Traveling With a Chronic Illness

Traveling with a chronic illness is difficult and sometimes embarrassing; but don’t let it stop you from having an adventure of a lifetime.

There are many out there who have chronic conditions that affects the quality of their lives, and if you dear reader are one of them or know someone who’s like this please know that despite all of it you can still go out and have a fantastic adventure. The world is out there calling, go explore it, work with your limitations and make the very most of it.

Traveling with a chronic illness is difficult and sometimes embarrassing; but don’t let it stop you from having an adventure of a lifetime.

There are many out there who have chronic conditions that affects the quality of their lives, and if you dear reader are one of them or know someone who’s like this please know that despite all of it you can still go out and have a fantastic adventure. The world is out there calling, go explore it, work with your limitations and make the very most of it.

By in chron's disease, chronic illness, Mongol Rally, Sora, Travel Tips
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This time last year The Nerdventurists were preparing to embark on their greatest adventure, a 10,000 mile drive across 19 countries in the name of adventure and charity. That adventure was The Mongol Rally.

We mentioned that one of our chosen charities was The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, because one of us suffers from that chronic condition. And that someone is me.

Traveling with a chronic illness can be limiting, but don't let it limit you. The Nerdventurists. www.nerdventurists.com. Romania.
Credit: Scott Joseph via Travelstache

Taken from CCFA: “Crohn’s disease belongs to a group of conditions known as Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD). Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract.” A flare up is lots of pain, urgent and frequent trips to the loo, rapid weight loss, and did I mention pain? Basically put, my body attacks itself, my digestive system regularly betrays me and eating is always a game of Russian Roulette.

On top of that I have yet another condition knowns as EDS or Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. It’s genetic and effects the connective tissue in my body and for me, causes frequent dislocations and chronic pain. Not only do my ligaments get all crazy on me, but it also brings some trouble with my innards and in fact makes my Crohn’s a bit worse than what it already is.

I really won it on the genetic lottery here.

Both of these chronic conditions are something I’ve lived with my whole life, they are my everyday and while they can be debilitating at times, I try hard to not let it rule how I live my life.

I’ve traveled before, long before the Mongol Rally ever happened, but all of those trips were fairly short at most lasting 3 weeks. When I decided to go on the Mongol Rally I was admittedly worried because it would be the longest time I’ve ever been from home, Kristina and I had plans for more traveling after the rally and there was a point I wondered if my body would be able to keep up.

For most of the trip I was alright, however, it didn’t take too long before my conditions reminded me there were there. First up to bat? Chron’s.

Camping in Romania. The Mongol Rally. The Nerdventurists. www.nerdventurists.com
Credit: Scott Joseph via Travelstache

An unbalanced diet of potatoes, bread and Lara bars were taking their toll on my system and it wasn’t long before I needed to use the bathroom frequently and the painful stomach cramps were rearing up. They were so painful that I would be talking and it would knock the breath out of me and I’d have to pause. It was the start of a flare up, and the reality that I’d potentially have to drop out of the rally was becoming a real possibility. Ever stubborn I wanted to keep going and rationalised that I knew my body’s limit, and I was going to keep pushing it and hope that I could last until we reached the capitol where there were hospitals I could go to if need be. Stupid? Yes. Dangerous? Eh probably. But I made it and the flare had calmed enough that I was able to have a few shots of Russian vodka with all the other crazy people of the rally.

My teammates all noticed another habit of mine, something that Kristina mentions in one of our previous blog posts. My ability to sleep practically anywhere. They all also noticed that I spent most of the time we were on the road asleep and compared to the rest of the group, the amount of driving I did was nothing. And this was EDS letting itself be known.

Both conditions really effect my energy levels and thinking. I run out of gas quickly, I am VERY forgetful and my mind gets very foggy. But EDS especially causes a host of problems that often leaves people thinking I’m a flakey, forgetful and rather lazy person. And you know, I usually leave them to think that of me because I don’t like talking much about the real reason.

Driving in Russia. Mongol Rally. The Nerdventurists. www.nerdventurists.com
Credit: Scott Joseph via Travelstache

I didn’t want to tell my teammates that I couldn’t drive much because my mind was too foggy and shifting gears kept making my shoulder dislocate and hurt like hell. I let Kris do all of the navigating during our Japan and Korea run because I knew with my forgetful and cloudy mind I’d get us lost and just come off as incompetent (She once asked me to get directions from someone and I forgot what they said almost 5 minutes later. She was not amused).

As much as I wish I could say I don’t allow my conditions to limit me, they do. But what I can say is that I don’t let them stop me from traveling and having fun while doing it. I learned that I need to disclose to those I travel with that I have some limitations and not be embarrassed by it. It’s not a weakness, it’s just another ‘style’ of travel.

Mongol Rally - traveling with a chronic disease. The Nerdventurists. www.nerdventurists.com

There are many out there who have chronic conditions that affects the quality of their lives, and if you dear reader are one of them or know someone who’s like this please know that despite all of it you can still go out and have a fantastic adventure. The world is out there calling, go explore it, work with your limitations and make the very most of it.

 

 

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Traveling With a Chronic Illness - The Nerdventurists - www.nerdventurists.com

  1. Reply

    What a great post. I totally agree that you can continue to travel with medical conditions. Okay, so it can be a bit harder, but I don’t think anyone should let it stop them. There are ways round most difficulties. Yes, it can be limiting, but it doesn’t mean you CAN’T do it. It just means that your travel might look a bit different to someone else’s. And since we’re all individuals, who cares?
    If you’re interested, check out the post I did a while back regarding (one of) my medical conditions: http://guttertoglobe.com/disabled-travel/
    Oh, and keep up that positivity, get out there in the world, and have fun!

  2. Reply

    Very informative post and kudos to you for netting letting illness keep you from your travel adventures! I really enjoyed your post and the pics!

    Valerie

  3. Reply

    Just… Wow. I can only imagine how hard that journey would have been for you. I am so happy that you made it through though!! I also sleep a lot and don’t like driving but unfortunately don’t have a real excuse ha ha. Good luck and thanks for sharing !

  4. Reply

    Wow, you are so brave to travel in spite of everything. I have IBS which is nowhere near as difficult to deal with as your conditions, but it’s tricky. Sometimes I don’t know what to eat so it won’t affect me when traveling. But inevitably it’s my excitement and nervousness that mess things up. And a few years ago I was diagnosed with Grave’s Disease or hyperthyroid, which leaves me extremely tired. But if we’re going to have problems anyway, better to have them traveling and having fun than staying at home. Good for you!!!

    • Live Learn Venture
    • May 12, 2016
    Reply

    Ugh wow — you area tough cookie, that’s for sure. I have a friend who has Crohn’s and I know he suffers a lot. Good for you to keep following your passion and interests! Thank you for sharing your story.

  5. Reply

    I am proud of you! You are awesome! I am totally agree, our limitation shouldn’t hold us back to do what we enjoy to do. 🙂 Keep travelling and take care!

  6. Reply

    Well done! It’s not easy traveling with these limitations but I’m glad you didn’t let that stop you. What an achievement.

  7. Reply

    This is my favourite post I’ve read in a while. I fully appreciate you opening up about your chronic illness and have family members with the same condition. It’s amazing to see you pursue your travel dreams despite pain and I will now be following your blog to keep up to date! I love real stories off real people, too often posts are the same but yours has stood out to me (: Keep travelling and loving life!

  8. Reply

    I learned so much about Crohn’s disease – thank you for sharing your personal story. I’m also really happy that you crossed the finish line despite all the roadblocks that stood in your way. Carry On!

    • dorachristofi2015
    • May 12, 2016
    Reply

    Very nice of you to share this! I can’t imagine…Most of the time I travel I get a flu, or get stomach aches or period and all that..but having a chronic disease and travelling, bravo to you!

  9. Reply

    Hi there! Thanks for sharing. It helps to know that there are others out there who have debilitating illness are still travelling the world – and loving it. Illness can bring limitations and be awful at times, but you’ve reminded me that it is important to not let it hold you back as well. So, thank you 🙂

  10. Reply

    Proud of you for not letting your illness define you or stop you from traveling. Thanks for sharing your personal story and wishing you much fun on your next travel adventure.

  11. Reply

    Great post!! I love that you’re not letting this stand in your way and that you’re following your dreams. I enjoyed reading this and I wish you the best!

    • Eva
    • June 6, 2016
    Reply

    Absolutely loved reading this. Inspirational =)
    I am actually looking to interview individuals with various chronic conditions for my upcoming Wellacopia podcast (we match individuals with chronic conditions to specialists that are best for their struggles), and after reading through your blog I wanted to see if you would be interested in sharing your story. I’d love to talk more if so. Please send me an email/message when you can: evalana422@gmail.com.
    -Eva

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