The Clumsy Girl’s Guide to Travelling the World

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Most girls deciding to travel from Beijing to Hong Kong alone, knowing about five Chinese phrases that are pronounced so terribly that no local will ever understand (one of which is “this is my foot”… useful), would raise a few eyebrows. But what if you’re a bit of a klutz? Well, you’ll probably get advised not to do it.

What if you’ve been dubbed “the clumsiest girl I’ve ever met” (by multiple people)/ “an accident waiting to happen”/ “someone who should be wrapped in bubblewrap”? What if, despite all these (rather impressive, I may add) titles, you still decide to gallivant off to exotic, unknown lands, not knowing what may befall you?

Hello, I’m Claire, and this is my life.

Today I’ve spilt a cup of mint tea everywhere, tripped over a dog (he was fine and I felt terrible!) and banged my head on an overhead shelf (I’m five foot three and have no idea how this happened). I think in a past life, I must have been a wicked princess who constantly bragged about her elegance, and this is some kind of gross reincarnation.

Basically, I’m CURSED.

But clumsiness isn’t all that defines me. I’ve got a serious dose of wanderlust and a fair amount of stubbornness too. Do you know what this means? I’m going to travel, no matter what. Even if I would win a gold medal in the calamity Olympics.

I’ve got myself in some not-very-fun scrapes on the road, sure. I pulled my arm out of its socket at a festival in Croatia. I injured my back while cliff diving in Cyprus (I’ve learnt my lesson from that and will never do it again). I had an awful reaction to my malaria tablets in Nicaragua. I got caught in an awful worst tropical downpour in Guatemala with all my posessions on me – which were all absolutely drenched – with everywhere closed as it was Guatemalan election day, and I had to find a way across Lake Atitlan to have any hope of finding somewhere to stay the night.

Call it bad luck, clumsy footing, or zero common sense; I’m the personification of disaster.

But I know that I’m so lucky as well. For one, I have the ability to travel. For another, because of my incessant stream of bad luck, I’ve trained myself to learn how to overcome these blunders and make things right.

I’ve developed some fail-safe tactics to help clumsy girls who travel. Here’s my tips on how to navigate the world even if you’re a complete klutz…

First Aid Kit

Clumsy Travelling

Make sure you have a comprehensive first aid kit, suitable for all scrapes and stumbles. This can rectify minor grazes and bruises, post-street-food dodgy bellies and slight sprains and twists.

Things to include in your travelling First Aid Kit:

Ibubrofen – doubles up as a painkiller and anti-inflammatory
Deep Heat – works like a dream for aching muscles
4Head – I swear by this for headaches, which can easily happen in other climates!
Bandages – kind of essential if you’re prone to falling over
Plasters – also perfect for those little cuts and scrapes
Rehydration Sachets – trust me, if you’re on your own in a hostel with an awful tummy and limited water access, you’ll feel like these are saving your life
Immodium – similar to above, especially if you’re a street food fan (which you totally should be)
Savalon – ideal cream to disinfect any cuts and stop infection

Good Medical Insurance

You’re going to want something that comprehensively covers accidental injuries and illnesses in foreign countries, as well as any extreme activities you’re like to do. Make sure you research and specify if you need to state that you may be doing these when you’re booking your insurance – they’re where an injury could very easily happen! (although, if you’re as clumsy as me, you are just as likely to be injured walking down the road. But it never hurts to be safe and nobody wants to end up with a $3000 medical bill).

Be aware that sometimes it will just be easier and not too expensive to see a private doctor. My enjoyable little stint in a Nicaraguan hospital cost me just £40, and it was well worth it to go private. But medical bills can end up costing hundreds or even thousands, so you will need the option of your insurance.

Know Where the Local Doctors Is

broken leg
It’s good to know where the local doctor is before an accident happens. This doesn’t mean be paranoid and insist on a printed copy of the doctor’s daily timetable, but just be aware if there’s a doctor in your town and if not, how far the nearest healthcare professional is. With this information, you can immediately make an informed decision about what to do if you do get injured.

Know the Risks

volcano boarding 3

When you’re doing an activity, understand what you’re about to do and evaluate whether you’re likely to get hurt doing it. If you’re always passing out, bungee jumping might not be for you! If you’re prone to injuries, you could always consider any precautions you could take to make sure you don’t hurt yourself this time!

Keep Extra Cash For Emergencies

As I previously mentioned, sometimes it’s just worth paying to see a private doctor. This avoids any extra stress of sometimes overcrowded and unsanitary public hospitals, and may be the only way for you to get access to the right medical care. An extra bit of emergency fund comes in well here.

Rethink Stupid Things

I know that I’m quite likely to fall over doing the most mundane tasks, so I do exercise a bit of caution when I’m doing crazy things. That’s not to say I don’t do them; unless they’re plain stupid. After my cliff jumping incident in Cyprus (luckily I was fine but there was a short time when I thought I’d done my back serious damage), I do question some silly activities that I do. If they’re more dangerous than cool, I’ll deem them not worth the risk.

Learn to Laugh at Yourself

broken arm
You fall over 20 times a day? You’ve got another bruise on your leg and it could be a variety of different things? It’s a great idea to learn to laugh at yourself and your clumsy ways. Foot injuries and sprained shoulders might not be ideal, but you’re not looking for a shiny, flawless travel experience, right? Very often, it’s these things that happen that begin the best stories. They make for a talking point and make your travelling experience real.

Take Things Nice and Slow

vb
Incase I haven’t already mentioned, I’m often losing my footing and falling. When you’re on a rocky terrain, try to tread carefully, or maybe don’t leap up those stairs so quickly… Moving a little bit slower could mean less stumbles and subsequent injuries; plus you often end up seeing what’s around you more.

Don’t Worry or Panic

If you’re always falling over, you’ll have most probably been in these situations hundreds of times before. And you’ve always sorted them out, haven’t you? It’s easy to panic when you’re in one of these irksome situations, but your body is made to cope with its fair share of scrapes (some of us more than others…). Try not to panic and make things worse when something bad happens!

Don’t Forget to Have Fun

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It’s easy to live your life paranoid about what could happen. As aforementioned, if you’re a clumsy girl (or guy!), you’ll have a wealth of experience in dealing with things that go wrong when you’re on the road. It’s important to be prepared without being pranoid, and enjoy the travelling experience without letting fear or anxiety get in the way.

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There’s no reason why you should let a severe dose of clumsiness stop you from following your travelling dreams. Whether you’re planning a mountain trek in Scotland, yachting in Greece or diving the Great Barrier Reef, these ideas can help you stay injury and illness free.

I know I’m a clumsy girl, and I’m fully aware that I’ll probably have a few scrapes wherever I am in the world (at home as well as travelling…), but do I let this stop me from doing what I want to do? Certainly not. I think about the risks, I do what I can to make myself as safe as possible and then I run into whatever I’m about to do with open arms. And if a clumsy incident happens, I deal with it. There’s not much you can’t fix. Besides, most minor slips and stumbles lead to the best stories; and the hardships and difficulties are what makes travelling the real, life-changing experience it is.

Want to read about some of the mad stuff I’ve done? I recently did a 10k obstacle course race, last year I did a skydive and I’m one of the few people in the world who have boarded down Cerro Negro, an active volcano!

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Are you clumsy, but determined to travel the world? Don't let being accident-prone hold you back! Here's a clumsy guide to travelling the world, written by a travelling walking disaster!

 

53 responses to “The Clumsy Girl’s Guide to Travelling the World”

  1. Brianna says:

    Haha! This is hilarious! …and quite useful! I love your tip about learning to laugh at yourself. It’s so applicable for travel. So much can go wrong and stressing about it never helps. If you can learn to laugh it off and keep a positive attitude, your travels will likely be much smoother

  2. Juana says:

    I love this post! What a quirky spin on a travel blogger’s usual fare. Very entertaining and well-written.

    I’ve followed you on FB! Looking forward to the upcoming posts.

  3. Erika says:

    As a pretty clumsy person myself, I can definitely relate! It doesn’t help that I am a flight attendant and often have to wear heels in the concourse (which I cannot walk in without either falling over or looking terribly ungraceful). The best tip in this article? Learn to laugh at yourself.

    • Claire says:

      Wow, how do you cope with being a flight attendant?! I could always imagine myself spilling drinks over the customers! Haha yes, definitely the most important one

  4. Rachel S. says:

    I love that you have a sense of humour when it comes to being accident proned… But your stories also make me really glad I’m not. 🙂

  5. Mary says:

    We’re twin flames! I’m the biggest clutz and am always getting hurt. I have a doctor who just yells at me since something happens every year….even just walking! I’ve learned to be very resilient and laugh at myself when I run into things (walls jump out at me….don’t judge.), fall over my own two feet and then some!

    • Claire says:

      Haha, so good to meet someone as clumsy as me! I know, I got a bit embarrassed about how much I went to the doctor at one point… luckily I move so much that I’m constantly changing 😉 YES, walls jump out at me too – they’re all against me!

  6. T. Michelle says:

    I love that you can laugh at yourself. I’m not usually clumsy, but I did trip on a rock looking for penguins in South Africa. I broke three toes and ended up in a wheelchair for several days. Luckily I had travel insurance to cover my medical expenses.

  7. liz says:

    I totally empathise and sympathise Claire, I’m a clumsy traveller too! So far I’ve broken 2 expensive cameras, 2 fingers, a suitcase, 2 pairs of shoes, have fainted twice and have completely lost all remaining dignity by falling down the stairs or pavement surfing more times than I care to remember!! I don’t ever wear high heels anymore as they just guarantee injury! Ditto slippery soled shoes! I totally feel your pain but at least you can laugh eh?! Happy klutz free travel!!!!

    • Claire says:

      I am so with you on the high heel front – I gave up with them a good few months ago! Haha I have a catalogue of injuries like that too, I’m such a nightmare!

  8. Oh god I swear! I think we were seperated at birth. I got run over by a motorbike, broke my collar bone in a car accident, got a skin infection in Maine, and a whole parade of other mishaps have befallen me on my travels around the globe. It sure isn’t stopping me though! MY ex’s mother used to call me calamity too!! I have got a little better as I get older….

    • Claire says:

      Haha this is brilliant! Misfortune does seem to follow me around, but as I said I’m pretty good at making things right 😀 I think I’m getting worse as I get older though!

  9. Nancy says:

    Excellent post, Claire. I love how you mix humour with practical advice – well done!

  10. Laura Lynch says:

    I particularly like “rethink stupid things”. Sometimes when traveling we just rush in and do things that aren’t really a very good idea, and if we put more thought into it would realize it wasn’t a good idea. Injuries while traveling can really be a showstopper.

    • Claire says:

      Yes very true! I am a lot more careful after some of my injuries – I used to think I was superwoman!

  11. Really enjoyed reading this! Thanks for sharing, Claire 🙂

  12. Paul says:

    Haha this is awesome! At least you have lived to tell the tales of these crazily clumsy adventures of yours! Definitely some great tips here anyway for anybody who is travelling, thanks.

  13. Holly says:

    Hahaha this was such a funny read! I’m a clumsy girl too, and I’ve recently started investing in travel insurance for every international trip. Great advice in this post!

  14. Majesta says:

    Omg I’m accident prone so I appreciated this!!

  15. Milosz Zak says:

    It definitely looks like you have a death wish. It’s interesting that you prepare so much from the medical perspective, I have to tell you though that for some ailments, our Western medicines are just too weak. In Egypt for example, you need the local medication, as it has a different proportion of the necessary active ingredient, especially in ointments and for stomach issues.

  16. I’m exactly the same Claire and so is my boyfriend! It’s such a nightmare, but a first aid kit is certainly helpful! Glad I’m in such great company!

  17. Sabine says:

    Haha, this article is really funny. It’s good to take life not too serious and have a good laugh about yourself. Your tips are great too, the medical insurance is really handy when being so clumsy. And indeed, don’t take yourself too serious and take it easy. You’ll have fun travelling and discovering your things.

  18. Loved this post, very funny, positive and also giving good tips 🙂

  19. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I totally see my youngest daughter doing most of this.

  20. I like your writing style. Makes me wish I were as clumsy as you 😛
    Thanks for the tips too!

    Crystal recently posted… Budget Guide: Japan

  21. I love this! I’m pretty clumsy myself so I love the tips! I’ve definitely figured out that laughing at myself is the best way to handle my clumsiness!

  22. christine says:

    I am clumsy as well 😛 Thankfully nothing bad has happen yet!!

  23. I think I’m clumsy too. Fortunately, I’ve never needed to use medical insurance or visit the doctor while traveling!

  24. christine says:

    Very funny article and quite different angles to look at things! You are quite the adventurous type! Enjoy, keep laughing and don’t take yourself seriously…so refreshing! Thank you Claire!

    • Claire says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment Christine! I thought it was only me laughing at my rubbish jokes, I’m glad other people enjoy them too 🙂

  25. This post definitely rang true with me as a fellow clumsy girl (particularly embarrassing moments include falling over in the street in Dublin and tumbling over while walking down Snowdon). As a result, I am so paranoid about taking out travel insurance!

  26. That is one impressive first aid bag! I’ve never been that clumsy, but I always make sure I get travel insurance, because you just never know! My nan once broke her hip on holiday in Spain–It was an absolute nightmare.

    • Claire says:

      So important to always get travel insurance! I know it can be really tough! Hope all was resolved with your nan 🙂

  27. These are all EXCELLENT tips.
    Love,
    A fellow clumsy girl

  28. We are kindred spirits! I’m klutzy AND I have no common sense. I’m glad I’m travelling with my husband the human compass because I’m the kind of person who gets lost driving herself home from work, even after working there for a year 😛 Travel puts us in all kind of challenging scenarios in the best kinds of ways! If I can handle my clumsiness and lack of common sense in another country, things are less scary at home!

    • Claire says:

      Haha, he sounds like a handy travel partner! Yes I definitely agree, I feel like if I can get myself from one end of China to the other without breaking any body parts (touch wood…) then I can do anything!

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