A big city adventure

Usually when Doug and I head out on vacation, it involves traveling into some remote wilderness or challenging ourselves on rock faces. However, this April, we embarked on a different type of adventure as we made a trip to New York City to visit my brothers. Instead of hiking to backcountry lakes and peaks, we walked to different neighborhoods. From Manahattan’s Greenwich Village to Brooklyn’s DUMBO, we enjoyed taking in the unique character of each place. We also strolled through many of the city’s green spaces including Central Park, Prospect Park and the Highline, and visited the Gugenheim, Museum of Modern Art and the Natural History Museum.

On top of the Rock
On top of the Rock
Sketching in Central Park
Exploring Brooklyn on Citibikes
Exploring Brooklyn on Citibikes

Usually on our wilderness trips, I have questions about routefinding, which layers to wear and whether or not the cloud build-up might lead to a storm.  However, on this vacation my queries were of a different sort–  and some of them became relevant when dealing with my ostomy on the trip:

Do New Yorkers ever get tired of being in small, crowded places?
I marveled over how many people lived in the NYC area and how crowded things were. On the L-train that led to my brothers’ neighborhoods in Brooklyn, I often felt like a pickle in a jar–we were packed into the subway so tightly, yet more and more people would cram in at the next stop. If  you lost your balance when the train came to a fast stop, it didn’t matter because there was no room to fall over.

I also couldn’t believe how tiny some of the restaurants we visited were and how we were often eating shoulder to shoulder with the party at the next table. The restrooms in these little establishments were also itty-bitty compared to the multi-stall bathrooms found in most Colorado restaurants.The square footage of the typical New York apartment is also on the small side making for tight quarters when we were staying with my brothers. I loved having ostomy deodorizer along on the trip so I didn’t have to worry about stinking up these small spaces when emptying or changing my appliance. A dozen drops of Hollister’s M9 drops in my pouch completely eliminated any odor. It is pretty darn cool being able to make your poo not stink on command– something that isn’t an option for those with colons!

How can New Yorkers eat dinner so late on a regular basis?
At home, I often run or go to the gym when I get home from work which sometimes has me eating at 8 p.m. It isn’t a problem for me and I don’t notice a difference in my overnight output schedule whether I eat early or late. Still, in NYC we pushed my eating schedule to the max and we sometimes at dinner as late as 9 or 1o p.m. I wondered at first if this would have me emptying all night. Fortunately it didn’t and most nights I was able to sleep tight until morning. Even if I would have had to get up, the inconvenience would have been totally worth the experience of visiting so many fun bars and dining on everything from tasty Thai food to hearty Italian fare, spicy Mexican dishes and New York pizza (gluten free of course!)

Fabiane's Cafe in Brooklyn had the best gluten-free pastries!
Fabiane’s Cafe in Brooklyn had the best gluten-free pastries!

Where do people with IBD find bathrooms in this town?
In the woods, it is easy to find a bathroom anywhere. If you duck behind a tree and dig a hole you are pretty much set to go. In the suburbs, you can often drive to a fast-food restaurant or gas station and easily use the facilities. In New York City, we were always traveling by foot or subway, and it wasn’t easy to find public bathrooms that weren’t reserved for customers. I drink a lot of water to prevent dehydration with my ostomy and I end up urinating a lot. There were many times I thought my bladder was about to burst when I managed to find a restroom in the nick of time. (Thank you, Trump Tower!) Though BM urgency isn’t as much of an issue with my ostomy because I have a lot of control over when I empty, the lack of public restrooms would be incredibly hard during an IBD flare.

Though thoughts about my ostomy did pop into my head a few times on the trip, the vast majority of the time it was at the back of my mind. I was left to focus on fully enjoying the big city adventure and trying to figure out another perplexing question:  how the heck do women cover such long distances in the city in high heels! I have hiked miles and miles on wilderness trails, yet my feet and legs never get so tired as when I visit New York City. People there walk everywhere. Fast. And often in fashionable footwear that doesn’t look very comfortable. I have no idea how they do it. After five days of walking around the city visiting parks and museums, I could barely lift my legs.

My feet feel happy on our initial day of sightseeing in NYC as brothers and I walk across the Williamsburg Bridge. From there we walked to China Town, Little Italy and eventually Lower Manhattan. After five days of pounding concrete on such adventures, I can barely walk!
My feet feel happy on our initial day of sightseeing in NYC as brothers and I walk across the Williamsburg Bridge. From there we walked to Chinatown, Little Italy and eventually Lower Manhattan. After five days of pounding concrete on such adventures, I can barely walk!
Resting my feet on the rooftop after a long day of sightseeing
Resting my feet on the rooftop after a long day of sightseeing

Doug and I had loads of fun visiting the Big Apple, but after six days there, we were ready to return to the wide open spaces and slower pace of Colorado. In the weeks ahead, we look forward to returning to many of our favorite summertime sports in the wilds.

9 thoughts on “A big city adventure

  1. How great!!! I grew up less than an hour from the city and I loved it!!! And I have walked it in heels lol. Not easy or comfortable haha!! I’m so glad you had a great time and I agree, it is an amazing city, but it’s wonderful coming home and seeing the vast expanse of sky and clean air (and less traffic and chaos) here in NM. 🙂

    1. It must have been cool to grow up so close to NYC. Though I love the wilderness, I have always appreciated cities too. I think that is the reason I love living on Colorado’s Front Range. I can take advantage of all that Denver has to offer while easily escaping to the mountains whenever I want:)

  2. Enjoyed your sharing of this NY vaca. Yrs. ago m husb. took me back to Niagara Falls & visited
    friends, relatives, the Love Canal area I lived in, my old elementary school still stood then & I was somehow able to direct us to it thru streets with no houses, visited the one room school house &
    it came back to me when looked thru window, we had to use an indoor outhouse in back of the bldg. Happy those days are no more. Never have seen the areas your family lives in, so enjoyed seeing, hearing what its like. Even sharing your vaca. you are helping us, appreciate the tip on the drops, will share that with a lady who is having her father in law live with her, who has a colonostomy. I’m doing much better now, pretty much on a 3 & 4 day schedule, with no problems, mowed our very large grass (mostly weeds) for 1st time in yr, worked in plants, trees etc & took my 1st shower with the bag attached, did stay very well, just like you said after you swam. Thanks Heidi, Maranatha Carla PS wish I could watch your video, but even with new Windows 8 computer, still on dial up, on the dirt road here in NC, too slow.

    1. Hi Carla,

      Great to hear from you again! I am so happy to hear that things are going well and that you are getting outside to work in your yard! I am also glad that all is well with showering with your bag on.

      How neat it must have been to see your old elementary school on that trip. I absolutely love history and am fascinated by how things change through the years. One of the things I loved about the NYC trip was seeing the many historic buildings and structures that have survived in the city after all these years.

      So sorry that you haven’t been able to watch any videos. I can see how a slow connection wouldn’t work. Maybe if you are ever traveling and have access to computers with free internet you can watch a few of them.

      Thanks again for the comment!


    1. Thanks Carly! I couldn’t believe how exhausting the walking was and how sore my feet were. It must have been due to the hard pavement because my feet never get that tired while hiking on trails.

      I hope you and Ryan are getting out on some fun springtime adventures!


  3. My first trip after getting an ostomy was to New York City with my school band. At age fifteen, I didn’t really worry much about things like when I was going to empty and how to find a bathroom. I only had one time I had to go to a bathroom in an emergent situation, and it was on the way home when we got stuck in a huge snowstorm. Now when I look back I can’t believe I adhered to such a strict schedule without much worry at all. I don’t remember needing to use the bathroom much during the day, but I must have.

    Now my biggest worry about returning to work was all about how I would be able to sneak away to empty or let gas out. Although I have had some situations where I have hid behind a curtain to let out gas (and be thankful I remembered to put the m9 drops in) mostly it has been good. I still worry more about camping situations and haven’t yet strayed far from national parks with outhouses.

    1. Great to hear from you again! It is interesting about your trip to New York and lack of worry when you were younger. I find that the less I worry about my ostomy and just go about my business and deal with whatever comes up along the way, the more normal life feels… and the more confidence I gain. Somehow it all always works out. Still– the big city was a very new environment for me and made me a little anxious.

      I have a pretty strict work schedule too as I am out on the trail or stage leading nature programs for multiple hours. I find as long as I empty ahead of time, I am fine. Hopefully if you just empty on your regular work bathroom breaks, you won’t really need to sneak away to do it that often. Though occasionally I have those higher output days, usually I can make it at least four hours between empties. My pouch does fill up with gas and occasionally starts to show in the middle of a program. I just shrug it off and hope no one is paying that much attention to my abdomen:) I clearly can’t vent gas when I am leading a huge group of people in activities. When I can get to a restroom later I will let the air out.

      I was pooping in holes while on outdoor trips long before my ostomy, so that part has come easy to me. The wilderness is the place I worry the least about emptying because, as long as I am away from a water source that could be polluted, there is a restroom behind any boulder or tree. I was backpacking last weekend and when our group stopped for rest breaks, I would just dash off into the woods to dig a cathole and empty my pouch. It only took about five minutes. If you aren’t squeamish about packing out waste in your backpack, the bathroom situation becomes even easier because you can add closed-end pouches to your repertoire of ostomy management techniques. During the backpacking trip we were also above treeline a lot and digging a hole wouldn’t have been very discreet or easy. In those cases, I just walked a little ways from the group, turned my back to them, swapped out a pouch and packed out the full one. I don’t even have to lower my pants to do this… just fold over the waistband in the front.

      Best of luck! It is great to hear that you have gotten out to explore some national parks!

      1. I think once I get use to it I will be ok packing it out. The one time I had to sneak away was more of a comfort thing as I don’t like the feeling of the gas in the bag, but I will get use to that. It’s already starting to get better. Mostly it’s when high adrenalin pumping situations happen at work…which is often (and one of the reasons I love my job so much) but I am starting to learn to better anticipate things and take a quick bathroom break when I know it is going to get busy. We don’t always get regular breaks. I am the same, if I am in a hurry and want to empty I just pull the bag out and empty…it’s so convenient! I have a lot of trust in the convatec products which also helps…and I finally found the other pouches you were telling me about (last year I think!). They are wonderful and very comfy. I haven’t tried them in a pool yet but I have some smaller ones I like to use when swimming anyway.

        I have dogs so I’m not a stranger to carting poop around! Just have to get use to doing it in the woods…maybe I’ll hit a local forest and practice.

        I need to update my blog horribly. I’ve been back to work for six months so it’s taken a bit of a backseat.

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