her ME/CFS vanished while she was on her journey.
This example shows the power of neuroplasticity. By getting out of the daily routine and engaging in new and joyful experiences, we are rewiring the brain by creating new pathways. When I was brave enough to try this myself I was astonished, it really worked. Within a week I was already feeling so much better and by the end of a long trip I made plans to restart my company again. When I came home however and fell into my old routine, the fatigue slowly came back.
How to travel
My biggest advice would be to travel slowly. Start somewhere safe and nearby and when you are improving a little bit, explore your options. You can subscribe to Jack’s Flight Club, for cheap flight recommendations or use the tips in this article to find cheap flights. With Skyscanner you also have an option to fly anywhere at any time and see what flights are cheap.
I would recommend staying with family or friends if they live somewhere in nature. But although this sounds like an easy step, it might actually be very hard. When you are staying in someone else’s house, you might feel forced to justify your health problems. Maybe you will feel like you need to push yourself over your limits or feel guilty about not doing so. If you are engaging with this kind of behavior, neuroplasticity will work the negative way and worsen your condition. Do however always make sure that you have a private room and peace whenever you need it.
In the meantime you can select possible destinations. Since you are probably not working, you will have plenty of time available. (look at things from the bright side.) Find a cheap, safe and warm country where you can live between $10,- and $25-a day. This way your holiday might even cost less than what you spend at home for food. Some great, cheap and safe countries to travel to are, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Central America & Mexico.
How to start
When you arrive, drag yourself via a taxi to a nearby apartment, preferably near a supermarket for easy access to food. Some nature nearby would be ideal as well. In this place you will regret your holiday and probably don’t feel great the first few days. keep in mind, everything is going according to plan and you just managed the hardest part, the flight. (The return flight will be much easier.) Stay at that spot until you will feel a little better and see if this is where you want to stay, if not, find a different place to stay. After a while I would even recommend you to stay in a (calm) hostel, in either a shared dorm or a private room. Having contact with others and laughing, works great with neuroplasticity. In just one month you might experience more health benefits than you can believe now.
Other positive effects
Beside the change of scenery and the joy of traveling, being in nature, swimming in water full of minerals and walking barefoot, all have positive effects on our health. It reduces inflammation and the water provides us with minerals. Relaxing in a beautiful landscape is also very calming for the nervous system. By calming down the nervous system, your sleep, digestion, energy and thinking mind will improve. And lastly the sun will not only improve your mood, it’s also providing you vitamin D. A crucial vitamin for the immune system.
Neuroplasticity alone is not enough
I do not believe that neuroplasticity or traveling is enough and the sole solution. Ater returning to old habits and triggers, it is likely for symptoms to return if the root cause has not been released.
The English girl who went traveling after years of being in bed, probably learned something more that is easily overlooked. As a young woman it is probably a lot easier to change that stressful personality. For most others the teenage years are about conforming to a group and denying parts of themselves. She would also have become used to saying ‘no’ and learned to respect and detect her own boundaries and emotions. While others of her age were involved in coping mechanisms like pleasing, achieving and impressing, she probably learned to switch her behavior and act upon her emotions and boundaries.
The personalities of people that get ME/CFS are complex in nature and to assume her story without knowing her is ridiculous. However, in the story, she makes more than once the comment of how she changed from being everything for everyone to being her own person. She made a change within her years in bed that benefited her health. It made her able to go her own way while she was traveling. And it healed her (to put it mildly), she became an ultra marathon swimming champion!!!
When you are experiencing ‘bodymind’ symptoms, don’t panic, don’t take it overly seriously. Switch your attention to the emotional body and explore what it is that created this sensation. Read up on Dr Sarno’s TMS and how your symptoms are being created and how to reverse them. By practicing the emotional awareness exercises while traveling, you have the opportunity to learn so much more about yourself as when you would do these practices at home. Also don’t forget to calm down your nervous system when symptoms arise.
For more traveling tips and questions, don’t hesitate to contact me. Happy traveling and go slow! And since you have made it to the end of this blog, please listen to Beth’s recovery story. Her story was my biggest inspiration in my darkest days.