Every once in a while my husband and I would talk about how we should go on a vacation. Just a short weekend trip. I’d get excited, and we’d start talking about the places we would go. Things we wanted to check off our bucket lists. But then, inevitably, we would start to talk logistics. How could we possibly go anywhere without a kitchen? How would I eat? I have a very restrictive, very specific diet, and it’s not in any way flexible. There is no such thing as a “cheat day” for me.
Then we would talk hotels—what if we got all the way to our destination and it had mold? Or awful chemicals that set me off? How could we even take that chance? At this point in the conversation, we would lose interest. Traveling is just too hard—and up until now we always gave up on the idea of vacations. Too many factors—let’s stay home. But finally we decided to just take a leap of faith and hope that everything worked out…and it actually did.
This past weekend we went on our very first vacation without staying with my family or his. No kitchens. No way of knowing if there would be mold in the building. Unfortunately, mold isn’t something you can call ahead of time to ask if they do or do not have it in stock. It’s something I just have to walk in and feel or not feel. Either my cheeks start burning, and there’s a certain smell I pick up on that other “normal” people do not, or I walk in and don’t sense anything. My husband and I spent a great deal of time trying to find which hotel we wanted to stay in. We poured over reviews, looking for buzz words such as “clean” “tidy” “fresh” “remodeled” “renovated” “new”. We analyzed photos on websites, looking for anything that could show it wasn’t well kept, or might be an older, musty building.
We finally landed on the Little America Inn in Flagstaff, AZ. The photos looked good, and it had great reviews. As with many people with Lyme, mold, and everything that comes with it…I can’t be exposed to harsh chemicals. I react very easily and quickly, and it’s hard to calm down my symptoms once they start. My face, arms, and neck burn bright red, and it looks and feels just lousy. I get headaches and feel like I can’t breathe enough air. And unfortunately, these harsh chemicals are absolutely everywhere. And often they are quite prominent in hotels and public buildings.
The whole drive to Flagstaff I wondered what I would sense when I walked in the building. We discussed options—we could try another hotel if that one wouldn’t work. Or maybe we should just turn around and drive home. We left it up in the air—we’d let me do the sniff test upon arrival and then go from there.
We walked into the hotel and to my complete and utter elation, I not only didn’t feel the presence of any mold, but I didn’t react to any chemicals! The air smelled clean, and crisp, and although I could faintly smell their cleaning products, it wasn’t overpowering like nearly everywhere else. I even looked online to see if they purposely used natural products, but couldn’t find any mention of it. I’ve called and left a message with their head of housekeeping, asking for more details on what cleaning products they use, and if all of the hotels in their chain follow the same regimen.
When we got to the room, it was just as Rachel-approved. We were so relieved. Safe place to live—check. And to solve the food problem, we packed as many home-cooked meals as possible, so that for the whole weekend, I only had to eat at a restaurant once. I got a steak with nothing on it, and a plain salad. It was the second restaurant I had been to since fall of 2014. And it worked out. Phew!
We decided since my home-cooked meals would only last for so long, that we would make this first trip of ours a one-nighter. The first day we went to Walnut Canyon National Monument—a very beautiful place with cliff dwellings and many, many stairs.
We went only part of the way down to make sure I could turn around and get back to the top okay. Even though I was exhausted after all those stairs, it was really cool to see the cliff dwellings! Not something you see every day!
On day two we were determined to find a little bit of snow to play in. And we did!
Then we finished the trip with a visit to Montezuma Castle, to see more cliff dwellings, but with an easier, less strenuous trail than the day before!
We had so much good luck on this trip—it could have turned out way differently if the hotel had mold, or it had chemicals I couldn’t handle. But we chose to try, and it ended up working out really well! We only just left, but we can’t stop talking about when we can go back! Now that we know that specific hotel works for me, we can take that off the list of unknowns while traveling.
The biggest issue is still food—and I don’t yet know how we would make it work for a longer trip…or a trip that was too far to take my own refrigerated food. But for so long we let the many reasons why we shouldn’t go outweigh the reasons why we should. And I now know a mini-vacation with me IS possible. It just takes a little more effort and preparation. What else is new? 😉