A woman sitting in an armchair with a book on her lap in front of a roaring fire waves to two warmly-dressed people walking out a door holding skis.

IBS and Traveling in a Group

My IBS hasn’t really kept me from traveling. I went on road trips and holidays with my boyfriend and my family, and even though it wasn’t necessarily easy, I always made it work somehow.

However, I avoided traveling with a group (other than my family) like the plague. Not only is group travel hard on my introverted personality, but it also makes planning around my IBS so much harder. I just don’t feel comfortable asking for special treatment unless it’s with really close people.

Planning travel with a group

My boyfriend’s family has a yearly tradition to go on holiday together. For the past years, I’ve never gone with them because I wasn’t able to get the week off. I mean, I really didn’t get the time off – but I didn’t try that hard, either. To be honest, I was way too scared to go on that trip. They are six siblings, each with a partner and one with two kids. Add the parents and you have up to 16 people traveling together! There was no way I could handle that.

But since I started working from home, my usual excuse fell apart. And I decided to take the opportunity to try and go on holiday with them last year.

During the preparation period, my boyfriend and I did our very best to adjust the overall plans to something that would remotely work for me. We proposed alternatives for early morning activities, researched food choices beforehand… and my boyfriend was really supportive, which made me feel a lot less anxious.

Things never go as planned when traveling

However, I should have known that things never go as planned. On our first night, we were suddenly sharing a room with other people. This would be fine by itself, but it really doesn’t help my anxiety about my morning IBS!

Even though I hoped to avoid activities in the early morning, they still sneaked back into our plans. And apparently, his family likes to leave the house only seconds after breakfast, which does not sit well with my digestion.

My safe foods never seemed to make it into the meal plans, either, and it did add to my anxiety quite a bit.

I just kept telling myself that everything would be okay anyway. Whenever I felt like I couldn’t do something, I told myself that I could, and I would at least try. Even if that meant not having breakfast and using bathrooms at the train station in order to take an early morning train, or being hungry for most of the day because the food didn’t suit me.

Making time for self-care during travel

When you have a chronic illness, you just can’t operate at the same pace as healthy people. Especially people who apparently don’t need a break, ever.

The holiday was hard on my brain because it needs alone time to recharge. It was hard on my body because I didn’t have enough time to stick to my routine. A couple of times, I decided to stay at the hotel because I just needed a break.

It’s important to remind yourself that you don’t have to follow others all the time, especially when you feel like you’ve reached a limit. Everyone is different, and someone with IBS will need a different lifestyle than someone who doesn’t have the illness.

Taking a step back once in a while really helped me make it through the week, even though I got a couple of weird looks. And so in the end, I did have an exhausting, but also really fun holiday! I’m still not sure if I’m going to go this year, though.

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