It’s time that I jumped on the ‘top 3 travel regrets’ band wagon. Carl from That Time in recently tagged me in a post with the same title and at the end of this I will pass the baton on to 3 more bloggers.
1. Not bringing what I know realise are essential items on my round the world trip
The night before I left for my 3 month trip earlier this year I enlisted the help of my friends to narrow down my packing. At the end of that I’d successfully binned around 4 items from my bag. One of these was hand sanitiser. Fast forward to my almost 2 weeks in Laos (one of the dirtiest places I’ve ever been) and I totally regretted that decision. That’s what makes packing so difficult – even the smallest items can be invaluable.
There were two other items that I really wished I had bought and will definitely be bringing on my next trip. One was an unlocked iPhone. I bought my rusty old unlocked HTC Wildfire with me and had to deal with iPhone envy the whole way. I can only take about 3 photos on it before I get an irritating error message and I’m unable to download any apps. I thought I would be fine going without a phone with a local sim card but as soon as I got to Australia I knew it was going to drive me mad. I ended up buying cheap phones in both Australia and New Zealand, both with very limited internet access. Occasionally I would use my HTC internet quickly to check facebook, use maps or post a blog – it couldn’t cost that much, surely? I returned home to a £250 phone bill. I’ve learnt my lesson and that’s why I have an unlocked iPhone 4 shaped present under the christmas tree this year.
The second item was a waterproof camera or camera case. As an avid photo taker I should have known it would frustrate me not being able to take photos wherever I went. There were so many times where I cursed myself for not having one – tubing in Vang Vieng, kayaking in Cathedral Cove and bathing in torrential rain on Fraser Island to name a few. I will definitely be bringing one when I leave in February.
2. Leaving my bag on the beach in Phi Phi, Thailand
After the consumption of many red bull buckets in Phi Phi it seemed perfectly logical to go swimming in the warm, inviting sea at 3am. Since I seem to have absolutely no concept of time when I’m intoxicated I may have been there for what seemed like 20 minutes but was more likely to be 2 hours. It did cross my mind a few times that I had left my bag (containing my phone, camera, purse and all my cash cards) on the shore, and that in the pitch black I wouldn’t even see someone walk up and steal it, but my friend’s advice that ‘you only live once’ won me over and I put my worries aside to stay in the lovely water that little bit longer.
Not surprisingly, my purse was taken. I considered myself pretty lucky as they had kindly left the bag with my phone (hidden in the lining) still in it. I was also lucky to be travelling with a friend from home at the time who could lend me money until I got my spare card sorted (thank God I had the sense to stash an extra one in my bag) and later picked up my cards in Australia after getting my mum to send them. I did, however, have a very scary few days in Australia with around $10 to my name when there was a problem with my money transfer onto that card. I’ve learnt my lesson to not only be more careful with my belongings, but to not bring out all of my cards/important/expensive items when I’m planning on getting very drunk!
3. Taking the most ungrateful person I have ever met to the hospital in Phi Phi (yes, Phi Phi was an unlucky time!)
When I found someone who I had vaguely met a few days before lying in agony on a bench in Phi Phi, clutching at his foot, I didn’t even question helping him (even though it was due to his own stupidity – jumping off a tall pole at a club). So my last night in one of my favourite places in the world was spent in a hospital, lying on the edge of this guys bed, wide awake and hoping the 3 patients around me would survive the night.
First I tried to find his brother, who I had also met, with no luck. Then I wandered aimlessly around the island searching for someone with medical training who I hoped would tell me he was being drunk and over dramatic and would be fine. He didn’t. He felt his foot and informed me I needed to get him to a hospital as soon as possible. That’s how I somehow I ended up taking sole responsibility for someone I had known a whole ten minutes.
There are no taxis in Phi Phi, which meant I had to stupidly over pay someone to wheel him in a luggage trolley to the hospital across the island. I then had to sign some forms and take responsibility for him legally and financially in order for him to get the medical treatment he needed. Being the compassionate person that I am paired with the fact he was now screaming in pain, I didn’t hesitate to sign them. They gave him an injection in his back with the biggest needle I’ve ever seen and handed me a few pills with the instruction for him to swallow them. I had no idea what they were and I told him he was taking them at his own risk. He took them and immediately passed out, but not before having a go at me for taking him to hospital, telling me he didn’t have the money to pay for the care and that he was going to leave through the back door. We ended up bickering like an old married couple before he finally agreed that walking out of the door really wasn’t an option in the state he was in.
After he passed out it occured to me that I had no idea what he was taken, or if that was a normal reaction. No one checked on him and my imagination ran wild, thinking that he might be dead and it’d be all my fault (yes, I was a little paranoid about the Thai medical care!). Not only did I have to deal with that worry but also about the two other patients in the room. One was an American guy who looked absolutely awful and was hooked up to a drip, apparently he had extreme food poisoning, and the second he told me was a girl who had been found in a bush having had her drink spiked. At one stage the guy stumbled to the toilet and I heard him calling for help ten minutes later. The nurses station was on the other side of the building and they were clearly paying no attention so I went to see what was wrong. I found him in a pool of blood that seemed to be coming from his wrists. That image has stayed with me ever since and it wasn’t nice! I ran across the hospital and banged on the nurses door only to be met with an angry Thai woman shouting at me to leave her alone (I had woken her up). I had to practically drag her over to the bathroom with me to help him out (even after gesturing that there was blood coming from his wrists she seemed more concerned with going back to sleep). I think his IV had come out so it wasn’t as dramatic as I first thought, but it was still pretty horrific.
I lay awake all night terrified that one of them would need help and there would be no one around to hear them, then in the morning I was met with a big bill for his medical expenses. He had no money on him, no phone and no idea where he was staying for me to find his brother. I had no money either (due to number 2) so at 8am I found myself trekking across the island, stupidly hungover and dehydrated, to get some money off my friend in the guesthouse. I could have easily left him there (the guy with the food poisoning had heard everything and told me he thought he was an idiot and I should just leave him) but my conscience kicked in and I went back. They handed me some rickety crutches and a bag full of pills and sent us on our way. He was staying on the other side of the island and was in agony. I had to chaperone him while his eyes watered with the pain as he hobbled across the island. It took over an hour and I had no sun cream which resulted in pretty bad burning on my back. When I finally reunited him with his brother he offered me a half-arsed ‘thanks for that’ while his brother refunded me the money. I returned back to the guesthouse at around 10am, exhausted, slightly traumatised, dehydrated, sunburnt and angry that I had gone through that much effort for someone who clearly didn’t appreciate it, and that I had wasted my last night in a Thai hospital.
I later added him on facebook to find out if he was okay (he had shattered several bones in his heel and broken a bone in his back apparently). I expected some kind of thank you and I never got it. I later ended up taking a friend to hospital in Australia with a broken toe (apparently I am a curse on feet!) who was very grateful, and reminded me that not all good deeds go unnoticed. So in retrospect I probably should have just sent him on his way and let him deal with it on his own, he clearly didn’t deserve any more! But hey – it does make a long, but very good story, and it means I’m well overdue some good karma!
I’m now going to pass the baton on to three more travel bloggers I have discovered recently, in the hope that I can learn from their mistakes!