When Stuff goes wrong while Traveling Solo

solotravelWhy you have nothing to worry about when you venture out on your own.

If you haven’t done this already I highly recommend doing it at least once in a lifetime.  Go pack a bag and travel the world SOLO.

It’s the most enriching thing you can do for yourself. If solo travel has taught me anything it’s three things:

  1. You can deeply immerse yourself into a journey and go with the flow without having to worry about someone else’s agenda.
  2. You really get to know yourself. Solitude is a great companion when you are at peace with yourself.
  3.  YOU ARE NEVER ALONE. Seriously. You meet so many new and inspiring people everywhere.  I’ve been a solo traveler for over 15 years now. And I’ve never found myself feeling alone on those journeys. Not even when I found myself stranded, injured or sick. I’ve always been surrounded by awesomeness and incredibly kind people.

I’ve taken to the road less travelled and then veered off that road as well to go deeper into the wilderness. I’ve done some pretty stupid stuff in the name of a good adventure.

Yet –I did not find myself alone, not once. Not even when things went really wrong.  I’ve been stuck in the jungle under rebel fire, fractured a leg, had motorcycle accidents…you name it.  So when you question whether you should venture out by yourself and go see this wonderful world… I say go for it.

So just for fun, here are my top 5 travel accident stories:

  1. Motorcycle accident in Bali – Picture a windy mountain road in the rain, a blue truck. I’m lucky I didn’t die or kill the person on the back of my bike. And yes – I wore a helmet!  The next hospital was about 3 hours away.  And the best and fastest way to get there was to ride the bike with bleeding wounds and broken bones. Ughh. Not easy. Luckily, I had kind strangers to patch us up on the sidewalk. They gave us enough food and emotional strength to make it here. Once back at my temporary home in Ubud I ended up being well loved by amazing friends and then shipped off to Thailand for additional medical care. I had a good laugh about it later.

 

  1. Thailand: A sty on my right eyelid while living in the jungle. After it had taken on epic proportions and swollen to a degree that I couldn’t see anything I decided on a whim it was time to seek medical care. I wandered into a random roadside medical clinic thinking they might give me some eye drops or a cream. (as a traveler I should know better) and I thought he had asked me to lie down so he can take a look. But no – he came back with a knife, grabbed my eyelid and cut it open. I froze. There was blood running down my face, I could taste it. No warning. No anesthetic. Ahhh. I didn’t move. He didn’t speak any English, so I thought it was best to let him do his thing rather than risk getting stabbed into the eyeball.  He seemed to be a jolly little fella. He slapped an eye patch on and smiled. I briefly wondered if I had just my eyesight. He asked for some money, gave me some ibuprofen and just sent me back out onto the street.  I stumbled around like a one eyed pirate. Turns out my balance is pretty crap with one eye. I had no way of getting around. I sat on the sidewalk and cried. Then out of nowhere a friend showed up, gave me a big smile, cracked a joke and took me home. I woke up the next day, took off the eye patch and I was perfectly fine.  

 

  1. I had several hospital stints as a result of dehydration, rashes and stomach bugs. Location: just about anywhere.

I had one of my most interesting episodes was in India, I had been ill and noticed I was so dehydrated I needed to get some help immediately.  I passed out in the entrance of the sidewalk clinic. And that clinic wasn’t a place you wanted to be, it was simply the closest I could get to. The clinic was the kind of place that would make you wonder if you left with more germs than you had when you arrived, or one less organ…..

I woke up on an IV with a view of  hole in the floor that resembled a toilet. I had to pay for the needle they used to inject me and they then reused it….Oh well, at least I made it there. The staff was super nice. Nobody spoke English. A few shots, an IV and some bed rest – I was as good as new. And no. I didn’t catch anything else. Found out later the “nice hospital” was only 5 minutes away.

 

  1. I fractured my ankle in Peru –while dancing on the tables in Cusco,  Peru (or more accurately falling off a table in my wild enthusiasm for Latin music). It seemed like a good idea at the time.  Woke up the next day with a very discolored and swollen ankle. I didn’t think however, that it was a good enough reason to interrupt my trip or seek medical attention.  A friend watched me limp around for a few days and then decided to kidnap and take me to a hospital. He took my wallet and promised we’d take a cab to some fun ruins we could check out. I ended up with an enormous lumpy cast and wasn’t able to get around myself at all. This said friend, (lets call him Karl) now had to help me around. I made him stick around as punishment for taking me there in the first place. This cast was MASSIVE. It almost felt like I had an extra appendage.

Karl became my new travel companion until my ankle got better. We became besties overnight. We made it all the way to Ecuador with that silly looking cast. We managed quite well and even went sand boarding, horseback riding, then beached it for a while before traveling to a little mountain town called Vilcabamba to visit recently incarcerated friends. Karl didn’t seem to mind my company. After six weeks my ankle was better but we could not find a clinic with strong enough tools that could cut through this massive lump. I was freed after a “doctors without borders” gentleman decided to take his chances with a chainsaw! Karl fell in love the very next day and ran off.

 

  1. Was bitten by something in Brazil (most likely a poisonous spider) –I was camping in the Pantanal in Brazil. One day I woke up with a big black, very infected hole in my back. I had a pretty bad fever and was incoherent. The closest hospital was 8 hours away and some kind strangers took me there. By that time every little scratch on my body had gotten infected. Pretty sure I had a staph infection as well. I had lots of little bandaids all over my body, including my face (the Sponge Bob kinds for kids). I looked incredibly ridiculous. My bunk bed neighbors at the hostel where I decided to sleep this off were two Belgian doctors. My new best friends and travel companions. We spent the next 4 weeks together on our shared journey across Brazil and Argentina. They did a pretty great job patching me up daily with professional care. I had to show up every day before breakfast and dinner to get fresh band aids and a proper gauze for the massive wound on my back.  It all healed very well and I still have the scar to prove it.

 

What are the lessons learnt here?

  1. Don’t be stupid. Be free but be smart. Get travel insurance. Never be afraid to venture out. Wonderful adventures lay ahead.
  2. The world is full of kind strangers. PERIOD! Nothing to worry about.
  3. Pay it forward. I’ve been taken in and cared for I make it a point to do the same for those I see in need.