In past posts I’ve interviewed some pretty inspiring people, for example in my „Living in the Moment“- blog series. Today I want to introduce to you a lady, that has really inspired me with her courage and her positive spirit. Here she will tell us about her version of traveling with a chronic illness. Say hello to Monique!
Monique left Germany, where she is originally from, in June of 2014 and set out to see the world. As she has no fixed home base and lives in different countries for many months at a time, she leads a life some can only dream about. At the moment she is in Peru and has just climbed Machu Picchu.
What you wouldn’t even notice though when taking a look at the 30-year old, gorgeous blonde is that she actually has had way more obstacles in her life’s path as you’d think. Because Monique actually has several chronic illnesses she battles with.
And here’s her story:
Traveling With A Chronic Illness: An Interview with Monique
What type of chronic illness do you have and how does it affect your travels?
I have 2 different ones. I was born with a chronic kidney disease, and a defect in the whole urinary tract system. The defect was “repaired” when I was 3 years old, by surgery on my kidney, but has left me with the rest: 1,5 Kidneys (one didn’t grow enough and is, since the defect appeared, shrinking) which don’t work properly, chronic urinary tract infections and a bladder which doesn’t have a proper working immune defense system anymore.
The second is a chronic nervous system disease. The peripher and central nervous system is not able to communicate properly and therefore causes “outtages” in the brain, where the synapses shut down, because of information overflow. You might have heard of Migraine, this is what I have. Unfortunately the term has been used incorrectly in society (just for strong headaches) and causes a lot of misunderstanding due to misinformation, too. Those two diseases affect my travels daily, even though for me it is now more or less a routine.
It starts by getting dressed – I shouldn’t feel too hot or too cold. If I like to go swimming I need to have a dry swim suit with me and directly change after I am out of the water. I am also not able to be in cold water or have very cold showers. Being out in rain for too long, and not being able to get dry/ warm again, will get my urinary tracts infected as well.
I have to carry a bag full of medication everywhere I go – even in a night club. I have to drink loads of water during the day and constantly need to use the bathroom.
When I am hiking or going to altitude or doing any sports, I need to make sure that the blood pressure in my head doesn’t shoot high. As soon I feel my blood pumping in my head, a Migraine is not far. This is especially challenging when hiking in altitude. You see it’s an all-day/every day thing and more about the whole lifestyle and to know when you can do certain things and when you have to pass.
Traveling with a Chronic Illness: Memorable moments
Tell us about your last trip. Where did you go and what was one of the most memorable moments of the trip?
I am still on this trip 😉 As I don’t have a fixed home base, I am constantly moving or only stay in places for up to 1 year. One of the most memorable moments happened during my Scuba Dive instructor course. We were diving out at the Similan Islands, at the west coast of Thailand, and it was only the beginning of the season. But at one of my last dives, a huge Manta Ray came to visit us. I can’t tell you how my heart was jumping. It probably skipped every second beat! This feeling to be around this graceful animal, seeing it dancing through the water, was a dream come true!
What has been one of the most life-changing experiences you have had while traveling?
Diving is pretty much life-changing already. I haven’t been so calm in a long while, but Diving calms me down every single time. It is like meditation or yoga for others. But there are many other moments, which definitely changed me or some perspectives, but there are just so many 🙂
What would you say is the most important thing to you in life?
Being able to be me. With all my diseases, I have grown to a person who likes her freedom. I want to be able to have my own opinion and go for it. When I am working with people I like to have equal relationships and not someone on my level who thinks, owns the world and is better than anyone else.
I am me and I had to hide my personality or background story very often and for long time. I don’t see why I should – and so I think this is the most important thing to me in life. Be myself – everything else will be ok.
Traveling with a Chronic Illness: Coping with a disease
What role does your disease play in your life? How much of your life does it take up?
Literally all of it. As described before it is a daily living with those diseases, they do have side effects, too. I need to take regular medication for the Migraine to stop epileptic attacks that I had when I was younger. I need to take them daily and that needs a lot of organisation. Where do I get the medication from? How much can I take into different countries, which documents do I need for proof..?
People would not see it – but I have to take care about those diseases with every step I do. To be fair, now I have just implemented this into m daily routines, have made simple adjustments (eg. my medication bag is ready, I just need to take it with me wherever I go) and if I am disciplined, I am mostly fine without big attacks or any infections at all.
What would you advise other people who have a chronic illness and want to travel (more)?
Just go! Don’t think about the “what ifs” and the ” Buts” – it is all about here and now! I learned many years ago that life can just stop at any moment. You don’t want to wait until it’s too late! What can possibly go wrong? I am not saying be irresponsible about your diseases, but everything is possible! You just have to pack and leave and have a blast! ❤️
I would like to thank Monique for her incredible openness and willingness to share. I wish you all the best on your travels and in life ❤️
Read more about Monique and her travels on her beautiful blog traveldancerepeat.com and check out her Facebook or Instagram page where she continuously posts amazing photos from her travels around the world.