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The Grit, Part 2 - Globetrotting with Crohn's / Ulcerative Colitis!

Please check out my first post in this series, The Grit, as this is a follow-up with more specific tips which are best read after the initial post!

4.  Bathroom Access

I've written about bathroom access challenges throughout this blog.  Check out the first "Grit" and a venting session here.

Whether I'm in Chicago, small-town USA, on board a bus anywhere in the world, or abroad, bathroom access has always been one of my top problems and complaints.  There is no easy answer unfortunately.  My husband laughs that I seem to have developed a sixth sense for knowing where to hunt down a public bathroom.

Here are some ideas, with the most preferable options first:

  • Find a department store

  • Starbucks, Starbucks, Starbucks!!  They are everywhere! 

  • Coffee shops & bars - if you are a paying customer, most places will allow access. If you are beyond the ability to hold it any longer and traveling with a companion, allow your companion to join the queue or grab a table while you make a mad dash.  Carry your own toilet paper and soap as it may very well have neither.  Be sure to explain if you pass a worker on the way to the bathroom so they realize you are/will be a paying customer.
             **Side note - in some cities, cafes have bathrooms that remain locked, so a key will be            required - after - a purchase.

  • If need be, find a hotel - mid-range but not too fancy.  Walk tall and act like you know exactly where you are going.  If you ask and they realize you aren't staying there, you're in trouble as they will say NO.  If you just walk in like you own the place and stroll purposefully until you find it, you should be fine.  If need be and worse case scenario, a white lie can be used here and say you are staying but just dashing in for a bathroom break.   Shhhh, our secret! Crohnies gotta do what Crohnies gotta do :)

  • Ladies, two words:  Go Girl  - a device that allows you to "go" standing up.  #1 that is. ;)  Great for trains, buses and places where the bathroom is filthy or a hole in the ground.

  • Restaurant -- not preferable unless it is meal time; because my friends, it's only fair that if it is a more formal restaurant rather than cafe, bar or pub, you will need to eat if you are going to use their facilities. 

  • Hole in the ground.... sorry to say the obvious, but I have done this many, many times.  You gotta do what you gotta do.  

5.  More food options....

I've written a lot about food options here and here.  Some other ideas include:

  • Cook in your hostel, apartment, etc...

    There are more options these days for backpackers and other travelers.  During my solo summer in Europe, I always took advantage of hostels with full kitchens.  It's a great way to not only save money but accommodate your specific dietary needs.  Airbnb may be a good option as well so you can rent an apartment.  If you are only renting a room on their site, make sure you have access to the kitchen as some do not allow for a room rental.

    I have even picked my lodging based on if it is near a grocery store!  There's nothing like lugging your bags and groceries across town in the middle of the summer to learn that lesson.  

  • Travel with picnic gear so you can eat on the go.  My husband laughs that I hoard plastic utensils when you get them with take-out food, but I say -- be prepared!

  • Ship food from home.  For my fellow long-term travelers, this is a great option.  Have a family member or trusted friend ship your food to pre-determined locations, similarly to how hikers on the Appalachian trail do.  Granted it may take some research to find a hotel or place where you can have it shipped, but that is what trip planning is for.  If anyone has done this, please share your experiences!

  • Watch your alcohol / water intake and dehydration.  Crohn's makes you more prone to dehydration, so it is CRITICAL while traveling to stay ahead of your hydration needs, seek shade for breaks from blistering sun, and moderate your alcohol.

    Make sure you carry a reusable water bottle that you can fill up in public fountains, etc.. if need be.  I prefer bottled water when traveling, but if you can swing the mineral content or it is an emergency and you are in a developed country, public fountain water sources should be fine, as long as they are listed with signs saying "drinking water" or "potable water."  If it doesn't say and you are not sure, do NOT drink the water!! 

6.  Revisit Your Meds Before You Leave!

So you are thinking about traveling abroad and maybe you are doing well on your Crohn's meds so just plan to hit the road "as is"?  You've done your research and have prepared an extra prescription from your doctor as well as a letter of medical necessity and have any additional printouts on hand or on your electronic device.  

Well..... it's not that easy once you're out in this great big world!

Traveling is TAXING!!  Yes, it is MAGNIFICENT, but it is taxing!!!  Traveling with an autoimmune disease is like toting along a screaming toddler everywhere you go.  Very needy, very clingy, very high maintenance.  

Be prepared to flare.  Don't panic if or when you do.  You may follow all of my tips and still have problems.  It's impossible to predict. 

I can't make recommendations for your personal medication regime and would never dream of advising you.  This issue requires a conversation between you and your doctor.  I never leave home without also taking along a prednisone taper and steroid suppositories.  Don't get me started on steroids.  I know the horrors all too well.  But oftentimes while abroad there are limited options.  It's worked for me, but again - you MUST talk to your gastroenterologist before you leave.

If you are prone to joint pain, also talk to your doctor for consideration of a topical med.  And be sure to bring good walking shoes.  My knee pain kicks into high gear while abroad so it is critical I leave fashion cares behind and don the comfiest shoes I can find!

That's it for round #2 of The Grit!!!   

Happy travels & Crohnies unite!


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