The Nitty Gritty of Being a Woman Traveling with Health Issues

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

July 31st, 2016 • Travel Dance HealPrint Print

Most People Are Not Green

In my AirBnB and VRBO rentals so far, everyone used conventional – ie, toxic chemical – products, which I adamantly avoid, as part of healing from cancer. From the bathroom soap to the dish soap to the toilet paper, and from the detergent in which towels and bedding are washed, to the cleaning products under the sink, everything has been conventional and therefore dangerous to my health. In addition, out of three rentals, only one provided a water filter, leaving me to drink tap water with its myriad of unhealthy elements.

The implications are that I need to pack heavier and/or buy my own products when I arrive on site – including, apparently, my own damn water filter. Holistically healing, from cancer and otherwise, is already crazy expensive, given that it’s not supported by the institutions that will happily pay tens of thousands of dollars a pop for things like surgery. In addition to paying what I already pay for organic juice, organic food, natural/organic bath and body products, and a whole host of supplements, and in addition to paying for rentals whose prices includes the use of products I cannot use, I have to pay for my own supplies.

There Are Booby Traps Everywhere
In my current rental, the boys park their bikes in ways that partially block the paths to my car and to the laundry. Maneuvering around the bikes triggers ankle pain that can last hours or, worse yet, a day or two. In addition, a set of windows in this unit has strong springs keeping them open, and attempting to shut them (to provide relief from the noisy roosters at 4:00 am) pulled my back and set off a pain spasm that lasted all morning.

In my previous unit, the hosts failed to include in the listing that there was construction going on next door – which had the potential to hurt me, given a previous auditory injury from construction work. In addition, the owners did a poor job of cleaning the place. Not only was there dirt on the floors, in the cabinets, and on kitchen supplies, but in a number of these places, there appeared to be black mold – which is a health hazard to anyone, never mind someone with multiple health issues.

In the unit before that, the sliding glass door was locked by inserting a pin that routinely got stuck midway in the hole – invariably hurting my wrists each time I tried to open or close the door. Finally I stopped opening and closing it, despite wanting to enjoy the lanai. In addition, every time I opened the front door, it got stuck midway through opening and closing – making a loud and jarring scraping sound that caused pain in my ears.

Privacy and Safety Are Questionable
I get the sense that people aren’t really thinking about women staying in their spaces, because in each of the three units I have rented to date, there has been a lack of security and/or lack of privacy. In the first unit, on the ground floor, the windows were flimsy slats that didn’t close all the way and that easily could be removed from the outside. In addition, the curtains only covered one section of the wall that was all glass. Fortunately, there was a door I could close when going to the bathroom, which is more than I can say about the next unit.

In the second unit, one of the bedroom windows had no curtains – not only offering questionable privacy but also pouring in morning light while I was sleeping. The second bedroom window had a curtain covering only 75% of the window, and the bathroom had a curtain covering most, but not all, of the window. While there was shrubbery in front of the bathroom window, which helped with the sense of privacy, and while I didn’t think the hosts were peeping Tom types, one could see into the bathroom from the yard above, especially at night, when the light was on in the bathroom. I never felt a complete sense of privacy while peeing or showering. In the third unit, there were no curtains at all, anywhere, including in the bathroom.

In my journey living and navigating the world with multiple health issues, none of which are apparent to the outside observer, I have found that most people have a limited understanding of and tolerance for accommodating said issues. There are only so many requests one can make before getting on someone’s nerves and being seen as a pain in the ass, instead of being seen as someone courageously living life despite all manner of health challenges. It’s like people can handle one issue – having cancer OR having a sensitive back OR having hearing sensitivity. But they get overwhelmed by all of the above (and then some) simultaneously. And they are not even living with any of these issues. They are just being asked to be mindful and supportive of the person living with them.

It comes down to the issue of privilege and entitlement: What comforts is an able-bodied person willing to forego, to ensure the comfort of someone with disabilities and/or health issues? It’s the same question as what comforts a man is willing to forego, to make a space safer for women, or what comforts a white person is willing to forego, to make a space more welcoming for people of color.

When we step outside someone’s comfort zone, that person may begin blaming us for our struggles, instead of supporting is in overcoming them. It’s just easier. Similarly, it’s easier to blame a victim of institutionalized and systemic issues – like sexual violence – than it is to take on those issues. Out of sight out of mind. It’s easier to dismiss and disregard someone’s experience instead of bringing it into one’s consciousness and adjusting accordingly.

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