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. In 2015 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
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.
How To Travel With a Chronic Illness
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.
An unbalanced diet of potatoes, bread and Lara bars were taking their toll on my system. 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. The reality that I’d potentially have to drop out of the rally was becoming a real possibility.
Give Up or Keep Going?
Ever stubborn I wanted to keep going and rationalised that I knew my body’s limit. 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. 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.
Don’t Try to Hide It
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.
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.
There are many out there who have chronic conditions that affects the quality of their lives. 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.