If you, like me, are living with eczema, you might assume that worsening symptoms mean you need to put bucket list vacations on hold. When you’re going through an eczema flare, you might reconsider any dreams of seeing incredible sights, sharing wonderful meals, learning little-known and interesting facts about other cultures, and meeting amazing people.
However, I’ve come to realize that dealing with our affliction means we’re going to be miserable to some extent, no matter where we go or what we do. So, you might as well go ahead and start packing for that cruise or bus tour you’ve always dreamed of. The trick is to be able to deal with the misery and keep it to a bare minimum if and when possible.
This means plenty of planning:
Basically, this means planning for everything based on how our affliction decides to respond to it — but doing so on a European scale. This can be more difficult than it looks, but you can look for helpful hints and hacks to make your trip as memorable as possible. Do your research!
If you’ve been dealing with the affliction for a long time, you probably already have most of this down. Getting up in the morning and preparing for work or school or any other routine, like parenting or even just getting to the grocery store, can be a daunting task if improperly executed (see my article “Burning Man”) — especially if you’re dealing with other health issues too. You can glean travel-related tips by watching YouTube videos and checking out websites like Rick Steves’ Europe.
My wife’s brilliant idea of starting our epic journey with a 10-day cruise on the Norwegian Cruise Line ship Breakaway out of Rome offered a wonderful way to ease into vacation mode. Visiting several exotic lands and having to unpack only once was a great way for me to learn how to plan and deal with the eczema issues — with the added convenience of being able to get back to our stateroom to change a bloody T-shirt or drop off the hoodie I thought I needed in the cool of the morning as I strolled to breakfast at the buffet (the already-paid-for, all-you-can-eat buffet!).
This was my first cruise, and I’m hooked. It’s like that first trip to Las Vegas, where you realize you can experience or at least sample the foods and sights of many different “places” — like New York City at New York-New York or Italy at Bellagio or Paris at Paris Las Vegas — without all the smells, pollution, and travel costs. But on a cruise, your “home” does all the work of getting you to your next destination while you’re sleeping, taking the stress of travel almost completely out of the equation.
After avoiding cruises for decades, I finally got it, and on the last day, I was seriously tempted to stow away and never come home. Yes, it was that much fun. And having a controlled environment like a stateroom, with a balcony to soothe my eczema with fresh sea air or an air conditioner that reliably provided subzero relief, kept my itching agony to a minimum — heaven for both me and my wife.
Excursions are an important part of the cruise experience, but don’t take too many. Schedule a rest day, or just walk around on your own at a few ports.
We started out after embarkation (that’s “boarding” to you landlubbers) in the ancient port of Civitavecchia, about 40 minutes north of Rome. I highly recommend that you arrive in Civitavecchia the day before you embark, and go ahead and take a taxi or a private car with a driver. Sure, it’s expensive, but so is your time and effort. Although buses and trains are very reliable in Italy, they present an entirely different ordeal when people over 50 have to handle their own luggage. Trust me, a leisurely night spent in a clean, quaint little Italian hotel next to a place with the best wood-fired pizza you’ll ever have will make Embarkation Day much less stressful.
And stress is the reason we’re here in the first place, right? Think about it. There can be as many as 4,000 people all trying to board the same cruise ship, so follow the instructions and embrace the process. If you think that’s a daunting task, just wait until you need to get off the ship for your excursions and tours — but that’s another topic.
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