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At Least We Have our Stories: Travel, Memories and IBS

One of the strangely entertaining aspects of IBS is that those of us who suffer through it tend to come out of our misadventures with highly entertaining stories. Though some of us will take those tales to the grave, others, like myself, will find the silver lining in gaining a new anecdote. Although I haven’t yet needed to stop in a phone booth or the side of the highway (both true stories) I do have my own tales to tell. Like most memories, these tales are all the more interesting when travel is involved.

We’ve all been there: a foreign land, road trips, an exotic getaway, or just another visit to the grandparents. Either way, travel can be a definitive foe of the IBS crew; however, more often than not, we tend to come out unscathed and rather intact. In fact, we tend to come out of it laughing and eager to share our funny experiences.

Meeting the in-laws

When I first met my partner’s siblings I was more than excited. Not only were we going on a road trip but I was going to see a new city for the first time. Unlike many IBS sufferers, I love road trips. The key is knowing that you’re going to have to stop every hour, then you’re good to go. My partner likes to get from point A to point B as soon as humanly possible with little to no stops at all. We are clearly a perfect match.

The problem with road trips is not the trip itself – the car, the fresh air, the great road tunes are all part of the package. The problem lies outside of the car: traffic. Once you’re stuck, anxiety and IBS become those annoying best friends once again. You feel it coming, and know there’s no where to go, so, you panic. Unfortunately for some, this experience can ruin any trip; however, I like to look at the bright side. My first experience meeting my sibling-in-laws was delayed because we had to quickly assess the situation, exit the highway into a strange small town, and find the nearest gas station, hoping that they had a working bathroom. Little did I know, when we found said bathroom I would then have to wait my turn behind a five-year-old child, his mother, and another older woman… but I digress. Needless to say, we were at least one hour longer than expected not simply because there was traffic, but because I almost had my own accident. Of course, as soon as we arrived at our destination my partner quickly explained why we were late, to which my brother-in-law replied, “Been there.” He then went on to share several entertaining anecdotes about his experiences ‘down south.’ Thankfully, the IBS crew extends across families and borders.

Ski trips, mountains, and snowsuits… oh my!

I’m on the top of a snowy mountain. I’m wearing about three layers of clothes, coats, and underwear. Oh, and I’m alone. What could go wrong? This year during our annual ski trip I decided that instead of going down one hill with my partner and friends (I am a novice and didn’t think I was ready for it), I decided to follow my map and go another route. I felt confident and smiled as they all waved goodbye on their way down the hill. I started to cross over into the other slope, stopped, looked around, looked at my map, looked around again, and noticed something: I didn’t know where I was. I was sure before, but apparently ski maps are something more akin to a child’s drawing of their city grid. The path I was supposed to take was actually up-hill, so my only choice was to brave a slope similar to the original one I’d tried to avoid. As I tried to get my bearings and tell myself I could do it, my body had another response. I felt my stomach gurgle and cramp. My heart raced as my anxiety collided with my IBS. I thought, this is it, this is my great story: the time I went number two on a ski hill. I actually felt myself looking at the surrounding trees and thinking, maybe no one will see (I have a bright red coat and I’m surrounded by white snow). Once I was brought back to my senses I realized the quicker I got down the slope, the quicker I would see a bathroom. So, I bum-slid to an adjacent hill more appropriate to my level, and skied as fast as I could. I’m not sure I even touched the ground.

The moral of these stories is simple: remember that IBS transcends bordering and familial lines, a ski hill is not the place to pop-a-squat, and finding the humor in all things is necessary. Sharing your experiences is not only fun and silly, but also strangely empowering. Your memories do not own you; you make your stories and you control how they are perceived. It is up to you to try and see the brighter, funnier side of the IBS life.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Erin
    2 years ago

    So I had to ask.. because I hate traveling for many reasons. 1. Does climate effect anyone else like it effects me? I have to drive up and down mountains and I thought I was going to dieeeeee! and 2. Does the smallest things like different water effect you? I’m such a pain in the butt (more ways than one) and I just wasn’t sure if anyone else had this issue.

  • Lisa Pearl McIntosh author
    2 years ago

    Though I am not sure if I get a reaction from differing elevations, I definitely react to changing water. Sometimes, as much as I hate using the plastic, I will stick to bottled water when travelling; not because I fear some scary microbes but because I know how sensitive my lovely insides are. Don’t feel embarrassed or guilty for having to cater to your needs! You’re important and so are you symptoms -or, at least, avoiding them!

  • ollivier71
    2 years ago

    While reading your story, I just remembered that I’ve already lived a lot of the situations you describe. When you feel a flare is coming and you have nowhere to go, you see no bathroom around you, or being stuck in the trafic or in a subway train…

    Sometimes it becomes a nightmare.

  • Lisa Pearl McIntosh author
    2 years ago

    Hello ollivier71, thank you so much for your reply. My only hope in writing these articles is that it resonates with others and helps people realize that they are not alone.

    The nightmare you speak of is very very real. I understand completely. And although this article was on the lighter side (I really try to share stories with humor) I, too, have major anxiety regarding travel and public transportation. Sometimes, the best thing that we can do is be aware of our options -ask if there are washrooms, make sure that you have that choice; and when you don’t, remember to just breath. The nightmare is real, yes, but sometimes it is just a dream. Sometimes we can power through. And if we can’t, when we do have a close encounter of the messy kind, it’s okay. We’ll get through it. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Sh*t happens -literally.

    Together, we will get through it.

  • Chris Hall moderator
    2 years ago

    Thanks for your input, Olivier! IBS & travel can definitely be stressful. I’m sure this story resonates well with others in the community, too! If you haven’t seen them already, we did recently post a few articles with travel tips. Here are the links in case:

    I hope those are helpful. Thanks again for sharing with us!

    Take care,
    Chris, Team Member

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