September 13, 2013

Traveling with Parkinson's: Part 2

This is the second installment of my report on traveling with Parkinson's.

On The Way
It helps to print out boarding passes in advance: one less line to deal with at the airport. (I'm not as hip as my younger friends who get their boarding passes on their iPhones.) At the gate, pre-boarding gives me some extra time to stow my carry-on baggage and get settled in my seat.

The standard recommendation while aloft is to stand up and stretch every hour or so. Drinking lots of water really helps me avoid jet lag . . . and forces me to do some extra walking to and from the bathroom. I also walk the length of the plane several times. 

Whether seated in a plane, train, or car, I try to remember to do simple exercises, like toe taps and shoulder shrugs.

I used to pop Tylenol PM on long flights to help me sleep, but I never got the timing right. I'd take a pill and half an hour later -- just when I'd hoped to be drifting off -- the flight attendant would serve dinner. Now that I'm flying in roomier business class, it's easier to sleep pill-free on the plane.

At the Destination
Thirty-five years ago when I first started traveling overseas, eager to see as much as possible as quickly as possible, I'd often spend only a day or two at any one place. Now, it's easier and more enjoyable to linger. Before the cruise this summer, we spent a week in our Paris apartment, four nights in London, four nights in Mürren, Switzerland, and three nights in Asolo, Italy. Time enough to settle into each place a while.

Cruising appeals to seniors, because it's almost like traveling without ever leaving home . . . assuming your home has a chef, housemaid, and waiter.

Waking up at 2am for a bathroom break in a strange hotel room or cruise ship cabin is disorienting. So I leave a bathroom light on with the door ajar for the first night or two. Maybe I should pack a small nightlight.

As my Parkinson's symptoms progress, I'll need to ask the right questions when I book a room. Is there a walk-in shower? Does it have "grab bars"? How close is the room to the elevator? What stairs will I have to climb?

The biggest travel issue for me these days? My energy level for sightseeing. The issue is complicated, since energy levels vary dramatically from one day to another. What seems to work best for me is scheduling just one main event each day, with breaks for lunch, coffee, ice cream . . . or just relaxing on a park bench.

Looking back on the five-week "Grand Tour," these are my fondest memories:
  • Sitting in a chair, reading a book in the Luxembourg Gardens, while my travel companions did their own thing. I ended up having an interesting conversation with a young Honduran who was studying in Paris.
  • Walking through the Marais neighborhood in Paris, finding a comfortable bench, and having a delightful conversation with a Parisian who had just returned home after ten years in New York City. These interesting encounters wouldn't happen if I were traveling with others.
  • Hearing beautiful violin music coming from an old church in Asolo, Italy, entering and finding violin students from all over the world rehearsing for a concert that evening. I spent a wonderful hour listening and watching. That evening, my companions and I returned for the concert. It was a lovely way to end our three weeks of independent travel before heading to Venice to meet the rest of the family . . . and the ship for our cruise to Barcelona.

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