Background to my travels
Having been a complete workaholic all my life, travelling had been restricted to when I could take some time off. I had some wonderful holidays but not enough of them. However, in 2001, I was struck down with an illness that resembled complete burn-out and remained a mystery to both me and the medical profession for the next six years. It manifested itself in extreme fatigue, pain all over my body, flu-like symptoms and worst of all… severe clinical depression. In the absence of a diagnosis, I was referred for counselling and after many, many hours of talking, my psychologist said he thought I was completely emotionally healthy and he suspected something physical was to blame. But still no diagnosis… until I had what appeared to be a series of TIAs (mini strokes) but were subsequently thought to be particularly weird migraines. Whatever they were, they focused the doctors, and after exhaustive tests, I was finally diagnosed as having autoimmune diseases – not one but three. I have Connective Tissue Disease (a Lupus-like condition), Sjögren’s Syndrome and Antiphospholipid Syndrome… a particularly sinister ailment which causes sticky blood with a tendency to clot. (My doctor says I’ll have to give myself Heparin injections before each long flight so I think I’ll stick to Europe until I can pluck up enough courage to do that.)
So having been faced with fairly disabling and potentially life-threatening illnesses, and having lost my career and my energetic lifestyle, I had two choices. I could either sit indoors, watching mind-numbing daytime TV and feeling sorry for myself, or I could find some new interests and try as much as possible to ‘act normal’. My psychologist told me to embrace the freedom and think of something I’d always wanted to do but had never had the time. That something was, of course, travel so I set off on some virtual trips on my PC, identifying places I’d always wanted to visit.
In the past, I’ve accompanied my partner on business trips to various cities and spent time on my own in them while he was working but I didn’t know whether Id be able to manage trips completely on my own and without a Sherpa to help carry my luggage. But I found that provided I got well organised, and picked places where transport was relatively easy, I managed very well. And with the tremendous amount of information available on the Internet, it’s possible to identify potential problems before you go and thus avoid them.
At times I'm obviously regarded as somewhat 'unusual', in so far as I don't meet many middle-aged women travelling alone, but hopefully I can spread the word to others in a similar position that it's easy... just as long as you plan carefully. It's totally liberating and it's true what they say... travel definitely broadens the mind.