Crohn’s Disease and Me

I’ve realised this blog is “Travel, Food and Me” and I’ve not written a single one about me! So this is my life with my lovely Crohn’s Disease…

First and foremost everyone’s disease is different! I have it relatively easy, but it doesn’t stop it being any harder – especially when someone knows someone else who has it so much worse and mine is nothing compared to theirs.

For those who don’t know Crohn’s Disease is a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (gross right!). It can affect any part of the gastro system from your mouth to your anus (again, ewww!). It’s an auto-immune disease – in layman’s terms my body attacks itself, all fun and games. Turns out I’ve been suffering from it since I was 16 but not diagnosed until I was in my 20s. And here I am nearly 10 years later…

A lot of people will ask “oh no is it your Crohn’s” when you feel slightly unwell. It’s hard to get annoyed as they mean it in such a caring way but trying to explain that it’s not always that, sometime like them I just get ill. It’s is exhausting. Most people think Crohn’s is a pain in my side that makes me go to the loo a lot. They really don’t know the half of it.

I have a lot of problems thanks to Crohn’s. Some days I can’t stay awake. Fatigue takes over and all I want to do is sleep. I’ll get home from work, cook dinner and sit on the sofa not doing anything and I find myself wanting to go to bed at 7.30pm! I’m 26 years old and the thought of going to bed that early makes me feel ancient. Sometimes when I am in the middle of a flare up I have to sit down in the shower because my body is just too tired. To get across to people how the pain in my side is nothing compared to the exhaustion I can feel.

My joints – wow who knew your joints could feel on fire. When it gets bad I fidget endlessly trying to find that comfortable spot, I’ve been known to be in the oddest positions with limbs everywhere as for that minute it might just stop it. Last Sunday was the first time my Crohn’s has really affected my life (note – I’ve been in hospital, missed my last semester of uni and cancelled so many events) but this was the first time I’ve been out and couldn’t do anything about it. The Boy and I went to see Bear’s Den, and I could hardly stand. I moved around so much, felt so unwell that we had to leave 30 min before then end. I felt ill and upset. My disease ruined someone else’s night and I feel so guilty about it.

My weight goes up and down like a yo-yo! But I made things worse; I put on a bit more weight than I should have so I’ve been working hard to get it off. I’ve managed it WHOOP! I’ve lost a stone since the beginning of the year. The downside – I instantly get asked if I’ve been ill, if my Crohn’s has been causing problem. I don’t get that praise normal people get. I’ve also been told it’s not because I’ve been working hard but because “I’m lucky and my disease helps me loss weight”. But that’s life, sometimes you have to be strong and tell people they are wrong. It can be hard as it makes you second guess yourself.

My diet has changed a lot over the years, not because I was unhealthy before but I have to deal with the consequences of my eating habits. I used to love pasta, I think when I was at uni I had it 5 days a week. Now, I have it once, maybe twice at a push. I used to have a lot of cereal with skimmed milk. Now I don’t even have milk in my coffee. It’s odd, lots of this was just natural progression, some of it I made a conscience decision. I can’t have a lot of dairy as it’s hard to digest so I cut milk so I could have cheese. Sounds crazy but for me it works. And that’s it, for me it works. It makes me happy – I tried to cut dairy and gluten and it made me depressed. I am a foodie and I couldn’t live with a life where I couldn’t eat things. So I go for the little of everything method.

But here I am, I work 40hrs a week, gym 4-5 times a week and have a social life. My life isn’t bad, in fact my life is pretty damn good. I just happen to have this disease but it will not define what I can do. It will never stop me living the life I want, I’m too stubborn for that.

If you’ve just been diagnosed stay strong, half the battle is mental. If you’re suffering, it will be okay, your more than just your disease. 🙂

 

 

 

Travel – is it ticking boxes or experiencing cultures? Asking and attempting to answer the question

This is a hard one to write. Are we travelling to tick boxes, to say we’ve been somewhere, to get that perfect Instagram picture or to learn about other cultures, to admire the natural world, to explore the untouched? Just because our experiences are different does it mean that theirs was wrong, or even ours was wrong?

I went off for 6 months with The Boy and went to South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. The stick I got for picking those locations was ridiculous, upsetting and judging!

“Why do you want to go there? It’s so touristy? Everyone does that?”

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Yes I knew people that had been, in fact my stepbrother had done it years before me and the stories he came back with made me want to go. I wanted to see a different culture, eat different foods and see a new world, something I had never seen before. Yes, I did touristy things, but are things touristy just because a lot of people do them? Would you say Angkor Wat is touristy? No. So why is going to S.E.A classed as a touristy thing to do? Once you start digging (or lightly scrapping the surface) you can see why – drunk westerners in Bangkok, the Full Moon Parties and the Island Hoping. This isn’t the South East Asia I saw, this was “Lads on Tour”, “I want to lay on a beach”, “I need a tan to show I’ve been away”. Why have these people travelled so far to do something they could do in the South of France for a fraction of the cost? Have they come just to say they have been, and got that perfect Instagram picture?

“If it’s not on Social Media did it really happen?”

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Is this what we’ve become? Or are they trying something that doesn’t interest me? Am I wrong for judging people’s travels or holidays because I think they could have just done that at home, because it doesn’t seem “cultural” enough? I think that if you go somewhere, you respect their culture, just like I feel when people come to the UK. Respect is key. So as long as they are respectful why does it bother me that they are just partying and drinking? In my view we should want to travel to explore what makes our planet so beautiful, so diverse, and so original. I personally don’t think you get that at the bottom of a bottle. Some cultures have a lot of drinking in them, look at Ireland, and imagine visiting and not having a pint of Guinness. But Ireland isn’t just about the black stuff, it’s about its history, Vikings, scenery, religion and so so so much more. A beach is just a beach unless you explore the area around it. A city just a city if you don’t go into the buildings. A country is just another ticked box if you don’t find out what that country is about. In my view, don’t go to a country just to do what you would do at home…

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I also know some people pick their location based on the land mass they can scratch off on their map. When I first heard this is how they were picking their next trip it was hard not to laugh. It sounded so ridiculous to spend all that money to go somewhere just because it’s a big land mass to show off on your map. Why not read about different places and pick from that? But then I started to thinking about it more. If you know you want to see the world and you can’t decide where to start why not start by picking large countries? Then do your research on that country? Can you really go wrong, you’re still going to see the culture of somewhere new? I suddenly felt bad about the fact I had been that judgy person. If you want to see the world does it matter how you choose your location? I mean, I made a promise to myself that I would visit one new country every year but why a new one, why not go back to something I loved? Because I want to experience somewhere new, or because I want to have another country ticked off. And if I am honest, it’s both. When I’m old and grey I want to look back at all the places I’ve been to, to have got as close to seeing all 196 countries (and yes I’m including Taiwan as its own country) as I possibly could. But not just to say I have been there, to have seen as many cultures as I can, to try new things, to eat and learn to cook new foods.

Yes travel, pick your location however you want, but don’t go somewhere because you feel you have to, go because YOU want to. Explore what that country has to offer, do those touristy things, and learn something new.

Cheap Flights – is it worth it?

I’m sat here after receiving yet another email from Ryanair saying my flight has changed. It has made me wonder, is it worth flying with these cheaper airlines? What do I actually get from it…

img_20160814_235219As it stands, I am flying back to the UK every other (ish) weekend so I have spent a lot of time on Ryanair and at the airport. Sometimes if I am lucky I fly Aer Lingus! Every time I arrive at the gate I look at the people queuing, and every time without fail I ask why? And then that well-known announcement comes on – “this flight is fully booked so you may be asked to put your bag in the hold”. And this is why people are wasting more time checking in early so they are guaranteed getting their hold on wheelie bag with them. Is it worth it?

I know I am not the only one that lives on Skyscanner looking for that cheap break to img_20160817_173901anywhere. It’s great going away for a city break, throwing your clothes into your handbag, making sure your liquids are in a plastic bag and making sure you can fit in your camera. But most of the time these flights are run by people like Ryanair. And this for me is starting to get a tad annoying! These cheap flights actually aren’t great, the planes are cramped, the landings bumpy and the service average, nice, but nothing to write home about. Compare this to Virgin or BA and it’s terrible. Not that they are rude or horrible people but they just can’t go the extra mile like these other premium companies can. So why do we accept it?

For someone like myself, I accept it because it means I can travel, see new things. But am I just fuelling the fire. If I stopped, started paying that extra €20 would they up their game, upgrade their planes so they can fit on everyone’s bags? Look at Aer Lingus, they are relatively cheap, but I have never had a problem with space. They have managed to make themselves the halfway airline. It’s great, there is so much less stress when you are getting to your gate. But that extra €20 could buy us lunch on the first day, coffee on arrival…do I really want to spend it on a better journey when I’m going for the destination.

img_20160822_061232Everyone does complain about the food and drink being stupidly expensive, and it is. They are running a business after all. So many companies will charge more if they are the only ones serving that one item but we don’t seem to keep up as much of a fuss then! It’s really down to you to plan a little better and pack yourself a lunch to take on the plane. Or pick something up in the airport? Or you know, survive 2 hours without eating? So this doesn’t bug me as much as it seems to upset most. Just plan better! It’s really not that hard! Tad more understanding if you’re going a bit further, but still you can pack food.

People always say – you can pay to take luggage so you don’t have to queue, you can pay for the food so you aren’t hungry and you can pay for extra leg room. So at this moment I would have added at least €30 onto my flight. So by the time I’ve done all of this I could afforded the better airline. But here I am, not paying for these things struggling away and taking the smallest bag possible. All so I have the extra money to spend at the place I actually want to see. And that’s why however much I (and everyone I fly with) complains about them we will always fly with airlines like Ryanair.

But let’s be honest here, if I could afford to fly all the time with companies like BA I would. Without hesitation. It might seem like a waste of money to some, “It’s only a few hours of your life!”, but that’s it a few hours add up and if I can make the journey as nice (well more relaxed!) as the destination I would. It’s just a great way to start any trip! You arrive relaxed and ready to start your break!

What are your thoughts? Do you always pay that bit more? Or stick with the cheaper airlines?

Travel isn’t always smooth…

​I write this as I sit on yet another plane early in the morning. This sounds selfish and a tad arrogant but having moved to Dublin a couple of months ago I’ve spent a lot of time in the airport going home to my family in London, nothing to exotic or luxurious! This mornings events made me think of all those times when I’ve had bad travel…some are small and some make you question every decision you’ve made…

In my grand old age of 26 I’ve discovered I can’t cope without coffee. This morning proved that. Arriving later than I would like at the airport, 45minutes before my flight which is cutting it very fine in my eyes, I speed through the airport cursing the fact that I don’t think I have time to get a coffee. I stride through with the clip clop of my shoes echoing through the terminal. I arrive at my gate, I see a seat and happy to know that I’ve got there in plenty of time, no one has even started queuing yet. Very odd, people seem to love to queue before the gates open…panic sets in, I know something’s not right…crap I’ve gone to the wrong gate! I can’t see the departure sign and my flight is due to take off in 25 minutes, what if it’s the other side of their terminal? Calm, breath, it will be okay. 20 minutes till take off. Panic. Breath. Walk, just walk. I finally spot the departure board. The gate is close, I relax, I take a seat, and obviously there is so much time I could have crawled and got to my gate in time! 
Vietnam to Cambodia, its dark, its the middle of the night, okay it’s 9.30pm, but its pitch black and we are in the middle of nowhere. But let’s rewind and explain how we ended up there. We had done a “tour” on the Mekong Delta, really relaxing, saw coconut candy being made (was delicious!), got to wear a “traditional” Vietnamese hat (I was probably more excited than I should have been), went to a bee farm (cute) and saw a python (less cute!). It had been a really fun day. We all got back on this tiny very touristy bus but the two of us were soon turfed off and left at a bus stop ready to get a local bus but being told we would be dropped at our hostel. Didn’t think too much of it, must be totally normal we told ourselves. So we got on this sleeper bus and layer down and dozed…hours past, we were told it would only take two, something wasn’t right, we should have got there by now…it’s fine, we’ve learnt that nothing runs on time here it’s always a guess. It’s now dark. We have no idea whereabouts in Vietnam we are. The bus stops, a guy tells us to get off we are there, where there is I still have no idea. There was nothing, you could hardly see two meters in front of you. And low and behold there are two convenient motorcycles there, “happy to help”, “give us your bags we take you” they say. Oh hell no, I do not part with my bag and I do not get on strangers bikes (well in the middle of the night I don’t!). We look at each other and prepare ourselves for walking, we didn’t know where or what direction all we knew was we are walking quickly away from them. And that’s what we did…we walked until we spotted people. No English. They pointed and we thanked them in Vietnamese and carried on. Half an hour later we saw lights and instantly relieved. A hotel, not ours and very fancy looking one for the middle of nowhere but it meant people and a bed if we needed it. The concierge was amazing, so sweet and pointed us to where our hostel was. We had walked 2km in the dark with our backpacks and we’ve never been so happy to see a dirty smelly hostel. I still wonder what would have happened if we got on those bikes…
Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City – that moment when you arrive in a city having just got off a ridiculously long train and just need to dump your bags and get some food. Guy comes up to you and says centre? You assume he’s a taxi driver as that’s what they all do, you haggle and follow. So that’s what we did. But it got strange very quickly…we passed all the other taxis and he then pointed at his car…a plain white people carrier (very similar to one my grandparents had when I was growing up, comforting in a way). And then you see it’s full of cleaning products. This guy is definitely not in any way a legit driver. Safe to say we backtracked quickly. He yelled and we walked faster. We pretty much threw ourselves into a taxi, no haggling. We didn’t care. We honestly felt that that moment we could have had our finger tips burnt off and the car would have been bleached clean…we would have never been there. 
Netherlands, Amsterdam – early mornings are not my friend. Having left my friends at 5am I was tired, that’s my excuse anyways. This is only the second time I’ve left a foreign country on my own and not gone home. As I’m sure you’ve all realised I’m a nervous traveller. Once I’m in a country I’m fine. But getting there I panic, sweat and want to cry, every time without fail. And this time was no exception. I get off the plane and walk for ages. Amsterdam airport is massive!! Took at least 20 minutes to get through it. I queued for the ticket machine, and with lots of people behind me I wanted to be quick. It’s so straight forward it literally spells it out for you “city centre” easy. I choose that, get a return and rush to the platform, 2 minutes to my train. Run!!! I get on, get a seat. See the time. Crap. My train should have already left why is it still here. Ah, this is not my train, my train has definitely already gone. It’s fine, hop back off, and boom the doors literally close in front of me. Hmmm. Now what. I have a ticket clearly marked for the centre and I’m on a train to who knows where. Stay calm is what I keep saying. Don’t cry. It’s fine. Just get off at the next station and go back and start again. 15 minutes until the next stop, annoying but that’s just one of those things. Maybe if I had stopped and read the sign and not acted like a Londoner I wouldn’t have been in this mess. Then the ticket lady rocks up. Ahh no valid ticket. I start babbling, apologising a lot for only speaking English, didn’t even mentioned my ticket just babbled about only speaking English and how sorry I was that I hadn’t learnt Dutch, or German or French. She smiles, laughs and obviously replies in perfect English. She clearly pitties me. And tells me to get off in two stops time and there will be a train to the centre on platform five. I mange this, semi proud of myself before realising if I hadn’t been so stupid in the first place I wouldn’t have been in this situation! I get on the fast track train and realise still no valid ticket as it clearly states the airport to the centre. I’m so tense that by the time I get off I’m just so relieved that  I didn’t get a fine it takes me a few minutes to realise I’m in the picturesque Amsterdam! 
I’ve had many moments like these but these three stick out. These are the moments of travel that I look back on and always seem to wonder “what if”…so many different outcomes. I would like to say it’s been due to quick thinking, I’m smart and I worked it out. But in reality, I’ve been lucky. Some how it’s just worked out. What I have tried to learn is not not panic, clearly this morning shows I’m still learning that. But that’s really it, things will go wrong. Travel is not smooth but you’ll learn from it and at the end of the day, that’s what matters.