Guest Post! Alex Milanoski: Me, Kate, & Crohn’s – Travel Edition

a4477e37-43f6-4d48-b471-8b4dd1cfb0fbMeet Alex! Partner, Editor (of my posts), Landscape Architect, Sailor, Yogi, Hiker, Rock-Climber, ‘Try Anything Once’ Free Spirit, Expert Traveler, and Amazing Friend. If you know Alex, you know he loves an adventure, which makes dating someone with my health limitations a bit challenging at times; and while traveling with anyone can be a gamble, Alex decided it was time we take the ride together. Below are his thoughts not only on traveling, but doing so with someone who has Crohn’s Disease!


12010486_10153691859468413_7841827540227718880_oPushing boundaries and testing limits have been facets of my personality since my childhood. I have always been my happiest, true self when exploring a new place. Absorbing the culture, enjoying the food, and exploring the locale – all of these things are essential components of traveling for me. When it comes to housing on these trips, I tend to favor the home sharing/ hostel/ couchsurfing community – it’s a great way to enrich your travel and always makes for a memorable time. Aside from a general idea of where I’ll be staying and for how long, I like to keep my mind and agenda as open as possible in an effort to consciously unwind, detach, and go with the flow.

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Despite our mutual appreciation for travel, this year was the first time that Kate and I were able to travel abroad together! The planning process was a learning curve to say the least. As I began considering someone’s needs other than my own, I quickly realized all the small things that I so often take advantage of. The first time I went abroad, my brothers and I traveled western Europe in a high-top Ford Transit van dubbed “The Dirty Bird” – not exactly something that someone with Crohn’s would consider doing on a whim. Note: The Dirty Bird did not have an onboard restroom facility, but it definitely smelled like one. 

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Santa Cruz Island, 2016

Beach camping during a surf trip down Baja, backpacking in the Channel Islands, or bike-packing through Sequoia and King’s Canyon don’t necessarily provide the porcelain thrones that one might prefer after street tacos and freeze dried backpacking meals, but the midday nap spots can’t be beat.

 

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John Muir Wilderness, 2012

Don’t get me wrong, Kate and I have had to opportunity to embark on some serious adventures together…backpacking the Eastern Sierra, rock climbing in Joshua Tree, and countless road trips all over the United States are no small feat, but all were done when she was feeling healthy and without any serious flare.

When we sat down and started planning for Nicaragua, it was only natural for me to default to my normal humble backpacker dwellings, right? Wrong – planning a trip with someone that requires certain accommodations can be a bit of a challenge at first. Not only did I have to plan more than I was used to, but Kate’s struggle with the confidence to travel abroad after being diagnosed with Crohn’s (and having trips interrupted by flares) made me want to encourage her to break out and experience something new more than ever with me. Being able to share these experiences together is important to me, and the only condition that Katie suffers from worse than Crohn’s Disease is FOMO. Not only did we have to consider different accommodations, but also exit strategies and medical care in the event of an emergency – this is something we do at home, but definitely not something I was used to planning for myself when traveling. Sorry, Mom.

As we booked our flights months before the trip, Kate was going through a flare. In the back of my mind, I started to worry that we wouldn’t get to take full advantage of the time we were going to spend in Nicaragua. Hiking volcanoes, riding motorbikes, surfing – this trip wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.

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Volcan Concepcion, Ometepe 2017

I bit my tongue at the time, hoping things would improve before the trip. We started to trade out beach hostels for AirBnbs, and chicken busses for air-conditioned shuttle services. Weeks before we were set to leave, things hadn’t improved and Kate started to feel the pressure and panic. We knew that if she didn’t do something to immediately address the situation, she wouldn’t be able to take the trip, and I was nervous this would further discourage her from traveling. As much as we both hate the P word (Prednisone) she decided to dose up and get her super powers for the next month. She was going on this trip… and she was going to climb that volcano, damnit.

I won’t lie, getting to enjoy some luxuries that come with accommodating Kate’s condition while traveling DEFINITELY elevated the trip for me.

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San Juan del Sur, 2017

While we left our daytime activities pretty open, our travel days and dwellings were lined up weeks before the trip – by the way, foreign AirBnBs rule. From our Spanish colonial apartment behind the legendary Garden Cafe in Granada (with complimentary breakfast and wine), to our private garden unit on Ometepe (complete with howler monkey security guards and fresh pancakes), and ending with our hillside abode in San Juan del Sur (this dude has never felt more Escobar) – we lined up some incredibly  memorable locations that I would love to revisit someday. Kate surpassed her own expectations, and kept up for every adventure along the way. Maybe it was the Prednisone, maybe it was the FOMO, but I sometimes have to remind myself that despite her occasional low energy – she is one bad-ass chick.

I’ll always be someone who enjoys traveling light and going with the flow, and while this was an entirely new learning experience preparing and planning for someone other than myself – it went much better than either of us could have anticipated. I feel more prepared for future adventures because of it, and that’s a good thing – because through The Peaks and The Valleys, I know there will be lots of them to come!

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