The Balance Between Having Fun and Staying Healthy While Traveling With Chronic Illness

So, I just got home from a weekend in Boston, a town I hold near and dear to my heart because I went to college there. As I was leaving the city I began to feel overwhelmingly relieved — not to be leaving, but to be going home. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why — I don’t know when I’ll be back and most of my best friends live in Boston, not Los Angeles (where I currently live). I had so looked forward to my trip that I couldn’t understand what was now making me excited to go home. I got on the plane with these thoughts going through my head, irking me as I departed my second home.

Then, I realized why. As a 23-year-old living with chronic illness, my life is a series of juxtapositions. My friends all want to go out, party, drink and be normal 20-somethings. I, on the other hand, am more concerned with finding answers and treatments, with taking care of myself and putting my body first. This includes sleeping (at least) eight hours a night, sticking to my low-protein, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free diet, resting whenever possible and not scheduling back-to-back events that would overdraw my diminishing number of spoons. When I travel, however, I have a carpe diem policy. I make the most out of the situations life hands me, never saying no to an experience solely because of my illness.

That being said, I wouldn’t ever not sleep, not eat, not take my medications, or anything of the sort. Undersleep, sure! Eat sugar or meat, definitely! What I really mean is that if my boyfriend and his (all 20-something) colleagues want to go to the convention, then straight to dinner, then pregame, then go to a club, and then stay up until 5 a.m., I will try my hardest to “hang” and do that with them. Not because I feel up to it, necessarily, but more because when I travel, I don’t want to miss out. I want to take life by the reins and enjoy the heck out of my not-always-easy life. But what this results in is weeks to months of recovery for one weekend.

The thing about chronic illness is that it is just that, chronic. So, I don’t want to sit there and say I’m not going to do these things until I get better, because that could result in missing out on some really great opportunities in life. Sure, I may have to pay for my weekend for weeks, or even a month, but part of living life with a chronic illness is living and enjoying the life we have, because the reality is that a lot of times it feels incredibly difficult, and whenever we can it is crucial to add happiness and life experiences in there.

Sure, I won’t always be able to stay up until 5 a.m. and sure I don’t feel too great physically about it now, but I do not at all regret my decision. Next time, I think I’ll stay out late for two days instead of three, but I learned. Living life with a chronic illness is all about finding the perfect balance between taking care of yourself and living the life you always wanted to live. Happiness and acceptance lies there, in between the two.

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