Upon starting my blog, I wondered how much or how little I should share, but the fact that you are reading this now, means that you are not only showing an interest in my story, but also taking your personal time to read my journey. For that, I owe it to you to be as open, honest and raw in sharing the entire truth about my not-so glamourous life that seemingly looks fantastic, from all my travel pictures, but is actually quite the opposite (on most occasions).
I have been wanting to blog for the past decade, since I was in high school, which lead me to creating multiple WordPress accounts, and Instagram accounts over the years. I have collected travel content over the past four years, but in all honesty, I just didn’t know how, or where to begin. I was focusing on the wrong things, like worrying about gaining popularity and followers, and thought that was the only way to become a successful travel-blogger. However I now realize, that all of that comes secondary, and first and foremost you should just do what you love, whether you have 1 follower or 1000 followers.
In the past I have been so discouraged, especially by my social media accounts, gaining momentum and then going in reverse, having hundreds of people follow you and then unfollow you in hopes that they will gain an extra follower, is really discouraging when you’re trying to engage with your audience. This is why on many occasions, after months and months of writing and putting out content, with lots of hard work, I always ended up deactivating my social media, but then trying again a few months later when I went on a new trip.
I have now come to the realization that my passion is travel, and my goal is to share my story, to encourage others to follow their dreams, to give people hope, faith, and trust, when all seems lost, and to bring you along on my journey as I try to travel the world with a very debilitating condition.
This is me exploring the Rice Fields in Ubud, Bali, the Sak-Yant on my shoulder was given to me by a Buddhist Monk in Thailand.
Firstly, before we continue, I just want to say thank you so much for visiting my page and reading my story. Even if only one person reads this article and is inspired, then I will have fulfilled my purpose, my goal, to share a story with a stranger, and inspire them.
I am a 24 year old South African, born and raised in beautiful Johannesburg. I absolutely love my country and feel extremely blessed to have been able to grow up here. I love South Africa and all this country has to offer, and my goal is to show the world just how beautiful it is, through the eyes of a local. I would also love to see the entire world, every country, every continent.
I know what a luxury health is, and to still be able to fly in my condition, makes me want to get out there and see it all! So, what condition am I talking about? Well, I have always lived a healthy and active lifestyle, and had no problems with illness growing up, however, when I turned sixteen, unfortunately, everything changed.
I became extremely ill, out of the blue, and since 2010 until now, I have been living with multiple autoimmune and chronic illnesses. From the time I was 16, until now, I have (just to name a few) :
- Been misdiagnosed with cancer
- Gone into cardiac arrest
- Lost my right kidney
- Had surgery almost every year
- Suffered with Rheumatoid Arthritis, Interstitial Cystitis, Adenomyosis, Endometriosis, Ehlers Danlos, to name a few of the autonomic dysfunctions
- I was diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome in 2012, another auto immune disease which causes day to day living to be almost unbearable
- Due to the multiple autoimmune conditions my blood cells always fight against my body, which has caused inflammation to my organs
- I have had weight fluctuations and gone from very skinny to overweight in the matter of months
- Large amounts of medications has caused me to lose all my hair, make my hair coarse and brittle and also cause my face to get marks and scar all over,
- I have missed out on many weekends, months and sometimes years of a “normal” life
- In high school I had a doctor who couldn’t properly diagnose me and decided that I was “pretending to be sick” and put me on “antidepressants” without us knowing – (she told us it was a painkiller), this caused me to get high from the drugs and cause long term depression
- I have been to every single doctor possible, from Johannesburg to London to India, had multiple surgeries, and tried lots of natural doctors too
All in all, it has been 7 and a half horrible years. filled with misdiagnosis, surgeries, hospital visits, doctors rooms, scans and cuts. One day when I finally have the courage, I will write about my full story, and the details of my battle with chronic illness, but for now, this summary should give you an idea to what I have basically been living with for close to 10 years.
In 2015, 5 years into my illness, I had a cardiac arrest episode, and almost lost my life. It was at this stage where I felt so exhausted and tired of absolutely everything, that I decided to just pack my bags and go on my very first solo trip to Thailand, as it was soon to be my 21st birthday. I knew my health was in a terrible state, and if I am being very honest, I thought, “if something happens to me, at least I get to die on a tropical island”. Please understand that this was a very toxic time for me to even think that way, I was obsessing with escaping, finding a way out, I needed a break from life. I had just had enough.
My parents allowed me to go somehow, I think they honestly just felt so sorry for me. I went to Thailand for a month over my 21st birthday, and fell absolutely in love with travelling. I had my struggles with health, but there was something about being in Thailand that made everything okay. I mean, I could have all my symptoms at home in a hospital bed, or I could have all my symptoms while sipping watermelon juice on a tropical beach.
One of the most common things I hear is, “Wow, you don’t look sick at all!”, and this is for two main reasons. 1) Anyone with an autoimmune or chronic illness will tell you that this type of illness is almost an invisible illness, you will never look sick on the outside, but on the inside, you quite literally feel like you’re dying at any given second, and, 2) I hated being, “the sick girl”, even though I am chronically ill, I try extremely hard to be a normal girl. I have always loved adventure, and even when I am sick, I will still scuba dive, go hiking and cliff jumping, it’s just who I am, I love living my life to the fullest, so even when I am extremely sick or in a lot of pain, it will be hard to tell, because I will usually pretend I am okay, and still try to do everything someone with a healthy body can.
Snorkeling in Koh Tao, Thailand
Even though I got really ill in high school, and sometimes missed 8 months at a time, I made sure that I still finished school and went to varsity! Varsity was even harder than school, I had many surgeries and bad episodes, I always had to study in hospital rooms, write deferred exams which were much harder, I had to do assignments from my hospital bed, and write papers after having missed weeks of classes and lectures, it was really difficult, but I am proud to say that I made it and graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce with Honours from the University of the Witwatersrand.
I took this approach with everything in life, even though it was hard, I gave it my all. I used to joke that the universe felt sorry for me and all my suffering that it allowed me to travel a lot as compensation – and boy did I travel. Even though I was really sick, my wanderlust was as strong as ever and I tried to travel at least twice a year, in the beginning, and as time went on I traveled slightly more.
It wasn’t always easy, and I only showed the “pretty” side of things on my instagram, what I didn’t show was my body swelling on the plane, me crying in airplane bathrooms because the flight was too long and I wasn’t well enough. I was used to hiding the bad parts though, and I just went on and enjoyed life.
After graduating I started working in corporate (In 2016). I loved being able to dress up every day and working for a bank, I studied hard in university, and I was always academically driven which made me want to climb the corporate ladder, but in the long term, I ended up hating it, I was never allowed to take leave (even if leave was due to me) and that was just a big no no for a wanderluster like me (lol), but more importantly, it was too much of a strain on my body. In January 2017, I had a very serious series of surgeries, and my body just could not heal in the 2-3 weeks which I was allowed to take off, upon returning to work, I found myself struggling to make it through even 2 hours sitting at my desk, especially because my surgeries would take 6 months to heal, so I did what I had no other choice but that, to do, I resigned.
Once again I was in desperate need to find healing. As you read my blog, you will see I have traveled far and wide for doctors and healing, which is ultimately what fueled my travels in the begining – a search for a “cure”, and so, after I resigned and I set off to India, where I stayed for a month at an Ayurvedic healing centre in the northern mountains of Uttarakhand. Here, I received treatment, Ayurvedic training and most importantly a mental shift. India didn’t offer me a cure, or a miracle, or healing but I started understanding things a whole lot better, and I learned a lot about Yoga and Ayurveda, which I plan to write a lot about. I will write about my entire trip in another post, which will have a lot more details about everything.
Enjoying sunrise in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains during my trip to Northern India in search of Ayurvedic healing.
The main thing is that I became more conscious in all that I do, I gave up meat, I started meditation and worked toward a holistic life. It took me a few months to realize that I was struggling with extremities, and that it was unrealistic to live a fully eastern life in a western world, and so I re-evaluated my approach with a more balanced perspective. I now tackle life with a conscious balance of eastern and western lifestyles, and I plan to write about this too!
I have blessed enough to be able to travel a lot lately, and since September I have traveled every 6 weeks or so. I used to travel because I found it a form of escapism, to escape my life of illness, but now, I feel that true happiness is being able to be content and conscious wherever you are, whether it is on a tropical beach or your bed at home. I no longer traveled for escapism, but because I truly have a passion for travelling, I want to see the world and share my stories, and be put into situations where I am out of my comfort zone, which helps me grow and understand the world, my sickness and myself a little bit better.
A year after I resigned and went to India, I was not as well as I had hoped I would be. In the beginning of 2018 I was still not working full-time, and was bed-ridden most of the year. I did travel a bit but my body was under immense strain, most of my organs started giving up, my bones were excruciating and I suffered with my abdomen a lot. This is when we started, once again, seeing every doctor we could, going to every natural healing place and trying any type of healing possible. In my heart I always hoped that I was getting better, but I had my heart shattered in May 2018, when I was finally diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease, which not only cannot be cured, but gives you an ultimatum, and expiration date of your life.
Along with MND Diagnosis, the we have found out the following as well:
- All of my organs are compromised
- My pancreas does not function properly
- I have strain on my esophagus, liver, and diaphragm
- My abdominal organs, mainly uterus and bladder are in a very bad, and painful state
- My kidney is under strain
- My skin is very unhealthy
- My hair is dry and brittle
- My bone density is very low
- I am iron deficiant
- I have muscle degeneration
- A type of osteo-arthritis
- I hardly have any red blood cells or bone marrow
- I am very weak, lethargic, nauseous
- I have spondylosis and a weakened spine
- I have tingling in my face and nerves
- I have pinching pains throughout my body
- Sometimes I have a constant feeling of vertigo
Life since then has been anything but easy, I will also write about this in a separate post. I have been quite alone and isolated, my friends have showed no support, and have distanced themselves from me, so during this time I have been really alone and in a really dark place. If it weren’t for my parents, especially my mom, and god-mom I don’t know where I would be. Three months after I was diagnosed, I deleted my private Instagram, Whatsapp and Facebook and just focused on my travel blog, which no one in my everyday life knew about, and where I would be able to start connecting with strangers, around the world, you, hoping to be friends.
My journey is far from over, and I promise you this, I will fight until the very end, I will not give up, and in the meantime, I will be here traveling, living and appreciating this beautiful world that I am so blessed to have been able to wake up on every day for the past 24 years.
On my blog you will find every detail of my journey, my illness, my travels, my food, my lifestyle, my creative writing and everything in between. Welcome and please say hello in the comments below, I would love for us to be friends 🙂 <3