27 September 2011

How’s health for small talk with strangers?

On the 31st of August, I joined the long queues for the check-in desk at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. Everywhere around me, there were older people, and all carrying huge suit cases with luggage labels of the travel organisation.
I couldn’t help to smile - people around around me greeted each other as old friends, started talking about spa therapies, about Montenegro and about memories of spa therapies in Yugoslav times. No one talked to me or asked me if I was joining the spa therapy holiday too. Later, I learned I was supposed to have the organisation’s luggage label fixed on my bag and suitcase, and, I definitely didn’t fit the age category.

After checking in, I bought two extra books to make sure I wouldn’t be bored in case it would rain, I wouldn’t meet any nice people or if I had to eat alone for dinner.
At the gate, I was surprised. Three quarters of the travellers appeared to carry Fontana labels on their luggage and everywhere you heard talks of spa therapy. Moreover, the craziest thing for me was, everyone’s first question was what health condition brought people to spa therapy. Basically everywhere around me I heard strangers having spa application interviews: ‘Do you have rheumatism?’, ‘Do you also have AS’, ‘arthritis’, or .. ?. This was mostly followed by ‘Oh yes, I know what you mean, I have … already for a long time’ and a long introduction to the health CVs. Also the history of medication was very interesting: ‘What kind of medication do you use?’, ‘Oh, no, I had these and these side effects, you?’.

It was crazy. In my day-to-day world, my illness and health issues are the last subjects for conversations, and when, only with dear friends or family. Definitely no small talk subject with strangers, and here it was! The current weather was clearly not interesting enough. It was hilarious, I was sitting in a gate surrounded by people, 2-3 times my age, talking very openly about their health, illnesses, and I felt young, and weird.

Two flights, 20˚C, three passport stamps and two border checks later, a bus drove us to Igalo in Montenegro. It was sunny and warm, mountains were high, the sea was blue and the palm trees were everywhere. 

Spa therapy 2011 in Montenegro

This year's spa therapy led me to Montenegro. A tiny beach town called Igalo would be my guest home for 3 weeks. After months of working too hard, sleeping too little, irregular exercising and a general lack of a regular lifestyle, I decided to spend this year’s summer holiday to my health’s benefit.

Because my health insurance is supporting a spa therapy for Ankylosing Spondylitis, I had to choose from a list of spas and travel organisations, and it appeared I had to join a group spa therapy holiday. Not really my first choice, but as it appeared the only way for my health insurance, I decided to give it a go. 
Nevertheless, I had a couple of wishes for my spa therapy. Firstly, because this summer had seen nothing but rain, I wanted to go somewhere south. Also, after last year’s success, I wanted a spa therapy, which focused on AS. Lastly, I wanted to go for 3 weeks. There were quite a few spa therapies and spas that matched those criteria, but I chose for Igalo in Montenegro. Sadly, without radon therapy, but a country I’d never visited, a coastline that pictured the Mediterranean, and moreover, a good climate for a holiday in September.

Grotere kaart weergeven

I booked my spa therapy with a Dutch travel organisation specialised in spa therapy holidays. I have to say I don’t really like group holidays. Even though I love chatting to and meeting new people, I don’t like group dynamics, particularly in holidays. I love to undertake journeys on my own, meet new people, but also to have my own space when I need it. 
The pictures on the website of this travel organisation called Fontana showed old people, the descriptions of the spa therapy in Igalo were clearly written with older people in mind, and lastly, the website was very outdated too. 
A week before my flight, I received the travel information (by post!), and the booklet even advised the most obvious things which you definitely know if you’ve travelled abroad just once before. So, I prepared myself for an old-school holiday, including lots of patients with grey hair, group leaders who would guide you everywhere, and no need to think yourself.
On 31st of August, my spa therapy was set to begin.