Migraine illness has traveled with me for almost 6 decades, a silent passenger hitching a ride in my brain until it decides to make its presence known with an unpleasant surprise.
Migraine and I travel together in a more literal sense, too. Vacations are a challenge even for a seasoned migraine warrior like me. With a little luck and a lot of planning, I can minimize the possibility of a migraine episode putting an unwelcome damper on vacation fun.
2017 found us celebrating my husband’s 50th birthday in Boulder, CO. Driving around the Rocky Mountains, we stopped to enjoy beautiful vistas and found ourselves taking some short hikes to get a better view. Who knew a Kansas couch potato with a fondness for climate-controlled environments would love hiking? Unlike a migraine episode, this surprise was a pleasant one.
Fast-forward a few years through a pandemic shutdown, and I was ready to hit the trail again. Black Hills National Forest and the Badlands, here I come! But before heading for the hills, I had to consider more than packing gear suitable for hiking.
Lodging is my first obstacle, or more precisely, the smell of lodging is my first obstacle. I look for completely nonsmoking properties. Research, research, and more research. I read reviews and request all home fragrance devices be removed before my stay in an Airbnb. Any host unwilling to accommodate my medical issue is simply not a good match.
With lodging arranged, I moved on to the next travel challenge. Changes in eating patterns is my earliest known trigger. Eating too much, eating too little, or altering mealtimes can mean big trouble for me. The driving route from Kansas to South Dakota looked a little sparse in terms of potential restaurant stops.
Along with plenty of preventive and abortive migraine medication and layers of hiking clothes, I also packed a lunch for our travel day up to South Dakota. With my knockoff recipe for the Old Mill Tasty Shop’s chicken salad sandwich in a cooler, we headed north. Lunch was enjoyed in a lovely little park in a small Nebraska town located at the perfect time to appease my migraine companion. Silver linings are often found in the most ordinary moments.
Packed lunch comes in handy for long hikes, too. My go-to is PB&J sandwiches and trail mix with dried cranberries instead of raisins, which are a migraine trigger for me. An alternative to my usual midday caffeinated soda is necessary on a hike. Jostling a soda around in my backpack all morning is a bad idea. I searched for a good tasting caffeine bar and landed on Awake Caramel Chocolate bites.
The payoff for my planning and creative problem-solving happened about 2 miles into the Black Elk Peak hiking trail. We stopped and we listened to stillness. No cars. No voices. Only chirping birds and leaves rustling in the breeze. Gazing into the valley far below, my eyes beheld the beauty residing on the side of a mountain as raindrops began landing on my face. Good thing I’m a planner. Rain gear is important, too.
I don’t know if my planning skills are the result of genetics or necessity. I do know migraine management requires routines and discipline. I’d like to stop thinking about my migraine illness while I’m on vacation, but the opposite approach is much more helpful to enjoying travel. A little extra thought and planning can make my invisible travel partner take a back seat to the joy of finding life’s pleasant surprises.
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