RA: My Faithfully Annoying Travel Companion

I love to travel. I also hate to travel. Usually the “love” part of it outweighs my hatred of it, thankfully. But despite all of the exciting, fun, fascinating, and inspirational things about it–traveling is often a huge, exhausting challenge when you live with RA.

Last summer I took a big trip abroad to visit friends in Europe, and we traveled to Croatia, Bosnia, and Berlin together (I also went to Dublin, Ireland and Cologne, Germany). Luckily we had a car for a week which we used to drive up and down the Croatian and Bosnian coasts, which was breathtakingly beautiful (and easier on my joints than attempting to use public transportation). All of the other times I’ve visited friends in Europe I’ve never had a car, so I’ve been forced to do a lot of walking, especially up seemingly endless flights of stairs in old apartment buildings and to use the subway systems (I guess the escalators never work in there?!). Needless to say, this has often wreaked havoc on my swollen, painful joints — especially my feet and ankles. But I did it anyway, because I love to travel, especially abroad, and I love visiting my friends. However traveling to Europe, or anywhere, usually involves a lot of walking, luggage carrying/dragging, and the inability to get good sleep. All of these things cause my RA to get really angry and flare up like crazy. But I still do it, because it’s important to me, and I always think it’s worth it. Traveling has been one of my passions in life for a long time and I don’t want to give it up.

However after my trip abroad last summer, I came back home feeling so exhausted and beaten up from dealing with the physical and emotional demands of traveling. My “bad ankle” (the right one, which has suffered through two surgeries) was swollen up like a melon and screaming at me to never travel again. At that time I thought, “You’re right, ankle. Never again.” Obviously I did not take that advice, as 2013 has proven to be one of my busiest traveling years in a long time. In March I went to Washington, D.C. with the Arthritis Foundation for their annual Advocacy Summit, which was an incredible experience. April was a fun family trip to Florida, mostly spent lying on the beach and splashing around in the Gulf of Mexico (my RA liked this trip). Then in May a last-minute trip to New York City happened, and I felt like I couldn’t pass that up. In NYC I met and joined a really awesome, inspiring group of other RA bloggers for an event that was organized by Pfizer. I’m so glad I went on this trip. I’m glad I went on all of these trips, actually, despite the added pain of RA.

Is there ever a perfect time to travel? Maybe. But if I waited for the perfect time, I’d never go anywhere. Right now I’m dealing with a bunch of health issues on top of the RA, my finances are a bit of a mess, and I have a lot of family stress going on. Despite all of those things, I decided to “be crazy” and I went on a road trip to Denver with my friend Suzy August 17-21 to see one of our favorite bands play a show there (Irish alternative group My Bloody Valentine, who don’t tour very often). Maybe I should’ve stayed home, nursed my chronic headaches, saved money, and slapped more bags of ice on my ankle. But that’s no fun. I didn’t want to miss out on this trip, which was my first time seeing Colorado and the Rocky Mountains. I don’t want to miss trips and experiences that could be really great for my mind and soul, even though potentially stressful on my body. But when really when it comes down to it, I just don’t want to miss out on life. I’m trying hard to make sure that RA doesn’t stop me from doing these things.

Happy trails!
Angela

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