We are currently on vacation at the Côte d‘Azur. We, that is Ursula, me, and all four kids. We‘re camping. The internet tells me that our accommodation is called a folding caravan, but that doesn’t seem correct. When I do a picture search, most of what comes up looks different. I think tent on wheels describes it better.
We love camping. We enjoy the comfort of being in our own „home“ (i.e. the tent) when on vacation, the community that exists on campgrounds, and the freedom the kids enjoy there. All these things make camping special. However, there are challenges that come with camping for those of us with MS. In today’s post, I mention some important ones and give you tips on how to address them.
Staying at a campsite means you are probably walking to get to pretty much everywhere: The showers, the store (if there is one), the toilet, or the reception. My right leg is weak, I walk pretty slowly and limp, so I am always aware of the distances I need to cover.
My solution: I try to cut corners, like getting a portable toilet or buying groceries in larger quantities, but there is still a lot of walking. I look at it as good exercise, since I‘m on vacation and do not have to get anywhere fast.
Tip: If you have any difficulties walking, think ahead of what you might need. Consider bringing a walking stick or other support that makes it easier for you.
The bathroom situation!
I don‘t know about you, but I have a weak bladder, which is quite common when you have MS. I sometimes need to pee at the most inappropriate times. And I always have to pee at night. Every night. That means I need to be somewhere near a toilet. When I wake up, I cannot walk far distances to the campground bathroom. I probably would not make it, and even if I did, I would be wide awake by the time I got there and not be able to go back to sleep.
My solution: A portable toilet. The tent does not have a separate space for a bathroom, but the portable toilet fits perfectly in the corner and is hidden well by a cupboard. We did not even enclose it with a curtain as we had intended to. You can barely see it, so nobody is bothered by it, and I am pretty much the only one who uses it. It gives me peace of mind: if I have to go to the bathroom, I easily can!
Tip: If you have a weak bladder, make sure you are prepared. You might, for example, book a spot that is close to the campsite bathrooms, or you might bring a portable toilet. If you opt for the portable toilet, know how you will go about cleaning it. Can you carry it? Will someone else? Can you find a way to pull it to where you can clean it?
How do you handle humidity and heat? Like in a shower? Hot climates with high humidity levels are something that those of us with MS often struggle with. I love the dry heat of the Mediterranean, but when I take a hot shower, I begin to feel weak. It is too humid in the shower cabins. My hands start having difficulties holding on to things, my legs don‘t do exactly what I ask of them, and I feel a little dizzy. I finish my showers with a cold rinse, but that does not help the weakness much. When at home, I lay down on my bed for five to ten minutes after I have taken a hot shower. That is enough for me to feel fine again. At the campsite, this is not an option. I have to get dressed in the shower cabin, when I‘m still damp and feel weak. It is strenuous. And once I am dressed, I can’t immediately rest. I have to walk back to the tent.
Tip: If you’re struggling with showers, try the following:
1. On the way back to your tent or camper, find a place to sit down for a few minutes. That often helps to recuperate. If you can‘t rest before you get to where you are staying, make sure you rest as soon as you get there.
2. If the weather permits, don’t change in the shower. I love walking back in my wet bathing suit. The wind keeps me cool, which makes walking much easier. This might also work for you.
When camping, I find it very difficult to stick to a diet that I know is good for me. Cooking at a campsite is simply not as comfortable as cooking at home. We only bring a two-burner stove, and we are a family of six. Most of the time we have pasta, some kind of sauce, and a few vegetables. I do not handle gluten well and bring a lot of gluten-free food from home. But since food tastes differently when you are on vacation (have you noticed that??), we get tired of eating the same things we eat at home. We then buy local food, and since we are in Europe, this often involves gluten.
My solution: I eat the gluten-free food we bring from home, and then I watch my gluten intake somewhat. Most importantly, I make sure I bring all the supplements I know contribute to my well-being and take them regularly.
Tip: It might be strenuous on your body if you are camping in a climate you are not used to. Changes in your diet can add to that. Make sure you bring the food you need, but also know that you will probably want to try out different foods. Have a plan for how to take care of your health when you are camping. If you have MS, you are probably taking various supplements to support you. Make sure to bring them with you!
Beware of hot sand (not directly related to camping but important)
This happened today… Our tent is right at the beach, so I walk there barefoot. Today, I left the beach at 1 p.m. to get out of the midday sun, and the sand was so hot that I was convinced I would get second-degree burns on the soles of my feet. The kids had no problem running back barefoot, but since I cannot run, I was exposed to the hot sand much longer than they were. I yelled for help and was lucky that my daughter brought me flip-flops.
My solution: From tomorrow, I will bring flip-flops or leave the beach by noon.
Tip: Make sure you have appropriate footwear if you are at the beach! Not only because the sand might be hot, but also because it might make it easier for you to walk on the uneven surface.
After having read all this, you might wonder why I go camping if there are all these challenges. I do so because those things do not constitute the main part of the day! I mostly have fun in the water, play games, go on excursions, and read good books.
When camping, life is good 😊