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Alone and Unwell a Long Way from Home

Alone and Unwell a Long Way from Home | After the Heartbreak
Alone and Unwell a Long Way from Home
Lying on a hotel bed

My second foray into travelling solo was going along perfectly well and then it fell apart in 5 seconds flat! One minute I was sitting on the hotel bed to take off my walking shoes after exploring a new city….and the next minute the room started to slew to the right and the floor was spinning around my feet. Vertigo! Aaargh!!!!

spiral vortex

The particular affliction or illness isn’t the point of this post though….it was the fact that I was 5,000km away from home, in a hotel room, and all by myself. I felt awful and closed my eyes to stop the room tilting violently but this only increased the nausea and feeling of dread. I was scared.

Since my husband died I have been determined to complete our extensive bucket list of travel destinations… travelling solo but taking him along with me in my heart. Lying there on a strange hotel bed that terrible afternoon, I berated myself for putting on the ‘strong woman voice’ and talking myself into it.

Come on!” My strong self had urged my weaker self, “It’s not like you haven’t travelled before! You can’t just sit home for the rest of your life!

At that moment while lying on the bed I didn’t have a good opinion of my strong self at all. Nevertheless I lay there and thought things through. I wasn’t being philosophical or heroic……I seriously couldn’t even turn my head, let alone move or do anything else!

OK, so to take stock of the situation, I was feeling very unwell but I wasn’t dead. I wasn’t even injured…or in acute pain….or seriously incapacitated. I was just dizzy. Also, as an intelligent person I like to think that I learn from mistakes. At this point I admitted to myself that I had been a bit ‘gung-ho’ with the whole “I can do this” self-talk, and perhaps I needed to step back and consider all aspects before throwing myself off any cliffs (metaphorically speaking… I won’t be bungee jumping any time soon). 😀

Norbert sick in bed

When my husband and I travelled together, we were a team. When he got a terrible gastric thing during our travels in Norway, I was the one who went in search of soda water and crackers. When I had the worst flu in Fiji, he stayed next to my bed and wrung out the cold cloths to try and bring my temperature down. We had always been there for each other. But now I needed to consider this in my new solo travelling adventures, and not be quite so “She’ll be right mate!“….to quote a common Australianism. 🙂

I had always blithely thought that if anything happened, I could always go down to Reception and talk to the hotel staff. True…but with the room spinning I could not go downstairs and could do nothing but fall onto the bed and stay there with my eyes closed for several hours. I doubt I could have reached for the phone and focussed on the numbers so ringing for help was possible, but a difficult option. I was lucky I was still in my own country so language wasn’t an issue, and I understood the medical system… but what if this happened while overseas, and especially in a third world country?

The short story is that I survived that afternoon, and while still feeling a bit unwell over the next couple of days, I was fine and went on to enjoy my trip. When I got home though, the episode spurred me on to do some serious thinking about being better prepared during future travels, and to make some serious decisions about my health in these circumstances.

Me in Perth, Australia
Me… enjoying the harbour in Perth, Western Australia

Here’s what I came up with…..

Travel Insurance: It goes without saying that this is essential for overseas travel, but in future I will get this even for lengthy interstate travel as I could be seriously out of pocket if illness or accident means I have to cancel everything and take an earlier flight home.

Stay Healthy: I was trying to do that anyway but it was very clear that if I was depending on myself, I couldn’t be the slightly accident-prone woman with little upper-body strength and inclined to suffer vague intestinal issues…not to mention, vertigo. I needed to be strong and healthy.

Medical Kit: I would normally take a few things with me (bandaids, aspirin etc) but I didn’t this time because I was only going to a different state so I knew I could buy anything I needed while I was away. Great theory, but when I was flat on my back with the ceiling spinning around and feeling incredibly nauseous, I really needed somebody to go to the chemist for me and get something for the nausea. I could not have done this myself. In future I will always pack at least a few items for common ailments…just in case.

Get help: Replacing the safety net I had when I travelled with my husband was impossible, but I did come up with this plan – I will co-opt a family member to assist with everything discussed in advance.

Phone with message

My (perhaps a bit ‘out there’) idea is that if I suffer illness or accident, I will send a text message with a pre-arranged code that tells that person just how much trouble I’m in without me having to explain it all with expensive phone calls or tedious texting eg Vertigo, level 2. The levels could be:

  1. Just letting you know, but I’ll be OK
  2. Not well but I’m finding a doctor…will keep you posted
  3. Very unwell….please call reception for me re doctor (will need to have informed this person of relevant numbers previously)
  4. Extremely unwell…please inform reception and Embassy
  5. Dead (Only kidding!!!!! 😀 )

Have you ever experienced being ill or had an accident when travelling solo? What did you do….and what did you learn from it? 🙂

Marlene is an Australian widow who has written about all the good, bad and ugly stuff that happened after her husband Norbert died tragically. Marlene responds to all comments.

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