Travel at the best of times can be tiring and bring on certain illnesses, depending on where you travel to, what you eat and what activities you do. But what about those who are travelling with a chronic condition? Does that limit us in what we can do and where we can travel to?

I spoke with some fellow travel bloggers about their experiences travelling with chronic conditions and what advice they have to offer.

Travelling with a chronic illness

First, let me tell you a little bit about me and my chronic conditions (yep, that’s plural!):

Hashimotos

This is an autoimmune disease which causes my immune system to attack my thyroid gland. A lot of people aren’t even aware of what exactly your thyroid does for your body, but in fact it plays a huge role in regulating your metabolism, brain development and heart function

Some of the symptoms of Hashimotos are weight gain, feeling cold, chronic fatigue, hair loss, brittle nails, muscle aches, joint pain, and brain fog (oh the brain fog, my arch nemesis!).

Crohns Disease

Crohns Disease is an inflammatory bowel disease which can pop its ugly head up at any time without warning. It’s not brought on by stress (although stress does not help when you have a flare up) and it’s not particularly caused by diet (although you must be careful what to eat when you have a flare up). Everyone with this illness suffers in different ways and there is no definitive cure.

All that being said, I have been to over 20 countries in the last few years and have no intentions of letting my chronic illnesses get in the way of visiting more.

Sitting on a boat in Oman

When I travel, I have to be mindful of the fact that I can have a flare up of either of my conditions without warning. I usually travel in style so that I get enough rest, I don’t plan too many activities in a single day, and I always plan for a nap!

We, my fellow bloggers and I, aren’t telling you these things to make you feel sorry for us. We want you to be aware that no matter what obstacles come your way, you can get around them and do what you love to do. 

I asked these inspiring bloggers a series of questions about what it was like for them travelling with a chronic condition and here’s what they said:

Katie from The Katie Show Blog

Katie from The Katie Show Blog

1. Can you describe a little about you and the condition you suffer from & how long you have had this condition?

I’m a solo female traveler on a mission to not let a chronic disease stop me from living to the fullest. My name is Katie, I write travel guides on The Katie Show Blog, and I have a disease called Endometriosis.

Basically, it’s a disease where tissue from your uterus packs up and moves to other areas of your body. It causes intense pain, internal bleeding, and can even fuse organs together as it grows – in my case my appendix had been fused completely by this tissue.

All around, it’s not the most welcome travel buddy. The good thing is that it’s chronic and incurable. I know, it sounds like a bad thing, but it means that you learn to live with it and this helps when it comes to traveling.

2. Does this condition affect you travelling and, if so, how?

The intense pain, swelling, and fatigue that Endometriosis brings can make even the simplest things in daily life difficult. It’s all amplified when you are traveling away from the creature comforts of home.

If the symptoms flare up while I am traveling, I usually adjust my plans a little. For example, if I had a big day of walking and sightseeing planned, I might swap it for a less physical day and an early night to rest. Usually, that’s enough to get back on track.

Sometimes though, since the time in the destination is limited, it’s just a matter of gritting it with a stubborn attitude of “it’s not going to stop me seeing the things I want to.”

My motto is “Endometriosis might slow me but it won’t stop me.”

Katie from The Katie Show Blog

3. What, if any, adjustments do you need to make when travelling?

With Endometriosis, the flare ups occur after they are triggered – usually by food, stress, or menstrual cycle. For me, food is the biggest trigger while traveling because I want to try the local cuisine and it often involves sugar, dairy, and other problematic foods for my system.

This means I have to be a little strategic to avoid a painful flare up. Generally, I’ll limit my consumption of trigger foods overall and if I am going to indulge in some new food, I do it at night. This way, if it does flare up the symptoms, at least I’ll be able to sleep it off.

I also always pack loose fitting clothing in case of a flare up because the swelling can get so intense that clothes will cause deep, painful welts in my skin – I learned this the hard way when I got a flare up while at a museum in Germany.

4. What’s your top tip for anyone with a chronic illness / your specific illness who wants to travel?

My biggest advice for anyone with Endometriosis is to not let it define you. To not let it stop you from experiencing a full life or doing the things you want.

It’s hard, and I know just how hard it can be, but a diagnosis doesn’t have to resign you to a life on the couch waiting to feel better. Your life is more important than that.

The most important thing to do while you’re traveling is to know your limits and respect them – like I said, let it slow you not stop you. Also, manage your triggers as much as you can. Usually this takes a little trial and error but it’s all part of the process.

Katie McIntosh is a solo female travel blogger who writes extraordinary travel guides for ordinary people – just like her. Visit The Katie Show Blog for more travel guides and tips and join her Facebook group for weekly live videos.

Budi from The Creative Globetrotter

Budi The Creative Globetrotter

1. Can you describe a little about you and the condition you suffer from & how long you have had this condition?

I’m hard of hearing since my birth. My right ear is deaf, my left ear got 65 dB hearing loss. This hearing loss called also severe hearing loss and it is also progressive. The hearing loss is mostly in the higher frequency. Male voices and music (only instrumental) I can understand. Woman’s voices are a lot harder to understand.

Understanding people in daily life is my biggest challenge. Group talks or meetings are terrible. I only can hear vowels (a,e,i,u,o) instead of consonants. For example if you hear ‘tree’ I only hear ‘..ee’.

2. Does this condition affect you travelling and, if so, how?

Understanding people is the most difficult part. Strange accents e.g. Nepalese or Indian English accent…. It is not that I can’t understand the language (as most people communicate in English) but understanding what the other is saying… the pronunciation.

But there is a difference between understanding and communicating. As a Hard of Hearing (HOH) I try to understand the context and answer if possible. As I trained in daily life, I’m even more skilled during travel by using my eyesight, signs, sign language and non-verbal communication.

3. What, if any, adjustments do you need to make when travelling?

I have a lot of apps on my phone like translation apps, google maps, maps.me etc that help me to communicate. I have also a cheap smart watch. I use it as a timer, the smart watch vibrates on my wrist so wake up easily. Of course, my hearing aid (and back up hearing aid) and batteries to understand. More tips of traveling Being HOH I have a page and vlog for even more tips for HOH people – How to travel with a hearing aid.

Budi The Creative Globetrotter

4. What’s your top tip for anyone with a chronic illness / your specific illness who wants to travel?

Just go… don’t let hearing loss hold you back from traveling. What I figured is during my travels if you are skilled enough to work around your disability you notice you are not disabled at all

I have a saying: traveling disabled becomes able traveling.

I’m Budi aka The Creative Globetrotter. Traveling is always a passion in my life so I decided to make my most important decision in my life: quit my job in 2014 as an Art Director in the advertising. In the past years I’m traveling the world as the Creative Globetrotter. ‘Creative’ because I still do some creative work as a freelance Art Director, teacher in advertising and design or as inspirator during workshops or presentations sharing my experience as a creative. ‘Globetrotter’ because I travel throughout the world experience the, culture, language, local food, meet new local people or travelers, see the fantastic nature, natural parks and wildlife the world has to offer.

Check out Budi’s website at The Creative Globetrotter, wonderful photography at Behance, or follow Budi on Instagram, Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook.

Beth from Beth Travels

Beth Travels

1. Can you describe a little about you and the condition you suffer from & how long you have had this condition?

I’m a freelance procurement specialist and writer. Knee pain has been a daily part of my life for 7 years. I mostly struggle with going up and down stairs, but the pain can occur whilst sitting, standing or lying down! I can’t get up and down stairs very easily, especially without a banister, and sometimes I will feel constant pain in the joint.

2. Does this condition affect you travelling and, if so, how?

When travelling, I mostly worry about two things, the plane ride and any group tours or activities. I can get very uncomfortable when sitting still for a long time. On tours, I get embarrassed when I struggle on stairs and things in front of other people. Generally, I can walk fine so I think it must look really weird when a 31-year-old suddenly starts hobbling!

3. What, if any, adjustments do you need to make when travelling?

When I’m expecting to get on a plane or somewhere where I need to sit still for a long time I make sure I factor in time beforehand to stretch or exercise. My husband and I will normally go down to an airport the night before a flight, so I’ll use the hotel’s gym before going to check in. This helps me because I think if my muscles are tired and stretched then they’re more relaxed. I’m not sure of the science but it helps me!

Similarly, if I know that we’ve got a long day planned during a trip, I’ll make sure I’ve relaxed the day before. For example, if we plan to go horse riding or on a long walk then I’ll make sure the day before is spent resting.

4. What’s your top tip for anyone with a chronic illness / your specific illness who wants to travel?

My top tip for travelling with chronic pain is to relax into the trip! Don’t feel pressured by people on Instagram to have to do and see absolutely EVERYTHING. Do what feels good and if there’s other activities left then book a return visit!

I write advice for how and where to travel without a car so you can learn the freedom of exploring by train, coach and tram.  On my blog you’ll find honest advice on where to go and how to get around a new place without a car. Travelling car-free doesn’t limit you!

Find out more about Beth’s Travels on her blog and follow her on Twitter and Instagram!

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How inspiring are these people?!

If there’s one thing we can all take away from these interviewees’ advice its that not one of them has let their condition get in the way of exploring and seeking adventure. And I hope you don’t either!

Tune in next week for Part 2 where I speak to three more of my fellow bloggers.

Do you have a chronic illness or condition which affects you when you travel? Let me know in the comments what tips and tricks you use!

Ellie-M

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2 Comments

  1. This is such an inspiring post Ellie! I love how they have all figured out a way to continue doing whatever it is that they are passionate about! We can’t control what cards we’re dealt in life, but we do get to decide how we play them. Your guest bloggers illustrate that perfectly. Thanks for sharing Ellie!

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