Tag Archives: fibromyalgia

San Diego International Comic-Con 2014 Recap

Lessons learned from SDCC 2014

In the aftermath of my first ever San Diego International Comic-Con (SDCC), I was reflecting on my experience & trying to see how to make next year even better.  I’m definitely going to come back next year! I’m still working on my daily recaps, with special focus on Hall H on Thursday & Ballroom 20 on Friday, but both posts should be up shortly.

So, I’ve broken down my experience into a few categories & listed the Pros & Cons of each.  I hope this is helpful to anyone else who is looking to go to SDCC, too.

Hotel

I thankfully selected the little box stating that I would rather be placed in a hotel along the shuttle route if my 5 choices were unavailable during the Early Bird Hotel Sale.  Staying so far from the convention center, 2nd to last stop on the red shuttle line, has its pros & cons.

SDCC 2014 Red Shuttle RoutePros:

  1. It is much cheaper than staying downtown.
  2. Once you get on the shuttle, it is a short ride.

Cons:

  1. Long waits for the shuttle, especially in the morning & after 10 PM can be at least 45 minutes.
  2. The shuttle is sometimes almost to capacity when it finally does arrive to the hotel to pick you up; you may have to wait a couple of shuttles before actually getting on a shuttle towards the convention center.

Take away from experience:

This year, I came solo to SDCC, so I bore the full cost of my hotel room.  Hopefully next year, I will be able to come with some buddies to help lessen the cost of the hotel room.  While I was thrilled to have secured a room, I will definitely try to get a hotel closer to the convention center next time.  The ability to stop by my hotel room during the day/afternoon to drop off merchandise, shower, power nap, &/or change is even more appealing to me after my 1st SDCC.   I had to take a change of clothes with me for evening plans/activities & change in the bathroom of the convention center before heading out to dinner because I didn’t have the time to wait in the line for the shuttle, get to the hotel, shower & change, wait for the shuttle again before heading out to dinner in the Gaslamp Quarter.  Due to my fibromyalgia, I get fatigued a bit sooner than most, so the idea of accessing my room without much of a wait is definitely moving my hotel situation to a higher priority for my budget next year.  I would rather buy less things & spend that money on my overall comfort while at SDCC.  Also, being able to carry less weight throughout the duration of the day will be a huge improvement & help reduce my overall fatigue level.

Cosplaying

I decided to cosplay as part of my first SDCC in order to try to get the most out of the experience.  This was also my first time cosplaying, so I was a bit nervous.  I described my process trying to decide on who to cosplay as in a previous post <click here to check it out!> & I’ll be posting about the details of each cosplay I wore while at SDCC in an upcoming post.

Pros:

  1. You definitely fit in.
  2. You can interact with fellow SDCC-goers on a different level.
  3. It is fun running into or meeting others who are cosplaying.

Cons:

  1. It can get intensely hot while outdoors & then a bit chilly once inside in the air conditioning or in the evening.  I met a woman who was cosplaying as the Black Widow in a full black pleather body suit.  She almost melted in the sun waiting for the Indigo panels.
  2. Depending on what components your cosplay entails, you may be carrying accessories all day long while navigating the masses on the exhibition floor & in lines. I met a woman who had an almost life–sized TARDIS on wheels.  Initially I thought that was a great idea, until the impracticality of it was brought to my attention: she needed to check it into the coat-check because it was near impossible for her to go anywhere with it.  Come to think of it, how did she get to the convention center with it?!
  3. Footwear: choose wisely!

Take away from experience:

I had a blast cosplaying.  I was by myself, so I had to take my trusty backpack each time I was cosplaying, which contributed to what I decided to cosplay as due to practicality.  If you are going to have an elaborate cosplay, you’ll need an assistant of some sort to help hold your things & navigate the exhibition floor.  You need to be aware of your surroundings.  I came across a lot of people who had parts of their cosplay that extended out in some direction & would end up hitting someone in the face or body because of not taking in account the new dimensions of his/her cosplay.  I purposefully choose to cosplay with sensible footwear & my body definitely thanked me for it!  It’s easy to not notice the actual amount of distance you end up walking during a day, plus a lot of standing in lines.  Both take their toll on your feet & rest of your body.  I will definitely be cosplaying again next year!

Food & Staying Hydrated

This was something I did a decent job of preparing for, but I will definitely be making adjustments for next SDCC.

Pros:

  1. If you plan correctly, you can camp out in line or in a panel all day & not worry about missing meals.
  2. Bringing your own food means saving lots of money.  Convention food is costly & very limited in selection.  If you have food or dietary restrictions like me, you won’t find anything at the convention center you could eat even if you wanted to shell out the money for it.
  3. There are various restaurants near the convention center & the events guide has a list & map to help you choose for the wide selection available.

Cons:

  1. Gaslamp Quarter restaurants close at 10:00-ish, even on Friday & Saturday evenings.  I grew up in Miami & this fact was a huge surprise.  I’m used to restaurants, not just bars with appetizers, staying open on South Beach until midnight or 2 AM.  I missed dinner on Thursday night due to what ended up begin the perfect storm of events: I was in Hall H all day & so I ate all of my pre-determined packed food, I didn’t have time before the Video Game San Diego Symphony Concert that started at 7:30 PM because I underestimated the amount of time it would take to walk up/down 5th Ave in the early evening with everyone else, & I had no idea restaurants would be closed once the concert concluded. I walked to the Gaslamp Quarter everything was pretty much closed.  Thank goodness I had leftovers in my hotel room’s mini fridge from the night before to hold me over until breakfast!
  2. Forgetting to hydrate was a problem on a couple of days.  I was in Ballroom 20 all day on Friday & didn’t realize there were water coolers available for me to refill my water bottle inside the ballroom until towards the end of the day.  Also, standing in line outside means limited or no access to water fountains & you can quickly dehydrate standing in the sun & sweating for hours.
  3. Not packing enough food.  I ran out of my non-perishable snacks on Day 2 & didn’t have time to go to the store & buy replenishments, so I was stuck with having to take time & extra money to eat lunch at a restaurant next to the convention center on Sunday.

Take away from experience:

I will definitely make sure to bring more of my nonperishable snacks & flavor packs for my water bottle with me.  The water fountain water tastes very different from what I am used to, so I think a little bit of single-serve instant tea would help make my hydration more palatable.  Plan dinner with anticipation & make reservations for anything in Gaslamp Quarter to avoid waiting even longer at the end of what is already bound to be a long day of waiting.  Bring more relatively lightweight non-perishables to the convention center in order to save money, time, & energy.

Panels

I had originally thought that seeing anything in Hall H & Ballroom 20 was not in the cards for me.  I was not willing to camp out the night before nor was I going to be able to withstand waiting in a line for over 1 hour.  However, due to the marvel of technology & Twitter, I was able to get into both Hall H & Ballroom 20 with relatively little waiting time on Thursday & Friday, respectively.  By following @Ballroom20Line & @HallHLine on Twitter, I was able to get real-time updates on the line status, capacity, length, etc.

Inside Hall H during SDCC 2014On Thursday, I was able to walk into Hall H right after Benedict Cumberbatch & the other panelist exited the Hall & the 2 minute preview of the new Penguins movie were showing.  This enabled me to get a great seat & stay through the following panels: The Giver, Paramount Pictures, & Entertainment Weekly‘s Visionaries.

Ballroom 20 during Sand Diego International Comic-Con 2014

On Friday, I was able to walk into Ballroom 20 right after the Legend of Korra panel finished.  I maybe waited a total of 20-25 minutes before being let in & finding a seat.  I was able to see the following panels: Bones, Marvel TV, Entertainment Weekly: Brand New WarriorsThe OriginalsThe Arrow (TV), & the world premier of the animated movie, Batman: Escape from Arkham, followed by its panel.

Pros:

  1. If you plan it correctly, stay up to date with the status of each line with anticipation, & have a fair amount of luck, you can check out panels in the big venues.
  2. Seeing footage & the panel guests along with a venue full of equally excited fans is an experience definitely worth experiencing live at least once.  The energy can be exhilarating in the panels.
  3. Free swag.

Cons:

  1. You might need to try to get into the venue 1-2 panels before the one you really want to see.
  2. Being in the venue means you can’t really be in the exhibition floor.
  3. Once you are in Hall H, you must stay inside or you will need to stand in line again.  There are restrooms & food vendors inside of the Hall.
  4. Ballroom 20 provides you with bathroom passes, which allow you to exit & return but only during a panel.  If you don’t make it back before the end of that same panel, you must go through the line again.
  5. Sitting all day can be tiring in its own right.

Take away from experience:

I am glad that I was able to experience both Hall H & Ballroom 20 during my 1st SDCC.  I wish I had been able to check out a bunch of the smaller panels, but time is finite & alas it was not possible.  Seeing the panels was fun, but it did eat up entire days.  This left just a short amount of time to walk the exhibition floor & shop.  Also, because I waited until late Saturday to drop off my sketchbook, I ended up missing on various Sunday panels waiting for the artists to return my sketchbook.

Shopping

The intensity of Point Of Sale purchasing is staggering at SDCC.  I got up-sold on a storage tube because it was less than $1 for the 37″ one instead of the 26″.  Well, now I have an artwork tube that is 3/4 my height & is cumbersome to carry, especially amongst the hoards within the exhibition floor & pretty much anywhere surrounding SDCC activities & venues.

Pros:

  1. SDCC exclusive merchandise is pretty sweet.
  2. There is a lot of variety to choose from & selections from all kinds of genres & fandoms.
  3. Special deals on getting commissioned work from artist.

Cons:

  1. Where did all my money go?
  2. What am I going to do with all this stuff I just (semi-impulse) bought?  I had to buy another suitcase just to transport all my new stuff back with me on my international flights.  If you live in the U.S., you can ship it home, but if you are coming from abroad this is not as practical.
  3. Falling victim to the up-sell.  Case in point, me and the tube!  My thought at the time was, “I can’t lose money on this deal!”  Silly, silly, silly of me.  Everything I bought that could be rolled up & stored in my tube is maybe 12″ tall.  So … think three times about a purchase, if you can.  I ended up needing to buy hard protectors for the comic art boards & original sketches I bought anyway.
  4. If you wait until the last day to buy anything, the selection can be limited.  I wanted to try & buy the Nerdist Convention Hoodie but couldn’t get to until Sunday; there were none left.  I wanted a particular shirt from Her Universe & there were only XL & XXL left.  At the BBC America booth, they had sold out of a lot of Sherlock & Orphan Black merchandise by Sunday, as well.

As I look forward to SDCC 2015, I have a lot of planning to get started on & am really looking forward to returning.  I’ll be recruiting my friends to join me, because I’d like to experience SDCC with a friend or two next time.  I enjoyed the flexibility going solos allowed me, but I’d like to change it up a bit for 2015.  I hope this post has been helpful & I’d love to hear any lessons learned you have to share in the comments below.  See you in San Diego in 2015!

SDCC Countdown series

SDCC Countdown: Ultimate Panel Wish List (3rd & Overly Ambitious Draft)

So, I was without constant reliable internet the last 2 weeks & it was torture!  During that time, I was able to get a glimpse of the SDCC Unofficial Blog’s panel announcements & create my 2nd draft of SDCC Ultimate Panel Wish List. Now that I am back in the world of the inter-webs, I am on geek out overload with all of the SDCC panels announced!  Here is a screenshot of my overly ambitious SDCC Panel Wish List:My-overly-ambitous-SDCC-ultimate-list

Making a list & checking it twice …

So, yeah.  Reality set in once I glanced at my Calendar, after gleefully & blissfully clicking away on all the panels that sounded enticing on MySched.  I have some pretty tough choices, many of which will be made for me by the requirements of overnight camping for Hall H.  As I have stated, my original mindset was plan big & then be flexible.  I don’t want my first SDCC to be overwhelming in a negative way, but I am also (clearly) a wee bit too ambitious.  Oh yeah, and this isn’t even considering Nerd HQ nor GamerCon.  The only off-site events I am already certain I will be attending are the San Diego Symphony’s Video Game Concert, <fingers-crossed> the APPLESEED ALPHA screening (still holding out for more tickets to become available for those on the waiting list), @midnight, The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Fan Dinner, & The Voice Tour (just because).

Brand new information:

Toucan Tracker Wristbands for the initial morning panel in Hall H were announced today. This is the first year SDCC uses this system, & only for Hall H, so it will be interesting to see how it all goes.  This now brings a different dynamic of starting the camping out early & then once receiving a wristband, being able to take shifts with your line group mates with (hopefully) less line drama.

Other considerations:

In a previous post, I talked about how I take certain steps to minimize the symptoms of my fibromyalgia when traveling by plane.  I need to remind myself that I will need to be careful not to let my overly ambitiousness cause a flare up of my symptoms during SDCC & then result in me missing a full day, etc. With this reality check, & of course the ridiculous visual of my SDCC panel wish list, I don’t think camping overnight for Hall H or even Ballroom 20 is in the cards for me.  Unless I can find a group at SDCC that will enable me to start off in line until 1 AM, then leave to sleep in my hotel & return in the early morning with food & beverage reinforcements, I will just need to take my chances during the day for later panels in those large venues.


The SDCC planning continues, as I await what NerdHQ has in store.  All in all, I know I will be having an amazing experience & I know that during it I will be able to measure out my energy & time in away that maximizes my fun without costing me a lot of mandatory downtime as a result.

9 days & counting!

SDCC Countdown series

Some travel tips for those with chronic pain going to SDCC

I recently read a fabulous post by fellow Female Geek Blogger member, Kristen Kirk, discussing travel tips for anyone who suffers from chronic pain & fatigue, mainly fibromyalgia.  Check out her spot-on post!

Kristen brought up so many great ideas & suggestions, I felt compelled to add my two cents to the discussion in an effort to also help as many fellow sufferers as possible.  I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia a year ago & I have made various lifestyle changes to help minimize my symptoms.  But I didn’t let my diagnosis stop me from doing one of the things that fuels one of my biggest passions: traveling!  Since my diagnosis, I have flown across the Pacific to Hong Kong, then up to Beijing.  I took the bullet train form there to Xian & back to Beijing, before flying back to Hong Kong & back to Mexico.  I also have flown to Guatemala & Honduras.  All this required proper planning, but it was definitely doable!  I hope my tips can help fellow persons living with fibromyalgia or other chronic pain.

Photo by Isabel Gutierrez. Copyrighted 2014.

Photo by Isabel Gutierrez. Copyrighted 2014.

I am flying to San Diego for SDCC this year from Eastern Mexico, which forces me to connect through Mexico City’s international airport.  This translates into hours of uncomfortable seating awaiting my next flight.  Here are some of the things I do, in addition to the things Kristen stated in her post, to help me get through even the most grueling of flight itineraries:

Pick an Appropriate & Supportive Carry-On
My doctor suggested using a backpack over a messenger bag or anything that caused my back to be unbalanced.  With this logical advice in mind, I have found a backpack with proper back support & good straps is preferable to a rolling carry-on, unless the rolling carry-on is a 4-wheeler. Not only does a proper backpack help me limit what I am taking so I don’t overexert myself, it also distributes the weight evenly, instead of having me pull on just one side.  A good & supportive backpack can be a bit expensive, but not much more than a good quality rolling carry-on.  Since I need to take my laptop & lot of gadgets when I travel in order to teach online, I settled on this beauty of a backpack
Disclaimer: I am not paid to endorse this product, I just love it so much & felt compelled to share!

Stay Hydrated
I make sure to take my refillable water bottle whenever I fly to stay hydrated at all times. No need to have a headache on top of being fatigued during/after flying!  My bottle clips onto my backpack, so it is hands-free carrying.  When I am in the US or any other country with water fountains, I refill as needed, just don’t forget to empty it prior to going through the security check-point.  Even if I need to buy a bottle of distilled/purified water, I empty it into my refillable water bottle.  I also carry vitamin C boosters, etc. to help my system while traveling.

Comfortable Shoes are a Must
Back pain is directly related to your feet.  If your feet are not being supported, that chain reaction goes to your ankles, to your knees, & so forth.  As the song goes, “Head, shoulders, knees, & toes. Knees & toes!” So comfortable shoes are an absolute must!  Of course, comfortable shoes are not cheap, but they are less tiresome on your body & that is worth its weight in gold to me!  Comfortable shoes in combination with the compression socks, which Kristen mentioned in her post, are a double whammy of relief when traveling.

Invest in an One-Day Pass at the Airport Lounge
If you have a connecting flight with a layover of more than 3 hours, seriously consider buying a day pass for the airline lounge.  Kristen mentioned splurging on the most expensive seat you can afford, but I think that one-day pass to the airport lounge is more doable, specially if there is a long wait when connecting.  For example, the Admiral’s Club, which serves American Airlines & all other oneworld Alliance members, sells one-day passes for $50; same price for Delta’s Sky Club.

Photo credit: Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Photo credit: Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Airport lounges are similar to first-class: once you have been in one, you really dread being in the “regular” area of the airport.  Airport lounges provide you with extremely comfortable seating, complimentary refreshments & snacks, superior restrooms, plentiful electrical outlets to charge your gadgets, & other amenities such as free wifi. They will make an announcement to let you know when you need to start heading towards your gate for boarding & alert you of any gate changes &/or delays.  If you think about all of what you get, it is definitely worth the money when you are staying for hours at an airport between flights.  Sometimes you end up spending more time at a connecting airport than the actual individual flights, so this is worth the consideration.

Once on the Plane, Settle in.
I truly settle into my airplane seat.  My unpack/packing may seem a bit much, but it is so routine now that it doesn’t take much time at all & is completely worth it.  There is definitely a method to my madness!  I typically choose to fly in the window seat, because while you lose a bit in the leg room, you don’t ever have to get up for someone else to go to the bathroom, plus you get wonderful vistas as you fly.  Of course, the flip-side is that you have to be the one asking other people to get up so you can go to the bathroom.  This is not such a big deal because I fall asleep as soon as possible on the plane. I actually acquired this trait in my early years due to getting air-sick, but I have found that I am less fatigued & in less pain overall if I sleep for a large portion of my flight(s). I have a little pillow for lumbar support as well as a neck pillow, one of those U-shaped ones. I use a small space saver bag to flatten my travel pillow, along with my travel fleece blanket, so it easily fits into my carry-on backpack; my little neck pillow fastens onto my backpack & weighs nothing.

Carry-on essentials

My carry-on essentials for good sleep: laptop backpack (to store stuff), my neck pillow, my lumbar pillow, my light fleece blanket, eye mask, & ear buds. [Not pictured: space saver bag, essential oil of lavender, iPhone, & refillable water bottle.]

Once I am seated, I settle in.   I place my little pillow in my lumbar & position my neck pillow.  Next, I unfold my light fleece travel blanket & set it on my lap for easy access.  I take a small vial of essential oil of lavender, which I then dab on my temples or even my blanket sometimes to help me relax & avoid any unpleasant “airplane” smell.  I take off my shoes & place my feet on top of my laptop bag, since my legs are a bit short to relieve the stress on my knees.  I put my earbuds in my ears to help block out the engine noise during take off.  I set my iPhone on airplane mode & its Pod on a timer to start approximately 20 minutes into the flight, to ensure we are at the appropriate altitude once it starts playing, with a custom playlist cued to help keep me relaxed.  In order to really get some rest, I use an eye mask to block out light, which in conjunction with my earbuds block out as much as possible.  Basically, create my own sleeping, relaxation pod.  As we are taxi-ing to the gate upon landing, the packing commences. I just pop my travel pillow in my space saver bag, sit on it to get all the excess air out, & voila! Back in my carry-on it goes with everything else.

So there you go, my travel tips to minimize fatigue & pain while traveling.  See you in SDCC!

If you have any other tips, please share them in the comments!