Sorry I’ve been a bit MIA lately. Packing up to leave Sydney to relocate to the UK (indefinitely? forever?) took a bit of doing, including 2 weeks of farewells and soaking up as much of Sydney, our friends and family as we could, not to mention last minute visa dramas!
We’ve been on the road for 3 weeks already en route in Africa! I’ve been very slack on the blogging front (for good reason!) – we’ve been busy travelling and having fun!
Internet access has also been sporadic, which is both a good and bad thing. I’m relying solely on free Wi-Fi, which in the more remote areas doesn’t always exist (or work!), but it’s actually been quite nice not being attached to my phone quite so much or having the want (well, more the ability!) to check Facebook and Instagram every day, usually multiple times a day. At the same time, I feel a bit disconnected and as if I’m not keeping updated on what’s going on in my social media circles, nor updating as frequently as I’d like!
What an amazing time we’ve had so far! We spent 2 weeks in South Africa with Michael’s relatives in Johannesburg and Cape Town. This was mostly about family time, but we’ve also been out and about together. Highlights …
- Quad biking at Sondella
- Glamping and spotting rare black rhino at Dinokeng
- Revisiting Cape Town including Fairview Estate, the V&A Waterfront, and walking along the beach in Blouberg with views back across to the magnificent Table Mountain
- A weekend away with Michael’s Uncle & Aunty near Hermanus including a day visiting the Hemel-en-Aarde (Heaven & Earth) winery area
- AND celebrating my 37th birthday doing a zip lining canopy tour through the gorges of the Hottentots Nature Reserve outside of Cape Town
We’re now exploring Namibia where so far we have enjoyed the capital Windhoek and were very lucky to experience some amazing game viewing in Etosha National Park including see lion chase to 2 giraffe at a watering hole literally 100 metres from our room, and a cheetah mum and cub shading from the sun under a tree, plus several unreal lion and elephant encounters, the rare black rhino, hundreds of zebra, giraffe and countless antelope! There’s nothing quite like an African safari!
I thought it was time I get a few thoughts down about the trip so far, particularly relating to ostomies. A research group (Revealing Reality) in the UK has asked me to record selfie video diaries as we travel, specifically concerning how my ostomy impacts my day to day travel and my emotions around that, which has helped me focus some attention and be more aware of this. Here are a few of my personal observations and feelings so far:
On the plane … I’m not sure the reason (pressure maybe?), but I’m definitely gassier on an airplane. Our flight from Sydney to Johannesburg was almost 14 hours, and I had to empty my bag at least 4 or 5 times (often majority gas). This is no biggie and longhaul airplane toilets are small but manageable, however most annoyingly ostomy poop tends to stick to the inside of the toilet bowl and not want to flush (metal surface, less water?). This sounds gross, but I find I need to give it a bit of a helping hand (with a wad of toilet paper) to avoid leaving the next person a nasty little surprise!
Staying with family … my inlaws are all lovely and know that I have an ostomy, but I am very conscious of the smell I leave behind (that often lingers) in the toilet. That said, I’m not overly proactive when it comes to using specific ostomy odour products either. I also get up at least once during the night to empty, which I worry might wake others.
Long drives … Namibia is a big and vast country. We’ve already covered thousands of kilometres, and often you go for miles without passing a town or even another car! In the national park, there are very limited facilities outside of the 3 main camps (and you can’t just pull up on the side of the road when there are dangerous animals about)! We did find one rest stop which had a drop toilet that left a bit to be desired, but I made do! You get pretty cluey about timing meals, and even if my bag isn’t full, I empty whenever I have the chance. All routes so far have included a couple of pit stops at petrol stations or a café/restaurant (but sometimes there are several hundred kilometres between them). It hasn’t been a major issue though. I guess a bonus of having an ostomy is that you basically have a portable toilet attached to you (as long as it doesn’t get too full, which mine hasn’t yet).
The biggest thing for me is gas. After a while it gets uncomfortable sitting in the car with your seatbelt across you with a ballooning ostomy bag! To Michael’s dismay, I have burped the gas out of my bag driving along in the car a few times. If you put all the windows down the smell isn’t THAT bad!! Worth it to make the remainder of the drive more comfortable! I’ve even burped it mid way through a guided evening nature drive in the middle of the bush when we stopped for our sundowner gin and tonic! I just discreetly walked behind a big rock – nobody was the wiser!
It’s hot!!! We’ve had a few 38 degree days which is bloody hot! I’ve felt pretty dehydrated by the end of the day and always have to remind myself to buy bottled water and drink it regularly.
Zip lining … Apart from being slightly afraid of heights, I was pretty nervous about zip lining with an ostomy for 2 reasons: 1. The harness and 2. No access to a toilet for 3-4 hours. It turned out perfectly fine and was so much fun. The harness fitted below my stoma line and was no issue at all. I was conscious not to eat too much that morning as I knew I wouldn’t be able to empty for several hours and I didn’t think it would be overly nice ziplining with a full bag! The bumpy 4WD trip to the canyon did set it off a bit, and I was starting to worry as my bag filled a little, but once we were up there and zooming along those ziplines with the magnificent scenery around us, I let go and forgot about it and had a ball!
Silence please! Why are stomas at their nosiest at the most inappropriate moments?! I was a little embarrassed one night at the waterhole trying to spot late night game. Everyone sits in complete and utter silence at the water hole, and of course my little guy starts spluttering and making rather loud noises! I put my arm across my stoma to stifle the sounds a bit, and to be honest, I don’t think anyone really noticed (or cared)!
Shower heads … This may sound weird, but as I shower with my bag on and only change my appliance around twice a week, I breathe a sigh of relief when we get to our hotel or lodge and there’s a hand held shower head! I try not to wet my appliance too much when showering unless I am changing my bag afterwards (out of comfort more than anything), and a hand held shower head makes it easier. Ah, the little things!
Timing appliance changes … I try to think ahead a bit to time holiday bag changes. I only change my appliance on average twice a week (a bit more frequently here because of the heat/sweat and also after a swim), so timing is relatively easy. I pre-think about what I’m doing each day, what time we will be getting up, where we are, travel days, long haul flights etc, and factor this in to work out optimum bag changing days (and my hairdryer and the boomerang/banana seals are my best friends on the road)! It’s not a big deal, it’s just something I keep in the back of my mind to make life easier when travelling.
So there’s my update and a few thoughts so far! Whilst there are certainly a few things to keep in mind and some minor additions to think about when travelling with an ostomy, it certainly hasn’t stopped me from doing anything that I want to do, nor caused any issues (physically, emotionally or otherwise)! We’re having wonderful adventures and have many more ahead of us. I’m determined to continue making every Stomalicious moment count. I have my bag(s)! and I will travel!
Whatever your aspirations and dreams, you can have your bag and fulfil them too J
Happy travelling and adventuring,