More MS news articles for August 2002

Let Me Tell You ... About Globetrotting Anyway

InsideMS; Summer 2002; Vol. 20, Issue 3
Jeanine Schmitz

Traveling is my passion. Since childhood, I have dreamed of traveling around the world in a single, extended trip. Last year, my husband and I were lucky enough to finally make it happen.

Long-term traveling becomes more complicated and scary with MS, even a milder version like my own. Fatigue and ďbrain fogĒ can knock me out. The slightest increase in body temperature causes my body to misbehave: the vision in my right eye becomes blurred, and my leg starts dragging. I canít distinguish colors or edges or details very well, and I seem to trip over almost every rock and pebble. Perhaps the hardest thing to live with is the fear of not knowing when/where/how the next episode will strike. Dreams of travel become nightmarish when contemplating the possibility of my legs suddenly not working in the middle of the jungle.

Making the dream come true required planning ahead, creativity, and determination. One major problem was how to maintain my interferon injections. I brought a two-month supply with me, and I carried my medication in a small cooler with ice packs that I re-froze every chance I got. I had a friend order and receive my medication in the U.S. the rest of the year, and he mailed it to pre-arranged spots around the world. Shipping expensive medicine abroad is not simple, and even a reliable U.S.-owned courier company is only as effective as the bureaucrats in the recipient country. That said, most of my shipments made it to me without problems, and I was able to continue taking medication on an almost continuous basis, even in far-away places.

Dealing with the other health problems also called for creative thinking and resolve. I realize the importance of being well-rested, and I tried as much as possible to get enough sleep (not always easy when staying in a new place each night or trying to sleep under the Arctic Circleís midnight sun). I was lucky to have my husband, Ted, as my traveling companion. When I was completely fatigued, Ted would take charge, often recognizing that need before I did.

Hiking poles and good boots provided balance and support not only on trails, but also on long city walks. But the problems associated with an increase in body temperature were more insidious. I sought out shade, fans, high altitudes, and cool spots whenever possible. I stopped often to drink water, rest, and cool down. I carried an umbrella in the sun-drenched Galapagos. When hiking, I always wore a handkerchief around my head, and from time to time I would dip it in a cool stream. Whenever possible, Iíd jump into the nearest safe body of water, be it a creek or the North Sea.

In that year I circumnavigated the globe, visiting 26 countries. I climbed a 14,000-foot pass and hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru. I rafted rivers in Costa Rica. I completed an eight-day backpacking circuit in Chilean Patagonia in horrendous weather. I went snorkeling by coral reefs in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. I hiked and kayaked all over the south island of New Zealand. I swam with baby sea lions in the Galapagos Islands. I hiked above the fjords of Norway. I watched the solstice sunrise at Stonehenge. I went paragliding off a mountain in Switzerland. I swung around to Celtic dances at a wedding in Scotland. I saw paradise in the Seychelles and fascinating cultures in Guatemala and Turkey.

The uncertainty will always be there. Itís scary going off the high dive, but at some point you just jump. So I thought about it carefully, prepared as well as possible, and then I just jumped! Because MS is so uncertain, if itís something you really want and can do, then by all means do it now. I learned to live in the moment. Yes, I have MS, but I made my dream come true anyway.

© 2002 The National Multiple Sclerosis Society