Everybody’s luck runs up sometime. When traveling in foreign countries you’re bound to get sick. But even worse, when participating in awesome activities, you’re at risk of sustaining injuries abroad. This is why we never leave the country without travel health insurance. You may think it’s not necessary, but trust me you don’t ever want to be in a foreign hospital wishing you had it. Don’t worry, it costs nothing compared to American Health Insurance and will save you a fortune when your luck finally runs up.
Here are 17 crazy injuries abroad:
Many of these injuries abroad happened to us, but some happened to friends and fellow travelers.
***warning: some of these injuries abroad have gory details, and there is blood in a picture or 2***
1. ATM GUILLOTINE
“The glass door did what?” I asked staring at the 10 inch scar across his thigh. Jack explained in great detail. He went to use the ATM after banking hours, but the door to the ATM booth was locked…sort of. The bottom was locked but the top wasn’t. So, when Jack pulled, the glass broke in half and the top of the door fell on his thigh like a guillotine. It sliced all the way to the bone, through some of the biggest muscles in the human body.
Having lost a ton of blood he was lucky to survive. But he had no money left to fly home to Australia, and he certainly couldn’t take a job. Lucky for him, a local hostel owner took pity on him and let him crash while he did months of rehab, in exchange for the promise to work his debt off once recovered. We met him, working at that hostel, 6 months after the accident.
2. WATER BUFFALO GORING
If you thought that last one was gory, wait ’till you hear this one. So we’re chilling on Koh Rong beach, waiting for our ferry. Suddenly, a water buffalo charges down the beach with a couple of villagers chasing after it. The next thing we know a man covered in blood is running towards us screaming for help. Not far behind, his girlfriend slowly makes her way towards us, holding a beach towel to her face. She takes it away for a second and the bottom half of her cheek flaps down. We’re talking Heath Ledger “Joker”, lip to ear slice.
The quickest way off the island was the 45 minute ferry ride to Sihanoukville that we were about to board. We rode right next to this rightfully panicking couple. The poor girl was going into shock, and her boyfriend wasn’t doing much better as he was trying to figure out if their British health insurance was going to be of any help. I felt so helpless and so horrible for them. They were still hours away from a big city, and even then, they were in SE Asia. This pretty 24 year old will probably be scarred for life, emotionally and physically.
3. KITE SURFING SLASH
So there we are, walking down Playa de Los Lances in Tarifa, Spain. Kite surfing capital of Europe. It’s our first day in Spain after spending 6 weeks driving around Morocco. We’ve just arrived via ferry and are thankful to be stretching our legs on this 4 mile long stunner of a beach. We’re enjoying the colorful show of the kite surfers floating past us. Suddenly, I hear a crash. I can’t see anything. It’s just kite all around me. I manage to free myself and start laughing at the absurdity of what just happened. What are the odds that at the very time we happen to be in this exact place newbie catches an edge and sends his kite directly on top of us?!?!
I turn to Rob to see if he’s ok. NO! I look at the back of his calf and see blood. He has a 4 inch slice across the top of his calf from the weedwacker-esque wires that attach the kite to the surfer. He’s lucky it was his calf. It literally could have cut off a nose or an ear. Luckily, the speed at which the wire cut him created enough heat to sort of cauterize the wound. It bothered him for weeks though, and he still has a gnarly scar from one of the strangest injuries abroad.
4. MONKEY MADNESS
I have to be honest, I get really upset when I see people messing with animals. I’ve witnessed tourists taunting monkeys all across SE Asia. They give them chips and soda and all kinds of things that are soooo bad for them. So, when a monkey fought back, I didn’t really feel bad for the girl. In order to get her perfect selfie with a wild monkey she repeatedly held food out then would snatch it back away as the monkey reached for it.
You play keep away with a wild animal, you might just lose. The monkey got frustrated, jumped on the girl and bit her. Do you know how much rabies shots cost? Do you know you need a series of them at the same hospital over the course of 2 weeks? So whether she planned to be in Indonesia for 2 weeks or not, she had to stay to get shots on day 1, day 3, day 7 and day 14 for the whopping cost of over US $3,000. I hope she learned her lesson!
5. BAMBOO SHIVVING
Your crappy rental scooter on the remote Filipino Island of Bohol starts acting up. As you’re winding through the mountains your throttle sticks. You think fast. Take the bike down on this one little patch of grass or take a Thelma and Louise plunge off the edge. Take the bike down, of course. OK, I’m down. I’m alive. Ooh, that’s going to need some stitches. Yup this really happened to Rob and I. He was driving. He had very minor scrapes from sliding in the grass. I, however, scraped the entire inside of my elbow off on the tiny bit of asphalt I hit before the grass. But that wasn’t even the worst part. My knee got shivved by a peace of bamboo, leaving my knee flopped open and looking like ground beef.
Don’t worry, the nice villagers offered to pack it with wildflowers, which I ever so kindly declined. But they did get a buddy to drive me down to the nearest hospital, if you want to call it that. I was the talk of the town. The entire community came to stand outside my hospital window and watch as they cleaned out my knee and got me all stitched up. Cost – nearly nothing thanks to my travel health insurance!
6. SCUBA TANK TOE SMASH
Gearing up on a rocking boat in the middle of the ocean isn’t the easiest process. No matter how cautious you are there can still be accidents. There’s not much left to the imagination here. Scuba tanks aren’t light. When dropped on a barefoot, toenails go missing. On the bright side Australia has modern medicine, on the not so bright side, modern medicine costs lots of money.
7. MOUNTAIN BIKING EYE SKEWER
When you think mountain bike accident, you think bumps, breaks and scrapes, but you certainly don’t imagine anything happening to an eye. Until you hear about an eye injury and start thinking about all the things that can stab you right in the eye at any point along a trail. Eeew! This one is a little too gory to explain in great detail. Just know that a tiny twig can do great damage. Perhaps protective eyewear is in order.
8. EARTHQUAKE TOSS
This was an Earthquake like no other. I’m a Californian. One of my most vivid childhood memories is the 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake that rocked the San Francisco Bay Area. I knew this was serious. Walls were crumbling, telephone poles were falling, people were falling to the ground. This was bad!
My friend Anup’s little brother got knocked down trying to run for cover. His wrist was dislocated, but this was a minor injury compared to many others. It turns out this was a magnitude 7.9 earthquake that combined with its aftershocks killed nearly 10,000 people. Imagine, you’re sitting in your hotel room, minding your own business, and the next thing you know you’re on the ground with a broken arm. The hospitals were teeming with serious injuries. Luckily Anup has family in India, so his brother was able to fly to India for treatment.
9. OYSTER SHELL GANGRENE
How in the world do you get gangrene from an oyster shell? The answer is simple. You’re a backpacker and can’t afford to pay for a doctor, so you try to tend to the wound yourself. Our Luang Prapang dormmate had accidentally stepped on an oyster shell when exploring Halong Bay in Vietnam. It hurt, but he thought it would heal. Let me tell you from personal experience, wounds simply don’t heal in sweaty, swampy SE Asia.
After a week of working his way through Sapa and across the Laos border, our new friend realized his foot was not getting better. It was much worse. So upon arrival in Luang Prapang, Gary finally gave in, forked over the cash, and went to the doctor. He learned he had a severe infection that caused gangrene. Luckily, the gangrene was in the very early stages.The doctor told him he could have lost his foot if he had waited any longer to seek medical attention. Luckily, they were able to clean out the wound and fight the infection. In addition to leaving him extremely poor, he was unable to put weight on his foot for a few weeks. Injuries abroad can ruin trips.
10. MUFFLER MELT
Not all scooters are created equal. In this case, I mean not all scooters have a muffler guard to prevent accidental singeing of your clothes or skin. Ok, so I was wearing shorts. I know, so dumb! And my parents are motorcyclists. I can remember being a kid and my mom getting upset when she saw riders not wearing appropriate gear. Not to make excuses, but you sort of ignore safety when you’re riding a super low powered scooter in horrible Asian humidity. Anyway, my muffler was so hot that it didn’t really burn my skin as much as melt it when the inside of my ankle touched it for a split second. Luckily I always travel with a first aid kit, complete with burn ointment. My skin eventually healed, but I still have a pretty scar to remind me to not get any more stupid injuries abroad.
11. WHITE WATER BEATING
White water rafting down the Zambezi River was one of our favorite experiences in Africa. We can’t say the same for our boat mate. Our boat flipped in the middle of one of the rapids. Without even thinking he held on tight. Well, he held on too tight. The boat was shot back out of the rapid pulling his shoulder right out of the socket. Now, we’re in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of nowhere. He started going into shock, causing his daughter to have an anxiety attack. The guides needed to get him out of the narrow canyon ASAP. So in came the rescue helicopter. And this is exactly why we have air lift evacuation included in our travel health insurance!
12. PLATYPUS PLUNDER
Duckbilled Platypus, now that’s a rare and weird animal! So, yeah, when I saw one in the wild I got excited. And maybe I tried hopping over a railing, only to land completely wrong and have my ankle give out from under me. I saved the camera. I even got my pictures of the bizarre creature. But I severely sprained my ankle. Ooops! The sacrifices we make for the perfect shot, right?
13. SEA URCHIN ATTACK
Zanzibar Island in Tanzania is one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever visited. But beauty can’t save you from harm. Our Belgian friend Burt was kite surfing the beautiful bright blue waters on the eastern side of the island, when a sudden gust of wind picked him up and just disappeared. Now, when the wind leaves and you’re 20 feet in the air, you’re going to come down hard. Which wouldn’t be so bad, if he didn’t drop into a mine field of sea urchins. Ouch! He was picking those poisonous spines out of his skin for weeks.
14. CANYONING MISCALCULATION
Canyoning is so fun! We’ve done it on three continents. That doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous. You have to listen to your guide, jump where you’re told, and position your body as demonstrated. No matter how good the guide, there are still accidents. Like the time we went canyoning in Da Lat, Vietnam. A girl from Taiwan was trying to overcome her fears, and asked to jump off the ledge rather than sliding down the waterfall. She was all good to go…until she hesitated. As she ran to the edge of the cliff she tried to stop, but accidentally tripped herself. Instead of jumping out and over the edge, she tumbled and bounced and horrifyingly splash-landed in the pool below. A guide immediately tended to her, but she did not come out unscathed.
15. CONSTRUCTION DESTRUCTION
Maybe walking around a construction zone at night isn’t the best idea, especially after soju. But come on, we’ve all made bad decisions after a night of drinking. A fellow teacher in South Korea narrowly escaped death after falling multiple stories down an elevator shaft. Erin broke her back and spent months in a Korean hospital. Injuries abroad are much scarier because you’re away from your support system and probably have a language barrier.
16. FLESH EATING BACTERIA
How do you get flesh eating bacteria? First you get countless mosquito bites. Then you scratch those mosquito bites while in Bangkok. Finally, you scratch so much that you break the skin. The good news is, when this happened to my lovely Canadian friend, she had the wherewithal to seek medical attention. The doctor gave her antibiotics and warned her that had she waited this could have caused serious damage.
17. SNOWBOARDING SNAFU
No matter how soft the powder, if you fall hard enough, you’re going to hurt something. We’ve realized that it’s not always up to you. Even the most experienced boarders hit dangerous terrain, get unexpectedly cutoff, or even get ran into. My best friend lives in Switzerland. As a snowboarder, visiting her in winter is awesome. She has the French, Swiss and Italian Alps all in her backyard. What’s not awesome is when another friend of ours broke his collar bone snowboarding in the Swiss Alps on the 2nd day of their 2 week European vacation. Bummer! It’s the worst when injuries abroad put a dent in your plans.
Don’t Risk Injuries Abroad
It’s important to be prepared when you’re luck goes up. A fantastic option for travel health insurance is World Nomads. Their straight forward, comprehensive plans will cover just about any scenario you’ll encounter during your travels. They also only issue travel health insurance meaning they serve travelers. It’s a company by travelers, for travelers. The products are for the fast pace, ever changing life of a nomad. It’s a service meant to overcome the obstacles of dealing with medical providers in foreign countries. If you’re about to head out on a trip, give World Nomads a look and take a piece of mind with you on the road.
Everyone thinks it will never happen to them. But it can! None of these gnarly injuries abroad are made up. We either incurred the injury ourselves, witnessed them, or were told first hand about these crazy injuries abroad. Outside of the girl taunting the monkey, no one had these injuries coming to them. Their luck simply ran up. Don’t be that person whose luck runs up without proper health insurance. Injuries abroad are more common than you think, and as you read above, they can happen in the strangest of situations.
What are some of the craziest injuries you’ve sustained or witnessed while traveling? Tell us all about it!
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