FjiAs March break gets closer and closer, I subsequently find myself experiencing correlative bouts of jealousy when I tap in to social media and see plans of vacations to far-away lands and dream destinations. It's no secret to most that I spend my winters longing for warmer temperatures and the touch of beach sand on my feet (some days I follow the sun around my office, and I keep my Birkenstocks in the back seat of my car... just in case), and travel has always been something I have had an affinity for. But living with epilepsy makes for an added twist when you want to pack up all of your things and get away for a while.


romeThink about all of the times you have sought out time away, whether it's a weekend trip to visit friends, or an overseas journey to experience a new culture; these things rarely take place without some kind of planning. Now imagine on top of figuring out where you're going, how you'll get there, and what you're bringing, you have to strategize how to maintain your day to day routine that you rely on to survive – how to properly maintain the management of epilepsy.

With all of the barriers and limitations I have faced with epilepsy, and despite the assumingly hidden look of fear on my parents face every time, I have found the time to have the most amazing travel experiences (did you hear I hiked the Grand Canyon rim to river to rim?). I have to admit, traveling with a health condition has been, and continues to be, a bit of a learning curve, but I have managed to establish a plan of action that has helped me cope with being in unfamiliar places while maintaining control of my seizures.


Now, despite the fact that I am coveting all vacations that are about to take place, I thought I would share with you some of the things that work for me to help me stay healthy while away.


  1. Create an Emergency Action Plan: I take the time to create a document that I keep on me at all times that has detailed information about everything pertaining to my epilepsy – the type of seizures I have, what medications and dosage I am taking, allergies, my family doctor's contact details, my neurologist's contact details, and a multitude of emergency contacts
  2. Don't Skimp on Emergency Medical Insurance: Some of my seizure triggers include pain and a general feeling of unwell – by having a comprehensive emergency medical insurance plan, I know that I will be able to manage any issues that might come up while traveling, which in turn will help me maintain an appropriate seizure threshold
  3. Keep your medications organized: When I travel, I always make sure to bring a surplus of medication versus bringing just the required amount for the number of days I will be away (you never know when a trip won't go exactly according to plan). Make sure that all of your medications are in the appropriate labeled containers, and always keep them in your carry-on luggage.
  4. Be mindful of your already established routine: This one seems obvious, but always be mindful that 7:00 a.m. abroad is not the same as 7:00 a.m. at home. I have to take my medication at the same time every day (+/- 1 hour), and am very careful to be sure not to let that routine waver with a shift in time zones
  5. Remember that you are not Superman: If there is anything that I have learned from epilepsy, it is that I am most definitely not Superman. I have had to learn that my body will win in a battle of stubbornness every single time. Listen to your body – when you are tired...sleep, when you are (and bring snack foods that you know that your body can tolerate). Don't push yourself passed your limits just so that you don't miss out on something; a seizure can set you back waaaaay further.


I work very hard every day to ensure that I don't let epilepsy take control of my life, and allowing myself to travel is just one ways I accomplish this. With every adventure I take, I find new ways to ensure that I am going to have an amazing time.


If you are heading off on vacation sometime soon, please enjoy yourself....if you don't mind, bring back some sunshine for me!


Chelsea Kerstens

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