Sparked by a recent trip to the Great Ocean Road around the bottom of Australia, I felt the need to affirm the possibility of traveling and share with you my accounts of adventuring both nationally and internationally. Travel has helped me accumulate and expand my knowledge on health relating to Cystic Fibrosis in ways only experience can offer. A quick example of this is how my lungs felt after just a day of riding around Bali on a moped.
Since I was 19 travel has become one of the most important parts of my life, partly due to creating a psychological enigma that I won’t be able to do it as I get older. I know that this is entirely not true, but it seems like a good enough excuse and motivator for me to go on adventures whenever the opportunity arises.
The motivation of living to the average age of 35 has currently taken me to several countries including, New Zealand, Vanuatu and surrounding pacific islands, Indonesia a hand full of times, Japan and most recently the USA. On a more local geographical level I’ve lived in Tasmania and visited Perth, Victoria, Sydney, snorkelled the great barrier reef and Arlie beach, and literally have driven from the top east coast to the bottom of Australia along The Great Ocean Road.
Each place has managed to give me a different perspective of how my CF reacts in each climate and on the healthier trips I’ve been in a humid and tropical surrounding. Not to suggest snowboarding in Japan or partying at the new years eve ball drop in NYC was unhealthy, but there are certain things to consider when choosing your next destination.
The tropical environments listed above have all been humid and warm, which keeps the lungs moist and clear of congestion. Although the air seems thicker, it seems so much more beneficial, especially mixing with the salt air of the beach climate. However one day driving around Indonesia on a moped left my white shirt brown and lungs irritated from the smog in the city. Once clear of the hustle and bustle and living locally at a surf spot, my body felt rejuvenated and oxygenated like every breath was 100% pure.
The only challenge of visiting countries less fortunate than us is staying hydrated and nourished to perform and enjoy the activities you want to do. There is nothing worse than losing weight with cystic fibrosis and as you may know the quality of food is lost in the preservation methods in countries lacking in technology. So, when you get Bali belly or a stomach bug similar with little to no medical professionals to care for you, you need to be making decent choices for meals and restaurants. I can understand the stress of becoming sick while away from home, but my advice is; choose foods your familiar with, (and I don’t mean takeaway shops here at home) stick to fresh meals with plenty of carbohydrates such as rice and pastas, when possible avoid poultry and other meats that are not cooked to your preferred choice.
Something I was made aware of was avoid drinking tap water in these locations due to the pollution in the water systems which can have nasty bacteria which can make you ill. When reflecting on my own personal experience I tried any and every food because of my ‘immortal mentality’ allowing myself to believe that I won’t get sick from eating or drinking anything, although I did get a crook tummy for a couple of days on my trip I had no concern of eating anything that looked delicious in which most things were. In a country with a lack of technology I was able to keep my medications in the small cool fridge provided by the hotel, but when out-of-town adventuring and surfing I had struck a friendship with some locals to keep my temperature sensitive medications in their esky on the beach or boat we were on. They were more than happy and understood the importance of these drugs, even purchasing a small esky and asking for some ice was not an issue and is a great idea if you wish to keep possession of your belongings, because when your living in a town without electricity and your nebulizer needs to be kept cool it’s really your only option. At the end of the trip I kindly gave the esky to the person who lent me their ice and they were over the moon because something in return goes a long way in those places.
Now on the other hand in the cooler climates this is not the issue, both in Japan and New Zealand, snowboarding and partying in NYC I just put my drugs on the balcony for a couple of hours a day and they were kept cold enough, the only issue I found with being in the cold was my lungs were tighter which only kept me short of breath a hand full of times. The way I combated this was through adventuring and physical activity. Snowboarding, cycling and hiking gave me clearance and clean lungs for the whole trip. Although the cold air smells crisper it quickly drys out my lungs and throat, and gives me a dry cough and runny nose at times, staying rugged up and hydrated helped keep any form of sickness at bay.
One thing I encourage and do without fail every time I go on holiday is a round of antibiotics the week prior to departure. For me this is a life saver and is the final top up before being introduced to foreign environments and bacteria. I also take the second week of antibiotics in case of an infection once traveling abroad.
Also, ensure you pack more medication then you need because running out of Creon or simply losing luggage which I have experienced nearly both leaves you high and dry and every delicious meal you know has no nutritional value and a stomach ache to go with it. I always pack medication in both mine and my partners suitcase which proved effective when her luggage was lost in transit from LA, if that was my suitcase and my only supply it could have been a terrible trip. On the other hand, over-packing is also important because on my trip to the pacific islands we managed to get stuck at sea for 2 extra days. That meant the free buffet continued for that whole 48 hours but having extra Creon also meant I could thoroughly enjoy every meal.
Now I hope my experiences that I have shared within this blog have been helpful but remember that cf lives with you, you don’t live with it, so take it on holidays with you and you’ll discover how much more there is to life then hospitals and treatment. Its never held me back and if you believe in what I believe you can have a great quality of life.
Below is a link which relates to this article in which a sufferer, mother and awesome lady with CF discuss her experiences traveling and sheds the same light as we all should.