Virtual Holidays

When travelling is difficult it can mean that going away is not enjoyable (or even possible), although you don’t necessarily have to go far; I had a good holiday half a mile from home. ‘Going virtual’ can be a cheap way to holiday as there are no accommodation expenses and it’s more environmentally friendly as there are no travel emissions.

In order to get any kind of a break, whether at home or away, your holiday activities will need to be tailored to fit your limitations. Give yourself a treat; perhaps some new pyjamas or a magazine. You may even be able to find someone with an interesting hobby who would be willing to come and share it with you, e.g. a visit from a local musician.

You may like to base your virtual holiday in a particular country – previous ‘trips’ have taken me to France, Africa, and a Tropical Island. If you do this, it’s fun to sample the local cuisine, e.g. mail order pasties from Cornwall! In ‘France’ we had croissants, baguettes, garlic and lots of different French cheeses – I also spoke the language when I could, and ‘visited’ the Bayeux Tapestry. These days, you can log-on to the websites of places of interest and also order souvenirs online.

I decided not to ‘go’ anywhere specific for my holiday at home last year but my bed was turned into a grotto by hanging a mosquito net from the ceiling – a bit like a see through tent - and putting Christmas fairy lights around the room. The one problem of being in my usual surroundings was that I wanted to tidy up beforehand. Even using someone else’s arms it takes a lot of energy! I wanted to have a week that was as different as possible, so I gave up most of the things I usually do.

‘Peace-promotion’ was important because I knew that if I didn’t get lots of good quality rest and pace myself carefully I would feel really ill. I used short pieces of relaxing music to wind down before a long rest, relaxation techniques and aromatherapy oil in a burner to make the room smell nice*.

My family brought in some visitors – a snail, a grasshopper with only five legs, a millipede and a butterfly. On another occasion I met a friend’s pet mouse. Low energy activities included bubbles (blown by my brother), glow in the dark stars on the floor, temporary tattoos and flowers.

A project holiday can be a nice option – for my ‘Victorian Experience’ I gave up electric lighting, tapes and TV, did a bit of embroidery and used blankets on my bed instead of a duvet (not recommended – they were very heavy!). How about a garden-bird-watching or a cloud-watching holiday? This year I’m using Geraldine Laker’s idea of mini holidays. These are easier to organise than a two-week ‘trek’ and can be scattered throughout the year. You can choose special days from around the world, such as Canada Day (1st July) or April Fools Day (1st April) or festivals like Midsummer’s Day (21st June). You could even invent your own! Anything that will make you smile or give you a nice event to remember.

Instead of writing postcards, I drew and wrote on a sheet of paper and had it photocopied to send to everyone. This also gave me an opportunity to describe my life with M.E. for friends and relatives with whom I don’t have much contact.

Zoë Williams

* N.B. Aromatherapy is not suitable for everyone; some M.E. sufferers are very sensitive to smells. See Dr. Dowsett’s Medical Comment in issue 25 of TYMES magazine.

This article was written for TYMES Magazine Issue 35 Spring 2001