The Backpacking Housewife Mishaps

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Mishaps and Misadventures while travelling!

I’ve been doing a few interviews recently about my nomadic travelling lifestyle and about our very best experiences and favourite places in the world. I was also asked about mishaps and misadventures while travelling – things that haven’t exactly gone to plan – and what experiences have perhaps been the most challenging. The truth is that sometimes things haven’t gone quite the way we expected.

When you don’t have a home and homely comforts, even small things can escalate into big things and they can sometimes feel hard to handle. As I haven’t posted about Bad Things that have happened to us over the past few years while we have been travelling I thought it was time I did. If only so you will realise that it’s not all perfect days spent in flip-flops and sunshine. In hindsight, we have been fortunate, as none of these things have been a real emergency but merely challenges that we have managed to overcome and come out of unscathed and possibly a little wiser.

It’s important to note that we travel with emergency worldwide medical insurance. Adequate medical insurance is essential while travelling. We do consider it a major annual outlay even though we are lucky not to have any existing medical issues or a need for repeat medications and our policy doesn’t cover delayed or missed flights or baggage. We think of it as money well spent on something we hope we’ll never need. So far we’ve never actually had to make a claim. My advice to you is to never travel without it.

1. Toothache: We’d only been travelling a couple of months when I started to get a toothache despite having recently been to my dentist for a full check-up examination (I even had a dental x-ray!) as part of our preparations for departure from the UK. The toothache first flared up while we were in the Caribbean but then to my relief settled down again. The pain came back with a vengeance while we were travelling in Asia and while we were in South Korea I had to go to a dentist for what turned out to be root canal treatment. A few months later an abscess formed once again and I ended up having to have the tooth pulled. It was the only tooth I’ve ever lost. Its removal was traumatic as it involved my gum being opened to remove fragments of the shattered tooth and then stitched back together again. The cost involved was around the same at our insurance excess so I didn’t make a claim.

In agony at ‘The Happy Dentist’ in South Korea

2. A badly infected foot: While we were in Thailand I slipped and fell, scraping the skin off the top of my foot. I was wearing flip-flops and I promise you I hadn’t been drinking. I simply slipped on a steep pathway after it had rained. The path had dried quickly in heat leaving a slippery screed on which I went down fast. I realised later that I had been lucky, as I had been arm in arm with my husband at the time and if I hadn’t been holding onto him, it’s likely that I would have broken something.

The injury seemed to be a painful but bloody superficial graze at first – but in the tropical humidity and heat in Thailand any break in the skin can easily become infected. I cleaned the wound but within three days it was obvious that I had developed a bad infection. I was in agony and couldn’t walk. I would describe having the wound cleaned by the pharmacist as feeling like being hit by a hammer and slashed with glass at the same time. It was horrendous. Countless dressings and two courses of strong antibiotics and a week or two later and I was on the mend. I was left with a nasty scar that a year later I had covered by a tattoo of a turtle swimming in a coral garden.

I was left with a nasty scar that a year later had covered by a tattoo

3. Suspicious moles: While in Malaysia, I noticed three moles that suddenly appeared on my body. One on the top of my leg and two on my back. We’d been travelling for a couple of years at this point and I had spent a lot of that time in tropical countries and in strong sunshine. In conversation, I happened to mention these suspicious moles to a lady I’d befriended while on a small island where we were helping out at a turtle sanctuary. She lived in Kuala Lumpur, where we were headed next, and she told me I should get them checked out. So an appointment was made a week or so later at the Pantai Hospital in KL.

The Pantai Hospital in Kuala Lumpur

I’d never been to a private hospital before and this one looked pretty fancy – they even had valet parking at the entrance. I soon discovered that Dr Tan (that’s his real name) is a Consultant Plastic Surgeon as well as a skin specialist and, after a short wait in his reception area, I got to meet him. I found he was a friendly, delightful, and impressively qualified professional who had trained in London and Edinburgh. Dr Tan told me that the two moles on my back were nothing at all to be concerned about – just normal moles – and that he could remove them straight away BUT that he was concerned about the other one at the top of my leg which would certainly need a biopsy.

Dr Tan (that’s his real name) is a Consultant Plastic Surgeon

I wish I’d taken a photo of the suspicious mole to show you before it was removed but to describe it – it wasn’t a regular shape like the others as it had raggedy edges and was mottled in colour (light and dark brown) and neither was it raised above the skin like the others – this one was flat and under the skin.

Dr Tan asked me how long I was staying in Kuala Lumpur and I replied ‘just a few days’. But, when he looked me kindly in the eye and suggested that I stuck around for a week until he had the biopsy results, I started to feel a bit worried. You are probably thinking that seeing a top surgeon in a private hospital in Kuala Lumpur would cost a fortune – and I was rather afraid that it might. Imagine what such a bill would be in Europe or the USA or Canada for instance? I do know that in the UK I could have seen a specialist for free under the UK NHS – but I would have had to return to the UK from Malaysia and how long would it have taken for me to even get an appointment? And, if I did turn out to have skin cancer, surely a timely initial appointment would make a huge difference to a healthy outcome?

The biopsy results took just five days to land in my inbox and to my great relief, it was good news. The mole was not malignant skin cancer. It was a Seborrheic Keratosis – a type of harmless skin growth that bears a resemblance to skin cancer. I was very fortunate indeed. And, as the total bill for all the treatment here in Kuala Lumpur was so little, I didn’t even have to put it through my insurance.

4. Our passports needed replacing: Three years into our travels we arrived in Thailand to be told our passports needed replacing. This was news to us because we knew we still had seven years before they expired. But we had run out of empty pages. Immigration in almost every country requires you to have at least one empty page in your passport for entry and exit stamps. Many countries use a full page in your passport for an entry visa. We were in a bit of a panic as we didn’t know how to replace our passports while travelling.

We arrived in Thailand to be told our passports needed replacing

We assumed we would have the expense of having to go back to the UK to do so until we finally found out that we could do this through the British Embassy in Bangkok. We completed the necessary paperwork and had some (sweaty and rather unflattering) new passport photos taken and within a couple of weeks we were reunited with brand-new passports. It was an inconvenience and an unexpected expense but our panic was over and we could continue travelling!

Old passports for new through the British Embassy in Bangkok

5. Bad Weather: This is actually two things as we have been caught up in both a hurricane and typhoon warnings during our travels. You can read about the Caribbean hurricane HERE. Regarding the typhoon, we were travelling in the Philippines and excited to be spending a whole month exploring these tropical islands that had so far been only a dream. Our first destination was Malapascua island – which up until that point we had only seen on a map. It was our furthest journey point in the northern Vasayas as we planned to head back south afterwards heading for Bohol then onto the somewhat remote island of Siquijor – known as ‘fire island’ as from a distance at night it looks to be on fire due to its millions of dancing fireflies. Then we planned to end up in Dauin, in the area of Negros, at a scuba diving resort where we would spend Christmas.

A pink sky sunset on Malapascua island

The sun going down on Siquijor: known as ‘fire island’

But once we arrived at our Christmas destination, the perfect weather we had been enjoying so far during our adventures in the Philippines took a turn for the worst and a typhoon warning was issued. Diving was cancelled as were all boats and ferries. We decided to take the last flight out before the authorities closed the airport and head back to Kuala Lumpur. Using our hotel loyalty card we checked into a hotel right next to the fabulous Petronas Towers and scored an upgraded room – so ended up unexpectedly spending Christmas in KL and also in style!

A wonderful place to spend Christmas – the sparkling city of Kuala Lumpur

So as you can see, we’ve had a few challenges during the time we have been travelling. There have been others too – perhaps they are for another post – but none have ever put us off travelling. We’ve been proactive when dealing with our challenges and so we’ve managed to come out of what might have been potentially expensive, troublesome, or even dangerous situations, unscathed. If you have any worries or questions about travel abroad and you think I might be able to offer you some advice then please do leave a comment below or message me through my Contact Me form and I’ll do my best to help.

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