• Branwen Defren


Updated: Jan 9, 2019

I often get a lot of questions and comments on social media DM's asking me how I can travel so much or how I afford it, and while I have it marked in my bio's that I'm a chronic illness traveler, most people outside of close friends and family don't know that I can't right now.

I haven't been able to travel outside of the USA for a little over a year now. Last year while I was doing a co-op (internship) in London I got really sick. I had a horrible chronic pain flare up that I'm still to this day trying to get better from. The biggest issue with traveling abroad right now is due to the number of medications I have and the inability to get those prescriptions filled abroad because they are a schedule II drugs.

I won't say exactly what the medications are - but what it means is that I have to go to my doctors office every 2 weeks to talk over the medication, sometimes get drug tested, and have to get a physical prescription filled by the same doctor, go to the same exact pharmacy to fill it and it's only for a 2 week span. Until I'm off of these medications, I'm pretty much confined to "traveling" in the United States. Right now, I'm finishing a 5 year program at my university so traveling much at all is kind of difficult.

My life for about 5 years now has been filled with doctors. Hospital visits, emergency room visits, doctors offices, prescriptions and prescription issues and so much more. There's no two ways about it - it sucks. It sucks so hard. I've been really lucky to be able to travel as much as I have in the past 5 years since getting sick, but it's not without incredible struggle.

During a study abroad trip to the Balkans in the summer of 2016, I got one of the worst flares I've ever had other than this one. It was really the beginning to what's happened in the last two years. The pain spread from my lower right side of my abdomen to my right hip, right lower back to down my leg and foot. I had to be physically carried by classmates because I wasn't able to walk.

I was so, so insanely lucky to be surrounded by incredible people. People who are still to this day, some of my favorite humans and closest friends. They saw me at my worst, and yet took unbelievably good care of me and did all they could to make sure I was included in everything I wanted to do. I can't even express how much that meant to me. I will forever be grateful and indebted to them.

So, I want to make sure I'm clear - I'm not traveling the world. By god, I really wish I were though. I want to be so badly and sometimes it's so hard to see the hundreds of people I know, follow, and connect with getting to live out their lives around the world. Getting to do the things that normal people my age get to do: make stupid drunken mistakes, explore the world and not have to be in constant physical pain. Sometimes I get really jealous and frustrated and even hurt that I don't get to. I used to be a healthy typical 18 year old until someone gave me mononucleosis and my life did a complete 180. But that's a whole other story.

I used to have faith in doctors and the medical system. But after 5 years I'm still in constant pain, I wasn't able to keep food down for 4.5 years because of it, and sometimes still can't. No doctor has ever been able to tell me why. I may never know. At this point, I think it will be a pleasant surprise rather than something I expect. But this is my life. This is what I'm doing literally everyday. I can't make it more clear that what you see on my social media pages is not the whole story. It's not even a "highlight reel" because the things that happened during and after the photos were taken, often have me paying for them dearly - either being too sick to get out of bed the next day because I'm in too much pain to move or not being able to keep food down for a week because of the overexertion and pain. For the majority of 2017 and half of 2018, I've been essentially bed bound with a pile of medications next to me, ice packs everywhere and enough Netflix to get bored of it. (Which is really saying something because I've always loved TV shows haha)

I love traveling and I will never stop traveling. . . but it's definitely not something I'm doing right now. Not for lack of wanting, but I'm just not physically able to do so right now. I hope this gives you a better idea about what's really going on. If you ever have more questions about this or want to know more, please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.

I do have tips and advice on how to afford to travel that I hope to be sharing soon, along with tips and tricks for traveling with chronic conditions so stay tuned if you're interested!

Thank you for taking the time to read this and learn a little more about me. :)

Much love.