For the last several years, my solo travels have usually been business-related jaunts, with an occasional working vacation rolled in or - on rare moments - an actual vacation. Over the last month, my solo travels have been for a very different reason - a family emergency.
Family emergencies are difficult times, at best. At their worst, traveling for a family emergency can be the most arduous trip of your life. It's tough enough to have a loved one who is going through an unexpected illness or hospitalization; to be hours or even a day or two away from them can challenge even the most seasoned traveler.
And three weeks ago, I did everything wrong.
It was around 10 PM. I had, ironically, just gotten back from a solo trip to Texas, and had been up since 3:00 AM, so I wasn't operating at my most cognizant level, anyway. My sister - who, luckily, lives only an hour away from me - called. She had gone to the emergency room, and was being admitted to the hospital. The doctor didn't know what was going on, and my sister was stressed and worried, too. We're both single, so I did exactly what she would've done for me. I got in my car and went.
I had nothing with me but my purse. To say the least, I should've known better. She was in the hospital for five days. I ended up having to drive back home in the middle of it all to get everything I needed to be gone. In retrospect, a little emergency preparedness would have gone a long way.
The most important thing you can do for yourself in this situation is to take a firm grip on your panic, give it some oxygen with a few deep breaths, and just put it aside. Freaking out does little good. And if you are driving and you're worried about falling asleep, get a friend on the phone (or to go with you) and a strong cup of coffee or something with caffeine to give your energy quotient a boost.
1. One full change of clothing - you can always wash one and wear one
2. Something to sleep in that could also be worn out and about - like track pants and a t-shirt
3. Toothbrush and toothpaste
4. Shampoo, conditioner, and a brush
5. Laptop, power cord, and cell phone charger
6. Address Book (if it's not in your cell phone) - and make sure that you have all the phone numbers of everyone at your job that would need to be notified in case you have to be gone.
7. A notebook and pen - when you get details from the doctor or nurse, you can write them down so you don't forget. It's especially helpful to relate information to other concerned family members when you have notes to refer to.
8. Any medications or maintenance supplies (like contact lens solution) that you'll need.
If your emergency requires you to fly - it may be easier to pack a couple changes of clothes and buy replacement liquids, gels, and creams when you get to your destination.
Solo travel for a family emergency is never easy - but taking ten minutes to be practical prior to flying out the door to get going can save your sanity in the long run.