Perimenopause isn’t exactly what I had in mind as a part of my travel journey. As a slow traveler in early retirement, home is wherever I happen to be these days, so that means unpredictable symptoms are definite challenges to my comfort since my environment changes.
Nevertheless, I’ve found a few workarounds that help deal with this rite to passage while traveling.
Ladies, let’s refuse to let middle age be overshadowed by bummer biology. (Guys, you either want to simply stop reading right now, or send this to your female significant other, wife, friend, sister, etc.)
- Tender breasts. Travel solution: pillows.
I recently had a surgical breast biopsy, so one breast has been extra sore. Luckily, we travel with two pillows because not all Airbnb’s have pillows we like. I’ve been able to lie on my side and prop the healing breast up, if you will. And since both breasts are sometimes sore, I just flip the pillow when I roll over to my other side to support the other breast.
- Hot flashes. Ay caramba! Travel solution: cotton clothes and more washing.
I remember my mom complained about hot flashes, and I used to laugh. Now I’m not laughing. I’m sweating.
Cotton clothes work best for me. I have one synthetic button-down shirt (UV 50) that I try not to wear too often anymore. It makes me really sweaty when a flash strikes. Or, I make sure I have a tank top underneath so I can remove the top.
I also have to wash my clothes more often because, well, I’m sweaty more often and I don’t enjoy smelling my own sweat all day. Cotton can take longer to dry so I adjust my daily routine. For example, hand-washing clothes first thing in the morning usually gives enough drying time. (We don’t always have quick easy access to washers and dryers while traveling.)
- Weight gain. Travel solution: exercise, and no cookies every night.
The belly fat struggle is real. I am a cookie monster. It’s ok. You can laugh! I do! I love cold milk and some kind of chocolate cookies before bed. Every country has cookies – one of my few vices. I rarely eat other packaged food and I don’t eat meat, poultry, sugar; I don’t drink alcohol, but I do love coffee (non-negotiable). A nutritionist once told me weight maintenance is 85 percent or more of what you eat and 15 percent or less of activity.
I took one month off jogging because of the lumpectomy, and my exercise has been light in the second month. We will be in Antigua, Guatemala, next month, and I plan to really step it up once we get there (fewer pack dogs, more space to jog, I won’t feel funny wearing shorts in a small Mayan village).
- Fatigue. Travel solution: sleep.
What a concept! I simply go to sleep. Naps are my friend. Mexico taught me that. At the very least, some quiet time to myself will help. I’m lucky this way – as a slow traveler in early retirement, there’s not a damn thing I have to do.
Then there is utter fatigue. On a recent evening, I was asleep before 9:00 p.m., a few hours earlier than my normal time. I don’t even remember falling asleep. That’s kind of rare for me.
- Insomnia. Travel solution: reading.
On the flip side, some nights I can’t sleep. I’ll be up in the middle of the night with no chance of getting back to sleep. So, I read. My reading list is long and I’ve always got something. In addition to books I’ve always got out from the e-library, I’m self-teaching myself stuff related to running a website. I simply take my pick, and start reading until I get sleepy again.
- No periods, heavy periods, mystery cycles. Travel solution: always have supplies.
We travel to some areas where supplies are limited, at best. For example, last year only one store in Mahahual sold tampons, and they only had one type. (I hate plastic – the environment and all …) I’ve been to other places where they sell only one kind of pad – forget finding the nighttime leak-preventers.
In every bag and backpack we have, I have a few of my choice tampon and pad supplies at the ready, in case we lose a bag. Ugh. I don’t want to ever be caught off guard and without supplies, that’s totally possible with my unpredictable ‘mystery’ cycles.
Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are almost always in my kit. (Ibuprofen is a no-no for mosquito viruses.) While these drugs are readily available virtually everywhere, I’d rather not have to wait until I’m off a bus, boat, chicken bus, taxi to take one – or get off couch and walk to town to get one.
- Constipation. Semi-solution: more fiber, water, exercise.
I haven’t figured this one yet. Not much else I can do except eat more fiber, drink more water, and exercise. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
- Mood swings. Semi-solution: room to be bitchy, HALT, quiet time alone.
This one eludes me as well. I ask my spouse to simply give me some leeway and not be so sensitive to my blunt remarks or sulky moments. (I won’t even get into manopause.) Basically, I get a little room to be bitchy because normally, I’m not a bitch.
Also, I try to remember the HALT method to check myself – an acronym for Hungry Angry Lonely Tired – and adjust my attitude or situation as necessary. Sometimes I get busy in learning my web stuff, or reading, or a nap. Time alone helps me – whether I’m in perimenopause or not. (Remember: quiet time is a good thing!)
- Perimenopause: A rite to passage on our travel journeys
In my eight major symptom categories, I could any help I can get for better solutions on the last two: mood swings and constipation. Meanwhile, I’m grateful I don’t have more symptoms, like sexual issues, hair loss, or frequent night sweats.
My first missed period was right after I was laid off from a job in San Diego more than two years ago when I was 43 years old. I thought it was stress. My gynecologist at the time said that missed period, plus my shorter cycles, meant the start of perimenopause. Back then, she predicted my cycles would become even shorter, and that I would skip more months in the next few years ahead. She nailed it. Exactly. Today, I am skipping more cycles, so I’m having more unscheduled restarts.
It could be worse: I’m a slow traveler and not jet-setting around the globe every week. Indeed, taking frequent ridiculously long bus rides, or enduring several extended airport visits with connecting flights, sounds most unpleasant. I prefer more relaxation at this point. Put my feet up and have them rubbed while I read a book and sip hot tea on those bitchy days, thank you for asking.
My plan is to get through this perimenopause without any hormone therapy. I know some women experience years and years of this nonsense: I can only hope I don’t.
It may be a biological bummer, but I get it – perimenopause is a part of life for women – a rite to passage for those of us who are lucky enough to live long enough to experience it. So I may as well try to enjoy this kind of journey.