Updated on August 16th, 2021
If you have read any of my blog posts, you will know I am a huge advocate of solo travel. However, occasionally I must admit that there are also disadvantages of travelling alone. What about when you sustain an injury & are a long way from home? This happened to me on my recent trip to Wales when I was forced to stop & admit vulnerability. Read on for the story of what happened & my advice to anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation.”
Brecon Beacons, Wales
Anyone who has read many of my blog posts will know I’m a huge advocate for solo travel. Don’t get me wrong, I love going away with friends & family but there is also nothing like the freedom that comes from taking to the road on your own terms. Going where you want, when you want & not having anyone else to answer to. I am such a fan I recently wrote a whole blog post on the benefits of travelling alone.
But what happens when something goes wrong? That can be a huge disadvantage to travelling solo. Then, being on your own is your worst enemy. That is when that word emerges with a vengeance. The one I hate with a passion.
Recently I went on a road trip around Wales. I loved every moment of it.
I walked & then I walked, & then I found a castle, saw some sheep, then walked some more. It felt amazing after being locked up for 18 months to finally have my freedom to roam again.”
I had spent hours on trails on my own. Sometimes I couldn’t see another person around me, just the birds & maybe a few sheep. Thankfully nothing happened then. Until I casually came out of my bathroom, forgot there was a step & crashed down sideways on my ankle. It was agony. It swelled, it bruised, & I writhed around swearing on my bed for a bit.
So, there I am alone in my hotel room in agony, worried that I may have just broken my ankle. It’s Friday evening. And I feel very, very alone.
Concerned about hiking alone? Check out all my top tips for solo hiking here).
Discovering the beauty of the Brecon Beacons is no longer on the agenda. I need to calm the pain. I need to find out the level of the damage. And somehow, I need to find a way to get back home, for me & the car I may not be able to drive.
Obviously, I was in my own country, which was a huge advantage, but I was still at least 4 hours drive from home.
Here is my story, my advice for what to do if you find yourself in a similar position & how I discovered that I wasn’t alone after all.
To read more about my time in Wales before this happened, check out my post on the Best Walks in the Gower Peninsula.
Disadvantages of travelling alone – What happens when you get injured?
I was in the UK & am British. For medical care, it meant that the National Health Service (NHS) was available to me & I didn’t have to pay for it! In the UK, healthcare is free (well, it’s not as we are taxed heavily for the privilege, but you get my drift…). It is a world-class service when you need it most & why I would never travel without insurance. It is exactly for these kinds of situations where travel insurance is essential.
Now back to my story…
Disadvantages of travelling solo…you are alone
I was injured & a long way from home. When you feel like this all you want is to have someone to take care of you & there was nobody there.
I cried because I was in pain, a bit scared over what had just happened & felt very vulnerable. But as with anything it’s all about breaking it down to one challenge at a time…”
So, I picked up the phone. I called 3 friends who I knew would be good in this situation. Unfortunately, none of them answered but thankfully that only lasted for a few minutes before my first wonderful friend, Gemma called me back. She is super practical & has sustained numerous injuries through the years so knew exactly what to do.
Get some ice. Do you have any painkillers? Take some anti-inflammatories. Is there a hospital nearby? Send me a photo. Where does it hurt?”
And suddenly, I was no longer alone!”
And while I sobbed on the phone to her, she enabled my thoughts to be a little clearer.
Then another friend rang back. RICE was his advice – Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate. Then he began to regale me with a tale of when he broke his ankle & how painful it was. Not quite so helpful, but still reassuring that I wasn’t on my own!
Later Gemma came back to me with news from a chat with her doctor friend.
“Press the bony part of the ankle. Does it hurt?”
“Then the chances are it isn’t broken. Press the fleshy bit.”
“Then it’s probably a soft tissue injury.”
Get something to help
So, the conclusion of both those chats was that if I had nothing else, I needed ice. I hobbled out & down the stairs of my guesthouse on a mission to find some. The lovely lady in charge came out to find me close to tears (again!).
I relayed the story & asked for ice. She gave me loads, I hobbled back up & felt better already. She later returned with a few tubes of various creams (a couple of anti-inflammatories, arnica for the bruising), an ankle strap & a compression bandage should I need them.
There was nothing else I could do except make it through the night until I could get some medical attention. I was now in the realms of a whole new adventure altogether!”
By the time morning came, I may not have slept well but my head was starting to clear. I found the number of the local Minor Injuries Unit & at 7.30am I was on the phone. Despite the amazing service that the NHS is, things can be a little unpredictable at the weekend. It may have been Saturday, but my call was answered immediately. Within minutes I had an appointment scheduled for 3 hours’ time where they would examine, X-ray & sort me out with any strapping, plaster & medication I may need.
Wow! My relief was huge.
The unit wasn’t far but there was no way I could drive so how would I get there & back? Over breakfast, I gave the owner an update & within seconds she had offered me a lift with one of the girls who worked there. Amazing!
So, at 10.15 I headed back down & got a lift to the hospital. It was literally just a minute’s drive away but I couldn’t have been more grateful. I had an X-ray. Thankfully it was not broken but the nurse said it was badly swollen & a serious sprain. It could take as long as a break to heal. Six weeks. She recommended all the things I needed to do & packed me off with a big boot to wear on my foot.
Then I needed a taxi back. The lady in reception called 4 firms but unsuccessfully as for such a short ride, they clearly didn’t want to take me. I decided to walk. Slowly.
I hadn’t got far before a car pulled up beside me. Someone had clearly seen me struggling & decided to stop & help. The woman wound down her window & asked if I was local & knew where a certain street was. I apologised & said I didn’t, to which she looked hugely inconvenienced, rolled her window back up & drove off!
I stared at her car a bit stunned as she disappeared into the distance. All I could do was laugh. No matter what, never lose your sense of humour!”
Practice using the words “Yes, thank you!”
Early in the process, Gemma had offered to come & pick me up. She would take me back to her house which had several advantages. First, I wouldn’t be alone. Second, I would be closer to home. And finally, she was coming to visit me that Thursday anyway so could give me a lift home then. It was a no, brainer so I took her up on the offer. Next challenge, what happens to my car?
One of my friends had suggested getting my car transported home on the back of a van. It wasn’t cheap but saving money wasn’t my biggest priority right now. However, if I was going back with Gemma, I would have to leave the car there, ask someone to be responsible for the keys & also may not be home when it was delivered. I would need to ask someone else to help at the other end.
By the way, I am notoriously bad at asking for help!”
The lovely owner of the B&B was looking out for me when I returned from the hospital. I shared all my remaining challenges with her & would you believe she knew a local guy who she thought did vehicle transportation? She contacted him & passed on his number.
At this point it seems appropriate to say, if you are heading to Brecon, stay at Ty Helyg Guest House. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough! And while there you are within hobbling distance of the excellent Bank Bar & Kitchen & for some Thai flavours (pre-injury for me) try Chang.
Use your network
Being on your own is a challenge of solo travel but doesn’t mean you are completely alone. During my stay in Wales, I had got some real interest in my travels from my Facebook friends. I posted my last days activity (Carreg Cennon, a glorious ancient castle on the edge of the Brecon Beacons), along with the photo of my swollen foot from the night before. I followed it with a couple of shots of the hospital & the caption “Not the views I was hoping for in the Brecon Beacons!”
That was it. My phone started buzzing & beeping as the news spread & the offers of help came flooding in. I was overwhelmed.
From the emotion of feeling so alone the night before to the realisation that I now had an army of wonderful people across the country who would come to my rescue was a dramatic contrast. The impact was not lost on me. My options were opening up by the minute.”
I know that this is particularly relevant because, in the whole scheme of my travels, I wasn’t far from home. I also have a network that covers the whole UK, & an extensive international one too. But so do a lot of other people. And friends have friends. And there is nothing more mobilising than a friend in need.
I am a member of the fantastic Wanderful Community which is an international community of women who love to travel. By joining them, you become part of a global sisterhood of women dedicated to supporting each other. If you need help, what better network to be part of? If you want to learn more about becoming a member, check out the link HERE.
Assess all your options
Back to the car challenge & I had a quote from a van company. I then contacted the local guy who said he thought he could help to get my car home. Maybe with me in it. He told me a van would be expensive as you also have to fund the return journey. Getting someone to drive would be the most economical option.
He was DJing at a wedding, so communication was a little sporadic. He clearly has his finger in a lot of pies!”
I spoke to my constant support, Gemma again. She had already offered her services to pick me up but now came back with an additional option of her husband driving over too & taking my car back to their house. This was over 3 hours round trip for them both. My initial response was to assume this was a huge inconvenience & turn his offer down. However, on reflection, they were happy to help. It would at least mean that me & the car were still together. It was also a more straightforward route home & after a few days’ rest, I may even be able to drive it myself. If not, I at least had the option of a lift with Gemma.
Finally, I had a plan! I lamented & said a resounding “Yes, please!” All I had to do now was rest my leg & wait for my knights in shining armour to collect me the next day. They did. I took the family out to dinner to say thank you. I rested at theirs until Thursday when I was even able to tentatively drive myself home. Then I rested some more.
So, there are definite disadvantages to travelling alone. It’s not all confidence & freedom. But here are a few of the tips I have for if you do ever find yourself injured & a long way from home:
- Make sure you have insurance as you never know when you will need it.
- Always keep an emergency fund available to get you out of trouble.
- Tell everyone around you what has happened & what your challenges are. Give them as much detail as you can. You never know who may be able to help…or have a contact who can.
- Explore your network. Think outside the box. Broadcast your situation. Your networks have networks of their own.
- Be kind to yourself. It’s OK to ask for help. And when it’s offered, answer with a resounding “Yes, thank you!”
- Take each challenge one step at a time. Your health comes first. Once this is sorted your head will be clearer.
While I write this, I am still resting in my flat. I am icing regularly & have my leg elevated. But I am home. I am safe. I am grateful for my amazing friends. And most of all, I am relishing the fact that at least I could enjoy the wonders of Wales a bit before I was rudely incapacitated. And the photos in this post hopefully will whet your appetite for all I have to share about my time in Wales…before I got to Brecon.
There are disadvantages of traveling alone when something goes wrong, but never forget that people want to help. Reach out & let them. This is when you see the power of human kindness shining at its brightest.”
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