What travel teaches you about yourself

This next post in my series of guest posts about lessons we learn from travel is really important. Sarah of Travel Breathe Repeat didn’t give up her dreams of seeing the world just because she’s sick – really sick – and I admire her endlessly for this. Find out more in this fabulous post and thanks so much Sarah for sharing your story.

Travel teaches you about the world … and about yourself

I’m stronger than I think I am. This is the greatest lesson travel has taught me.

Traveling has taught me so many things about the world and history and the environment and people and food! But really the most important things I’ve learned are about myself. The greatest lesson I’ve learned from traveling is that I’m strong … stronger than I think I am.

I am mentally strong. Travel has helped me stop thinking about the fact that I have a fatal lung disease every second of every day. Travel has taught me to appreciate every day I can get out of bed and breathe through these tattered lungs and see or eat or learn something new. It’s helped me be more confident and get over my fears of embarrassment when I have to walk around with an oxygen machine strapped to my back and a hose sticking out of my nose.

I am physically strong. Because of my disease, my lungs are covered in cysts which makes it hard for me to breathe. But I’ve learned that otherwise, my body is pretty incredible! If I go slow enough or am using supplemental oxygen, I can accomplish whatever I want. And when I’m traveling I want to do the hard things like climb a whole bunch of stairs to see what’s at the top or hike a mountain to see the view. Travel has given me the motivation to try and keep the rest of my body in good enough shape that I can take on these challenges. It’s also helped me not care as much about my weight or how I look. I trust my body to tell me how it’s doing and what it needs instead of the scale.

I am a risk-taker. My whole life I’ve thought I was pretty risk-averse. But travel has taught me that I’m pretty much not. At all. Just a few months after I was diagnosed with LAM, I boarded a plane with my husband to go to Spain, not knowing if my lungs would collapse mid-flight or if I would have to go to the hospital in another country (thankfully, neither happened). And after traveling frequently for many years, and having my mind opened up to other ways of life, my husband and I quit our jobs to travel full-time. And even though that trip has ended and six months later we still haven’t gone back to our former lives and we aren’t really sure what the future holds, I know it was the right decision. Because I am happy and we are enjoying life… now.

I can inspire others. Before embarking on our trip around (some of) the world, I didn’t want most people to know about my disease. But now I talk about it with everyone and anyone, from people I’ve known for years to strangers around the world. I talk about what I’m doing and my disease because LAM is so very rare, but also because I want to inspire others. I want to inspire people with illnesses or disabilities to get out there and travel and feel happy and challenged and just forget their struggles for even one second. Over the past two years, I’ve met women with LAM and the doctors trying to find a cure in many different countries. And when I get messages from people thanking me for sharing my story because it has shown them that LAM doesn’t have to mean the end, my heart swells and I feel proud. And strong.

More about Sarah

Sarah has a rare, incurable lung disease called lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM). She and her husband Justin recently completed a year-long trip around (some of) the world where they ate absurdly well, saw glaciers and fjords and puffins and elephants, and raised LAM awareness. They have been documenting their journey and sharing travel tips for others with chronic illnesses at their blog Travel Breathe Repeat. You can also see more of Sarah’s photography on Instagram.

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