Traveling While Sick: Learning to Adapt While Incapacitated
We've all been there. You've worked six months straight for a break. You've saved up all this money in order to explore a little more of this world and a lot more about yourself. Then, right before the big day, you begin to feel “less than yourself”.Your heart is on board but your body decides otherwise. No matter how you choose to fight it – drowning your insides with Emergen-C or the less plebeian tactic of covering your body with Neosporin (that's just what I assume rich people do) – the added stress you're body is about to undergo in the unroutinely fashion of travel is more than likely to take any little under-the-weather flurry into a full fledged sick storm as soon as you embark on your long awaited getaway.
It sucks being sick; it's even worse being sick when you're far away from home and everybody you know. In the middle of a third world country with no modern amenities? As exciting and enticing as a small town far removed from the noise of the modern world sounded a week ago; a hole-in-the-ground toilet crawling with roaches is the last place you want to have to squat over when you're shitting your brains out from a stomach bug. And nobody remembers any historical points of interest from that tour of the city they forced themselves to go on when their brain was stuffed up with a fearsome head cold. So what do we do? Do we push our bodies only prolonging it's healing simply because we paid for the damn trip with months of our lives and are not going to miss a single second of adventure? Or do we call the whole thing off, head home, and hope for better luck after the next six months?
But the things is, that it's not about having to choose to persevere or give up, it's about choosing to adapt to the situation handed you.
A year ago I went tent camping at a touristy campsite in the mountains during an ulcerative colitis flare up. I normally loath crowded and non-primitive campsites, I usually prefer a log as company and toilet; but I was certain I would be entering a new layer of hell as soon as the involuntary blood shitting started and I was headed for a week to sleep next to pit toilets with my boyfriend-at-the-time's family. Unable to go hiking to retrieve the solitude I constantly am seeking on family vacations, I feared the worst. And yet, the only bad memory I have from the trip was having to walk a quarter of a mile every time I needed to use the bathroom – which was at least 8 times a day. Since it was a populated campground, it was frowned upon for people to use the surrounding woods as toilet which would've been my preferred destination for bowel release. So I was forced to sneak away from the families' notice to find solitude in an enclosed cement room amongst the wild flies and stench of other peoples excrement and old piss. This sucked; especially since I could barely find the strength to get myself up let alone to commit myself to this kind of hell. But as much as I longed to have my ventilated throne room back home, I couldn't find a good enough reason to pack up and leave behind the opportunity to experience the beautiful mountains in any way that I could. True, I couldn't explore them and appreciate them in the way I was used to, but that didn't mean I had to chalk it up to a loss.
I spent everyday of that trip lying in some new nook near the campsite, my only solace being the beauty surrounding me. And each day, I saw things I would have never noticed if I had been able to take up my usual stomp through the woods. Sure, there was a lot I never got to see. I never made it to that lake, or up that peak, or over that ridge line; but these spots that I embedded myself in while I was left alone to wallow in my own misery, it was in these places that I learned so much about my own mortality. It's where I watched a forest floor come to life and the tree tops above me breathe.
Everybody has had a vacation that was seemingly ruined by getting sick or otherwise incapacitated; but that never means that we have to let it stop us from getting what we came for. Whether it's new experiences or a little rest and relaxation, our bodily obstacles are just adjustments to the opportunities we travel in search for. If anything, it is our expectations that prevents us from experiencing each moment in its fullest capacity. One day your body might be entirely too weak to hold your motorcycle upright, but that might be the day that the coolest local also happens to be at the doctors and is more than willing to show you the life-changing sights you've been searching for once you're feeling better. Or maybe that bum knee is actually a blessing in disguise telling you that what you really needed wasn't an intense ski day but rather some time to take it easy and curl up by the fire with a good book.
Some of my favorite adventures were when I was feeling at my worst. Hikes to unmarked waterfalls while sporting a full blown ear infection, ATVing around Santorini with a broken tail bone, getting lost in Norway with a sprained knee and no sleep, feeling the early stages of hypothermia on the back of my motorcycle in a snow storm; I could go on, but the point is that sometimes all it takes is an open mind and a willing spirit to let your worst moments become your most cherished.