Travelling in humid countries with CFS/ME

I could watch them all day! Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Borneo

In April we spent a week in Jamaica which has a very hot climate but it’s dry. As a result of this holiday, I knew that heat coupled with no stress helps reduce my symptoms significantly. Yet before our recent trip to Borneo, I was anxious about how I would react to a humid climate alongside a more active itinerary without any true routine.

So before we travelled I researched what has helped other sufferers of CFS/ME from clothing fabrics to toiletries to insect repellent. I already had some clothing that I know helps keep me cool in hotter climates by wicking away moisture. I also took layers in case I got cold – unlikely but you never know! I also ensured I had my usual potions like the peppermint cream that alleviates headaches and my energy roller to give me a boost.

So what have I learned from our recent adventure?

  1. That I can still travel! This is a fantastic outcome for us. We said that this trip was an experiment to see how I feel during and after. I had moments of heightened pain and fatigue but pacing and rest – as much as I could on a tour – helped.
  2. Talk to your tour guide and the group. I did and it not only helped them understand why I couldn’t do the trek but it helped alleviate any worries I could have had – they didn’t question me when I suddenly went quiet or when I disappeared for a little while. I was lucky in that our group were great and our guide did what he could to assist when needed.
  3. Take what you know works for you – those potions and my headphones, despite taking up a little more space, were a good choice. Planes are noisier than the standard road noise so noise cancelling headphones on a 13 hour plus flight are a life saver.
  4. Invest in clothes that wick away moisture and dry quickly. I have two merino wool tops that whilst more expensive helped keep me cool and drier. You do sweat a lot after all.
  5. Take two bottles so you have enough water; keeping hydrated is key and it definitely helped my energy levels.
  6. Take some protein bars. We spent a little more and bought some decent snack bars that contained more protein. Although I didn’t eat many, because I didn’t feel the need to eat one every day, it was a comfort knowing I had them just in case. I also took some salt and vinegar Hula Hoops because I normally crave salt and vinegar when I’m away!
  7. Stay away from foods and drink that you know will cause you to crash. Sugar and coffee gives me a real high and then a crash, particularly if I am feeling OK. Coffee only really helps when I have very little energy. So I stuck to their weak Sabah tea despite wanting to taste their coffee because I didn’t want to risk ruining the experience.

Ultimately I think the excitement of all the new experiences we were having helped a great deal in keeping my energy levels high. There was no real routine and we often ate a lot later in the evening – mostly when I would normally be thinking about going to bed if in the UK.

So I did think I would crash when we got home but at the moment I am feeling fine. I did need to go to bed at 19.30 last night but I think that’s mostly because my body was thinking it was 2.30am! Having said that, I did feel really fatigued and low in energy when we were in Singapore. I think it hit me after having travelling the previous night and arrived late. But after sitting on an open top bus for an hour followed by a coffee, I began to feel better. Despite this, we still stuck to our plan of returning to the hotel after lunch to rest for a bit so I would be able to enjoy the plans we had made for the rest of the day.

The best thing about our adventure then, apart from seeing Orangutans swinging and doing rolly pollys and releasing baby turtles into the wild? Knowing that I am lucky enough to be able to continue travelling and seeing the world. I can still manage my symptoms whilst in a new country with a completely different climate, food, time zones and with a group of new people from different backgrounds.

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