Caroline GregoryComment

What Happened In Thailand And Why I Almost Quit Backpacking

Caroline GregoryComment
What Happened In Thailand And Why I Almost Quit Backpacking

So far I've presented my Asia travels as a virtual utopia with no complications. I have yet to share why I almost quit 4 days into my trip. Here's a story not even some of my best friends know.  

I woke up in Krabi, Thailand excited to do an epic hike with my friend Jack and shoot some photos at the viewpoint.  We decided to rent motorbikes for the day.  I’d never driven one and was determined to get my own, wearing Steve Madden sandals.  I wish I hadn't. My friend taught me the controls and advised me to take it slow.  I didn't.  I crashed the thing almost immediately.  Slammed it right into a curb.  The accident didn't break skin, but my toes were going weird directions.  Thinking nothing of this, I jumped on my friend's bike with him, instead, and off we drove to the trailhead.  I'm an adrenaline junkie.  I mentally declared my toes only jammed and thought I'd be good to hike when we arrived.  I was, devastatingly, wrong.  I could no longer put weight on my foot which was now changing into be my favorite painting colors ... purple and blue.

Next stop: Emergency Room.  As scary as it was to be hurt in a country that is not my own..  I put on a brave face and hopped into the medical facility.  The staff crowded around me, but only a few knew English so communication was difficult.  Everyone was eager to help with my case as I was the only patient in the wing.  For X-rays, they wheeled me down a dark hallway where lightbulbs automatically go on and off as you pass.  This whole time, Im like fuck fuck fuck I’m across the world by myself and I’m hurt.  What am I going to do?!  I get back to the main area of beds to await the X-ray results.  Without introduction, a young tech comes over and measures my foot with a ruler.  "Hey, should I assume I've broken something and you're fitting me for a cast?" Language barrier, no response.  The doctor returns to confirm my foot is fractured in 3 places, along with ALL of my toes.  So there you have it.  My first month of Asia was not spent exploring the land and talking to animals; it was spent watching Netflix and hobbling around on crutches.

With no insurance, My ER visit was only 4,700 baht or $150.  

After I was able to return to my hostel, the shock of breaking my foot gradually subsided and was replaced by frustration and worry at the prospect of being stranded and unable to care for myself in a foreign country.   This was a severe blow to my spirit and confidence.  At this point, I had only been in Asia a few days. I didn't know how the backpacking life worked.  I had no knowledge of the city I was in, how to buy phone data, where to exchange money or extend my Visa.  Not to mention, I hadn't declared myself safe yet or even trusting of the people here.  I was on crutches and pain killers.  It's 100 degrees outside. Further, there were two flights of stairs required to reach my room at the hostel, which presented a huge obstacle for anything I needed to do. How will I eat three times a day with no kitchen?  Is food nearby?  Can the Thailand streets have more pot holes please? The last time I broke a bone, my arm, I recovered on my family's couch and food was brought to me on a tray.  This time, my parents wanted me to return to the States and heal at my grandma's.  They were probably more worried than I was, though I knew they could not truly understand the challenges and circumstances I faced for this recovery in Asia.  Since that time, I have shared this story with other travelers who have all said, faced with the same situation, they would have flown home.

However, I decided to stay and stick it out.  Asia was my dream trip.  I was not about to give up on it because of an accident during my first few days.

I only told my parents and two close friends about my injury.  I was in denial and wanted to avoid talking about my foot all together.  I was not looking for concerned words, thoughts or pity.  I was angry and depressed.  I decided to take a break from social media and most people.  I needed that anyway.  There were no articles or success stories to read online either.  Nobody writes about breaking their foot abroad and sticking around to heal there too.  

I got known around town pretty fast.  Tourists don't stay as long as I did and they especially don't maneuver around on crutches everyday.  To have an audience of stares at all times and only be able to pass by going crutch speed, sucks.  To wear a fanny pack and attach the things I couldn't carry, sucks.  I started eating at only cafes within 3 streets of mine.  Farther than that and my armpits hurt too much.  Thanks to all the tree pose practice in yoga, I balanced in the shower morning and night, never getting my cast wet.

I received plenty of kindness and help from the people in Krabi.  My hostel owner, Jane, was a sweet little Thai lady.  She always seemed concerned about the size of my thighs, instead of my actual foot.  I assured her they weren't swollen.  “Muscle and fat, Jane.  Muscle and fat.”  A couple down the street washed my laundry for close to nothing.  I hungout with the locals at a cafe a few of them worked at.  They admired my art and always asked to see my watercolor progress.  There was never a rush to give me the bill or have me leave.  I appreciated it.  It was hard to be idle when all I wanted to do was go explore.  It was nice to make friends and laugh at all the motorbikes zooming by effortlessly.  How is a family of 5 all riding the same motorbike and I crash mine?

I was on the other side of the world, away from anything I've known, and I was alone.  This is the one time I did not love being a solo traveler.  My journal is full of dreams and plans and such excitement for healed bones during this time period.   All I wanted to do was continue traveling and see new things. When I was depressed, I'd pay a tuk-tuk (a three-wheeled taxi) to drive me around town or to the beach.  And when I wasn’t, I’d paint and research traveling.  I realized the universe may have thought I needed more time to prepare for a continent switch.  Maybe worse things were ahead of me if this hadn’t slowed me down.  Maybe this setback aligned me perfectly for all of the amazing experiences I’ve since had this year.  I used this time to think, regroup and discover how much I wanted to be here and also to realize how amazing the opportunity truly is.

 I'm healed now. Even the limp I developed went away after a few months. The first big, physical thing I did after getting my cast off was ride out to that original hike and complete it. Remember this photo?

Moral of this story: Expect the unexpected and be prepared to pivot as your adventure unfolds.  Every day presents challenges as well as opportunities. In the end, you'll be richer for the entire experience.