Traveling the world for someone who suffers from cystic fibrosis always seemed impossible. While I was growing up, I had never been away from home for longer than a weekend and -- even then -- sometimes that was too much for my body to handle. Every short vacation that I went on always resulted in a three-week hospitalization. I started to believe that seeing other countries was out of the question for me.
As a kid I was very active in sports, so I was always relatively healthy until my teenage years. I was first hospitalized when I was 20, and it became a regular thing every couple of months. I started to see my lung function decrease with every hospital stay. Seeing my FEV1 percentage decrease so rapidly from the 100s to the 30s reminded me of a cell phone dying with no charger in sight.
In 2019 I was turning 29, and I got approved for Trikafta®. Coincidentally, I also booked my first flight to Lima, Peru, in more than 20 years. I went on my trip expecting that I was going to get sick; but it was the first time that I didn't get an exacerbation. I made sure I did all my meds and even took time out of my trip to exercise when I could. This was the first time as a young adult in another country and that's when my perspective on life changed completely.
Feeling the “culture shock” was such a delight.
I realized there was more to life than just the 50-mile radius of my hometown, Miami. Although I always felt fortunate I lived in a “vacation” city, I always knew this planet had more to offer.
After this trip, the rest was history. I completely fell in love with the idea of being on a plane and having adrenaline rush through my veins.
I traveled to several countries and Puerto Rico was next on my list, but then the pandemic hit. Everything stopped and so did traveling.
I was fortunate enough that I never caught COVID-19, but as things started to slow down in the United States, I resumed traveling. After eight months, I booked a trip to Mexico, and it went very well. Traveling with a chronic condition during a pandemic was a little scary, but I felt safe knowing I was taking every precaution seriously -- wearing my mask indoors, washing my hands after every engagement, and maintaining social distancing whenever I could.
When I travel, I also make sure to bring all my essential CF medications in my carry-on bag. Even though it is rare, I do not want to take any chances with an airline losing my luggage along with all my medications. It's also crucial to take a little more than needed. There may be delays where you don't necessarily get home on time.
Another crucial regimen I stick to while traveling is finding the time to do a 30-minute exercise session at least two to three times during my vacation. I find exercise helps me stay healthy for the duration of my trips.
I always make sure to purchase travel insurance. Policies are usually cheap and might be needed if worse comes to worst.
Everyone has different rules and restrictions when they travel, but I believe these are crucial for me to travel responsibly.
After traveling to Iceland a couple of weeks ago -- a country that I always felt would be impossible for me to visit -- I've realized I have the ability to go anywhere I want.
Traveling with a chronic condition during a pandemic may be too risky for some, but what is life without a little risk?
I truly believe it is absolutely safe to travel for someone with CF as long as you do everything you're supposed to do to travel safely and responsibly.
Don't let CF hold you back on your passions in life.
We, too, can dream big and achieve great things.
See ya on the other side of the world!