I was born in the 90s with a genetic disorder called Osteogenesis Imperfecta (Brittle Bones). As a result, I had a very protected childhood.
My weak bones meant I couldn’t participate in sports and had to be careful whenever doing anything physical. At school I was wrapped in cotton wool; it wasn’t safe on the playground so at break time I stayed inside and read books instead. Even moving between classrooms required the help of a personal assistant – one fall or accidental push could result in a broken bone and lengthy hospital visit.
One thing I could do though, was enjoy the beaches, natural parks and historic sites of foreign countries. Plenty of family holidays to far flung destinations soon ignited my passion for travel. I was lucky enough to experience life in the Caribbean, go on safari in Africa and cruise around the Mediterranean.
Growing up, growing stronger
Throughout my teenage years I was part of a successful drug trial that helped to strengthen my bones. Thus, by the time I left for university I was able to lead a relatively normal life. I no longer required a personal assistant, was able to use public transport independently and could enjoy playing a number of different sports.
Although I relished this relative normality, there was always a nagging sense of “you’re different”. I couldn’t join the university football team, couldn’t go paint-balling with friends and even got teased for limping (I occasionally limp when my legs get tired as one is shorter than the other!).
Up next was the trip that changed everything for me. Whilst at university I signed up to a charity expedition to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Physically, it turned out to be an incredibly difficult challenge for me and one that I am therefore immensely proud to have achieved. Looking back though, I’m grateful for the timing of this trip. My bones were at their peak strength and that in turn allowed my muscles and joints to be strong – if I attempted the same challenge now, I doubt I would be able to complete it.
Not only was the successful ascent of Kilimanjaro a major personal achievement (especially given my history of brittle bones), but the culture and nature of Tanzania worked its way into my veins. Ever since that point, I’ve had an unwavering love for the exploration of new countries.
The Travel Bug
After dropping out of university, that love for travel really took a-hold. I worked for a while to save money and then embarked on a crazy year of travel in 2015. It began with 10 weeks volunteering in Tanzania – living in a banana plantation and teaching business skills to dairy farmers. Next up was summer in the USA; working on a children’s summer camp and then seeing the major sights for a month after. Finally, I flew to Sydney to start a year on the classic Working Holiday Visa.
Even after spending a whole year in Australia, I still wasn’t done. Trips soon followed to Colombia, Brazil, Spain, India, Greece and Central Europe. In between travelling I worked at my local pub to save money until I could jet off again! My most recent trip was an exploration of Indonesia on my way to visit friends in Sydney.
However, the constant travelling has come at a cost – over the past few years I’ve broken both ankles whilst on trips abroad. One was during a jungle hike in Brazil whilst the other was from being knocked off my bicycle in Sydney. These incidents have made it clear that my brittle bones will remain a part of my life for the foreseeable future.
With that being said, it’ll take more than some weak bones to put a halt to my passion for travel, eating and exploration!