For nearly as long as I have been writing this blog, I have talked about living your best life post-blood clot and on blood thinners, and I try to do that myself by trying new things, even in spite of my diagnosis (although falling off a cliff is not something I would recommend). My husband and I try to take a trip every summer (although I didn’t do that during the first two years of my recovery), and I normally enjoy going to a never-before-seen destination. However, lately, I have been struggling with anxiety and traveling far from home. So much in fact that the name for this post was almost How to travel when you have travel anxiety: I don’t anymore.
Before we talk about travel and anxiety after a blood clot though, let’s talk about anxiety. Even before my blood clot, I was a pretty anxious person. I can even rank my anxiety into the top three categories that stress me out the most – health, severe weather and travel – in no particular order. My worst health fears came to life four years ago when I woke up feeling fine one morning and was in the ICU with a blood clot in my lung, fighting for my life the next morning. Recently, I’ve developed a sense of overwhelming dread that something bad will happen if I leave home (it could be a tornado, for example).
Travel – especially air travel – makes me anxious for a number of reasons. I am afraid to leave my normal daily routine (and therefore experience the unknown), I worry about my dogs, I worry something happening that is out of my control – like that time I worried about falling off a cliff (again), getting run over, freeing to death or bleeding to death – and I worry about pretty much anything that you can worry about when you are away from home. If you can worry about it, I will.
This year, I have been struggling with anxiety more so than I did last summer when my husband and I went on an Eastern coastline road trip from Savannah, Georgia to Assateague Island, Maryland (both of which are among my top picks for vacation destinations). I’ve been uneasy to even plan a summer vacation this year because I am nervous about leaving home and my daily routine, but I also know, getting away from home and my daily routine is ultimately good for my body, mind and soul –it’s rejuvenating, and I always come back extremely happy that I took a few days away.
So, my husband and I are taking a trip that is a little different than what we have done before and while I am nervous about leaving home and my routine, I am also starting to feel excited. This trip will be an adventure, for sure. We are taking a road trip around Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky to visit all of the weird and hidden places we can find. Among the highlighted stops are a haunted hotel, a castle, an abandoned psychiatric hospital and the Serpent mound. Plus, a lot of hiking and exploring local forests and nature trails. We will be camping, staying in a hotel and staying in a bed and breakfast along the way. Sounds adventuresome, right?
Yes, it is, but it is also totally within my anxiety-laden boundaries for travel this summer. Here’s how I planned a trip that promises adventure and fun, but also makes me feel as comfortable as possible in the face of travel anxiety.
How to Have an Adventure after a Blood Clot:
Have your non-negotiables and make then known to your travel companions. My non-negotiables at the present time are: I do not want to travel anywhere by plane, go very far (I want to be able to drive home in a day) or spend a lot of money. I let my husband know and as a result we are taking a road trip around Ohio (where I live) and neighboring states and we’re saving money on accommodations by camping and packing some of our own food (a win-win for me because I also get to eat a lot of the same food that I normally do).
Build time in to your vacation schedule to get ready to go and to get ready for regular life again. I’m really good at coming home from my scheduled vacation a day early to decompress- do laundry, check my email, go grocery shopping – whatever it is I need to do to get ready for the first week back. For this vacation, I was feeling a little rushed to get ready to leave, though. In the future, I think it will be beneficial to take a day (or a half a day) to get ready to go as well.
Plan as much – or as little – as you need to. I like planning my adventures, but I also like being spontaneous and surprisingly, I have found a way to compromise. For example, we have reserved all of the places we are going to stay for the entire trip, but we did not schedule all of the places we are going to go or visit. This way, I know where we will be – generally speaking – each day of the trip, but we are not committed to a specific hike, attraction or tour so if something goes wrong or we need to rest, we can hang out at the campsite or cabin and not feel like we’re missing out on something.
Get creative with your travel plans – and know your limits. One of the things I am looking forward to is to hike to some off-the-beaten path destinations, but I also know, if I’m not feeling well, that hike might have to wait for another time. Being flexible – and patient with yourself – is one of the keys to having an adventure. This is also why it can be helpful to have a little free time in your schedule to accommodate times when you don’t feel well or need a little extra rest. If you can’t do it all this time, you can always come back another time. Pick a few activities that you really want to do and have a few activities on reserve in case you are feeling fantastic.
Mix the old with the new. We’re visiting two places we have been before on our adventure, but we are seeing new things while we are there. I take comfort in the fact that I will be somewhere I have been in the past (because I know what to expect), but I am also excited about seeing something new at those places.
Pack for your needs – all of them. Don’t forget to take your medication, your doctor’s phone number, a cell phone and whatever else you need to feel at home away from home. If you need your pillow – take it. If you need a picture of your pets – take it. I also feel better if I travel with QuikClot to stop emergency bleeding. Let someone at home know your itinerary and when to expect you back, just in case. Knowing someone at home knows my plans always helps me to feel less anxious. You may also wish to pack an extra outfit and personal items in case you get delayed somewhere. If you are a female, plan for an unexpected menstrual flow. If you need to get your INR checked on the road, make arrangements ahead of time so you know how to get to the clinic or facility. Call your doctor and insurance company before you go for help with coverage away from home.
Travel safely. Move around, wear compression stockings, fuel and hydrate properly and make sure you take extra medication with you, just in case. Here are some more tips to keep you safe while you are traveling post-blood clot.
My Top Adventure Trip Ideas:
Adventure is all about what you make of your time away from daily routines, work and schedules and like recovery, adventure is not same for everyone. If your trip or activity is an adventure to you – it is an adventure. So, while your ideal adventure vacation might be an African safari or a deep sea diving expedition (but oh my gosh you cannot fly to Africa right now), adventure doesn’t always have to be extravagant. Here are my top trip ideas for adventures that are close to home, more affordable and ultimately, less anxiety producing.
- Go somewhere new. You don’t have to go far to go somewhere new – look for new things to do in your own state or a neighboring one.
- Go to a place you are familiar with, but make different accommodations, or see new things. Having an adventure might be as simple as staying somewhere you normally don’t. If you normally stay in a hotel, try a bed and breakfast. If you have never camped, but want to try it, rent a cabin. If you are going to a familiar destination, find new sights to see while you are there.
- Make multiple stops – either along the way or once you get to your destination. Instead of going to just one place, go to a couple of places or make a stop at an interesting attraction along the way. If you are staying in one spot, make a few day trips to nearby places that might be interesting to see.
- Have a theme for your trip. The Internet is a vast resource to find unique road trips. Search for “unique road trips in your state” or “best road trips in the U.S.” and see what comes up. Some of my favorite road trip idea currently include exploring strange or unique sites; exploring dining establishments (you know, all of those cool places that they feature on the Travel Channel); exploring bodies of water (lakes, rivers, streams, the ocean); and exploring anything historic.
So, what’s stopping you? Get out there and plan your next adventure.
There is hope for healing and you are not alone,
Travel safely – here are Six Steps to Reduce Your Risk of DVT While Traveling.
Can you still do the things you love after a blood clot? Find out here: The Great Blood Thinner Activity Debate.