When I’m abroad, I picture my dad traveling with Parkinson’s disease

A columnist's father was well traveled earlier in life

Mary Beth Skylis avatar

by Mary Beth Skylis |

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Every time I step foot in a new country, I dive into the local culture to try to intimately understand the region. I compare and contrast it with the U.S., where I’m from, in an effort to expand my understanding and experiences.

But I’m not only an explorer of geographical places, I also tend to question the fabric of our human existence. I think about how each of us got to be the way we are. I got this quality from my dad, who spent many years exploring Austria and the Pacific Ocean while working on freighters. For a long time, I thought it was a coincidence that I had a knack for languages and could easily pick up on foreign expressions. But it eventually became clear that I got that from my dad, too.

Now, when I arrive at a place I’ve never been before, I can’t help but look for my dad in local settings. What would he have done here at my age? How would he have experienced the world’s nooks and crannies in an earlier era? He’s in his 70s now and is living with Parkinson’s disease. What would it look like if he traveled to these places today?

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Traveling with Parkinson’s disease is a little different, but I got this

Dad struggles with stiffness due to Parkinson’s disease. It’s tough to imagine him sitting in an airplane, packed in like a sardine. But I think he could do it. And I bet he’d even enjoy it despite the struggles he faces every day.

During my latest adventure to Croatia, I paid careful attention to the locals. I noticed that Croatians seemed to have an older average age. While some countries appear to me to be extremely youthful, this country had a wisdom and maturity to it. The coast was lined with sailboats that I knew my dad would enjoy. The sails were taut against constant winds, and I could picture Dad on the water.

I pictured him on land, too. I imagined him making his way to a local bakery for a daily loaf of bread. In one town, people seemed to move more slowly than where I’m from, and they seemed to be quite happy. Dad is like that, too.

Navigating the rocky streets of that historical town seemed like it’d be difficult for someone with limited mobility, though perhaps not impossible. I understood why Dad is hesitant to travel these days. Parkinson’s disease is his constant companion, and he worries about tackling his day-to-day tasks, let alone the more complex activities that travel demands. But he tells me that he’s never lost the urge to hop on a boat and make his way to a distant place.

I wonder if a day will come when I’ll be able to coax him on an airplane for one more adventure, despite the limitations that Parkinson’s brings.

Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


Jack Walden avatar

Jack Walden

My wife and I spent ten days in France a year ago. I had a difficult time getting past jet lag. People were very kind and helpful.


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