10 tips for travelling with a brain injury

tips for travelling with a brain injury

I love to travel. There is a freedom in just having a backpack and the ability to follow the road to wherever it leads. I used to travel by myself, which meant that I could do whatever I wanted. Which is also why I really like to stay in hostels and dorm rooms. The dorm rooms because they’re the easiest way of meeting new people, from students to retirees.

Would it still be possible?

After my injury I wasn’t sure if I ever would be able to travel on my own again. For me, the brain injury meant that I couldn’t really trust my own body any more. Things I used to do without a second thought, no longer were quite as simple. As a result I’d lost some of my self-confidence. Would I still be able to sleep in a dorm room? To find somewhere to eat and to travel from A to B alone in another country?

So I took to Google, surely google would know more. I hoped that someone already tried this and wrote about it. But unfortunately I couldn’t find any articles about solo travellers with a brain injury. Which is why I decided to write this article.

Small disclaimer

I realise that whether or not you’re able to travel on your own, depends on whatever limitations you face. If I had been in a wheelchair this probably would’ve been more challenging and difficult. Or if I had lost my sense of direction and would get lost the minute I stepped outside, it also would be different. So I can only speak from my experience. I hope that if your situation is different, you still can take something away from this post. Perhaps even the desire to try a hostel out yourself or to go somewhere on your own.

10 tips for travelling again after a brain injury

  1. An important rule that rehabilitation taught me, is to begin small. Especially if you try to do something new. This increases the chance that it’ll be a success. Which gives a confidence boost and helps motivate future endeavours. So start with just a couple of days.
  1. Find a location (preferably not a large city) that is outside your comfort zone but still close enough that someone can get you in case you need it. It gave me some peace of mind, knowing that I could call and be home in a day.
  1. Think about your mode of transportation. Can you drive there, are there rest stops along the way, can you park close by? If you go by public transport, do you have to change somewhere, how much time do you have to change, is there a quiet carriage, do you have to walk far? I wouldn’t recommend flying if it is your first time trying. More on the challenges of flying in future posts.
  1. If you want to try a hostel find one with a small dorm (six or four beds) and a kitchen you can use in case you can’t make it outside to eat in the evening. Before you book carefully read the reviews to see if it’s quiet enough e.g. not a party hostel, adjacent to a busy road or where there is a lot of construction noise.
  1. Be sure to bring a sleeping mask and earplugs that you can sleep with. I also travel with sunglasses and transparent earplugs that I can wear during the day if needed.
  1. If you want to eat out, try to avoid eating at dinner time because all the restaurants will be full and there will be a lot of noise. Normally you can get cheaper meals during lunch hours, but try to go after or before the main lunch crowd eats. So switch is up, a warm meal for lunch and sandwiches for dinner.
  1. Think about your luggage. I took a little rolling suitcase the first time, which in hindsight wasn’t really smart. The noise of the wheels when I pulled it along drove me insane. Also I had to carry it up a mountain as there wasn’t a nice paved path. All right a hill, but since I am from a flat country hills quickly become mountains for me 🙂
  1. Listen to your body. I know it’s hard but if the first time goes badly it’ll be double as hard to try it again later. So don’t overdo it. And if this means that you need to plan everything in advance, do that. If it means that instead of walking around a little town, you have to relax in the park. Do that. Try to do whatever feels best for you.
  1. Make sure you have an app on your phone that displays off-line maps, I normally use maps.me. And check in advance to be sure you’ve downloaded the right map.
  1. Finally don’t forget to enjoy your adventure! If all goes well be proud of yourself and celebrate. Side note: I learned to celebrate every small achievement, though if you are like me and cake is your favourite way to celebrate, too many celebrations can create a whole new challenge. If something doesn’t go as planned or you are having a bad day, ask for help. I know it’s one of the hardest things to do, but people usually really want to help.

Do you like hostels or do you prefer a nice hotel? Do you have any tips for (first-time) travellers? What was your best/worst travel experience and which lesson did you take from it? Let me know in the comments!

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