Among the many things I wondered that day was: How would this new diagnosis change my lifelong love affair with travel?
Here’s the partial verdict thus far: not so much. At least not yet.
In May, 2010 -- within a year of that revelation about my health -- I journeyed for three weeks in Turkey. It was a rigorous adventure, and I spent days walking the crowded sidewalks of Istanbul, exploring the haunting ruins of ancient Greek cities along the Aegean coast, and hiking up and down the hills of Cappadoccia in central Turkey. I didn’t see many people my age in the remote places I visited, and I felt pretty good about that.
For the first time in my life, I used a cane – the collapsible, travel variety – on a few of the most arduous hikes. And I found the cane came with an extra bonus. Ten minutes after I entered a spectacular cave church -- the "Dark Church" -- in the Goreme Open Air Museum in Cappadoccia, the small space filled with a big tour group that completely filled the place. Eager to escape the crowd, I bent over and stepped forward, holding my back with one hand, and maneuvering with the cane in the other. I felt like Moses fleeing Egypt, as the sea of tourists suddenly parted, and I made a quick escape.
I should have stayed out west! Right after returning home, I totaled my car, injured my back, experienced a 5.9 earthquake from my hospital bed, and endured a hurricane.
In March, 2012 – seems hard to believe it’s half a year ago already – I journeyed back to my beloved Nepal to attend the wedding of Nimesh and Bhawana. (The bride and groom are now comfortably settled in with me here in Washington.) The Kathmandu portion of that trip was packed with wedding events, and – aside from some mild fatigue and a stomach upset – I felt good. The hardest part of the Pokhara portion of the trip was saying goodbye to the people there I love. I don't like thinking I may never see Nepal again.
Rahel, who traveled with me to join Ramesh in the U.S.
I'm saying a sad goodbye to Laxmi's mother and Ramesh's mother.
Then, over the recent Labor Day weekend, I traveled to New York City with Nimesh and Bhawana. I’ve been there dozens of times and was eager to see how I’d fare this time, especially compared with my hyper-active weekend there just last summer. The contrast was dramatic. Walking was much harder this year, but not because of my Parkinson's. This time, it was my back pain that caused the trouble. But being with my young housemates certainly made everything easier for me.
While I feel lucky to be doing as well as I am, I'll need to make some changes when I plan future travels. Parkinson's is a progressive disease, so my range of travel options will certainly shrink. The travel recommendations below for people with Parkinson's may help me as the years roll on. Maybe they’ll be useful to you, too.
- Parkinson's Onboard: Traveling with Parkinson's: These excellent recommendations come from the National Parkinson Foundation.
- Traveling with Parkinson's Disease: This link provides some great suggestions. Leave it to WebMD.
- Traveling with PD: Here’s a column from PWP Peggy Willocks about her own travel experiences.
- Traveling with Parkinson's: This writer discusses his travel experiences as caregiver for his wife, who has PD.
- Tips for Traveling with Parkinson's Disease: Dr. Patrick McNamara offers these suggestions on About.com (part of the New York Times company).
- Traveling with a Parkinsonian: Susan Hamburger lists some helpful travel ideas for caregivers.