When bad breaks happen while traveling, what’s a traveler to do? There are many lessons learned from my experience breaking my ankle in France. Coping with a travel injury or illness can be formidable, but not the end of the journey. Find out what you need to have when an injury or illness threaten to derail your travel adventures.
In honor of Bastille Day (la fete de 14 juillet) in France and also Throwback Thursday, I’m going to share the story of my only Bastille Day in France. The year: 1992. I was there to study for a month in Tours. I came home with an unwanted souvenir: a cast on my broken ankle.
Twenty something students from the University of South Carolina were in France for a monthlong summer abroad coordinated with the University in Tours, France. We were all very excited and although none of us knew each other before arriving, we became fast friends. On our first weekend, several of us piled into the train and headed to Paris. It was glorious! I mention Paris because that would turn out to be the only weekend that I could walk normally.
On Bastille Day, our group along with the USC professor who came over with us decided to do a picnic at a nearby island. We ate, we goofed off, and we played a game of touch football. And that’s where things went off the rails for me. I slipped and fell on the wet grass, and my ankle snapped. Nothing but an unlucky break-literally! Off to l’hopital I went. Of course, X-rays confirmed I had broken my left ankle. Freaky moment: the doctor wanted me to return for a series of injections in my stomach to thin my blood. Um, I immediately called my parents who confirmed with my doctor that in fact aspirin would do the same thing.
Lessons Learned from a Travel Injury/Illness
1. Don’t let a mishap or roadblock keep you from having the experiences you want.
After I broke my ankle, my parents asked me if I wanted to come home. You know, that NEVER had entered into my mind before they said it. And I immediately refused. I had worked very hard to get to France and I wasn’t about to let the opportunity slip away because of bad luck. I was more determined than ever to still go on the weekend trips we had planned to chateaus, the beach, and Paris.
Be stubborn. It doesn’t mean the end. But also be realistic. Adjust your expectations. Perhaps a walking tour is not in the cards now (as I learned quickly). Adapt and move on. (Or in this case, hobble on).
2. Always have your insurance information with you!
Goes without saying, right? But you’d be surprised what you don’t think to bring with you on a holiday when you’re not far from your dorm and not thinking anything bad will happen. Stay organized and on top of your documents-especially when traveling abroad. I assure you that as a twenty year old, I wasn’t thinking about that at the time. At all. Nope, not one bit.
I don’t travel now without travel insurance. My go to travel insurer is Allianz. Thankfully I’ve never needed it, but I sleep, eat, and tour better knowing that I am covered. And nope, I wasn’t paid to say this or an affiliate link. Just a good idea I thought I’d pass along!
My final nugget: don’t accept the treatment plan as the only way it can be done. The doctors in France recommended that I get shots in in my stomach to thin my blood. Say WHAT?!! Nope. I was having none of that. I called home, and we decided that aspirin would do just fine and accomplish the same result.
3. Food and wine make it all better.
So I wasn’t able to dive into all the activities I thought because of my broken ankle. Not the end of the world. What I could still do was eat all the delicious French food and drink wine, Now had that been taken away, different story! But my point is that I didn’t become so fixated on what I couldn’t do that I lost sight of what I could do.
4. Never be afraid to ask for help. Helpers are everywhere!
Despite my leg, I still had to make the 10 minute walk to school. Only now it was more like 30 minutes for me. So by the end of the day and sometimes sooner if we were sightseeing, I was pretty tired. My friends were quick to help me with my books, my bags, and even to carry me piggyback. I will never forget their generosity because it made all the difference.
Accepting help for me is a tough concept. But believe me, when crutches are your other option, the help looks pretty good!
Forgive the photo quality-this was in the age before digital photos. This WAS 24 years ago! But despite the years, my month abroad still remains one of the most amazingly formative and memorable times in my life. Bum ankle or not!
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