February 19, 2023

Getaways When You’re Too Sick or Broke to Travel?

We all need escapes from the insidious world of illness. And I’m about to take a big one. I’m headed out to San Francisco on Monday for a Stupid Cancer book reading and then I’m taking a 9-day vacation. No blogging. (I’ll miss y’all!) No writing. No cancer nothing. I love my work and my daily life, and I love getting a break from it too.

Lucky me that my husband has a kagillion frequent flier miles from work. We’ll be spending time in a cabin stowed away by a fire, napping a ton, and reading to our heart’s content. But I haven’t always been this lucky. There have been many times when I’ve been too sick to travel or could not afford it.  Instead of the luxury of travel, I’d get crafty spending moments around my house or my city that felt like vacations. Here are some of them:

Sipping tea at Julius Meinl coffee shop. Their free cookies and European service help me forget I’m in Chicago.

Sitting at the Garfield Park Conservatory. They have a huge series of greenhouses smack dab in the middle of the city brimming with ferns, greenery, and ponds. Feels downright tropical and it’s free.

Soaking in a bath. I do this so infrequently that when I make it happen, I feel like I’m living someone else’s life.

Escaping to nature. When I was going through treatment in San Francisco I would find beautiful parks, hills, gardens, hiking trails. Even if I didn’t have the energy to walk, just sitting on a bench in the midst of nature was a total departure from my world. (I’ve yet to figure out how to do this in Chicago.)

Becoming another character. I deeply love reading because it allows me to enter an entirely different world and totally tune out. Some of my favorite books are short story collections by Alice Munro and Jump Lahiri.

How do you get a vacation from your life without spending much money or without traveling far? I’m looking for some intelligent fiction to read on my vacation.  Any recommendations?

Read Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s to learn how other young adult cancer patients stayed sane during their illness.

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  1. J Says:
    February 19th, 2010 at 4:38 PM

    My book suggestions:

    - anything by Dave Eggers
    - The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
    - Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

    Enjoy vacation!

  2. Whitney Says:
    February 19th, 2010 at 5:02 PM

    My husband and I have never had much money and when it looked like I had cancer, we decided to get away before my operation. We drove a couple of hours south to the nearest beach - the ocean is very calming to my soul. It was windy and cold, but we loved it. We had a cheap/free hotel room thanks to credit card points and we bought some food from a grocery store and only ate out a couple of times. It was relaxing and very cheap.

    I’d recommend going someplace close by, but different enough that it’s not in your backyard. Also, you can try vrbo.com for different places to stay than a hotel. You might be surprised what you find.

  3. c Says:
    February 20th, 2010 at 12:58 AM

    Some books I’ve relished:

  4. Kairol Rosenthal Says:
    February 20th, 2010 at 1:49 AM

    Whitney - I agree VRBO rocks. And to add to my list of totally fun ways to escape without ever leaving your home: Visit vrbo.com or their sister company homeaway.com and enter “castle” into the search box. There are pages of gorgeous castles for rent in England and France, centuries old, that just make my jaw drop. A great way to daydream.

  5. alk Says:
    February 20th, 2010 at 2:32 PM

    Have a great trip an vacation.

    A trip to an art museum always takes me away, a botanical garden, somewhere that you are enclosed in a different scene.

    But I live in a city so it’s easy.

    Another key to museum trips is lunch or a treat in the fancy cafe. :)

    For reading get aways I go for nature or exotic locals. Travel novels are great, Love- Love- Love Mary Oliver poetry, and also Garbriel Garia Marquez.

    And when I am channeling my inner teenage self (I am now in my 40s), how can you go wrong with some cheeZy romance? Can you say: Danielle Steele?

    Have a great time!

  6. Karen Says:
    February 21st, 2010 at 12:07 PM

    I received my diagnosis in August 2009, just 24 hours before I was heading to Collingwood Ontario for a wedding and short vacation. My boyfriend and I drove from Boston (13 hours!) and stopped for a night in Niagara Falls on the way home. Unfortunately, I was totally pre-occupied and found that I wasn’t able to enjoy my trip at all.

    I had surgery in September 2009 and haven’t yet attempted to travel. I had rectal surgery, so I’m now a full-time slave to my bowels - that means I have days when I have to go to the bathroom many times, certain foods cause havoc on my digestive system and it is all very unpredictable. The opportunity to go to Italy in May came my way recently, but I don’t think I’ll be able to go. I’m just not ready to take a trip that far, a trip that requires me to be on an airplane for many hours without proper nutrition and with restrictions on when I can get up and go to the bathroom. In two word: It sucks.

    Since traveling long distances is out of the question for now, I can at least enjoy driving to the ocean in 5 minutes - I live just south of Boston so the Atlantic Ocean is very close. I enjoy my local library for some peace and quiet, and I’m looking forward to Spring arriving because my Irish boyfriend has a green thumb and he turns our backyard into an oasis of blooming colors. I love to sit back there and watch him work his magic while curled up in my lounge chair. That’ll have to suffice until my body is able to get back on the road again.

    One of my favorite books is by an Irish journalist and author named Nuala O’Faolain. Her memoir Are You Somebody? blew my socks off. But if you are looking for fiction, she also wrote an amazing novel called My Dream of You. Beautifully written. I fell in love with her work several years ago on one of my many solo trips to Ireland. I was stunned when I learned that she died in May 2008. She was diagnosed with terminal cancer and in her final interview on RTE radio in Ireland just a month before she died she said, ” “I don’t want more time. As soon as I heard I was going to die, the goodness went from life”. The goodness that she had to give lives on in her writings even if she felt like goodness had left her.

  7. The Carcinista Says:
    February 25th, 2010 at 8:13 PM

    Hi Kairol:

    I literally JUST wrote a post about this today! (http://carcinista.com/2010/02/24/free-happy/) I’m all about a walk in the woods with my dog, or ignoring the to-do list and just hanging out with my family. Great minds…

    On another note, I just finished the book. Spectacular, really comforting to hear all those stories and know that we’re all feeling the same things. And as if I didn’t think MZ was friggin’ fabulous before…

    Wish I lived in SF - hope it was great!

    The Carcinista

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