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Uncomfortable Travel Realities: Know Your Enemy

Updated: Sep 4, 2023

Recently, I started to think about how uncomfortable travel can be. Not just the getting there but the being there and having to manage things and elements I tried to be prepared for and some I didn’t see coming.

The Reality Behind Picture-Perfect Travels

You see people posting pictures of their travels and how great it was, and the pictures are perfect, but in reality, that’s not always the case. Let’s be honest: travel isn’t always pretty.

I’m thinking about my recent trip to Europe. I knew that parts of Italy had experienced a record-breaking number of tourists and heat temperatures. Without sharing TMI, I will say I no longer tolerate hot weather like I used to. A 100-degree day was my friend back in the day. But as I’ve gotten older and due to some health issues and surgeries, my struggle with heat and hot flashes was instantly activated. I knew it was necessary to prepare myself ahead of time for the discomforts I knew were coming.

Beating the Heat: Preparing for the Elements

First, I evaluated my wardrobe and what items I would bring. I already knew what items I currently owned that were comfortable and cool. I bought a few things and carefully read the labels to ensure they were a cotton or linen blend. And absolutely no polyester!! I bought more dresses to wear rather than shorts because they are much cooler in hot weather. Of course, I brought appropriate undergarments to prevent chaffing of my legs while wearing dresses (probably a little TMI). What else did I do?

  • I packed a hat.

  • I packed an actual sun umbrella. Not just a regular umbrella

  • I packed a cooling towel in a plastic bag to wet it as needed and not make all of my other items wet.

  • I bought slightly larger shoes because I knew my feet would swell from the heat and walking.

  • I packed a hand fan to carry with me.

  • I packed and applied sunscreen daily.

I was prepared as much as I thought I could possibly be.

Letting go of the "Cute" Factor

As the days passed, I gave up trying to “look cute.” I could not maintain my hair because the humidity and sweat overtook it, and I needed to rinse it daily, which I do not regularly do.

I stopped wearing makeup because sweat dripped down my face daily. Most days on tours, as I stood holding my sun umbrella and feeling sweat coming out of every pore of my body, I was thankful that I had my sun umbrella to cut back on some of the heat, that I had my cooling towel to help and when I was inside and still sweating, I would take out of my hand fan and start fanning.

Embracing Discomfort for Unforgettable Experiences

I sent daily video diaries to my family at home while I traveled. Most of them included how hot it was and if anyone had a choice when to visit the area, don’t go in summer. But I also added do I wish I hadn’t gone? No! I was in Europe, seeing and exploring things I never thought I would.

I will never forget when I was outside Vatican City in Rome with our tour guide. She had already made mention of the fact that I had a sun umbrella to keep cool. At that moment, we were in a shaded area, so there was no need for an umbrella, but I was still miserably hot and needed some help. So, I took out my fan and started fanning. She looked at me and said, “Ah, you have your umbrella, now your wind. You know your enemy.”

So, don’t let the discomforts of travel stop you from experiencing a new place, learning about a different culture, and deepening your knowledge of history. What about the next adventure that will challenge you, or where have you put off going for fear of not knowing the language or being concerned about the outside elements? Instead of not doing it or trying to avoid it, know your enemy and prepare for it. Take the trip and embrace the challenge.

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