Hop on the rug with us…and get to know how travel blogger O Christine lives life well.
Growing up in the south Bronx, Olivia Christine Perez, who goes by the nickname O Christine, could hardly have known she’d make a career out of collecting passport stamps. Or that she’d do so while managing a chronic illness. And, in turn, inspire others to make their own trips, and not let their personal challenges get in the way of seeing this big, vast world.
Diagnosed with Lupus Nephritis at 16 years old, Perez learned to manage her symptoms with medication. She started her blog, in college, as a space to create a portfolio of her creative projects. But when she entered the corporate world, working in events and conferences, she began feeling her health suffer. She had started traveling, but there were years when her kidney function, medications, and procedures prohibited her from going very far. An upsetting reality for any young woman finding her way in the world, much less an avid explorer.
When the signs of burnout became too apparent to ignore, Perez knew she needed a change. So she started a remote marketing company. “My specialty in that industry was still marketing, and I have a university degree in hospitality administration, so shifting to travel and writing felt natural,” she says. She continued writing on her blog, too, using it to work out ways to fulfill her travel goals without aggravating her condition.
Pretty soon, her blog became a place that held insights for her in how to better manage her wellbeing: the more Perez took care of herself and her health, the more her Lupus improved. Being outdoors was key. Her blog became more than just a creative outlet; it was, what she calls, a “self-healing project.”
From career woman to curious adventurer
Perez began sharing her transformational journey from being “a 9-5 career woman to a curious adventurer.” She earned her yoga certification and found ways to deal with her chronic illness so that it didn’t interfere with her dreams to see the world. “I overcame the fear of not being able to travel with Lupus by prioritizing my health first,” she says. “And understanding what my body needed to be well, becoming my own best advocate when it came to my healthcare treatment plan, as well as understanding the importance of being outdoors and reaping the benefits of nature.”
In blog posts filled with tips and advice, she revealed what worked for her: seeing her doctor regularly, communicating her travel schedule, planning itineraries that prioritized rest and hydration, and learning how to say no to others’ requests while traveling.
Her stories resonated with others too – from those who also have Lupus to those who travel with a disability. “While having Lupus doesn't necessarily apply to everyone in my audience, it resonates with many of their experiences being, or knowing someone they love, with an autoimmune disease or invisible illness,” she says. “Being transparent about that journey has allowed me to challenge the narrative that one can't experience travel because of their health. Seeing people take the leap to get outdoors more, and travel for their wellness, keeps me going.”
Making the outdoors more inclusive
Not only has she become an advocate for wellness travel, but Perez has also taken on a mission to help diversity the outdoors, by sharing inspiring photos and informative guides that help other women of color experience more of the world around them. “Anytime I go to a new place I search for BIPOC–owned businesses to support,” she says. “I think by having travel content creators like myself, and many others, create resources that highlight historically oppressed and underrepresented establishments like Black-owned businesses, we make it easy for new customers to find and support these businesses – and normalize seeking them out when planning for your next trip.”
Keeping a focus on her health as a priority, Perez has been able to clock up many a memorable trip. Top of her list – so far – has been planning and completing a self-guided, multi-day W Trek in Torres del Paine, Patagonia, in Chile. “That was one of the most transformative and memorable experiences of my life,” she says, having written in her blog about how it was “the first time I cried while gazing at nature,” and also, the first time she saw a glacier!
Perez also likes to follow a simple piece of advice on a regular basis. “‘Work smarter, not harder,’" she says. “I'm definitely not perfect, so I don't use this every single day. But it has been a transformative mindset for producing results as a creator and business owner without sacrificing my wellness.”
And when things do get a little too busy, or she has a flare-up to deal with, she always returns to the one thing that has been a constant. “Nature keeps me grounded, so I always look for a bit of nature wherever I go. Whether it is a peaceful walk, a hike, or a swim, having a bit of Mother Earth around me always grounds me.”
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