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Traveling/Flying With a Concussion /TBI - Overwhelming, how I Prepared for my First Long Trip

Updated: Jan 10

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Last month (Sept 2021) , I went on a vacation (a long stay of 1,5 month) and traveled all the way to Indonesia. I hear you thinking, Indonesia now during covid? Yes, I did. I have friends living there, and my boyfriend was in Indonesia for some work so it felt like the right choice.

It was my first long flight after sustaining my concussion and I heard it many times: “Concussion and flying isn’t the best thing you can do”, so I was really nervous about how it would go with my concussion symptoms.

Flying with a concussion

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How did I prepare? The difference between before my accident and now.

I had wanted to go to Bali so badly for such a long time. It usually feels like my second home as I’ve already been there a few times; the last time I stayed there for 4 months (before Covid and my accident). Compared with my trip back then and my trip now, there was such huge a difference.

Traveling before my accident was a piece of cake, I didn’t even think about packing. I could do it with my eyes closed and just did it at the last minute on the day a few hours before I had to leave for the airport. But now with these concussion symptoms, I worry so much about even the small things. I started making my “packing list”, a “what I need to buy list”, and a “what I need to arrange list” more than a month before my trip.

Besides the packing stress, I stressed about many more things:

  • I needed to arrange a PCR/COVID test - Where can I do this? What if the results were positive?

  • I needed to arrange my visa- What if this went wrong? What if they don’t let me enter my flight or the country?

  • I needed to rent out my apartment in Amsterdam. Well, I didn’t need it but it saved me a lot of money so I felt I needed to do this.

  • I had to book my flights, transfers, and hotel. What would be the best option? Am I doing this right?

  • How do I get to the airport and how can I arrange a taxi there?

  • How is the accommodation? What if the place is way too loud? What if I don’t sleep well?

  • What if I can’t handle this long flight? Then I am all by myself.

  • What if the temperature in Bali is too hot? What if my concussion symptoms are getting worse?

  • What if I forget something really important? Did I think of everything?

I am sure there were many more things I stressed about but these were the most important things I could think of. I felt overwhelmed by arranging all these things.

How did I manage to not get overwhelmed?

To be honest, I didn’t. I felt overwhelmed by making a list of all the things I needed to arrange. The list became longer and longer and I thought many times that it would be better to not go on this long trip. But I pushed myself. My accident was already 4,5 years ago and traveling was something I really enjoyed. If I didn't make this trip I knew I would regret it.

So I started making another list, there should be a way to make it less overwhelming. I made a list of what I had to do on a specific day or week. It took me a while but in the end, it felt less overwhelming. I made this plan at the end of July, 2 months before I would go to Bali. and asked other people if I missed something in my plans and corrected a few things.

Even with the planning, things did not go as planned.

It wasn’t always easy because sometimes things went against my plans. Indonesia was changing the Covid requirements all the time and I had to depend on them. At the beginning of August, they closed the country for a few weeks, which messed up my whole planning. I already arranged tenants for my apartment, so I had to change some things.

I couldn’t do anything but wait. From the moment they “opened” the country again (you still needed a visa). I arranged everything as fast as I could. It felt like I was in this “control mode” for a few weeks. In the end, I think that’s what caused me the setback at the beginning of my vacation.

Concussion and flying - How I prepared.

  • I brought my noise-canceling headphones with me

  • I used melatonin to adjust to the different timezone

  • I took more breaks and started with a meditation in the morning

  • I drank so much water to stay hydrated

  • I took Oxazepam (I think it’s the same as Xanax) during my flight

  • I took travel pills to get less nauseous on the airplane

  • I downloaded many audiobooks

  • I brought my neck pillow with me

  • I brought my eye/sleeping mask and earplugs with me

  • I made sure to bring healthy food with me

For more information and questions about “Can you fly with a concussion?” check:

Arrival in Indonesia (quarantine)

Before my accident, traveling was something I really loved doing. I never worried about anything and jetlag didn’t affect me at all. Well, this was different now; I had to deal with my concussion symptoms. This was my first long trip outside of Europe with a time difference of 7 hours. I didn’t know how my body would respond to such a time change, climate change, and a long flight of 25 hours in total.

After many hours and one stop in Doha, I arrived in Jakarta. I had to stay in a quarantine hotel for 7 nights. It’s strange but I looked forward to it. Just me, resting, not to deal with anyone and not having to do anything. Even my food was delivered 3 times a day to my room. It was nice to have a quiet place after such a long flight. This gave me the time to “recover” from all the stress, the jetlag, and all new impressions.

From Jakarta to Bali - Flying with a concussion.

Finally, after 7 nights, I was allowed to fly to Bali. I was a bit worried because I still didn’t feel great after those 7 nights: I still felt overwhelmed by all the new impressions. I knew when I would arrive in Bali I had to deal with people, a new place to stay and I had to arrange my own meals again. I decided to take as much rest as possible during the next week in Bali.

It was a short flight of 2 hours. After I arrived in Bali. The airport was so busy and so many people approached me, asking if I needed a taxi. I felt so overwhelmed and I think I wouldn’t have survived it without my noise-canceling headphones.

My vacation in Bali - Did I enjoy it?

I stayed in a beautiful accommodation in Canggu in Bali. I was a bit nervous about whether the accommodation was quiet enough and if I would have a good sleep there. The first nights I slept well but after those nights I heard the birds very loudly. The accommodation wasn’t isolated (most aren’t in Bali) and you can hear everything from outside.

Yes, I enjoyed Bali BUT I didn’t feel great all the time and I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted and I felt the setback/stress from flying with a concussion. The sun was very bright and all accommodations were not isolated so not really quiet. I switched a few times from accommodations, searching for a quiet place. But all accommodations had something I didn’t like. In the first one, I heard the birds, in the second one the cocks were so loud every morning, in the other one a dog was barking all night.

Not everybody will understand.

When I say this to my “healthy” friends, I get reactions like “but you are in paradise” or “I wish I had a few weeks off to be there”. A vacation can be overwhelming and concussion and flying isn't the best combination, not everyone will get this.

I created many beautiful memories from this vacation too and I am not complaining at all. I am grateful that I had a chance to visit this place. I just wanted to share the other (less enjoyable) moments with you too because I know you would understand.

Would I do a long trip like this again? Yes but maybe somewhere further in my recovery. But at least, I did it, and that feels great!

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