Featuring Sarah Poitras in Our First Edition!
What do people with chronic illnesses do every day? Do they even get any enjoyment out of life?! I think there’s no better way to kick off this brand new series than to feature Sarah Poitras of “Travel Breathe Repeat”! Despite having a progressive lung disease, she travelled for a year around the world with her husband. She also managed to incorporate her interests in cooking and photography while on the road. Let’s dive in to hear her exciting stories.
*Updated: 09 Jun 2019
Sarah Poitras of “Travel Breathe Repeat”
- Where have you travelled to?
Over the course of my life (as of June 2019), I have traveled to 57 countries. A few years ago, my husband and I quit our jobs and traveled to 27: Sweden, Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, Scotland (UK), Faroe Islands (Denmark), the Netherlands, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Austria, Belgium, France, Monaco, and Switzerland.why di
- Why did you choose this list to embark on for a year?
We chose to go to mostly new destinations, but also had some favorites that we wanted to revisit. And of course we had a few bucket list items like spots in Southeast Asia and New Zealand. It was actually really hard to create our itinerary because there were so many places we wanted to go! But we had a great time doing it. We wrote this post about planning a world trip itinerary to help others do the same.
- Favourite and least favourite place?
New Zealand was our favorite place. We were able to see both North and South Islands and spend a whole month there. It is the most breathtakingly beautiful country we’ve ever been to. And the people are so nice! We honestly didn’t have a place that we disliked. We know ourselves and our travel style pretty well and did enough research to choose places we figured we’d love.
- What is the most memorable experience you had while on the road?
We have so many it’s hard to choose or pick one as “most memorable.” But early in our trip we went to a small village in Northern Scotland called Dornie. The small cottage we stayed in overlooked the Eilean Donan Castle and seeing that view for the first time made us stop and really realize where we were and what we were doing and how lucky we were.
- How has it changed your life?
Traveling for that long with just one suitcase and my husband made me realize I really don’t need very much to be happy. But that I want to spend as much time as possible with the people I love doing what I love.
- What did it take for you to up and go?
Three years of talking ourselves into it and six months of planning.
- What kind of traveller are you?
I don’t need to see everything or do everything – or really anything at all. I just love walking around and getting a feel for a place and taking in the culture. And enjoying local food!
- Why are you so passionate about travel?
Travel helped me cope with my illness because it let me explore new things and think about things other than that I was sick. Once I figured that out, I became very passionate about doing it more myself and encouraging others to as well.
- Some advice for others who are thinking about doing what you did?
Just go for it. We waited three years to actually do it and we wish so much we had done it sooner.
- Favourite travel sites that inspire you online?
Instagram is my go-to for travel inspiration right now. There are so many great photographers posting gorgeous pictures.
Lake Tekapo, New Zealand
Milford Sound, New Zealand
Homemade Vietnamese bun bo
- When did you first develop an interest in cooking?
My senior year in college I lived in an apartment and started cooking then.
- What’s your philosophy on food?
My doctor highly recommends that people with LAM (my disease) eat all food groups and don’t go on any super restrictive diets. So I follow that guidance. I cook pretty healthfully since I can control the ingredients and save splurges for eating out.
- You mentioned that you did a lot of cooking while on the road. Why did you bother to do so, instead of spending your time checking out other places of interest?
Our trip was very different from a vacation. Yes, we were traveling and away from home, but we were living for a whole year! We tried to mix it up between eating local food and cooking local food. And foreign supermarkets are actually “places of interest” for me and my husband! You can learn a lot about a place by seeing what people eat.
- How did you manage to accomplish this?
We stayed in a lot of Airbnb apartments and hotels with kitchenettes.
- What do you like to cook and what’s your best dish?
I don’t cook it very often, but braised short ribs. Mmmmm.
- Anything you dislike cooking?
I don’t bake. I don’t like cooking with recipes because it stresses me out!
- Why do you enjoy cooking?
I don’t consider myself to be a very creative person, but I’ve found I can be creative in my cooking. Once I know enough about flavors and ingredients I can make up my own thing.
- You mentioned that you once participated in a Food Network cooking competition. That sounds pretty courageous! Would you like to share about that once in a lifetime experience with us?
I entered a recipe on a whim and was surprised I got accepted. It was a whirlwind of a week. And even though I lost the competition, it was really cool to meet some amazing chefs and have them taste my food!
- What are some kitchen equipment you can’t live without?
I lived without everything this year and made do! But being home I remember how much I love my silicon spatulas. They’re so versatile and easy to use.
- Tips for newbie, lazy people who still want to try cooking every day (like me)?
Cook individual ingredients in larger quantities so you can use them for multiple meals. For example, I’ve started baking a whole bunch of chicken in the oven and then I can use it in different things over the next few days.
Chiang Rai, Thailand
The 12 Apostles, Australia
- Where did you learn photography from? Or, how did you get started?
I really got more into photography through traveling.
- What about photography do you enjoy?
I enjoy capturing memories.
- What’s your photography style like?
I definitely try to keep things real.
- What are some of your favourite photography tools?
- Place you enjoyed documenting the most while on your travels?
- Do you edit any of your photos? Why or why not?
Yes, but most of the time, my goal is to keep things as close to what they looked like in real life.
- Photography blogs you find inspiring?
Again, I’m Instagram obsessed when it comes to photography.
- Tips for budding photographers?
As I tell my husband, don’t cut off people’s feet!
- What camera and lenses did you use for your trip? Were they suitable?
I use a Nikon D3200 camera. I only brought one lens with me because we would be traveling so much and because with the portable oxygen concentrator, we tried to keep everything else as light as possible. And I’m really quite an amateur photographer! The lens is a Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR. It’s quite versatile, and I only really missed my longer lens when we were in New Zealand shooting animals.
- Would you recommend them and is there any camera or lens you’d like to try out next?
I’m quite comfortable with the camera and lens and would rather spend more time learning how to use them all better than getting something new. That said, I have an iPhone 5s, and while I like the size, the camera isn’t so great. If I had to get something new, I would get a phone with a better camera. It’s really nice to not have to carry the big camera around sometimes!
Lake Bled, Slovenia
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Seoul, South Korea
Luang Prabang, Laos
*Note: All images here used with permission from Sarah Poitras. This article is meant for educational purposes and is based on the author’s personal experiences. It is not to be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your own doctor before changing or adding any new treatment protocols.
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Sarah Lives with the Following Illnesses:
- Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (a rare lung disease)
Learn more about her experiences with it on her blog.