Travelling carefree and with a carry-on full of drugs

Previously I’ve written about working with a condition, amongst other aspects of life but I haven’t shared any travel stories. This is the first post in a series on travelling with chronic illness.

Fresh out of school 10 years ago, I travelled to Cuba for two months to learn Spanish and fail at Salsa. I did both of these tasks semi-successfully, while also navigating the hiccups that crop up when you run out of antibiotics in Fidel’s empire (el jefe was still technically in power when I visited).

Travelling was simpler for me then, in the medical sense, as I didn’t take many of the medications I do now. In addition to Cuba, I spent 3 months travelling around India, 6 weeks in Bosnia, and later, 3 months in South Korea. Even given my limited medication needs and excellent health at the time, I later found out that some of my wider family believed my mum was irresponsible for letting me travel.

Last month as I travelled to Vietnam for the first time, I reflected on how much more anxious travelling now makes me. As I got on the plane I fretted about how to keep my refrigerated medications cold, my nebuliser equipment sterile, what to do if any of my drugs got confiscated or lost (even though I had them all on my carry on, of course) and whether the lower oxygen in the cabin would prove a problem for the first time.

When we arrived I worried whether I’d get sick from the pollution in Ho Chi Minh City (I didn’t, because I made like the locals and sported a sexy tartan pink face mask) I worried whether I’d have hypos all the time, and generally found reason to worry about a lot of things.

I found it interesting, because I’d always been a confident traveller. But I think, in some way, I’ve become much braver than I used to be. In the last two years, I’ve paraglided off a mountain in Turkey despite a fear of heights. I’ve climbed 5 mountains in the Lake District despite my fear of hypoglycaemia when I exercise. I’ve screamed all the way down a 900m zipwire across a Thai jungle (I actually got more scared abseiling down a very tiny 30m drop, but that’s another story). All of these things, I would never have dreamt of doing when I was younger and I had less reason to be afraid.

And so my message is this; if you have a chronic condition or something in your life that holds you back more than you’d like,  please know that adventures are still possible.

Exercise caution and understand your limits for sure. I no longer aspire to be a war correspondent as I briefly did when I was 18; no one wants a girl with a severe dust cough and a reliance on all the pills in sensitive conflict zones, am I right?

But on a serious note, know that your difficulties don’t mean all adventures are closed to you. Some may not be possible, some may take a lot of planning and a whole lot more patience, but you will likely appreciate them so much more. It’s dreaming of those adventures – however large or small-  that make it all worthwhile.


5 responses to “Travelling carefree and with a carry-on full of drugs”

  1. An inspirational post. Personally, I find travelling difficult at time, but this really puts things in perspective. You’re so brave and should be very proud of all you’re able to do. What’s the hardest part for you?

    1. Hey Zac! I don’t think I’m brave – I just love travelling and don’t let myself lose sight of that fact when there are hiccups along the way. In Vietnam at least, I found the best antidote to my anxiety was definitely cheap Asian beer if I’m being honest 😉

  2. I stumbled across your blog from the CF trust’s post about winners of the Helen Barrett Bright Ideas Award. I am 29 turning 30 in May and I can’t even begin to tell you how much I’ve resonated with your posts! It seems like fate, thank you!

    1. Samantha it’s so lovely to hear that, thank you! Let me know if there is a particular topic you’d like to read more on also. Take care x

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