Family vacations are the light at the end of a long school tunnel and the counterbalance to a parent’s long working hours. They give our children a chance to gain new perspective on the world and our families a chance to reconnect from our splintering lives. We need them. But as a mom with MCS, I have to view vacations as work. Doing my normal safe routine from the haven of my home with great indoor air quality is my vacation. Taking the family out into the world is effortful; there is preparation work, work during it, and work recovering from it.
About 2 years ago I was doing very well, which means my chemical sensitivities were fairly low. Dr. Ziem’s Neural Sensitization Protocol was working very well for me and I was getting to do a lot of things. I started and ran an after school program at my kids’ elementary school, chaired the town’s environmental committee, volunteered in classrooms, and started blogging with my sister. I also began the process of becoming certified to teach here in FL which had always been the dream – to teach high school physics. I was so excited to get outside my box; the thought of being able to contribute made me giddy. Giddy enough to throw caution to the wind and indulge in too much travel. 4 trips in 5 months, oops. And so I went functionally blind for a few months.Cornea damage from a systemic inflammation of unknown etiology; a classic unresolved health problem and typical of my 17 year struggle with auto-immunity issues that are aggravated by chemical exposure! I will do a future post on the two steps forward, one step back nature of chronic illness. But not now, today’s post is all about the step forward!
Our step forward is to rethink how we travel. Our new plan focuses on less air travel and hotels and more control for me. Control over the air quality, the food, and access to medicines. So we got Ferb, pictured below. It is our safe home on wheels. We hope it will take us to a lot of cool places while keeping me healthy enough to enjoy the cool places.
This is a LivinLite Quicksilver Tent Camper. It has an all aluminum base with a pop up canvas tent top. The aluminum means no pressed wood outgassing – yay! Plus it is light enough for me to maneuver myself. It’s 10 feet long in the trailer position and when it is popped up, with the ends folded out to make 2 queens beds, it is 20 feet long. The best part is that we got it 2 years used from a lovely family who had maintained it very well and tricked it out a bit with a good A/C unit, microwave, storage bins, and more. Previously owned means that the canvas and the few plastic parts had finished outgassing and were safely inert before it came into our possession.
This past summer we took to the road in this configuration. We drove from Florida, through Georgia into Tennessee and stayed in Roan Mtn State Park for a few days so that we could get up on the Appalachian Trail and hike a bit. Then we continued north to see friends in Cincinnati and finally onto Wisconsin where we stated for a week with my mother whose house is always a safe environment for me. On the way back south we camped at another state park and then a few nights at Jellystone Mammoth Cave so we could go spelunking.
It was a lot of firsts for us all and so the learning curve was high. But I did not have any bad reactions. We got some wonderful family time together. My kids saw a lot of the USA. I got to get out of my house but still cook my own meals, take my medicine when I needed to, and control my air quality to some degree.
One of the hardest parts of parenting with physical limits is tracking the ever shifting boundaries of those limits. Living complacently within them is stifling for me and a poor example for my kids. But overreaching them is careless and then my whole family suffers. I have to keep pushing those limits by improving my health and finding new practical solutions, while always remembering to be grateful for the freedoms I do have. I fail with this endeavor a lot. But for two weeks this summer I think we got it right.