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Travelling with EPP

Living with EPP can sometimes mean you are limited in what you want and can achieve in life. This was my thinking for years anyway. After finishing University at 21, I watched as friends and family members headed off on their gap year travels around the world. Hearing their stories, motorbiking around the North Thailand countryside, trekking through the Vietnamese jungle and island hopping around Cambodia, all of which seemed daunting, inaccessible and downright terrifying to me! Little did I realise, but with careful planning and preparation and a bit of blind faith, I would be experiencing all of this and more!

It all started a year ago whilst chatting with one of our committee members, Antony Fearn (who lives with EPP), about his recent travels to Malaysia, Borneo and Western Australia. During this time, a seed of an idea was planted in my head… ‘Maybe I could go travelling?’

Fast forward to August 2019 and I was heading off with my best friend to Vietnam, to 40-degree heat, blue, clear skies, outdoor activities and a complete lack of knowledge as to whether I could manage with my EPP symptoms.

In preparation, I made sure I built up as much of a top-up tan as I could during the summer months ahead of my trip, I purchased sensible clothing to protect me (hat, gloves and trainers) and I mentally prepared myself that I might have to head back home after a few days in Vietnam, if the condition proved to be too challenging.

Well, it was a success! 40-degree heat and sunshine almost every day. I took part in outdoor activities like hiking, swimming in the ocean and kayaking. Travelling has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life and has really helped me to think of my condition in a different way.

Here’s what travelling with EPP has taught me:

  • Your internal fears are usually worse than what you ever experience in real life. The imaginary, is much greater and scarier than actually doing the ‘thing’ you’re afraid of. Sometimes you have to just try it!
  • Part of the fear of travelling was overcoming what others think of me. I have found growing up with EPP, that I developed a fear of what others would think about my condition. With travelling, I purposely put myself in a situation where I couldn’t hide from EPP. In order to have the same experiences as other people and do the activities on my holiday that I wanted to do, I had to open up to new people about my condition and found I was met with positivity and understanding.
  • Be brave and keep pushing yourself – my limitations have been stretched beyond what I thought was possible. If you’ve been able to cope with the condition growing up then you will have some of these qualities – strength, courage, determination and resilience. That’s your toolkit for living with EPP which you can use whenever you are faced with a new challenge!

And I didn’t stop with Vietnam. This was just the beginning of my trip! Since August 2019, I have solo travelled around Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Hong Kong and most recently Myanmar. I have visited some of the most beautiful places on earth, I’ve made international friends, gained knowledge about other countries’ cultures and histories, and gained a lot of confidence and belief in myself and my abilities.

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