Tag Archives: health

My first flight

Growing up, I dreamed of traveling the world and going on adventures. Then I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at an early age and my symptoms worsened into my adolescence. For awhile, I gave up on my dreams of traveling and focused on school and my health. I didn’t think I would ever be healthy enough to see the world.

While in the 6th grade, I took my first flight and traveled from Texas to Washington D.C. I’m terrified of heights, even to this day. That first flight was brutal. I was already having a bad flare up but didn’t want to keep going to the bathroom. I had the window seat and had terrible anxiety about asking the other people sitting in my row to get up…again. My stomach was making so much noise and I was so self conscious. The take off left me feeling incredibly nauseous. I had a sharper than usual pain in my stomach. There were so many crazy thoughts going through my mind. I felt panic starting to set in. Then I forced myself to really look out the window. I thought I was going to throw up, realizing how far above the ground we really were. I couldn’t even see the ground. That was destabilizing at first. But slowly I felt myself calming down. It was really peaceful up there.

I loved seeing the clouds from that point of view. I had always enjoyed looking up at the sky, as Texas has some of the most beautiful skies (I’m biased, I know). My body relaxed a little. Then we would hit turbulence and I would go right back to square one. Nauseous, in pain and terrified.

The landing was scary and so hard on my stomach. I had held my vomit bag tightly the entire flight but I came very close to using it during the landing. Once we stopped, I felt much better. I was beyond proud of myself for having made the journey without throwing up all over or going to the bathroom a million times.

The flight back was easier. I was excited to sit by the window again. I knew what to expect this time through so I had a lot less anxiety. Most of it was even enjoyable. When we landed back in Dallas, I was elated to have completed the trip with minimal issues. I had been very sick in D.C. and was in constant pain (nothing out of the ordinary) but I survived the flights and had an overall positive trip experience. It gave me hope that I could actually have the life that I dreamed of as a very young girl.

While I still don’t like being crammed in confined spaces, flying has become something that I look forward to. My health has had many ups and downs but I have taken many trips since I timidly boarded that first flight. A few years ago, I even quit my job and left everything behind to go on a long-term solo trip to Ecuador (and then to Mexico, which wasn’t originally planned).

Crohn’s has been and will continue to be an obstacle in my life that I have to overcome on a daily basis. Some days I come out on top. Other days, I get my ass kicked. But I’ve learned that no matter how difficult, it doesn’t have to be a dead end. I have proven to myself time and time again that I can rise above adversity and live the life I want to live.

So far, I have visited 7 countries (England, Finland, Italy, Croatia, Ecuador/Galapagos, Mexico and Colombia). I lived in Ecuador and Mexico for three months each. There was a time that I couldn’t have imagined that I would be able to live alone in foreign countries. So, while every single day is an uphill battle, I continue to climb. I continue to take steps toward building a life I love.

What was your first flight experience? I’d love to hear about it! Comment below!

Imagine a day without water

A few years ago, I volunteered at a nature reserve on the island of San Cristobal in the Galápagos. As a biologist, visiting the Galápagos Islands had been a lifelong dream. I couldn’t wait to get to the reserve and do my part to protect this precious ecosystem and experience the amazing diversity of wildlife. 

This volunteer experience was marred by many unfortunate, and completely avoidable, problems. I’ll write about them in another post eventually. One of the biggest issues the volunteers faced was having access to clean drinking water. 

Upon arriving at the reserve, which was located far away from any town or store, I found a disturbing sight. I went into the kitchen to refill my water bottle and was told to get water from a large vat that had “sabanas sucias” written on the side. Dirty sheets. Our drinking water was being housed in a vat that obviously once contained dirty bed sheets. Hopefully this vat was thoroughly cleaned prior to being filled with our drinking water but based on how things were done at this reserve, it was probably wishful thinking. 

The vat had a basic water hose hung over the edge. I asked where the water came from and they told me it came from a near by river. I asked what they did to clean the water, which was darkish brown and had little sticks and other debris, since there was no filtration system. 

The reserve manager explained that they use three drops of bleach each time they refill the vat to clean the drinking water. I didn’t want to drink bleach at all but three drops hardly seemed adequate to clean a vat that was several feet high and too big for me to get my arms around. 

All of the volunteers were uneasy about drinking the water. We tried to make tea whenever possible, which was also rough considering how hot and humid it was. Everyone began to have digestive issues, especially me as I have Crohn’s disease. To be honest, it might not have even been the water. The reserve cook was an incredibly unhygienic woman who never washed her and did not seem to understand what cross-contamination was. 

I was there during the rainy season and everyday was a torrential downpour for several hours. Clean drinking water could have easily been collected. I asked why they didn’t collect the rainwater and I never really got an answer. They seemed annoyed that I kept asking questions about their environmental and sustainability practices, especially when I brought up that they could be growing their own produce on the sprawling reserve instead of buying food from the ships coming from the mainland. 

I was supposed to stay at the reserve for 3 weeks but left early due to mounting health problems and frustration with a nature reserve not actually practicing sustainability and conservation. 

While I didn’t truly experience a day without water, this was the closest I have been to having to worry about whether I’ll have clean drinking water from day to day. It really put into perspective how fortunate most of us are. The majority of us don’t put any thought into where our water comes from. We just turn on the faucet and trust that clean water will continue to flow. 

Today, pause and be grateful that you have easy access to clean drinking water. Reflect on your water habits and see where you can do your part to reduce the waste of our most precious resource. Maybe even try to live one day without water. Would you survive?