Traveling with chronic health problems

Have you ever been so tired that you couldn’t think? Couldn’t talk? Couldn’t feed yourself?
I’ve been too tired to pee before. I just layed in my bed for almost 48 straight hours, holding it in because it was too much effort to move.
From birth I’ve always had some health problems (my poor parents), but I managed them, and lived a relatively normal life. When I was in my early 20’s  I had an unrelenting ambition to do something with my life and help others. I moved to Belize and worked as a volunteer teacher, helping the deaf and their families learn to communicate through American Sign Language. I would volunteer at local schools who had deaf students and help them with their studies. It’s strange for me to look back on how young I was when I was holding workshops and instructing teachers about deaf culture.
My friends and I would make private visits to homes as well. One of the goals was to help the whole family be able to communicate better. As a Jehovah’s Witness I was able to share a lot of bible principles and truths with the families as well. It was amazing to watch the transformation as deaf children went from throwing tantrums and being abused to being happy, productive individuals with self worth.
Those were the most rewarding years of my life, but also the most exhausting. The schedule was relentless and the conditions were very hard (I was living in the jungle after all). Sadly, after four years laboring in love I had to return home too spent to continue.
Some people attribute my poor health to third world living conditions, but I had pre-existing conditions before I went as I already mentioned. If anything the fault is mine. I wore my self ragged doing what I love more than anything else in the world. Americans living on the mainland burn out every day. I’m sure if I had found something in the States that consumed me the way volunteer work did in Belize I could have wore myself down just as much in the continental US.
I won’t bore you with the lengthy list of health problems I have. I’m pretty sure I’ve already bored you with this sob story. The sad result of my youthful ‘folly’ is that I’m pretty much confined to living in the developed world. Well, at least for now.
It’s not  even close to an exaggeration when I say my heart was broken and continues to be broken everyday when I think of the life I had to give up and the families I had to leave behind. Fortunately I’m a determined person. I’ve struggled to move on, to keep living, and traveling in spite my new circumstances.

Traveling with Limitations

There has always been an unspoken phobia in the back of mind that I don’t want to be labeled by what I can’t do. The truth is it takes incredible strength to fight for your dreams in spite of limitations.

The hardest part has been learning modesty. Its hard to know your limits. I struggle with extreme fatigue, which means I can only do a few things each day. Or if I pull a marathon day then I break the energy bank and need at least 24 hours of virtually not moving to recuperate. This means I have to plan ahead of time, based on activities how much energy I will have. If I keep a trip to 5 ‘normal’ energy days I might make it back home before I crash. For longer trips I have to plan a crash day every 4 or 5 days where I do absolutely nothing. After particularly strenuous adventures I budget in a nicer hotel with room service because literally I’m so fatigued I can barely answer the door.
In order to conserve energy every aspect of my life has been streamlined. I have to budget my time carefully so I don’t burn out. There are no lengthy beauty routines. I sleep late and go to bed early. Modesty means that what you can do on a 7 day vacation takes me at least 14.
I’m not telling you all of this to be depressing. Actually, my motivation is completely the opposite. In spite of severe auto-immune issues that have affected and turned upside down nearly every aspect of my life during the last four years, amazing things have been accomplished. Just in terms of travel I have spent 3 months in Australia, 2 weeks in New Zealand. I have been back to Belize and Guatemala to visit friends at least twice for a minimum of a month each visit. You’ll notice I take my time when traveling. The 10 day blitz trip I spent in Europe almost killed me.

During the last four years, I lived in Hawaii for 1.5 years, where I visited the 6 main islands.  I spent 10 days in British Columbia, another 10 on an east coast road trip, and another on a west coast, cross country road trip.While I know this list is not as impressive as a lot of other serious travelers, realistically it’s not too bad for someone who spends at least half their day in bed.
The point of this rambling story is that with sufficient motivation almost anything can be accomplished.
I work really hard at taking care of my fragile body, because my mind is incredibly ambitious. I hope this helps people realize they can attain their dreams too. That if they try hard they can still do amazing things with their life in spite of limitations. I had to reexamine, rearrange and reset my priorities in order to continue living the life I wanted to be known for.

 

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