Life on the road has substantial challenges – as all overlanders know far too well – yet never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that the hardest challenge I’d ever face would come from the inside. I mean this quite literally. From challenging border crossings to disastrous breakdowns, from bouts of homesickness and gastroenteritis to accidents that cause injuries. Over the last 14 years, I’ve had to deal with an impressive list of seemingly insurmountable hurdles on the road. Well, let me tell y’all something: none of them actually managed to stop me dead in my tracks. None of them even came close to making me contemplate the idea of just stopping, even for just a short while. None of them. Except for my own hormonal changes.
If you thought securing an independent crossing of China is a colossal pain in the ass, try dealing with an erupting hot flash, at 3 am, when it’s 5C outside, you’ve got three layers of clothing on and are zipped up in a sleeping bag like a flamin’ Egyptian mummy. ‘Flaming’ being the operative word here.
It’s funny how menopausal changes in a woman’s body, arguably one of the most natural occurrences of all, has gotten such little press in the overland travel community. Surely there must be tons of travellers who are facing these same issues and want to discuss options? If there are, they’re keeping eerily quiet on the blogosphere, although I did come across this article by WorldTravelFamily recently. Gosh, I laughed so hard at the first photo caption. ‘Cos if you thought a woman scorned hath fury just you wait ‘till you meet a menopausal one!
Over the past year or so, poor Chris had gotten used to my impromptu and rather violent stripping bare in the middle of the night. He’d probably also gotten used to my exceptionally short temper, arguably because he suspects that wasn’t exactly a consequence of my impending menopause, if you catch my drift (wink wink). Nevertheless, the poor man has learnt how to tread lightly in certain situations and has been incredibly supportive, something made easier by the fact that we’ve finally reached the point where our body’s thermometers are in sync. No longer was I the tropical butterfly soaking up the rays and shunning the cold. There were nights in the Australian Outback where I literally fantasized aloud about how wonderful it would be to roll around naked in a field covered in fresh powdery snow. Aaaahhhhh, he said, we’re finally on the same temperature page!
Bless him and those silver linings…
Retrospectively, it’s obvious to me that I’ve been dealing with perimenopausal symptoms for about two years. It was all a bit coincidental for me to notice, at first. I guess what I thought were consequences of my motorbike accident in Sumatra were probably symptoms of my body’s change. I started to inexplicably put on some weight, my sleep kinda went AWOL and, lo and behold, I no longer had any patience to deal with crap on the road. This is arguably what eventually spurred my last post and what’s led me to want to drastically change my travelling lifestyle. My physical and emotional exhaustion came to a head in Australia and, although I finally had the time and resources to do something about it, it simply wasn’t enough. After several visits to endocrinologists in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Darwin, over the course of our year’s travel, I realized that I just needed to be patient. There’s only so much you can do on the road to tackle the problem, most especially if you travel by motorbike. The bigger changes (like daily exercise routine and a radical diet change), would have to wait until my life had some kind of normalcy, routine and comforts like a fridge and a shower.
Crossing the Gibb River Road, exhausted and weary, was one of the biggest challenges I faced in Australia. Dealing with physical aches, sleepless nights and brutal daytime riding conditions sucked the living soul out of me. By the time we returned to Sydney in March this year, after our 18-month loop, I felt unrecognizable. And I had the bloodwork to prove it.
Dealing with a changing physical and physiological condition has been an eye-opener and a very humbling experience for me. I’ve always prided myself on being in control, of knowing my body and soul, and instantly knowing what it needed to be happy. I always felt tough and adaptable, always knew that I could put myself through a rollercoaster and would bounce back in a jiffy. Always knew that being constantly on the road made me happier than anything else. But with the onset of early menopause, all that changed. I just couldn’t tell what the heck it wanted, what it needed, anymore. All of a sudden, and after 5 years of riding, a long day on the saddle would completely wipe me out. Tackling challenging offroad adventures was no longer appealing. I just wanted done with it.
Finally getting off the bikes in Sydney and putting that baby to rest was one of the most liberating experiences I’ve ever had. I could not believe how elated I was that the bike trip was over. But I did see it coming.
And hey, whaddayaknow? With my tailor-made course of treatment and my newfound routine, I’ve finally found my sleep again. If anything, I’ve been bowled over at the dramatic change in just a single month. Those fiery flashes are now a thing of the past (or so I sincerely hope), I’m bouncing out of bed of a morning, my hair no longer looks like hay, my skin is radiant and I feel content and grounded. I finally feel like myself again. I’m also in the process of relocating my long lost muscles – hidden behind several extra pounds of flab – and given the kind of sharp pain signals they’re currently emitting (after a particularly sturdy weightlifting session yesterday) they seem to be as surprised as I am to still be existing! Ha! Chris says I have also regained my ‘inner calmness’ and says he doesn’t feel nearly as scared of me as he used to 😊 Oh well, win some, lose some…
So here we are back in Germany, waiting for our bikes to arrive by cargo ship, already frantically looking for a camper to buy. I’m not missing the road or the tent at the moment and, although I imagine desire for the former will come in due time, I doubt cravings for the latter will follow suit. And I’m totally cool with that. But I am super excited at the prospect of travelling by camper through Europe over the next year or so, with a fridge and freezer full of goodness and the comforts needed to maintain my now daily workouts.
I never wanted to post a ‘how to deal with menopausal changes on the road’ kind of blog, considering both symptoms, and treatment options, are so varied are personalised. I just wanted to give a shout-out to all those road warriors out there who may be dealing with the same issue, to let them know “you’re not alone” and that if anyone wants to have a chat about it (women and men alike) I’m always here. I also wanted to post an update considering it’s been almost 9 months since my last post. I was just worried I may scream at you all if I had the floor whilst unmedicated and blogged any earlier ahaha
For now, we shall enjoy this glorious European spring as I happily add this new totally charming (ahem) experience to my big bag of travel tricks and look forward to sharing tales of our next journey with a new and improved Laura.2 (updates pending).
I wish you all a wonderful mid-year break, should you be lucky enough to have one.
As always, with love