Sleep? What Is That? - Uncover Ostomy
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Sleep? What Is That?

I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in about a week and a half.

Last Monday, I was beyond busy not only packing to move out of my sorority house, but racing to finish writing my last essay. It was the end of my undergraduate career.

Though for most, emotions would run high, I didn’t even have a second to think about it. The next day I prepared to head to NYC to start preparing for my new life there in September.

On Wednesday, my mom and I went to the city to start setting up the basics. I met the director of my grad school program who gave me tons of useful information, informed me that I was 1 of 115 students for next year between the ages of 22-50+ [eek], helped me pick my classes for Sept, and happened to introduce me to the entire board of directors for the program…no big deal? Haha.

I also set up an American bank account, began to scout out locations for my new apartment, and of course, did a little shopping. This trip wasn’t all business, though, as my mom and I decided to see a show! We hadn’t bought tickets to anything, but had heard there were special ways to get discount tickets to shows. Actually, we ended up hearing about the “Wicked Lottery.”

This lottery was to win front row tickets to the sold out show of Wicked on Broadway, for a really cheap price. You had to put your name in a draw a few hours before the show began. When we got there, there were about 15 people waiting for the draw so I figured we had a chance. About 20 minutes later, it had grown to a crowd of about 120 people, each putting their name into the draw. At that point, I was certain we wouldn’t win; they were only picking 13 names. To my luck, they called my name for the second last pair they were giving away. I was beyond ecstatic to win, especially after seeing the phenomenal the show.

Of course my luck reached its peaked when it was time to fly back to Toronto. The weather was terrible, with gusting winds and pouring rain, but, at the time, I didn’t think much of it. I never expected that our plane would be delayed because it couldn’t fly in that weather. My mom and I flew with Porter airlines, which on the way there, was unbelievable. The company was all around friendly, it had a nice lounge with free coffee and snacks, and the plane itself had ample leg room. Unfortunately, this airline owns a fleet of small airplanes, meaning in weather that we were experiencing on our last day…, when all the other large planes are flying, Porter airplanes were grounded. My mother and I were delayed 7 hours. Instead of getting on our flight for 6:30pm, we ended up flying at 1am, landing at an airport an hour away, bussing to downtown Toronto, and cabbing from there. I got into my bed at 430am.

I barely had any time to catch up on the sleep that I had missed from that flight debacle before we had more things to do; a small luncheon event, unpacking, and Passover dinners.

I’m still trying to catch up on sleep.

Doesn’t look like I will be getting much more sleep this week, however, as I am currently preparing for my trip to EUROPE!

Yes, I am leaving this Sunday night to head to London, England, to begin my month long adventure around the continent.

My friend Josh and I are starting in London [so that we can see the royal wedding!], right before we head to Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Florence, Venice, Frankfurt, Geneva, and then we finish off our trip in Israel so we can visit family!

Though it seems like over the past little while that I travel like it’s my job, I have never actually been to Europe. Actually, I’ve also never travelled without a suitcase…

Oh yeah…I am in fact BACKPACKING around Europe.

[Haha I know, right, me, backpacking? This should be interesting…]

…Ok, well we’re staying in hotels, not hostels [we’re not hostel type people] but I will be carrying my clothing and necessities in a backpack for a month!

That counts, right?

The most interesting part of packing will be my ostomy supplies. I have planned to fill at least ¼ of my backpack with supplies so that I can bring about 2 months’ worth, just in case. I really don’t want to be stranded in some foreign country without supplies… that could get messy haha….ew.

While we’re there, we’ll be sight-seeing, partying, and taking in all the culture in these countries have to give us. I will be taking tons and tons of pictures, unfortunately, I’m not sure how much access I’ll have to internet… Hopefully, I’ll have access so I can blog during the adventure.

[Josh isssss bringing his iPad.. I just have to convince him to let me use it!]

This trip is a go with the flow kind of trip so I really have no idea what’s going to happen.

That being said- if anyoneeee has any tips for me, ostomy related or not, I would LOVE to hear them. I have never ever ever EVER done a trip so unplanned and so “go with the flow” that I would love to be as knowledgeable as possible. [You know, I’d like to return to Canada alive and well…]

So, to anyone reading this, please help me with information onnnn:

  • Traveling to Europe with an ostomy
  • Backpacking for a month with an ostomy
  • Good places to eat in these cities
  • Functional, yet cheap, places to stay in these countries
  • Sights we haveee to see
  • Anything else you have to share 😀

Thanks so much guys, and wish me luck!

Jessica Grossman
  • Tinna
    Posted at 18:27h, 19 April

    Bring 3 times what you would expect. If you cut the flanges, pre cut, but you have to place paper/ wax paper between them as they will stick to each other in hot/humid areas. You may find it helpful to empty your bag v.s. changing a new bag everytime. Always put your osto supplies in your carry on when you fly!! ALWAYS!! After you get to a place, put osto supplies in several places, even the safe just in case someone steals your bag…I would put most of them in my carry-on, some of them in a bag that I stowed and a few more in my purse. If your friend is cool, get him to carry some as well. Worst case scenario if your stuff gets lost or stolen you will be able to find osto supplies in Europe (I think…I hope!). But you want to make sure you have a couple on hand for a worst case scenario…cause you know and I know, an osto only lasts so long before you NEED to change it. Lol.

    Other than that…have fun, if your going out for an evening I've found that you can even hide a full change (bag and flange) in your bra, along with your ID and money. That way you don't even have to carry a purse. But always…always carry extra ostomy supplies.

    That way you don't end up in a rickshaw in India with somebody's brother's pants on. Seriously. This stuff happens.
    xoxo. Best of luck, keep writing and post some pics 🙂

  • Claire
    Posted at 05:05h, 21 April

    I'm from the UK – great to see someone excited about the Royal Wedding as everyone over here is totally sick of it! Lots of people are taking advantage of Easter, Wedding and Mayday Bank Holidays and escaping the country during all the madness! Make sure to tell everyone you're from Canada not the USA and they'll instantly like you much more (I'm sure you know that anyway!). Prepare to stand in queues. We love to queue here in the UK. If you push in then you will ruffle a few feathers. (In contrast, in mainland Europe everyone seems to push. If you try to stand and queue you will get nowhere. I'm pretty sure us Brits are a laughing stock over there when we form our orderly queues.)

    I hate to say it but restaurants in the UK are horribly overpriced and our food isn't a patch on our European neighbours. There might be a few exceptions but on the whole don't go looking for a fancy place to eat in London – stick to pub grub, it's nothing special but it's usually a bargain, and it's about as traditional as it gets over here. Once you're in Europe, stick to what the locals do best! When in Germany enjoy their sausages and cakes, when in Paris enjoy the French cuisine – be prepared to go a little off the beaten track to avoid getting ripped off, and be aware that every single restaurant in Paris serves Breaded Chicken and Fries to satisfy the tourists and in every restaurant it's awful! You can't go to Italy without having an authentic Italian pizza (and the ice cream… wow). Greek food is generally not great (meat surprise! the surprise is it's goat) but if you're anywhere near the sea you can usually get some amazing fresh seafood. Ditto on the seafood for anywhere along the South Coast of Spain/Portugal, and you can't go to Spain without having tapas! I don't really know about food in Scandinavia (Scandinavia is soooo expensive, and that's from a Brit!). I have only been to Eastern Europe once, to Prague. I went in search of some authentic food but alas, pizza, pizza, pizza (although, very nice pizza).

    In terms of 'unplanned' backpacking, definitely have a skeleton plan – a list of places you want to see, maybe some info about places to stay in those cities just in case you're stuck. A rough route to take, even if you end up taking little detours or skipping places. I don't know how you're planning to get around but I would recommend an Inter-rail card. Try to get a nice mix of 'famous' places and less popular sights – I know that when you come to Europe you have to see the Eiffel tower, but I wouldn't recommend paying a small fortune to get to the top crammed in a lift with 15 other people all vying for the best spot to take their photo from. (Similar for the London Eye… its pretty impressive from the ground, and pretty annoying when you pay to go up there and some inconsiderate person decides they're going to stand in the best spot where everyone wants their photo taken for the entire time). Instead, buy a good guide book and spend a bit of time seeking out hidden gems – my favourite place in Prague was a tiny museum of medieval torture instruments! It makes for a much more interesting story than the leaning tower of Pisa. I absolutely love Spain – if you get the chance to see Barcelona then take it. And remember that a lot of places are Catholic and quite religious, if you're looking round churches/cathederals you'll be expected to be respectful which means cover up shoulders and knees – a shawl (or a beach sarong or whatever) comes in handy.

    Europe is pretty civilised – I guess you aren't going anywhere too remote! Plenty of toilets, although it's always good to have a bit of loose change on you as most toilets in cities are coin operated. As always, McDonalds is pretty much a public toilet (and they're everywhere), and it is always acceptable to go into a cafe, order a lemonade or an orange juice for a couple of Euros and then use their facilities. The only thing which is a bit of an issue is that often in mainland Europe the sewers aren't up to much, so instead of flushing toilet paper you leave it in a bin. Sounds gross but they are emptied regularly, and not as gross as all the sewers being blocked. Takes a bit of getting used to.

    In terms of ostomy supplies, take as many as you can and always split them up (I think above comment covered this in full!). Also, get in touch with your supplier, see if they have any advice or contacts abroad. I know that mine has links all over the world and has an 'emergency' number to call if I'm stuck abroad with no supplies. They can usually get you some the next day. The companies are so so good, they know how important it is for us to have supplies! For example in Japan after the Tsunami, Coloplast argued with the police to get hold of a truck so they could keep up deliveries. I also have my poobag-passport, a little card which has English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Greek text which explains that these are medical supplies not to be taken away and if they want to examine my device they mustn't tamper without a medical professional present. I have never had to show it but I wouldn't travel without it!

  • Sandra
    Posted at 11:18h, 21 April

    Well as a fellow Canadian over in Europe I have a few suggestions. Coloplast is the big supplier here and you will be able to get those bags if chaos happens. We travel a fair bit on the Lonely Planet guides and have had good experiences with them. Once you get into Germany and Italy look to stay at Pensions, these are like a budget B&B. The quality can vary widely but are good value for money, much quieter than a hostel, you don't share a room (you might share a loo), and they are cheaper than a hotel. As Claire said eat what is good locally, you wil be better off for it.
    I have a little bag (you can use a 1L ziplock) that I carry in my day bag with two changes of bags in there with enough wipes that I can do the change in a bathroom stall. That is something you have to be prepared for with the bathrooms, you may have to pay. In France you can always duck into the toilet in outdoor cafes (it is hard for them to know if you are from the outside or inside), but just walk in like you totally should be, if you show weakness you will get questioned or tossed. Of course if you buy a cheap drink, espresso or something you totally have the right to use the WC. In Germany you usually should pay around 25-50cents so it is good to have some of those coins in your bag. In Italy it is more random, but again little cafe's can be your best bet, but more often you will have to get at least one drink between the two of you to get directions to the toliets, in Venice they can be in really odd locations.

    Some special tips for Florence +39 55 294 883 is the most useul number you can know. With this number you can reserve a ticket to see the museums and not have to spend half your day in line. They add a couple of euros to the price for it but compaired to 3-6hrs in line, TOTALLY worth it. You reserve a date and time, and you have to be within 15min of the time to get the ticket (you can do this a day in advance or sometimes for the same day in the afternoon, but obviously if you are on a tight schedual, the sooner you call the better the chances you get exactly what you want). How to use the number, outsiide of Italy you dial that number 0039 55 294 883. If you are within Italy you drop the 39 and add a 0 so it becomes 055 294 883. I remember this country code thing and the mystery zeros messed us up when we first got here! Is not on many people's lists in Florence but is totally cool collection if you have an interest in human anatomy. They have a collection of wax sculptures which were used to teach anatomy at a time when cadavers where illegal. They are excellently detailed. But if you are not into dead bodies, give it a miss.

    We stayed at a place the Lonely Planet suggested, but I don't seem to come up with the name, and it might not be there. In Venice you can easily take up one of the 'hotel' reps that hang around the train station to see their place and decide if you want to stay there (obviously they should have a name tag and the place be rather centrally located), but be sure that when you agree on the price of the room they write it down! The prices are rather flexible and if the guy you talked to did not make a note, the person you pay may have a very different idea of the price.

    If you can decide roughly the place you want to stay a day in advance a quick call to reserve a room (so give an approx arrival time if you know, or at least where you are travelling from) can save you a lot of hassle.

    Have fun!!

  • ashley
    Posted at 02:42h, 25 April