With more and more people looking to find alternative ways to travel and vacation this year, many people are choosing adventures outdoors! Camping is one such activity, and at the top of our list of favorite ways to decompress and get grounded. It often requires attentive planning and preparation to get ready, and when someone suffers from chronic illness, even more consideration is needed to ensure a safe and successful trip! We sat down (via Zoom of course) with Ashley to get some of her favorite tips and tricks that help her make the most of her camping trips, while also balancing it w her chronic illness.
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Amber: “You have a really fun goal you’ve set with your husband regarding camping. Do you want to share with everyone what that it?“
Ashley: We have a goal to visit all 62 National Parks in the US! So far we’ve been to 10! This Summer, we checked 5 off our list on a 9 day trip.
Amber: “What is it about camping that made you so determined to find ways to overcome some of the obstacles and challenges that pop up with your chronic illness? And what makes it worth the effort/risk?“
Ashley: I love to be outside and in nature. Walks in the woods, sitting by a lake, etc. Being in nature allows me to relax and feel more at ease. If I’m going through a tough time or am grieving a big loss, it helps to be in nature. It grounds me and I feel more spiritually connected. There are so many beautiful places in the world and I want to see as many as I can. Though this isn’t as easy for me since my chronic illnesses have progressed. Traveling and camping with POTS require even more planning and troubleshooting than normal, but I have found it is worth the spoons.”
Misti: “For me personally, I know that it took time and lots of baby steps to get my body to a healthy enough state to travel safely, due to deconditioning. Having POTS, have you had any times in your life that held you back from traveling (or camping), and if so, what advice do you have for others who want to start being more active but don’t know where to start?“
Ashley: Baby steps are important and it’s good to make sure you don’t overdo too much.
There was a Summer where I was switching to a different medication and my health really wasn’t doing great and I had to miss out on a bachelorette weekend. I couldn’t drive due to the increased dizziness, lightheadedness, migraines and brain fog and I just didn’t have the stamina to do much of anything and I didn’t want to be a burden. There are other times where the heat and humidity are so bad that I can’t even go outside that day. If I do, my feet immediately swell and my heart rate and BP go nuts.
As far as advice goes for someone who is looking to be more active and go camping, I would say preparation is key. You’ll want to make sure you are well equipped. I suggest writing out a big check list so you don’t forget anything crucial.
Some suggestions: Pack extra medication, both of your everyday meds and emergency meds like Benadryl, Ibuprofen, Dramamine, Bacitracin, etc. Sometimes pills fall and then are no longer edible. It’s also always a good rule of thumb to carry a few additional days worth of pills in case you had to extend your stay last minute.
Pace yourself and try to work up to more activity little by little before your trip. If you’re planning on hiking during an upcoming trip, it’s probably a good idea to go for some walks the weeks prior to build some more endurance.
If it’s Summer, you’ll probably want to pack a cooler and continue to buy ice to keep it cold. I keep a spritzer in there and will often spray myself during those really hot days. If you’re tent camping, I suggest pitching it in the shade. You don’t want to get caught during a hot day with no cool place to lie down to rest. I learned this the hard way.
Also, prehydrate before the trip! Often we don’t drink as much water when we are driving or flying somewhere and staying hydrated is extra important for someone with chronic illness. It will help give you the best chance going into your trip.
To continue the hydration, I make sure to bring plenty of electrolyte packets like Liquid IV or Banana Bag Oral Solution so I can maximize the water I drink while on a trip.
If you decide to go on a hike, pack snacks, meds, and extra water. If you forget these things and have a long hike ahead of you, it’s worth turning around if you’re not too far in. Trust me, I know. 😁
Products mentioned in our podcast:
The Headache Hat: link
The AC Boot (Air conditioning adapter for a tent): link
Ways to connect with Ashley:
Documentary: Behind The Visible Film
Also be sure to check out the trailer for her upcoming film, “Behind the Visible”!
It’s an amazing documentary that provides an intimate look into the lives of those dealing with invisible illness.
You can check it out here: link
Ashley also contributed in our recent September/October digital magazine with even more tips for camping!