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Living with a chronic medical condition, travel is actually life-affirming

A woman with a chronic medical condition is driving down a road with mountains in the background.

Many of us travel in pursuit of a new start or to discover a new reason for being. For similar reasons, I’ve always dreamt about being able to pack my life into a backpack and hit the road with no clear destination in mind. In fact, I’ve felt the desire to say goodbye to my life in Australia and and head on a new adventure more times than I can count. My thirst for adventure has always left me restless and yearning for new sights, cuisines, cultures and friends.

However, living with a chronic kidney condition has been an unrelenting roadblock. Whenever I think of making concrete plans of uprooting somewhere new or traveling for long periods of time, it’s the constant reminder that I can’t.

This is largely due to the fact that traveling with a chronic illness presents a fair share of limitations. From restrictions of vital medications in some countries and unreliable medical assistance in others, to difficulty obtaining health insurance that covers pre-existing conditions – preparing for a trip and traveling itself can be precarious and exhausting.

Woman looking out over field

Image source:Photo: Carina Mancinone

The art of compromise

For a while, this used to drag me down to the point where I felt trapped. Once I realised that my dreams of living abroad weren’t realistic, I quickly spiralled – feeling like I had no control over my future and how I wished to shape it.

Thankfully, over time I learnt to make compromises. I can still see the world, just within shorter time-frames. But more importantly, I learnt that you don’t have to move to another country to experience the ‘new start’ that so many of us crave.

No matter how short or long the trip, travel has never failed to reinvigorate my life and help me to re-frame my current reality. I can’t emphasise enough just how life-affirming travel is, in its ability to equip me with the confidence and the drive to live the life I want, and especially in the face of perceived setbacks, whether medical or mental.

For all the prep work involved as a person living with a chronic medical condition, travel has always proved worth the hassle and the most worthwhile investment I can make. These are just a few of my reasons why travel with a chronic medical condition is completely life-affirming…

It puts the important things in focus

In daily life, it’s difficult to strike the perfect balance of work, rest, socialising and health. So much so, that it can be easy to trivialise the smallest things and lose focus of our passions and the things that bring us joy. For me, travel puts that all into perspective, and has proved an incredible exercise in gratitude.

Having spent the majority of my childhood in and out of hospital, the notion that life is short hits particularly close to home. I feel lucky that I’m now capable of visiting the places I’ve always dreamed of, where I’m reminded time and time again why I should never waste the opportunity to live a life I love.

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Travel eases life’s anxieties

We all feel the fear of the unknown. For me, it’s difficult not to worry about how my health will fare as I grow older. Yet, it’s been through traveling both solo and with Contiki that I’ve felt genuinely soothed by beautiful sights and experiences. Both have helped me live more in the present. I’ve also felt empowered by the new friends and support networks I’ve gained on the road. It’s these things that make me feel that everything will be ok in the end.

Traveling makes me realise just how capable I am

Some of my most character-building moments have occurred when traveling. Navigating a foreign city alone, remembering to take my daily medications, overcoming language barriers, arranging an emergency doctor’s appointment, or bungee jumping off Kawarau bridge in New Zealand – all these travel moments have challenged me and made me stronger. They’ve made me realise the full extent of my independence and capabilities despite my condition.

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