Book Review: The Imperfect Traveler’s Guide to Traveling With Pain

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
Apr 13, 2011 / 0 comments

Traveling with disabilities - this is a subject near and dear to my heart. As a global traveler with disabilities, I am always looking for ways to make my journeys less difficult - and, as always, connect with like-minded travelers. Here on Wandering Educators, we've shared Candy Harrington's Barrier-Free Travel - it's a great guide for traveling with disabilities.  With burgeoning interest on the internet, there's always new sources for great information.


To that end, I'm truly excited to share a new book (released this week!) about traveling with pain - The Imperfect Traveler’s Guide to Traveling With Pain, by Liz Hamill.  Liz has a fantastic website, called Travels with Pain - helping travelers with hidden disabilities explore the world. It's my go-to place for inspiration, research, community, understanding. She GETS IT.


The Imperfect Traveler’s Guide to Traveling With Pain


In sharing Liz's new book, not only was I sent an Advanced Readers Copy (details in a minute, and thank you), but we also talked with Liz about the new book, her inspiration for writing it, top tips for traveling with pain, and more.


My first thoughts on receiving The Imperfect Traveler’s Guide to Traveling With Pain? An overwhelming sense of relief - FINALLY, someone addressing these important issues. And you know what? That feeling NEVER LEFT me, the entire time I've read it (thrice, now).


Liz has created an extremely accessible book (in many ways) - it's 90 pages, so not too big or heavy; it's full of humor (which is what we can rely on, when in pain); and it's full of easy-to-implement tips to make travel easier.

The book includes chapters on:
How and Why to Travel with Pain
Packing and Preparing
Getting There
Sleeping and Eating
Outdoor Adventures
Night life
Using the Euphemism
Resting Up
After the Trip/Recovery Time
And a very useful appendix of additional resources.

Liz understands the issues of traveling with pain - she obviously has worked around it in her life, to travel successfully. I am sure that each of her tips in this book are hard-earned knowledge. That makes it an even greater resource than you could guess - utilizing her tips and resources can save you pain, stress - and being stuck at home. For the first thing Liz does is to encourage people with pain to get out and travel!


As she notes in her book, "those of us with chronic disabilities have a lot of base stress and unpleasantness in our lives. The more stuff we can do to make ourselves happy, the better off we’ll be both emotionally and physically."


Liz fills the book with humor, from "renting" a traveling companion ("Your job is to be as nice to your travel buddy as possible."), modes of transportation ("I avoid bus travel like the smelly plague it is."),  arriving early at the airport ("Better bored than panicked."), to buying things ("Practicing Physically Necessary Restraint: Sure that chainsaw sculpture looks great, but can you carry it across the airport in a tote bag?").


Liz also fills the book with checklists and helpful hints. What to pack on a road trip is quite different than what to pack in your carryon bag for a flight - and she addresses the needs of travelers with pain in all travel situations. Planning travel is so much easier when you use her system for reservations and places to stay, eat, visit. Keep in mind her tips for resting, siestas, getting the most out of a place (especially Disneyland), and recovering from your vacation. It's true - people in pain often don't travel, because we know the extended price of pain that we'll have to pay. But reading this book, and following Liz's tips, will help you have the best vacation (and after-vacation) you can have. It's just That Brilliant.

Without further ado, our talk with Liz...



WE: Please tell us about your new book, Traveling with Pain...

LH: I wrote this book primarily to help people with chronic pain travel more easily. Too many people with pain curl up in their houses and avoid traveling. That saddens me so much. That's why I wrote this book in my own voice, complete with humor--especially the kind of humor that other people with chronic pain will get. (I hope!)

This book covers each stage of a trip, from research and planning, through reservations and transit, on to all the things travelers do at destinations, and finally back home to rest up before getting back to work and the chores of daily life.

The Imperfect Traveler's Guide to Traveling With Pain is the first in a series I'll be authoring and co-authoring with other experts about different kinds of travel with hidden disabilities of all kinds.



WE: What inspired you to write this book?

LH: My inspiration for this book is all the people I've talked to about my experiences traveling with pain. Everyone has either had their own experiences with traveling with temporary or chronic pain, or had a family member or friend who had problems traveling with pain. There are so many people who've got some type of pain, but still want to travel comfortably. I want to help them--in a sense, I want them all to go on a trip with me.



WE: How is travel for people with Chronic Pain different? (love the 2yo analogy!)

LH: Yes, the two-year-old analogy works pretty well. When you travel with moderate to severe chronic pain, you've got to plan almost *everything* in advance. You've got to have your meds   planned out so you don't run out even if you end up away from home for an extra day or three. You've got to be prepared for a pain flare to crop up at the worst possible moment, and to know that you *can* deal with it.

When I travel with pain, I have to accept that I'm not going to get to see everything and do everything I might want to do. I have to be selective, and pick the attractions I *really* want to  see the most. I have to accept that I won't be doing some of the more athletic things I used to enjoy, and I've gotten creative about looking for alternatives.

I think I travel better now that I did when I was healthy. I pay more attention, and I appreciate the chance to get to see new things and explore new places. It's so much fun!



WE: What are your top tips for travelers with Chronic Pain?

Tip 1: Travel as often as your budget, both physical and financial, allows! Traveling builds physical strength, creates confidence, and provides amazing distraction for people with chronic pain.

Tip 2: Plan for everything. Then accept that at least half of your plans will get blown away once you're on the road.

Tip 3: Be absolutely as comfortable as your budget allows. It's worth it. Save up for the next step up in hotel rooms so that you'll get good sleep every night, and have a nice place to retreat to when you need to rest up.



WE: How can Travelers with Chronic Pain best ask for help?

LH: Funny--I'm about to do a post about this on!

When I need to ask for help, it works best to ask as simply as possible. "I'm in pain, is there a place I could sit or lie down?" is a good way to start if I'm having a flare in a strange place without a companion.

Also, I recommend carrying info about your condition and your med schedule, *especially* if you're traveling alone. Serious pain can make me incoherent, and in a serious situation, someone trying to help me could find the information they needed to assist the EMTs in my purse.

For less serious situations, I find that just being direct and asking for what I need works best. The park ranger doesn't need the details of my bladder conditions. I can just ask "Are there restrooms anywhere on Trail X?" A simple Yes or No from the ranger gives me all I need to know about whether I should find a restroom at the visitors center, whether I should bring my own TP out onto the trail with me, and even whether there's likely to be water on the trail.



WE: Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

LH: Although there's some content overlap between the book and my blog,, in fact the book and the blog are quite different. The blog has personal anecdotes, place reviews, and links to other travel articles that I find relate to travel with pain and hidden disabilities. Also, the blog has pictures of me traveling--people seem to like that sort of thing. ;)



WE: Thanks so very much, Liz - for both your illuminating interview, and for writing this necessary book. It has truly enriched my life, as I am sure it will for countless other travelers with pain.


The book is available at Amazon.

For more information, please see: