Traveling with invisible illnesses
The past two weeks were a whirlwind. We had been planning a trip to Europe for the better part of a year with the destinations being Scotland, Paris, and Belgium. As we mentioned before, our mom is from Scotland and we have family in Belgium. We’ve been to both places a few times before, but Paris was brand new to us. Our travel itinerary didn’t exactly go as planned (why is it that when you meticulously plan something, everything goes awry?) but overall it was an incredible vacation.
Everything got off to a bit of a rocky start when on our first plane (from San Diego to New York), a passenger sitting right in front of us died. It was horrible to witness something so devastating and as neither of us has seen anything like that before, it felt completely surreal to watch. Because of this, we had to make an emergency landing in St. Louis and missed our connecting flight to Edinburgh. We spent the night at an airport hotel and, silver lining, it was actually nice to be able to get almost a whole night’s sleep in a proper bed in the middle of such a long journey.
We arrived in Scotland 24 hours later than we originally anticipated, and lost the one day we allocated to completely resting before hopping on another flight to Paris.
Losing our ‘rest day’ gave me such anxiety because it’s very common for me to get a bad POTS crash when my schedule is go go go, so I was worried that I would miss out on Paris because our current schedule would be just too much for me. When my POTS was first diagnosed (and was a lot worse), one busy day would equal one or two crash days following it, and I’m still working on letting go of that old mindset…
We spent 2 ½ days in Paris but it was enough time to fall in love with it. The chic yet simplistic fashion, romantic scenery, and out of this world carbs were enough to instantly win us over. We felt compelled to do the very touristy sights, such as the walking to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, taking a boat ride on the Seine, strolling down the Champs-Elysées, and even squeezing a museum in there too.
From Paris we rented a car and drove to Belgium were we stayed for the following few nights. Our pace slowed down as we explored the town where our grandparents met, our great grandparents lived, and the house our mother spent a lot of time growing up in. Although our Belgiun family primarily spoke flemish, they couldn’t have been warmer or more generous, treating us to a wonderful dinner at one of their homes where we ate cheese board after cheese board, drank white wine, and ate the best dessert we’ve ever had. As if the meal was not decadent enough, they sent us home with two plates of gorgeous chocolates and we just about cried with happiness.
The next night we drove to the airport for a 10pm flight only to find out that they cancelled our flight! This was a Monday night, and they told us they could most likely get us a flight back to Scotland by Wednesday or Thursday. What!?
At this point I started to panic because I only brought a week's worth of medication with me in my pill case and I would run out by the following morning. In retrospect, not the smartest thing, but I’ve never heard of a flight being cancelled for days before!
After our speaking with seemingly everyone who worked there, they managed to get us a flight out the next morning but to Manchester where we rented a car and drove 3 hours to get back to our home.
This was a really difficult unexpected change for us because by the time we left the airport it was midnight, we had to be back at the airport at 4am for the new flight, and our POTS was really exasperated from all the extra adrenaline and running around.
To make matters even more comical I got 3 of the BIGGEST spider bites on the back of my legs and thighs from those few hours at the hotel. It made my histamine spike really badly for a few days afterwards. I wasn't sticking to my normal low histamine diet while I was on vacation, so the added histamine really made me feel crummy.
Although we were completely exhausted and ready for a couple days where we didn’t have itineraries to stick to, the drive back from Manchester was lovely and included an adorable ‘truck stop’ and store which had an amazing cafeteria style restaurant where we refueled and picked up some souvenirs.
Getting back to Scotland was the last chapter of our trip and was spent eating amazing Indian food (who knew Scotland has some of the best Indian food?), picking up our favorite treats we had as kids from the local stores, wandering around castles, and enjoying the breathtaking scenery.
As much as l loved traveling around some amazing cities, just being in the nature of Scotland and out in the highlands really was my favorite part of the two weeks. Everything there is just so green, pristine and untouched. It always reminds me of jurassic park because it looks like this is the area where dinosaurs would just be roaming around! Scotland is so peaceful but also so awe inspiring at the same time.
This covers the outline of our amazing journey. We had definite challenges and ups/downs along our way (which we will delve into in the next few posts) but we're so glad we were able to go on this adventure together!