Adventure Traveling with Parkinson’s Disease

Traveling with Parkinson’s is never a walk in the park.  When we travel, our daily routine is disrupted, which in turn, can cause an increase in our symptoms.  It can be difficult to practice our normal exercise routines, which can cause even more problems.   And then there are the meds that we take.  Changing time zones really messes with our schedules.  As Mr. Twitchy says, “there are a lot of moving parts involved.”

I am writing this on my way home from an amazing trip to Antarctica, our first major trip since the onset of the COVID Pandemic.  Prior to COVID, we had been taking major trips at least once a year since Mr. Twitchy retired.  Our next trip  was to be a cruise, which got cancelled.  We booked two or three other cruises, which were also cancelled.  So when Mr. Twitchy suggested that we go to Antarctica, I grudgingly agreed to go, thinking that this trip would also be cancelled.

HEADING SOUTH

But it wasn’t.  I was worried about the Drake Passage, which is notoriously known for its rough waters.  Mr. T continually reminded me that we had been in worse conditions twice on ships and we did ok.  So on December 19, 2021, we set sail from Punta Arenas, Chile, for 2+ weeks exploring Antarctica and the Faulkland Islands.  

The first two days we cruised the Drake Passage which was relatively smooth.  A 3-4 out of 10 according to our well seasoned guides. As we sailed south, the days got longer and longer and the views of Antarctica were truly majestic.  The glaciers seem to go on forever.  Imagine an entire continent covered with ice that is up to 4000 years old.  Our first day there, we witnessed the calving of a glacier, which is when a chunk of the glacier slides off creating an avalanche.   Most icebergs were created by calving. You can see the newly fallen ice in this photo.

Throughout the journey, we boarded Zodiacs to get to shore, often two times a day in search of icebergs and wildlife. Most of the excursions required us to get off the Zodiacs for a “wet landing,” which means getting out of a rocky boat into the water or onto slippery rocks. Rubber boots, waterproof pants and the Parka that the ship provided were required to stay warm and dry. Fortunately, I had brought my walking poles with me which were a huge help when walking on uneven surfaces, including snow and ice.

Waiting to board the Zodiacs

SOME RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ADVENTURE TRAVEL WITH PD

It was a very strenuous trip and I don’t recommend it for everyone.  You need to be prepared to exert yourself more than you normally would, and accept the fact that some days you are going to have to skip some activities.  It is really easy to over-exert yourself when you think that you can do it all.  I know – I paid for it a couple of days.

Here are a few recommendations:

1.  Make sure you are in good physical condition before you leave.  You may want to increase your exercise levels before you go to insure that you are up to participating in any activities that you want to do. Of course, you should always talk to your doctor before starting anything new. You don’t want to start your trip by overdoing things on day 1 and spending the next 3 days in bed.

2.  Stay on schedule with your medications.  With time changes and days full of activities, it can be difficult to take your meds at the same time every day. There are several useful apps that you can download to keep track.

3. Know your limits. Don’t try do things that you know you should not. I often push myself too much and then suffer for it afterwards. I did, however, skip the Polar Plunge into the ocean. Mr. Twitchy, however, got talked into doing it along with about 40 other brave, but crazy people.

4.  Take your walking poles with you if you will be doing any hiking or walking on uneven surfaces.  They can be especially helpful when walking on cobblestones or steep trails.  Mine are from Urban Poling and are collapseable and quite sturdy. Not only do the poles help keep you from falling, you will look really cool with them.  And one really good thing is that you can’t be looking at your phone while walking if you have poles in your hands!

With my poles

5.  Don’t forget your sunscreen and a hat.  You are at a higher risk for skin cancer (as in Melanoma) if you have Parkinson’s. Good sunglasses are also a necessity.

6.  If you are with a group, LISTEN to your guides about equipment and clothing needed.  You may think that red parka is unfashionable, but it will do a better job keeping you warm and dry than a cute hoodie.   If they tell you to wear 3 layers of pants and shirts, do it. The cute hoodie can be the 3rd layer under the parka and it will keep your neck warmer when you put it up. And leave the flip-flops at home, unless your idea of adventure vacationing is sitting on the beach in Maui.

I will leave you with a few photos of Penguins and some interesting icebergs. After a couple of days we all started seeing shapes and images in the icebergs. What do you see? Have fun.

2 responses to “Adventure Traveling with Parkinson’s Disease”

  1. Sharon I really loved this post. It is especially meaningful as my brother and his wife from Colorado were on a cruise to Antartica just about the time you went. They sent pictures of themselves wearing red parkas and holding trekking poles! I quizzed them thoroughly to see if you were on the same ship. It appears not, but still quite a coincidence.

    I am preparing for a two -month quest. This time the hiking will be minimal but there we be many other adventures in-store, so I want to be prepared. I started physical therapy. I will see my doctor before I go to update my prescriptions and maybe I will get some new shiny hiking poles. You are so correct. If you are better physically condition you will have a better time.

    Like

  2. Hi – thank you for this post. Great to see such an example. I’ve recently cancelled a thrice-postponed trip to Chile. It was just getting to difficult around booking work holidays. have just booked a much shorter, walking holiday instead. Best wishes, Rob

    Like

Leave a Reply to Carol Clupny, author The Ribbon of Road Ahead: One Woman’s Remarkable Journey with Parkinson’s Disease Cancel reply

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