We came home rather unexpectedly. At least, it was unexpected for everyone watching our videos, reading the blog and following us on Facebook. In reality, it was somewhat long anticipated. I’ve been dealing with health problems for the past 3 years or so and I had another flare up about half way through this trip.
I have Ulcerative Colitis; an auto-immune disease in the bowels. Being an avid traveller and hearing this diagnosis for the first time was, honestly, rather crushing. I immediately thought that my vision of travelling long-term would be forever set aside. How could I receive the medical attention I needed abroad? Where would I get the necessary drugs to keep my bowels in check? How could I ever visit a place like India – a place that I’ve always dreamed of visiting – a place that is so notorious for gut issues in foreigners, that it’s even been given a name (Delhi belly)?
And so began my never ending (or so I was told) collection of prescription drugs.
I embarked on this trip full of optimism, feeling healthy, full of energy and weighing in at the heaviest that I’ve ever been in my life (and if you have a look at me, you’ll realize that this was a good thing). My diet was excellent, I was exercising and taking all the required medication to maintain my health. Now, I realize, I was over optimistic. When the adventure began, I started to push aside my rigid diet plan almost immediately, thinking that with all the pre-trip preparation, I would be completely able to tolerate the odd bit of junk food here and there. And as time went on without any symptoms, I believe that I neglected my health more and more.
I think it’s worth mentioning that I wasn’t eating fast food and candy all day long, but it was a gentle slide into less healthy habits, habits that are easy to contract when you’re constantly moving and changing scenery. Maybe this was the cause of the flare-up that ultimately led to the end of our journey, maybe not. Either way, in the future, I will absolutely adhere to a stricter and healthier travelling lifestyle.
The first sign of my decline in health was minor. I won’t get into details but it didn’t affect me in any way other than a slight drop in spirit. I continued on and vowed to be more aware. It never went away, things got worse and after 2 months, I was questioning why I was even on this adventure. I could say that I was distraught at how I had to end this journey early, but really, all I wanted to do at that point was go home.
I think that’s the ultimate lesson here. You can always go home. Maybe you’ve had a sudden case of illness that needs medical attention in your own country but you’re so close to visiting your dream destination. Go home and you can always come back to enjoy that place in full health. Maybe you have a return ticket in a months time but can’t bear to spend another second in the country you’re visiting with that stomach ache. Change the ticket date.
You’re not giving up. You’re not missing out on anything except for a bit of money. There will always be the places you didn’t go to but they’re not going anywhere. If you’re anything like me, you won’t fully take these places in unless your health is there with you. There were many days on this last trip that I didn’t even want to leave the hostel. I didn’t have it in me. At this point, I knew that it didn’t matter where I went, I wouldn’t have my usual enthusiasm for discovery.
I have no regrets, I don’t feel sorry for myself, nor am I bitter because this disease forced an early return. I’m home now, healing and anxious for the next adventure (whatever that may be). I’m constantly learning about what’s best for my body and will continue to travel one way or another.
For me, my health is #1. When it drops, the quality of every aspect of my life declines in unison with it. But maybe that’s just me. I’d love to hear your opinions on travelling with an ailment. Would you have done the same thing in my position? What kind of condition are you travelling with? Everyone has something and no issue is too small to label as insignificant.