I’m sure someone out there is scratching their head and wondering why I decided to write about vacations the same week all the little kiddies trot back to school and the weather starts turning cool. Isn’t the time for vacations over? They are – if you decide they are.
Personally, I think any time is a good time for a break.
Though the healthiest person on Earth can have plenty of obstacles standing between them and that beach in Rio, the obstacles can be higher and wider for those of us with chronic diseases. Along with the normal problems of cost, planning and finding time, it can be frustrating for us lupies to plan ahead for a trip when we have no idea of what our health will be like when the time to leave finally comes. Add in typical vacation stress (long car rides, noisy kids, unexpected flight delays, etc.) and suddenly you might find yourself dreaming of relaxing – back at the office.
So how can a person limited by health, wealth and anything else create an actually relaxing getaway?
Start by asking yourself what you really want, what you feel you need and what you’re willing to settle for. Sure we’d all love to dash off to some exotic locale and be waited on hand and foot by hunky cabana boys (or girls, I’m sure they have cabana girls someplace), but if what you really need is a nice long weekend curled up with a book or some more family time, then that is what you should aim for.
I find physically writing stuff down makes it much easier to cut through the wouldas, shoulda, couldas in my brain and prioritize, but use whatever technique works for you. Is a sun-drenched beach in another country all you’ll settle for – or would you feel just as relaxed in a nice bed and breakfast in the next state? Do you want to cut loose and dance all night, or do you want complete silence? Will a long weekend recharge your batteries or do you need more time? Can you safely take that time off from work, or would it be a better bet to break up your vacation into several afternoon-sized chunks? If it’s helpful, try writing three lists side by side: your dream vacation details (beach, skiing, etc.), your personal needs (quiet, to be unplugged, not having to cook, etc.) and what your obstacles are (not enough vacation days, big project, tense work environment, kids to watch, etc.). Lists like this can give you a more realistic idea of what obstacles you need to consider in making your plans.
It’s easy to think that creativity is this vague magical force that’s only the domain of artists, poets and musicians, but that isn’t really true. Have you ever added an extra dash of salt or an extra ingredient to spice up your meal? Have you ever ? Then congratulations, you’ve been creative. I think a large part of creativity is finding the essence of what you want and not getting bogged down in labels and surface details (hence the lists). Once you have a clearer idea of what you really need, then it’s time to start getting inventive and creative. Don’t give yourself any excuses. Can’t afford to get away? Can you afford a weekend trip upstate? Can you afford a motel on the other side of town? Do you have a friend or relative that’s going away who’s willing to let you house-sit? Even if you physically can’t leave the house, you can unplug and unwind with some books, or host a potluck and have your friends feed you.
Here are a few other ideas for quick getaways that anyone can do at any time:
- Staycations. A Staycation is going on vacation in your immediate area as opposed to on the other side of the planet. These can require just as much planning as a regular vacation, but there are strong benefits. Just saving on the cost of airfare alone can make it a worthwhile option (not to mention no lines!). I always keep my staycations simple; I look for a cheap motel (which in New York City still ranges anywhere between $85 to $120 a night) in an area of the city that I don’t usually get to visit (I personally like the NYU district around Union Square) and research ahead of time some fun, free activities to do. For a weekend trip, a backpack or duffel bag is all the luggage I need. For maybe $300 dollars, it’s not a bad way to spend a long weekend.
- Really-staycation. If you can’t even get out of the house, try this twist on a staycation: hire a maid. If you can’t relax because your house is a mess, but don’t have the time or energy to get away, a cleaning service might be the break you need. For a fraction of the cost of a hotel, gas and/or airfare, you can hire a cleaning service to scrub and organize your house for you while you take a leisurely stroll and sigh in relief that someone else is on their knees scrubbing the floor. Other ways to make your home a stress-free zone: try a home spa weekend by buying some scented candles and treating yourself to a bubble bath or some other relaxing treatment. Decorating with fresh flowers can brighten the environment as well. If you have a spouse and kids, get them on board (or out of the house) by explaining that you need some “alone time” to recharge and relax. If they’re youngsters, maybe splurging on a babysitter is a good option as well.
- Get spiritual. Probably the most peaceful trip I ever took was to a monastery. Some monasteries will let lay people stay with them, either for free or for a low cost. The one I went to went was actually in Brooklyn. I stayed with a company of nuns for about a week and paid a donation of $100 dollars. The meals were bland and simple, but I had utter peace and quiet, as well as a beautiful walled garden to walk in (and two of the cutest pet rabbits you ever saw). If you’re not Catholic, don’t let that stop you (I’m not, and that didn’t make a difference). Find a few places and write or call them. Ask about costs, location (if you can park a car if you’ll be driving) and whether or not you’ll be expected to participate in their activities (I wasn’t, but you never know). Above all, be polite and respectful – staying in a monastery is equivalent to staying in someone’s house. Be the best guest you can be.
- Couchsurf. I’m not too crazy about this, but it is an option. Couchsurfing is basically crashing on a stranger’s couch or hosting other people. CouchSurfing.org is the leading website for surfers all over the world and definitely worth a look. If exotic locals are new experiences are what you crave, then this could be the answer. Even if you just couchsurf to the next state, it could save you a bundle on hotel costs and get you the inside edge on where the locals shop, hang and eat. Even though the website does have its own checks, do keep in mind that you are in essence staying with (or hosting) a complete stranger and that entails some risk.
- Cruises. Okay, so this isn’t really a particularity unique idea, but for chronically ill folk cruises have a distinct advantage over other types of vacations. With a cruise, you pay one price for food, travel, and accommodations. Some cruises have themes such as Singles Only or the Cruise to Nowhere. There are also river cruises, though most of these are in Europe. If you have the patience to shop around (and wait), you can find great trip for a good price. And while you can save a bundle if you have a port nearby, it can also limit your destination options. Another lesser-known alternative is Freight travel. Yep, hitching a ride on a freight ship can save you a few additional bucks and give you a totally new experience on the seven seas. About.com’s quick introduction to Freight travel, will give you a basic idea of pros and cons.
Whether you’re looking for adventure or relaxation, always keep the basic rules of Lupus in mind: check your insurance to make sure you’re covered if you’re going overseas, be flexible, bring extra medication and listen to your body.
What other ways can you grab a quick vacation?