A (Travel) Dream Deferred, Part 1

"To travel is to live." --Hans Christian Andersen

Last winter I was determined to take a big trip back to Europe to visit friends and places I've been greatly missing for years. Well, I got into a painful car accident in January (the Uber I was riding in during a blizzard was rear-ended) and then was struck with multiple illnesses on top of that. I couldn't go.

My need to travel

Last spring I was determined to get myself back over to Europe, missing my friends even more. Well, then I got sick again (with bronchitis) and freakishly fell off a tall ladder and injured my tailbone and severely sprained my ankle. I couldn't go.

Just this summer I wanted more than anything to get myself back to Europe, now feeling extra frustrated and sad about still not being able to make the trip. I didn't have any bizarre accidents or illnesses, except maybe a sinus infection. My RA was doing so-so, but I would push past the pain if necessary. So no problem, right? Well, due to the fact that I was barely able to work the rest of the school year (substitute teaching) because of all of these ridiculous health problems, I was broke. Maybe even the most broke I've ever been. I couldn't go.

How many more months were going to slip away before I could follow this nagging need in my soul to get back to the people and places that once brought me such happiness? I kept staying stuck here in Minnesota, stuck with RA and sickness and injuries and a huge pile of bills. My health continued getting in the way of the things I really wanted to do and it was maddening. I didn't know how much longer I could take being out of commission and convalescing at home, putting my plans on hold.

Bitten by the travel bug

The international travel bug first bit me when I went on a trip to France one summer with a group from my high school French class. I was 17 years old that June and had just completed my junior year of high school. Going to Europe for the first time, across the ocean, was beyond exciting! I remember I couldn't believe that I was actually doing it. I think I was probably smitten with Europe and overseas travel not long after I first stepped foot into Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris the morning my class and I arrived. Yep, I loved it. And I already knew that I had to come back again someday.

That "someday" saw me returning to Europe a few years later to walk in the Dublin, Ireland marathon. I was a participant of the Arthritis Foundation's "Joints in Motion" fundraising and marathon program and raised over $4,000 all by myself for the Foundation. My cousin Becky came with me to cheer me on during the 26.2-mile marathon and then we planned to travel around the beautiful countryside together.

Disappointingly, I wasn't able to complete the entire race because both of my feet flared up badly not long after arriving in Dublin. Walking a tiny bit was incredibly painful, never mind attempting to walk over 26 miles nonstop. I dropped out around mile 9, mad at myself and at my inflamed body for failing me. Despite this sad ending to my first marathon story, being in Ireland opened up a new and wonderful beginning for me. I fell in love with the country and vowed to find a way to come back and study there.

RA: The dream robber, the opportunity thief

RA can often rob us of our opportunities and dreams, but it doesn't have to keep us away from them forever or get in the way of stealing them right back. I strongly believe that there is always some way to kick RA to the curb (for a while, at least) and keep fighting for those things we want in life. I try to hold onto this hope, anyway. I also try to remind myself that there is no "right" path or way to do things. It's completely okay to take your time or change your plans if you need to.

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