WEGO Health Award!

A Crohnie Backpacker: Train Food & Hostels, Oh My!

This post pays homage to my backpacking journey that started it all, leaving me kneeling before the future with a world of destinations dancing in my daydreams.  Fresh out of college, I received a travel scholarship from my alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, to explore the volunteerism trends of environmental policy nonprofits in Western Europe.  I stretched those funds into three months of travel, using my best friend's flat in London as a home away from home.  It was a glorious time of self-exploration, with the fun of reinventing myself with every new town and group of companions on the backpacker's circuit.

Paragliding in the Alps!

My Crohn's was like a shadow in the afternoon sun, always with me, yet never holding me back from my dreams and always stretching with me.  When I looked over my shoulder, it was there.  The lesson is that I never let it stop me.

 Cinque Terre, Italy

How did I go for three months on a vigorous journey of physical strain, poor nutrition, and bouts of stress that comes with solo travel at a young age?  Prayer, determination, and unceasing drive.  It also required that I give up my current medication regime for a bout of steroids.  Adding the prednisone-induced insomnia to switching hostel beds every couple of nights certainly led to a lot of missed sleep and nodding off on trains.  And finding healthy food was many times out of the question, due to the fast pace of my travel and limited budget.  Yet while my body often felt fatigued and drained, the absolute joy of what I was doing kept me blind to any bodily discomfort.  My spirits soared at the many friendships I struck on the road, and the endless incredible vistas of Scottish lochs, Italian coastline, Swiss Alps, curvy Welsh roads, and Parisian side streets.  I quickly became addicted to being on the move, to the rush of the hosteling circuit and the freedom of hopping on and off trains at will.

Wells Cathedral, England

While it's easy to think that others can do something, but it would never work out for yourself given your own special challenges, please know it's worth the journey to try.  Trust me, I had plenty of self-doubt myself.  The difference is taking that leap of faith!

I recently started reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed and had that pang of admiration that follows suit whenever I hear of an adventure that my Crohn's would surely keep me from experiencing.  Backpacking Europe for three months is one thing but hiking in the wilderness for three months is quite another.  Now some may say anyone with Crohn's could hike the Pacific Coast Trail, but I would suggest it is unlikely, or only attainable if the person were strictly in long-time remission and on limited meds.  Still.....    As I read about Cheryl mailing ahead packages of food, I recalled how I did the same for my European jaunt.  Mailing prescriptions to destinations kept me from having to carry everything in my backpack, which was already maxed out just shy of 50 pounds.

I like to be proven wrong sometimes!  After making these assumptions about hiking, I stumbled across a link to a fellow Crohnie who is hiking the Continental Divide Trail to raise money for the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation.  WOW!!  I am truly humbled.  This is amazing!!

Maybe you wish you could swim the English Channel.  Start out doing laps at your local Y.  Maybe you wish you could hike Macchu Picchu.  Build up your strength doing test-walks on local mountain ranges and amp up the treadmill as high as it will go.   What matters is setting goals that will lead you to your dream. 

Ice Palace at Jungfrau Station

Crohnies Unite!


  1. While I truly appreciate the lovely photos, wonderful descriptions of your self-exploratory, and pleasurable experiences in Europe, it would be nice to get some specific details about how you managed Chron's symptoms during your travels. Such specific details about handling urgent flare problems (when there's no available toilet), diet issues (which European foods were most problematic?), etc., are what will make this blog useful for those who long to continue an active lifestyle after diagnosis.

    1. Thank you for the feedback!!! I love comments and guidance as to what will be most useful. My blog is so new that sometimes I don't know what is needed. There are so many great blogs out there, so I appreciate your time on mine! I can definitely share more details about managing my symptoms. I already have the title in mind - "The Grit!" Lol. I am in the midst of trying to ward off a flare myself, so give me a few days to get it together.

    2. Hi! I'm a fellow young person with Ulcerative Colitis. Did you ever write a follow up with more specific tips? Thanks!

    3. Hi there! I did write a follow-up and am working on a second part to the series as well. Please check out: http://crohnietravels.blogspot.com/2014/08/the-grit-crohnie-traveler-tips.html

      If the link doesn't work, you can also search for "the grit".

      Please feel free to message me with any specific questions or areas of interest. Sometimes it's easier to have a call to action on a topic rather than just general ideas I've planned.

      Thanks for visiting & happy travels!

  2. I also just posted Part 2 of The Grit!



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