How to Travel with Fatigue

One of the worst side effects of my Crohn’s is the anemia. I was anemic for years, and the fatigue from it was UNREAL. I’d wake up feeling like I was made of lead. By 12:00, I was wiped out. Teaching, a profession that is extremely demanding, was next to impossible. I still traveled with fatigue. There’s a big world out there, and I wanna see it! Travel with chronic fatigue isn’t impossible – it’s just adapted. Today I’m sharing my tips for how to travel with chronic fatigue.

Prioritize When You Travel with Fatigue

It’s natural to want to see and do everything when you go somewhere, especially when it feels like a place you won’t go back to. This is never realistic. It leads to rushing around and never actually enjoying anything while you’re there.

The Alhambra was on the top of my priority list in Granada, so I skipped other experiences in town to spend the bulk of my time there.

When you plan your trip, stop and take a moment to ask yourself, “Do I want to do this, or do I just feel like I have to do it?” If there’s an aviation museum and you don’t like flying, don’t go! It doesn’t matter that it’s a combo ticket with something you do want to see or do. It’s not worth spending your very limited energy on things you aren’t totally pumped about.

Choose Long Weekends Over Week Long Trips

Week long trips are great, but when you are fatigued, days 5 – 7 usually aren’t that fun. Choose long weekends instead. When you do a 3 or 4 day weekend, you have a much better chance of your stamina holding out. This often means only seeing one destination, but this also offers a benefit: digging in deeply. You get to slow down your itinerary and spend more time getting to know the personality of a destination. For example, spending a weekend in Barcelona let me spend more time on “regular” things like sipping a café con leche at a sidewalk cafe than my one day in Granada seeing the Alhambra. I saw the palace and moved on. I didn’t get to experience the Granada lifestyle or vibe.

Siesta – Take a Rest in the Middle of the Day

This is something I always do – even when I’m not anemic. My husband and I are early birds, so we like to get up and do something early, have lunch, and then go back to our hotel to rest for the afternoon. This is especially helpful when we travel during hot months. We escape the heat of the afternoon that is so draining. It’s also helpful in colder months because we got up and did something, so we miss the afternoon crowds at sights and activities. Then, when we are refreshed, we go back out and see things a few hours before closing, avoiding crowds and having places almost to ourselves. Then a nice dinner and stroll around to soak up late evening magic. It’s a rhythm that’s served us well.

Take Breaks that Contribute to Your Experience

Woman's hand pushing a button to get a tasting of wine in Lisbon
In Lisbon, we found a wine tasting room to sip on Portugese wines and rest during the hot, crowded afternoon outside.

If you’re getting worn out, stop and try the local drink/snack and people watch. Or, grab a sidewalk café table and read the history behind the location or sights you’re seeing. Find a park bench and read a novel set in your destination, or strike up a conversation with a stranger anywhere you are. Some of my most treasured travel memories are chatting with locals on the subway or at the bar next to me. 

Don’t Walk Everywhere

Tourist bus full of people in New York City
Lean in to the cheesy tourist busses as a way to conserve energy when you visit large cities.

Walking is a fantastic way to see a city and happen upon things you’d never read about in guide books or on blogs. But it can rob you of the precious little energy you have when you travel with fatigue. I always budget for taxis like I recommended in my guest blog for Lights, Camera, Crohn’s. Sometimes I use the touristy hop-on, hop-off busses to help me get to major sights. Depending on the city, they can be a great transportation deal over taxis or city busses. Bonus: you also learn some history and anecdotes about the city!

Comfortable Shoes are a Must

On trips where I have pushed myself and walked too much, I always pay for it in my lower back and hips. Having this pain on top of what I already have going on with Crohn’s and anemia is noise I don’t need. Luckily, wearing sneakers is in style. I love wearing my Supergas, and these new flats from Allbirds are like walking on a cloud. Both are vegan and made of natural materials, so they are easier on your feet and on the planet.

Travel Light

Do not carry around a backpack full of stuff you don’t need. If you are in a city, you probably don’t need more than your money, phone, and a water bottle. If you have a guidebook, tear out the pages you need for that day. This tip is always hard for me because I love books so much, so I try to go digital as much as possible with eBook versions. Get cutthroat about this. I know it’s comforting to have all of the doodads you’d ever possibly need, but here’s the thing: I’ve never needed any of it – not in cities, anyway. If you have some items that would make you feel more comfortable, then ask a travel partner if they’d help you out. I’m very lucky that my husband happily carries our bag with our water bottles and snacks.

Overall, pace yourself. Be realistic when you plan your itinerary, and take as many breaks as you need. If you don’t run yourself ragged, the experiences you have will be so much richer and you’ll make some lifelong memories.

Have you traveled when you were fatigued? How’d it go? Do you have a tip that I haven’t mentioned? Tell us a story from traveling that you learned from. Comment below – your story might help someone have the trip of a lifetime.

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