ME-friendly Summer Holidays
Planning ME-friendly holidays is a complicated business. For someone with ME, a holiday is never really a break for resting, it always involves more energy-consuming activities than staying at home. Just holiday-preparation can tip you over the edge, never mind the travelling involved getting to your destination. And it usually takes some time, perhaps weeks or months, to recover from a holiday. For those very severely affected, going away is not even an option. But if you spend a lot of time at home, as most of us do, there comes a point when you really need a change of scenery, even if you do very little once you get there.
The most ME-friendly type of holiday I can think of is a beach holiday – it will be nice for everyone involved, whether ill or in good health. As long as you can get to a beach (and that may be a big if!), once parked there you can just do what everyone else is doing: lie down and relax, enjoy the sea air and the beautiful scenery. For a moment, you feel almost normal – you’re doing whatever everyone else is doing, having a nice time and not missing
out on anything. On a beach I have had moments when I have more or less forgotten that there is anything the matter with me, at least for a brief moment.
However, getting to the beach is not necessarily a simple matter for someone with ME (or some other disability which limits your mobility). A drive to the coast is one thing, but often the most complicated thing is getting to the beach itself. You need to find a beach with a car park very close to it, ideally with a road or path to the beach that has a good solid surface suitable for a wheelchair. And a sandy beach that is not too large so that you can get close to the water without having to walk very far (pushing a wheelchair on a sandy beach is not very easy – trust me, we have tried!). You also need a toilet that is not too far away, so that you can walk there easily enough. You can see why suddenly just a simple trip to the seaside can become a very complicated matter.
Because during my illness I have not been well enough to cope with air travel, in recent years we have taken all of our summer holidays in this country. Although the UK is not exactly famous for being a great location for beach holidays, there are in fact plenty of beautiful beaches on this island. But it is of course the weather that can mess up your seaside plans here.
Having said that, I do admire the determinedness of British beachgoers. Families come prepared with wind breaks, tents and umbrellas, fleeces and warm jackets, children dressed in wetsuits. A little wind or gray skyes or gentle drissle will not deter them. They are determined to make the best of their trip to the seaside. And I am sure that is the best attitude to have, for all of us: making the most of what we have, regardless of the weather or circumstances.
This year we chose North Norfolk coast for our holiday. We had never been there, but had heard it is very beautiful and has fantastic sandy beaches. Both of those things are certainly true, we discovered, but unfortunately with hindsight the seaside there is not very easy for anyone with limited mobility. Due to the flatness of the landscape, the North Norfolk beaches are absolutely vast. In addition to the beach itself, they are typically surrounded by sand dunes as well as salt marshes that stretch for miles. At low tide you need to walk hundreds of meters to actually get to the water. Unfortunately for me, on most of the beaches we visited there was no way I could get anywhere near the water. It was a seaside holiday where I feel I hardly saw the sea, except as a narrow band near the horizon.
The weather too made things slightly difficult: although there were sunny spells, it was not particularly warm. So we had to make a good use of the great British seaside attitude: ignore the wind and the clouds (and the drissle), keep the jacket on, bring a hot drink and just enjoy the fact that you’re on your summer holiday.