Europe – #AtoZChallenge

Oh, my. Traveling to Europe for a six-month trip was impacted by having MS in a variety of amusing ways.

First off, I decided that the best way to enable myself to be active was to take along a cooling vest, since heat can really exacerbate the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. The deal was, the vest looked puffy but was actually fitted with these long gel packs that you would freeze and then stuff into pockets that encircle your torso. It was so bulky and heavy that I had to wear it on the plane to save room in our bags, so I looked, basically, like a mild-mannered, middle-aged suicide bomber.

Modeling the cooling vest. Note the handy Velcro shoulder and side straps!

That was only the first thing that caused problems for airport security, though! The other was that I needed to bring six months’ worth of medication, so my entire carry-on bag was packed with drugs. Nothing to see here, security people!

Being gimpy and slow had two main consequences on the trip. First, David and Quinland would inevitably drift farther and farther ahead of me. Honestly, this didn’t bother me much, because I like to window shop and they don’t, so I’d have been falling behind anyway, and this was a good excuse. One time in Portugal, though, I tripped and fell while strolling down the street (very gracelessly, I should add; I just pitched over, face-first) and my family was just out of shouting range. Thankfully, I was immediately attended to by the wonderful local folks, whom I tried to assure, without actually knowing any Portuguese, that I was scraped up but otherwise fine.

The second thing was that — and this holds true today — if I over-exert myself on one day, I usually am laid up on the next. D and Q thus got to go on many adventures without me, though we tried to make those days either sites-I-was-less-interested-in or physical-activities-I-probably-couldn’t-do-anyway. It would have been fun to mountain bike in Istria or kayak in Norwegian fjords, but I can’t complain — I can still travel, and I’m incredibly grateful for that.

I’m also grateful that I got to visit massage therapists all over Europe, from the relaxing one in Lisbon to the near-chiropractic one in Barcelona to the health-club vibe of the one in Hannover. (After being introduced to hot yoga in London, I also got to explore yoga studios in Paris and Dublin!)

How you feeling? Hot, hot, hot…

Photo by ecastro

I went to my second Bikram Yoga class last night! Have you heard of Bikram Yoga? My friend, Liz, is an instructor here in the London area, and she encouraged me to try a class.

This type of yoga is done in a heated room with 40% humidity, which is supposed to make you more flexible and less likely to injure yourself. You begin to sweat the minute you walk into the room, and by the time you have done a few poses, the sweat is running down your legs and dripping from your fingers. At times, it felt like all I could do just to stay in the room, and yet – when class was over and I had cooled down – I felt wonderful.

At the first class, I felt pretty out-of-place. I didn’t bring any exercise clothing on the trip, so I was doing hot yoga in long stretchy pants and a t-shirt. Needless to say, everyone else was wearing as little as possible. I went out the very next day and got some stretchy shorts so that I was more appropriately dressed for my next class.

When you first start, they tell you that you should just do as much as you can, as well as you can, but that the most important things you can do are breathe through your nose and stay in the room. Apparently by the third or fourth class your body acclimates to the temperature and you are able to concentrate on the postures a bit more.

The experience has been fascinating. I generally dread exercise, yet after each class I have been all fired up about getting back to the next one. I can’t wait to see what the next couple of weeks of classes feel like!

Q said that this can be “my thing” on the trip, so just as David tries to play board games in each new city, I can try to find a Bikram Yoga class. Sounds good to me! I’ve started searching online to see where classes are in the Portland area as well.

Daily Check-In:

I’m grateful! for blueberries. Dang, I love those things.