Note: This is the beginning of what will be a multiple part series on my travel “Horror Stories”– the most painful, creepy and uncomfortable experiences that I’ve had while outside of the United States. The point of me sharing these experiences is to encourage everyone to embrace the good and the bad when it comes to traveling, and find ways to grow from negative experiences. (Fortunately, I’ve been lucky enough not to have experienced anything seriously life threatening while traveling.)
Some of these stories can be pretty comical now that they are over and done with. Others are just scary, no matter how you look at them. Either way, I hope you enjoy reading about my experiences!
Part 1: Accidents and Injuries
Costa Rica, July 2011
When I was 16 I traveled to Costa Rica for two weeks through a Girl Scouting program called Destinations (yes, Girl Scouts do more than just sell cookies!). The trip itself was a very valuable experience for me, and completely changed the way I viewed myself and what I was capable of as a teen. The two main focuses of the trip were performing acts of service and learning the basics of surfing.
On one of the last days of the trip our group of 13 girls and 4 instructors was returning to San Jose from a surf camp on the Western coast of the country. On our way, the school bus that we were riding in started to have mechanical problems and we were forced to stop on the roadside in a small town. One of the surf instructors and I needed to use the restroom so we went inside a small convenience store and asked the attendant if we could use the bathroom, but she refused. With no other options in close proximity, the instructor and I decided to slip into the edge of the nearby jungle in order to…well you know. The instructor said that I could go first and she would keep watch and then we could switch.
I took two steps into an area covered in thick underbrush and immediately fell about 6 feet down a steep slope in the ground.
The instructor heard me scream on the way down and started calling my name, asking if I was okay and if I could move. At first I was frozen in shock and I couldn’t answer her, but after a few seconds I was able to snap out of it and yelled back that I was okay. On the way down I hit the right side of my back on a rock but I could still move just fine.
The moment I remember the most clearly is when the instructor said “I’m coming down to get you!” I rolled over onto my side and when I looked up I could see her a few feet above me, crouched down on her stomach, extending her hand to me. She was a very petite girl but also very athletic, and when I grabbed her hand she pulled me back up the ledge with one yank.
After we returned to the group, one of the other instructors cleaned and bandaged the cut on my back with supplies from our first aid kit (I still have a very light scar). Then the instructor who had been my savior gathered a group of us to walk about half a mile to the nearest gas station so we could use the restroom. Lesson learned.
I still have the image in my mind of the surf instructor reaching out her hand to pull me up after my fall. At the time, the rescue felt much more dramatic! I remember that her name is Rose, she is from California and she was in her early 20s that summer.
Rose, wherever you are, if you’re reading this, thanks for saving me that day! 😉
South Korea, February 2015
During our second week studying abroad in South Korea, our good friend SungSu graciously invited Calum and I to go skiing with his family during the Lunar New Year holiday weekend. It was my first time skiing, ever, let alone in a foreign country. Even my Mom was nervous and cautioned me against going out on the slopes due to the risk of injury.
However, Calum and SungSu insisted that I give skiing a try, so I did. The two of them were by my side almost the entire time, and I was actually really enjoying myself despite the difficulty of trying a new sport. I was trying my best but I still had trouble slowing and down and stopping on the crowded slopes.
Here is Calum’s recount of my accident (based on our blog entry from that time):
“That’s when trouble hit. Ok, maybe not that bad, but as I was skiing in front of Maddie and making my way down the hill. As I looked back for her, instead of seeing her skiing behind me I look just in time to see her crash through the side fence. It was honestly a little heart stopping. I stopped on the side, threw off my gloves, ski poles and skis and ran back up the hill towards her. SungSu was above us so he got over there pretty quick. Both of her skis had come off and her glasses were on the ground (surprisingly unbroken) a nearby slope worker saw what happened and called the snowmobile. She asked me if her eyes were dilated and seemed very shaken up. The snowmobile came and we got her on it. I grabbed the poles, skis and gloves and started down the mountain after it. Smart Sungsu put on his snowboard and rode down but I got down fast enough. After getting checked out and multiple blood pressure checks it was shown that she was fine. Though she was a little bruised it wasn’t a big injury. She still had a lot of fun though! Looking back at it now she really didn’t do anything that bad but it was scary at the time.”
Though my head was a bit sore for a few days after the accident, but as the saying goes, I think my pride was hurt the most.
Thanks Mom, for not saying “I told you so!”