Traveling with Crohn’s: Nicaragua Pt. 1

a9186236-85b4-4a2c-bf98-7c3752d3a749Nicaragua, te amo!

Over the past few years I have been feeling the need to make a change and do more to address my condition, but often times these feelings have been drowned out by school, work, and responsibilities. It is a constant struggle and challenge for me to mindfully take a step back from the chaos, and truly assess my own life and happiness. In the back of my mind, I knew the only way I was going to do this was by getting out of my comfort zone. Unfortunately, due to the state of my health, that thought was far too intimidating. Taking the time to really relax, to let go of my death grip on controlling the future and to focus on making the best of each day? That was the most freeing experience I could remember, and that took place in Nicaragua.

29900724-c24e-44e8-8539-305054c01fd2Honestly, I considered not going. The year had been rough up until that point. We decided to book the trip a few months prior as something to look forward to and under the assumption I would be feeling better by then. As the trip came closer, I was running out of energy more and more, and knew I needed to see a doctor. I started to clam up and just wanted travels to be postponed. It had been a number of  years since I had traveled outside of the United States (which was admittedly embarrassing to me). The week before, I had my 10th colonoscopy, the severity of which was just compounded by the fact that I had the flu earlier in the week, putting my energy down past zero. As I began to think this trip was not going to be in my reality, I assessed my exit strategy. I started having flashbacks to my London study abroad trip in college that was thwarted by my condition. It was the summer after my junior year, I finally made the decision on where I would spend the next few months, lined everything the financial aid, enrolled in the program/school, talked to my parents, friends and doctors, and boom! …another flare hit. I panicked and cancelled the trip.

When it came to visiting Nicaragua, the trip had been planned by some friends traveling through South and Central America and I knew I wasn’t going to get the same experience again. I had also gotten to the point where I knew I secretly needed a challenge because I was feeling so dead inside. I had spent the majority of the year up pent up doing a whole lot of nothing. When asked how my weekend was, I was constantly responding with, ‘oh it was good, we just relaxed’ – something I even pained hearing. So I sucked it up and packed my backpack …. with a lot medication.

To Bring More Medicine or More Clothes?

d666f7e5-7feb-4673-89ba-25046859a7adWhat I took along was a whole other story – I was moreso the traveling bag of medicine with a side of clothes. Up until the moment we left, I was double and triple checking the lists I had made to make sure I had what I thought I was necessary. I was worried about not having access to what I needed in the worst way, and bringing down the rest of the group in doing so.

I took every preventative thing I could (which paid off when Alex got bit by a scorpion), some serious antibiotics, as well as a the dreaded Prednisone. Prednisone is a strange super drug that gives you an almost manic sense of energy (especially when you are used to flare- level energy) serious mood swings, and an incredible hunger for everything and anything, but it insured that I wasn’t bleeding so I obliged in taking it religiously. The antibiotics were prescribed in order to avoid potential viruses contracted by water contamination. While some doctors recommended I get vaccinations, I decided against it due to my immune system being so low and it being so close to departure.

My Crohn’s Travel List:

  • Prednisone – 40 mg
  • Antibiotics 
  • Tirosint
  • Cortifoam
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Bendaryl
  • Tylenol
  • Migraine Medicine
  • Tums/Pepto
  • Vitamin B12, Biotin, Iron, and Omega 3.

For Those Traveling with Crohn’s

68e911c8-4669-4ca9-8b1e-cf694a427436My advice to anyone traveling with Crohn’s with or without a flare, depending on where you are going, just bring a back up supply for a few days in case you need it. Depending on your location and the state of your condition, vaccinations may be beneficial for you, but make sure you communicate whether you need a live or dead strain. When going to a location that has a possibility of water contamination, bring medication or take antibiotics, and as vitamins and probiotics. Bring water filtration tablets or devices if you have them as well. While some things I needed, others I never touched, but was happy I had it in the event I may have potentially called on it. Such a big part of having Crohn’s for me revolves around my anxiety being outside of the house, but I am so happy I took the trip because I hadn’t felt more like myself in years.

Up Next…

The breakdown of the actual trip will come later this week, not that I am some kind of travel expert, but if you are considering visiting Nicaragua, (which you should) I definitely have some non-health related advice. I don’t want you to be afraid or feel limited in your travels due to Crohn’s. Even though is Nicaragua is considered a “third world country,” I actually think my stomach handled the food there the same or better than in some places in America. This country differed so greatly from my everyday life and I never thought I would have loved it as much as I did. Not only were the people kind, the cities we visited were beautiful and full of life in a way that seriously inspired me and gave me a new confidence in my ability to travel.

* Highlights will include: touring historical Granada, the chicken bus breaking down on the way to Rivas, hitchhiking, as well as climbing a volcano, surfing on desolate beaches, and staying in our own personal MTV crib on top of a hill!

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