Booking My Birthday Vacation at Last
A couple of years ago, I was a speaker/interviewee at the inaugural [online] Migraine World Summit—read what I wrote about it then by clicking this link. It was an immensely rewarding experience, and it made me realize how much I love being able to share my experiences with others, those who are chronically ill themselves or who are seeking to understand loved ones with chronic illness. It’s not because I like to hear myself talk (I think we can all agree that hearing the sound of your own voice is a somewhat off-putting experience for most people), and I certainly don’t like to watch myself on video (“What is that weird thing I’m doing with my mouth?” “I should be sitting up straighter!”).
The power of sharing your story
Rather, it’s the conversation that emerges from such “guest star” appearances that I’m there for. I love showing people that it is possible to lead a fulfilled, mostly happy life with chronic migraine. I don’t have all the answers—or even most of them!—when it comes to migraine, but I work with what I think is the best available resource for migraine patients, migraine.com, and I’m happy to send readers links to articles that may answer their questions. I also love knowing that, in sharing the story of my struggles, people feel less alone.
The benefits of going on vacation
Participating in the summit also gave me one extra push to check out the rest of the content being offered in the form of interviews with others. Dr. Romie Mushtaq was a speaker that year, and one of the things she discussed really stuck with me: she talked about the benefit of going on vacation. Sure, sure, we all know that vacations are good for us, but when was the last time you took a trip that was truly relaxing and [relatively] low-stress? Where you were not only able but willing to turn off your smart phone and disconnect from your daily life?
Time off vs. a true vacation – there’s a difference
I travel a lot for book conferences (I own my own bookshop and end up paying for the travel myself most of the time, but it’s such a great way to learn a lot, make connections, and tack on a day or two of leisure travel in a city I may not have visited before). Spending time with family is important to me, so when I can afford to take the time off (and when I can afford to pay the travel costs), I see relatives as far south as Florida and as far west as California.
Spending time doing a job I love is wonderful, but it’s not a vacation.
Tacking on a day of leisure travel after a work conference is a huge plus, but it a day isn’t long enough to really unplug and relax.
Visiting family can be joyful and soul-enriching (or, for many of you, utterly depleting), but it’s not a true vacation, even if you get along well with your relatives.
Practing true self-care
Over the past several months, I’ve been trying to step up my self-care game. I was tired of running myself ragged at work and taking care of other people’s needs before I really stopped to put my own oxygen mask on first. In an effort to be true to my resolution to take better care of myself, I decided to book a vacation.
That’s right. I’m going to the Caribbean in a couple of weeks to celebrate my birthday, and I’m going solo. I have planned solo trips over the years, but I almost always end up inviting someone (or someones) to join me. In 2009, I booked an apartment in Buenos Aires for a month, wanting to spend a month writing and reading and exploring the joy and discomfort of being totally alone. Instead, I invited friends to visit and ended up having one out of thirty nights alone in “my” apartment. It was a lot of fun, but I wasn’t staying true to my original goal. I have done this repeatedly over the last fifteen years or more: I plan a solo trip because I know it’s what I really need, and then I invite buddies. The result is a memorable, fun trip, but not the trip I really needed.
So this time I’m sticking to my guns. What convinced me for good was thinking back on Dr. Mushtaq’s interview during 2016’s Migraine World Summit, and her stories of telling her own neurology patients to take a vacation to reset their brains in more ways than one. If my migraine patterns don’t improve, I won’t be too disappointed: after all, I’ll have had seven nights on a Caribbean island! But my guess is I will have a nice boost in mood and that I’ll be able to establish a healthier baseline when it comes to stress and anxiety, two of my most persistent triggers.
I’m a little bit nervous about what it might be like to be alone, but mostly I’m excited. (And, to remind my mom, who might be reading this: I found a place that’s very safe for solo female travelers!) Wish me luck!
Where would you go if you could go anywhere in the world? Have you ever gone on a vacation by yourself? What tips do you have? Better yet: has your migraine healthcare provider ever recommended that you take a relaxing vacation? Did you take his/her advice?