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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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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