International travel tips with ANCA-associated vasculitis, part two

Here's how you can make the most of your trip overseas with AAV

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by Sara Amodio |

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Last in a series. Read part one

In my previous column, I discussed how I plan for international trips with eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis (EGPA), a type of ANCA-associated vasculitis (AAV). Planning an international trip takes forethought and an awareness of potential pitfalls. Once you arrive at your destination, there are some things you can do to effectively manage your disease and ultimately make the trip an enjoyable one.

Following are some tips for managing AAV once you’ve arrived at your destination overseas:

The first day doesn’t count

As tempting as it might be to hit the ground running and make the most of your time in a foreign country, I’ve learned that the first day inevitably is a day of rest. Traveling can zap your energy and cause discomfort due to moving through airports, eating fast food or airplane food, not sleeping well on an airplane, experiencing jet lag, and more. Dealing with chronic fatigue while jet-lagged is a whole other level of complicated.

If I arrive at a destination and know that I have another leg of the trip ahead of me, I plan on spending the night at the first port of call to get a good night’s sleep and reset. The next day, I am ready to go and in a much better place physically.

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Starting off with fewer spoons

I get it. There is only so much time to see what you want to see. You don’t want the trip to be a waste of time or money. It’s tempting to cram it all in and just think that you can recover when you get home. But I’ve noticed that while I’m traveling overseas, my daily number of “spoons” — a metaphor for energy levels, defined by the spoon theory — is always one less than normal.

The unfamiliar food, the difference in timing of medication, and increased energy expenditure while traveling internationally can have a cumulative effect on disease management. If you have one less spoon each day and don’t take time to rest, eventually, by about the fourth day, things come crashing down.

Respect that you’ll have fewer spoons and build rest time into each day’s itinerary to preserve your energy for the whole trip.

Seek out a grocery store

I have gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms associated with my EGPA. Eating new and unfamiliar foods can sometimes cause my GI tract to regret traveling.

One of the first things I like to do after arriving in another country is to seek out a grocery store or neighborhood bodega. Aside from it being a cultural experience, you are also more likely to find fresh foods and options that don’t put undue stress on your fragile gut, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, simple crackers, and mineral water.

Having healthier foods on hand can also help with managing the steroid munchies. If you need to take a rest during a meal, having these foods handy can help provide the justification you need to take it easy.

Don’t be afraid of Plan B

If you are traveling with others, it can feel disheartening to have to bail on plans because you don’t feel well. Instead of thinking that you are bailing, reframe it to say that you need to do Plan B. In this instance, Plan B is a low-energy activity that affords the same (and sometimes greater) cultural experience.

If your family wants to do a marathon museum visit involving long treks and a lot of stairs, for example, Plan B might involve enjoying a coffee at a local café and people-watching. Talk about the need to potentially do a Plan B with your travel companions ahead of time to avoid any hurt feelings or regret.

These are just a few of the tips I’ve found helpful in managing my disease once I arrive at an international destination. If I follow these strategies, I’m able to enjoy the experience and make the trip more memorable. After all, isn’t one of the points of traveling to make wonderful memories? Bon voyage!

Note: ANCA Vasculitis News 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 ANCA Vasculitis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ANCA vasculitis.


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