New sight after surgery. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

I’d never have thought I would put my delicate eyes under the knife, but getting LASIK eye surgery has proven to be, by far, the best thing I’ve done for my travel spirit.

While it may be true that one doesn’t know a good thing until it’s gone, I’d say this slightly modified version is often more relevant: One doesn’t realize how much something sucks until one doesn’t have to deal with it anymore. I would argue that such a philosophy is as true for unhealthy relationships as for traveling with corrective lenses. Now that I’ve had ample travel experience post-LASIK surgery, I’ll personally vouch for the second phrase. (Well, okay, I’ll vouch for the first, too.)

Life Before LASIK

About the time that I started writing with Go Girl, I had just finished a summer working on a super yacht. However, playing all day everyday in the not-so-warm waters of the Mediterranean isn’t as fun as it sounds when you have to pick between swimming in glasses and swimming in contacts. When you’re alone on a French beach, you can keep your head away from the salt and sea if you like (except the sand, because that always ends up everywhere). But when you are responsible for someone else’s children and those children are swimming out away from the shore, you follow like a responsible adult. (Ignore the fact that I’m complaining about swimming on the Riviera.) The fun and games meant I went through a whole year’s worth of contacts in one summer, lost two glasses screws, and accepted that tinted prescription glasses only work in the movies. I spent what was probably not enough time researching LASIK options in my soon-to-be new home of Florida, and I let them cut me open with a now-metaphorical knife.

The process was weird. I felt like my eye was being devoured by a round suction cup as I was forced to watch a really old-school laser show. Then I had to let them repeat the process with the other eye. Afterwards, I had a creepy red circle surrounding my iris. I was paranoid that I would accidentally rip the new flap in my eye. I slept like a mummy and had eye boogers for a month. I became especially sensitive to air conditioning blowing towards my eyes when driving, the dry air vents on planes, and the way leaves tend to always blow at eye level.

Life After LASIK

But then I flew to San Francisco for a wedding and realized how much more awesome traveling would be. So, to finish up my slightly-too-long personal narrative, here are the top six reasons why travel is better after LASIK eye surgery:

1. You don’t have to decide between contact solution and paying for checked baggage.

To take a small bottle that will run out or take a large bottle and need to check my bag? I don’t need to ask myself this question anymore. Anyone who has had to decide between travel-sized shampoo or a full bottle will recognize this dilemma, except contact solution is often harder to find if you run out. And, if it is available, will often either be expensive or of the questionable variety.

2. Spontaneity is now really your friend, not your frenemy.

Nothing like clear sight to help you appreciate a Florida sunrise. Image courtesy of Samantha Marangell.
Nothing like clear sight to help you appreciate a Florida sunrise. Image courtesy of Samantha Marangell.

Now when you want to stay an extra night in Krakow, you can! You don’t have to call it early simply because you didn’t bring your contact case or a spare pair for the next morning. Live a little. Stay out. Make your own curfew.

3. Swimming is fun again!

Don’t let my introduction confuse you; I love to swim. I just hate when I have to keep my head above water while doing it. It is still a habit three years later to keep my face above the surface (either salty or chlorinated), but when I remember that I no longer need to, I take a deep breath and submerge. Pure freedom.

4. Life is better with two eyes.

After a long day, one eye inevitably used to get horribly dry, a contact would be irritated by a phantom eyelash, or the smoke from the European cigarettes I pretended not to smoke would have shown its wrath. Either way, I often had to remove a contact halfway through a night just to ease my pain. I walked around with warped vision and a slightly less personable attitude, counting down the time until I could leave wherever I was. Being blind defeats about half the purpose of travel. Now, I let other factors make me cranky instead (see: lack of sleep and blisters).

5.  Peripheral vision.

It’s the best.

6. Water and clouds become magical.

Getting the surgery in Florida meant that I wasn’t sure at first if the increased definition of waves was due to my new eyesight or the majesty of Florida waters. The clouds, too, were like nothing I had ever seen. I had spent the previous two summers on boats and not noticed nearly as many details in the waves (with either glasses or contacts) as I did with my new eyes. Now that I’m in Massachusetts, I can say that, yes, Florida is beautiful, but it’s the power of clear vision that brings detail to nature.