Theory of Relativity

Just over two weeks ago, we were in Ireland. How can that be? I feel as if a month has passed, already.

IMG_0438It’s so hard to hold onto that transformative sense of being elsewhere, once you’ve re-immersed in your everyday life. We have pictures and stories of our travels, and we’ve been sharing with friends and family, but with each day that passes, the details are a little less sharp. The minutiae of the moment clamor for attention.

Part of the reason the trip seems so distant is that I was in Chicago on business last week. This worked out better than expected, given that a mere seven days separated our European journey from my flying halfway across the U.S. on my own. After we had traveled all over Europe in two weeks, going to Chicago and even switching hotels once in three days was a snap. I was so relaxed about packing and flying that I surprised myself. Usually, I’m stressing about every detail. This time, I hardly did any preparation in advance. And I didn’t have any health complications along the way, thank goodness.

So even if our vacation seems like a long time ago, the travel experience has changed me. I know I can manage a lot of details on the fly. I know I can manage a health flare while far from home. I know I can do a lot of schlepping, get very tired, but recharge and keep going.

All of this is very encouraging. I would love to see more of the world before I really am too frail to travel.

In the days leading up to our Europe vacation, I felt as if I were jumping off a cliff. What if I couldn’t handle it? What if one of us got really sick on our journey? What if we lost our passports or they were stolen? On and on.

I’ve had so many episodes of strange, scleroderma-related health problems–infected ulcers, a resorbing tooth, spontaneous cellulitis–while on short trips not far from home, that I really didn’t know what to expect. The fear of illness in a foreign country has kept me from considering a bigger trip for years.

I prepared as best I could for all contingencies, including buying a good travel insurance policy that covered us for serious health complications. I carried an ample supply of antibiotics, which paid off when I did, indeed, suffer a bout of cellulitis in my right foot at the beginning of our travels. I planned our itinerary to build in opportunities to rest (not enough, but at least I tried).

In the end, I learned that I’m stronger than I thought. And I also discovered that a half-week business trip in one city is easy compared to a two-week vacation in seven. It’s all relative–a matter of experience, testing your limits and finding out what you’re really capable of, as opposed to what you’re afraid you cannot do.


Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at


  1. Pat Bizzell says:

    I loved this post, Ev–so many blessings have come from your European adventure! Yes it can be done! And so important for people with any kind of medical challenge read your inspiring words.

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