Confessions of a Klutzy Traveller: Travel Illnesses and Injuries

by Melissa on August 28, 2013 · 12 comments

I have a confession to make.  If you’ve been reading The Mellyboo Project a while, you may already know.  But for those newcomers… I have to confess that I am a klutzy traveller.  I am so much of a klutz that I was given the nickname Little Miss Clusterfuck, by my good friend Simo of The Rusty BucketIf anyone is going to wind up broken, bruised or bleeding, it will be me.  Guaranteed.

Don’t believe me?  The proof is in the pudding.   Let me give you the stories behind my top 5 travel illnesses and injuries.

Bicycle troubles in Northern Sweden

I famously documented my troubles of being a passenger on the back of a bicycle while I was in Northern Sweden to visit Jill, a friend of mine who was studying abroad.  On my first night we were going to be going to a party on the other side of the city – a good 40minute bike ride away.  Unfortunately there were no spare bicycles.  Jill’s friend Matt was kind enough to offer that I hop on the back of his and he would ensure we got to the party.  I looked warily at the bicycle and tried to figure out how I was going to comfortably straddle the awkward metal piece for 40minutes.  Somehow I got on, and off Matt pedaled.  40minutes later we finally made it to the party – and low-and-behold my inner thighs were bruised beyond recognition.  Great start to my time in Umea.

travel illnesses and injuries

My woes as a bicycle passenger didn’t stop there, however.  On my last evening in Umea, Jill and her friends had planned to attend karaoke night after we had our amazing Swedish dinner party – which included eating crayfish and drinking lots of aquavit (otherwise known as schnapps – in such flavours as prickley flower or old wood boat).  After having far too much to drink we had the same dilemma of too many people, not enough bicycles.  This time a lovely Irish girl offered to let me ride her bike as she rode on the back.  Since I was quite inebriated – and had never tried riding a bicycle with a passenger on the back – it didn’t go too well.  After a few attempts, my Irish counterpart took the helm and I (uncomfortably) got on the back – much to the chagrin of my poor bruised inner thighs from earlier in the week.  Things were going well – until we had a steep hill to go down and barriers to get through.  Long story short – we bailed.  I went knee first into the pavement, ripped open my knee and definitely did some nerve damage – cause my knee hasn’t been the same since.

travel illnesses and injuries

Tripping over a massive boulder in Western Australia

Western Australia wasn’t too kind to me on the whole keeping-my-footing front.  The worst of my injuries came one evening while on my South West Coast roadtrip with three random backpackers and one rented stationwagon.  We were (illegally) camping outside of Albany, Western Australia and daylight had long since run out.  We were cooking our dinner on the public barbeques and in an attempt to be proactive – I went to throw out the rubbish in the bin about 100m away.  On my way back, in the pitch black, I somehow managed to go ass-over-tea-kettle over a metre high boulder.  I ripped my food open in the process.  Rather than getting to enjoy a nice warm meal, I tended to my wounds and a half hour later finally got to dig into my then-cold tucker.


Campylobacter Enteritis and 5 day hospital visit in Melbourne

The big daddy of my travel illnesses and injuries came a few weeks after the tripping-over-a-boulder-in-the-dark incident.  After roadtripping along the Great Ocean Road from Adelaide to Melbourne with two Frenchmen, I found myself in the emergency room at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia I wasn’t exactly sure what was wrong with me – except I had a fever of 39.5degrees, and was (for lack of a better term) shitting myself to death.  After one entertaining night in emergency room, an afternoon in a semi-private room, and numerous medical tests later – I was moved to a private room – because they didn’t want to take any chances.  So there I sat in solitary confinement, with my only visitors being the nurses who came in every few hours to poke and prod me.  Around day 3 in the hospital my (delightfully gorgeous) doctor told me that I had contracted campylobacter enteritis – a form of food poisoning so bad that it can kill you.  I spent a few more days on the proper medication and resting up in the hospital before they finally let me out.  That hospital visit temporarily hurt my credit card too – until my travel insurance claim came back and I was reimbursed the $2100.

hospital patient

Stubbing my Toe (nearly) Off in Namibia

My poor feet have taken quite the beating over the last few years of me traveling.  I have an affinity to walking barefoot or in flip flops – which usually winds up with me stubbing my toes, breaking the nail, and somehow trailing blood in my wake.  This was no different when I made it to the dusty country of Namibia.  After a lovely two-night hotel stay in Swakopmund, my Nomad Adventure Tours group and I were en route to Spitzkoppe for a night of bush camping.  We had one bathroom break at a crystal and gemstone market, so once I finished in the bathroom, I ran back to the truck to retrieve my camera to take a few pictures as I made some purchases from the locals.  On my way back I remember being in such a hurry that I stumbled over a rock, but didn’t think too much of it.  That was, until another tour goer pointed out that my foot was covered in blood.  I looked down and saw the familiar sight – an obscene amount of blood, a broken toenail and a trail of blood showing which direction I came from.  I hobbled back to the truck and quickly grabbed my trusty first-aid kit and went to work (with the assistance of one of the guides) at cleaning up the wound.  I was honestly more gutted that I had to later miss out on exploring Spitzkoppe on foot, and had to stay behind at the campsite while the rest of the group took a guided tour and learned about some of the local folklore.

travel illnesses and injuries

Scuba, Sun and Asthma Attacks in the Dominican Republic


In February 2013 I travelled to an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic with my mother and sister – and here I was set on finally getting my scuba diving certification.  After a few days of training in the pool and scuba diving out in the ocean, I noticed that my breathing wasn’t 100% up to par, but it wasn’t much of a hindrance.  That was until we decided to have a ‘girls day’ and went to the resort’s spa.  Here we did a circuit of the steam room, a dry sauna, a cold room, another steam room, and so on before we went in for our massages.  Fast forward five or six hours.  I was trying to get to sleep and just couldn’t seem to catch my breath.  It was a struggle, and I was almost positive I was going to stop breathing in my sleep.  Since we were due to fly home the following day I tried to not make too much of a big deal about it.  I even waited a few days after returning to Toronto before going to the hospital to get it checked out.  And low and behold, that asthma I’ve had since 6 weeks old, the same asthma that really hasn’t caused me any problems in about 15 years, decided to rear its ugly head.  Let me tell you, there really isn’t anything worse than feeling like you can’t breathe.



If my mishaps have been able to teach you anything, it’s that having a few essentials on hand – such as proper travel insurance and a fully stocked first-aid kit – are imperative for when things go a little bit wrong.  Accidents, illnesses and injuries can happen anywhere – not just when you’re travelling – but being prepared is the most important thing you can do.

Have YOU found yourself with any awful travel illnesses and injuries?  Tell me about them in the comments below!


{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Leo August 28, 2013 at 9:23 am

I have something to top this:) ready?
I worked on a ranch in New Zealand out in the nowhere, 2 hours away from the next supermarket. One morning we were out riding with the horses and my horse freaked at the sight of a sheep jumping out of a bush in front of us. I managed to stay on the horse, but a the sight of a tree/bush wall (there was no way I was gonna make it trough that without serious injuries) I quite controlled slit off at the side of the horse. All good. The problem was, the horse also realized that it was not gonna get trough there, turned and stepped on my shoulder… It hurt like hell and I couldnt move my arm at all. Of course, we went to the hospital; joint, muscles, everything smashed. But I was in the middle of my 10 month trip so I kept travelling and then had to have a surgery due a torn tendon and a dislocated shoulder when I got back to Germany :))


Melissa September 27, 2013 at 3:22 am

Oh My God! That is absolutely crazy! I can’t believe you put off having surgery so you could continue traveling. Must’ve been absolutely awful! I can’t imagine having a horse step on your shoulder. I’ve had my fair share of tumbles off a horse, but nothing like that! Thank god you’re okay now (I hope!)


Kim August 28, 2013 at 11:29 am

Be careful… Miss you! Xox


Melissa September 27, 2013 at 3:22 am

I always try to be as careful as possible… but being a clusterfuck kinda means I have these random injuries and illnesses occur! 😉


Anne August 28, 2013 at 1:41 pm

…… And now malaria in Africa.


Melissa September 27, 2013 at 3:20 am

yep… malaria in Malawi will have to go in Confessions of a Klutzy Traveller part 2!


Heather August 28, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Wowza, you weren’t kidding! Actually, I think you’re pretty lucky to have traveled so extensively with only these few as your top injuries. I’m not *super* clutzy and usually grin and bear it through my bumps and bruises, but I am fearful of stuff like campylobacter and fevers. I’m glad that none of these experiences have put you off of travel!
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Melissa September 27, 2013 at 3:24 am

I do NOT wish campylobacter upon anyone… it was actually awful.

And you are right… considering how much I’ve travelled, these few injuries and illnesses really don’t account for too much time ruined.

And it would take a lot more than these few things to put me off travel… in fact, I don’t think anything could!


Bekka August 29, 2013 at 6:10 pm

I just stumbled upon your blog after reading something you wrote on World Travel Buzz (I also write for them) and I love your writing! I also pretty much shat myself to death when I got parasites in Guatemala! I was living with a host family, the bathroom was down two flights of stairs, I barely spoke Spanish at that point (nor did I feel comfortable describing the grave situation of my intestines in explicit detail as I would to a close friend), and to top it all off- the bathroom “door” was a shower curtain for all to hear every minute detail of my situation!
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Melissa September 27, 2013 at 3:25 am

Oh Bekka! That’s terrible. Isn’t it awful when you’re basically shitting yourself to death?! It’s so embarrassing, but you reach a point where you lose all shame and just deal with the situation at hand. Shame about the door 😉


Tiffany September 9, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Sounds like athe beginning of a pretty good book :p. Can’t say I’ve had much happen in the 22 countries I’ve visited. Food poisining in Spain I think has been the worsr…some exhaustion, head cold and early onset of a sinus infection, orher than that I have no cool stories :p. Will just have to go somewhere new and hope for the worst :p!


Melissa September 27, 2013 at 3:26 am

Who knows… maybe I’ll include this in my travel memoirs 😛

You’ve definitely been pretty lucky! Especially since you travel so much, even just for work!

And NO! Don’t hope for the worst 😉 haha Enjoy your good luck!


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