The Issues with Group Travel When You Have Lupus

The Issues with Group Travel When You Have Lupus

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Late last year, I booked a 16-day Contiki tour in Europe with my sister. Group travel is awesome because there are significant discounts when you travel in a group of 50. Plus, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to make amazing new friends while exploring the world. But, as I expected, it wasn’t all smooth sailing.

Leaving in early June, it was the start of the Australian winter and bitterly cold. Last year I had somehow managed to spend the colder months on immunosuppressants without once getting sick; this time I wasn’t so lucky.

I left with a barking cough and a runny nose, which was irritating but more than manageable. However, I didn’t know about the infamous “Contiki cough” that apparently always seems to make the rounds on these kinds of tours. For the average person, being pretty run down means getting a little sick, which isn’t all that big of a deal. But it is a little bit different for someone with an autoimmune disease like lupus.

It’s day 20 of being overseas, and every moment since we left home I’ve been sick in one form or another. The medication that keeps my body from destroying itself, also leaves me susceptible to catching absolutely any kind of anything that’s floating through the air; but up until now I hadn’t had a proper crash course.

I didn’t know how badly my body would struggle to fight off simple strains of cold, but it’s probably to be expected when you’ve essentially taken away its first line of defense, and live life without an immune system.

I guess part of me wanted to believe that I could at least try to live this one month free of complications from lupus. But that was just blatant wishful thinking. Of course, I couldn’t. In times like these it becomes apparent just how prominent lupus will be throughout my life, and that I can never run from it. I’m never safe. I’m always one step away from falling into back into another trap when I least expect it.

These moments of realization always hurt, as once again I’m hit with the reality that no matter how much I want to be; I’m not like everyone else, and never will be.

Travel is extremely taxing on the body, which automatically leaves lupus with the upper hand. Seeing the world means early mornings, long days and little time for rest, all of which are at least semi-incompatible with being chronically ill.

I tried to do everything right. I thought I could prepare myself for going overseas, and to an extent I did manage that from an active point of view. Unfortunately, you can’t train your body not to get sick, and no amount of running or going to the gym could compensate for not having an immune system.

I believed I had set myself up for success, packing duplicates of all my medications to ensure if the very worst happened I was ready. But what’s hurting me for the whole trip is not what I expected; it’s what I didn’t know to expect.

Once again I find myself stuck between a rock and a hard place, as I couldn’t bare to stop traveling. But to see the world means to let myself get run down and inevitably sick.

There is no right answer, no easy fix to my predicament— only compromise. My only choice is to view my issue from both short- and long-term perspectives, weighing up the risks and rewards. Does the experience of traveling the world and making lifelong memories outweigh the hardship of catching sickness without an immune system?

Well, I can’t speak for myself in the future. But for now, even as I cough and wheeze and lay here missing a beautiful Italian day while on bedrest, after all that I’ve seen and done, my answer can’t be anything but a resounding “Yes!”

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Note: Lupus News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lupus News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lupus.

6 comments

  1. Dalila says:

    Very nice and realistic article. It’s exactly like that, that’s how it is, however after many years, and experiences you get used to travel ‘differently’. In the end the most important thing is: to live.

    • Kristiana Page says:

      Hi Dalila,

      It was a big shock to me how differently my body coped (or didn’t cope) when I was travelling this time! I think you’re right, even only after this trip I know what I’d do differently and it’ll only make it that much easier next time I travel. It’s all about finding out what works and what doesn’t then fine tuning!

      Best,
      Kristi

      • Dalila says:

        Hi Kristi!

        Thanks for your reply! And for the article. It’s fantastic that you share our reality.

        Keep travelling and enjoying life. Lupus can’t stop us from this. We just have to change things “a little”!

        Best of luck!
        Dalila

  2. Amanda Lee says:

    Your experience was identical to mine! I too did Contiki and suffered every single day. I left Australia crook and was that way the entire trip. I missed out seeing some sites because I felt like death and had to stay back at the accomodation. Returning home 3 wks later, I was still very, very sick and my doctor was worried. Took me a long time to get back to my ‘normal’. It made me realise how I couldn’t keep up with the pace of healthy people. How debilitating Lupus is. The spirit was willing but the body was weak.

    • Tim Bossie says:

      It is so hard to fight every thing that we try to experience only to have to give in to this disease. Thank you for sharing your experience with all of us and we hope that the next trip will be different for you.

    • Kristiana Page says:

      Hi Amanda,

      I’m sorry to hear you were sick for your whole Contiki! I know how high energy they can be and there’s always so much to see and do, it’s kinda hard to tell yourself you need to rest, but if you don’t there’s always consequences!
      Unfortunately this seems to be the burned we carry as Lupies! But never let that spirit dull, though we may be stuck with tired bodies that spirit is the strongest part of all of us! đŸ™‚

      Best,
      Kristi

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