What It’s Like to Travel As a Disabled Chronically Ill Digital Nomad

Three months into my travels, I broke up with my partner and faced digital nomad life solo. At first, the fear of not having someone close by in an emergency nearly overwhelmed me. But solo travel motivated me to adjust my priorities to take better care of myself.

A woman taking a picture with her arm up while in a river-like body of water.

I now travel solo.

Hannah Shewan Stevens

For me, having a partner made it easier to manage chronic illness on the road. They provided emotional and physical support, offered reminders to rest, and gave assistance in the form of food and distraction on bad pain days. 

When I found myself without them, I felt isolated and, frankly, terrified. 

The breakup almost sent me home with my tail between my legs. But I resisted and refocused my attention on managing being a chronically-ill solo traveler with the strategies I learned work for me.

First, I put my health over everything and continued to slow down. I now set aside two days for rest every week, which allows my body to recharge. If I feel pain levels creeping up, I extend my stay until they ease. When friends want to take on physically challenging activities, I only go if my current fatigue and pain levels are low enough. If my body demands rest, I listen. I also dedicate more time in my daily routine to physiotherapy and meditation.

To combat loneliness when it’s just me in a sparse hotel room, and being alone makes my pain seem worse, I cope by prioritizing regular calls with loved ones. All of my illnesses impact my mental health, so managing the low points without loved ones nearby is difficult. I find that scheduled regular calls with family and friends back home fills in any gaps in emotional support.

I’ve also come to appreciate how solo traveling has given me complete control over my schedule. Without a travel partner who I must compromise with, I’m able to take everything at a gradual pace, which speeds up or slows down depending on the current state of my symptoms.