I’ve traveled to 13 different countries, zip-lined in Costa Rica, driven motorbikes around Thailand, toured the Colosseum in Italy, walked along the Great Wall of China and quite a bit more… all while having an autoimmune disease, nerve damage in my right leg, occasional dietary restrictions and carting around refrigerated medication.
Many may see my medical issues as setbacks but I know how positively they have affected my life and world travels. I don’t think I would have even had the guts to travel and make my dreams a reality if it wasn’t for my medical history.
Front row seat to the immense kindness of others.
When I was in Southeast Asia there was an amazing waterfall and pool that was halfway up a mountain. Even for someone without mobility issues it was a tough hike. I didn’t know it at the time but a teenager had actually slipped and fell the day before and broken his leg.
I told my friends I’d opt out of this one, even though I really wanted to go, I didn’t want to hold them back. One of the girls in the group was so nice she insisted that I could make the climb if I wanted to and she’d help me the whole way up. She literally held my hand the entire way. Her kindness and patience really blew me away and ultimately led to a wonderful experience.
Unexpected experiences and opportunities.
In Costa Rica my nerve damage flared up, I couldn’t walk at all on my right leg for a few days. Rather than feeling left out and stuck in my hostel my travel friends included me and gave me a memorable experience. Instead of leaving me out of their lunch plans one of them gave me a piggyback ride there. I’m not gonna lie my new favorite means of transportation is piggyback rides from delightful, handsome German guys. It was a really fun experience, we laughed and had a great time which would’ve never happened if my nerve damage hadn’t been flaring up.
When I was studying abroad in Italy, I could not walk one day. It was our only day in Vatican city though, and I was not going to miss my opportunity to see the Sistine Chapel. So instead of walking through it with the large group one of the professors and his lovely wife took me on a solo tour with a wheelchair through the Vatican museum. I basically got a private tour from two experts. We all agreed that we had a way better time exploring in our little group, having the freedom to deviate and see art that hadn’t been on the agenda.
Weeds out fair-weather friends.
When you have any restrictions you see who your real friends are: who will walk a little slower if my leg is hurting, who doesn’t mind going to a different restaurant if I have dietary restrictions, who will be understanding that I can’t drink that night because the medicine I’m on, who will see my trials and tribulations as a strength and a sign of my resilience or an annoyance.
My friends see my six surgeries and my medical roller coasters as a show of my strength. Those experiences have made me into the person they love and respect. I’m thankful that fair-weather friends get weeded out of my life pretty quickly.
Taught me to seize the day.
When I was 17 I spent more time in the hospital than out of it, had four surgeries, missed my senior year, prom and graduation. At one point in the middle of it all, I had a horrible infection that nearly spread throughout my entire body, and I would have died if they hadn’t found it in the eleventh hour and operated immediately. Surviving that crazy year and a half showed me how strong I am and taught me the important lesson that life is too short to hold off on your dreams.
I come from a family that doesn’t always support me wanting to travel alone to far off places around the world. Nearly dying gave me the strength to stand up for what I want to do now and not wait for later. No one can tell me to wait until I’m older or until a friend can go with for a trip, because I’ve witnessed firsthand how short and precious life can be. Before my illness, I don’t think I would’ve had the strength to go against my family’s wishes and travel the world.
Gave me a chill attitude – Whatever will be, will be.
When I was in Cambodia someone who worked at the hotel accidentally threw away my medication. I woke up and went down to check on it only to find that it wasn’t there. I freaked out, and then I found it, sitting on the top of the garbage. Someone had accidentally thrown it away. My heart sank, and internally I was like… oh shit.
My travel friends didn’t grasp the issue, and frankly, I knew that talking to them about it wouldn’t help. So I went into problem-solving mode. I put it back into the fridge just in case it was still viable and emailed my doctor. Then I went back to normal. It was out of my hands now and pouting about it would not help. If it was ruined, I’d find more medicine but this wasn’t going to ruin my day or trip. I knew the problem had many possible solutions, and I was proud of my attitude and handling of the situation.
By the way, it turned out that my medicine was still okay to use!
The ability to change lives by sharing my story.
When I was initially told that I would have to inject myself with a refrigerated medicine on a weekly basis I thought it was a prison sentence, or at the very least house arrest. How on earth can I travel the world the way I wanted to while carting around medicine that needed to be refrigerated?
Then I found one blog that changed my life. It was a simple few paragraphs written by a man who had traveled a long distance with the same medication as me. He kept it cold with ice, cold packs and stored it in refrigerators.
This sounds simple but at the time it changed my life.
My doctors hadn’t given me hope that I could travel with my medicine; they were cautious and would not encourage this kind of ‘dangerous’ behavior. Hearing this one man’s account of how it was possible completely opened my world. I was now looking for solutions and willing to stand up for this with my doctors. And once they knew that I was serious about it and not going to back down, they went along with it.
Now I get to inspire others by sharing my story the way this man’s blog post inspired me. These stories were just the tip of the travel experience and medical craziness iceberg. There is so much more!
Whatever your obstacles are – whether it’s physical, dietary, logistical or otherwise – STOP letting them run your life. YOU are in the driver’s seat, not your fear.
No one else is going to fight for your dreams.
Stand up for what you want. Let your medical conditions or hurdles fuel your desire instead of extinguishing it.
This is just a glimpse of what is possible, a nudge towards your dreams. Call it a megaphone for that little voice in your head pleading for what you really want. I know you hear it.
It’s possible. Listen to that voice. Make a plan. Take action.
Find your creative solutions, have unexpected joy, see the beautiful kindness in humanity, delight in the humor. See the silver linings all around you, and without even realizing it, you’ll inspire so many others to move past their fears and do what they want too!
Safe travels & seize the day lovelies!