By Yohan Bouchard
Over spring break, I went to Europe with my father and about 20 students from my high school, Palo Alto Prep. From the time we landed in Vienna, I knew that we would be exploring three large cities on foot: Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.
Having CMT, I was concerned about walking for hours without much rest. However, I have been learning methods to cope with the pain and fatigue, and I employed them to deal with the constant hindrance to my ability to walk for long periods.
Upon our arrival in Vienna, we first took a bus to our hotel and decided to recover from the 11-hour plane trip. During the second day, we visited the Hapsburg Palace, the former home of the Austrian Emperors. The palace was extremely large, and it took a good hour to complete the tour, but I focused on all the interesting artwork and architecture within the palace to distract me from my pain. Although it was under renovation, the palace still looked majestic.
The following morning, we thankfully we took a bus to the train station and a train for the four-hour trip to Budapest. When we arrived in Budapest, the entire area seemed to be run down or under construction. We had to walk to our hotel, where all the students just crashed after the long journey, so I knew I wasn’t the only one who was exhausted.
That night we spent around 30 minutes figuring out where the restaurant was, and when we got there, we learned that it was expensive, but the food was decent. By the time I went to bed that night, my feet were in such pain after pounding the pavement all day that I had to distract myself by reading A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin.
Build In Extra R&R
As we all gathered in the lobby of the hotel the next morning, I groaned as I learned that we were to take a walk to the downtown area. Luckily, the walk took less than an hour, and when we arrived, we stopped to eat lunch, allowing me some time to rest. That afternoon, we spent the next four grueling hours walking around an Easter Festival and looking at shops with handmade apparel (not my favorite activity).
As a way of resting my tired body, I was in favor of stopping at a coffee house before returning to the hotel. I knew I had to get a good night’s sleep because the next day our group had planned to visit several monuments and a large 150-year-old church.
The train trip to Prague lasted about six hours and I used those hours to get some much-needed R&R. Upon our arrival in Prague, we took the subway to our hotel. The ride took about 30 minutes and was a good opportunity to move around after sitting for six hours on the train.
We left the hotel to find a restaurant at about 6 PM. Our party split into five groups, each of which chose a separate restaurant. My group chose a restaurant hastily, based on its appearance. Little did we know that they would charge extra for converting our payment from their currency into Euros. This experience left a bitter taste in our mouth for the remainder of our trip!
The next day, we visited several synagogues that survived the Second World War. One of them had been converted into a Holocaust memorial with thousands of victims’ names inscribed on all the walls. This experience was a solemn reminder of the Holocaust.
After visiting this memorial for several hours, I began to notice the pain in my feet so I sat down and rested for a short time. We then returned to the hotel. The following day we visited an extremely large cathedral dating back several hundred years.
Travel Lessons Learned
That night at the hotel, our party prepared to say our farewells to Europe. The next morning we departed for San Francisco via Munich.
My journey to Europe presented me with physical challenges that I overcame with a variety of coping techniques. Through the use of brief resting periods, a distracting novel, and perseverance, I was able to cope with the constant difficulties that arose from my CMT symptoms.
Also, all my friends, parents, and teachers supported me in any and all ways possible, which made for a very memorable and fun trip.