With 2014 drawing to a close, I like many others begin to reflect on the events over the past year. So while I normally write about my year of travel experiences, this year I have decided to do something a little different and write about what 2014 has taught me. Its been a busy and difficult year for me…visiting three new exciting countries, with 22 flights and 21,000 miles flown! But this year has taught me a lot of valuable life lessons…
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – literally!
This year has been a painful one for me. Following our amazing trip to Myanmar I was rushed to hospital two days after returning with suspected Malaria. (Life lesson number two – always follow medical advice when it comes to travel health and vaccinations!). Not only was I suffering immense pain, it was also the first time I was experiencing hospitalization in my new adopted country of the Czech Republic. And it wasn’t a pleasant experience either.
Following several painful blood tests, a night in what can only be described as a 1940’s military prison of a hospital (bars on the windows and everything)…it was decided that I had contracted a very rare tropical disease called Chikungunya – a virus that is similar to Dengue Fever. Being told that I could die from it was pretty scary but being told I had to stay in the awful hospital for observation was even worse – so I went against medical advice and discharged myself knowing that I would recover far quicker at home than I would resting on a metal bed with the rudest nurses and hospital food you can imagine….
It took months to fully recover from it. My fever went away pretty rapidly but I was left with the symptoms of Dengue Fever (otherwise known as break bone fever) meaning a stiff and painful knee that hurt every time I walked…I finally had relief in May! ( I travelled in February!)
I have also had years of suffering from heart burn and acid reflux caused by a small hernia. I returned from a trip home in September and was rushed to hospital the next day (a different more foreigner friendly hospital). I was given some anti-acids and some painkillers and sent back home feeling rather miserable that I would continue to suffer but woke up the following day with the same pain and decided to go back in for further investigation. And a lucky thing I did. What had actually been causing my pain was a sack full of gallstones that was at bursting point. Had they burst I would of been in serious trouble. So it was lucky I caught it in time…promptly removing it the following day. A few complication meant I stayed in intensive care for a lot longer than normal, unable to eat, sleep or drink for the first 6 days. After 11 days I was finally freed and allowed home….and I have to say I only wish they had discovered it sooner! My life is now acid reflux and pain free! Yey!
So two attempts to kill me off this year failed…! What did I learn?
- Follow health care advice when it comes to travelling abroad
- Czech nurses (ok not all) hate foreign women
- I hate mash potato (the only thing they would let me eat for a week – that’s breakfast, lunch and dinner folks!)
- Always check your health insurance is in date (or face a huge medical bill…we narrowly escaped!)
- The key to surviving Czech hospitals is patience – a lot of it (oh and sneaky imports of outside hospital food)
Blogging is hard – and then some!
2014 also saw the beginning of this blog! I decided in February pre-Burma trip to document everything about our travels in Burma since there was a severe lack of information for adventure backpackers like ourselves. The Lonely Planet guide book was out of date and it appeared all the past online guides were out of date too! So we wrote down every expense, took as many pictures as possible of timetables and bus routes and posted them all to help other backpackers plan their independent routes around the country. To date it is the most successful section of my blog!
Following our return and the success of our Burma posts I decided to invest a lot of blood, sweat and tears into making my new blog an actual travel blog which I hope one day will be monetized. Never in my mind did I think it would be such a difficult task. Sure setting up a blog is easy – but maintaining it, curating new blog posts daily and making it SEO effective and keeping up to date with all the social media accounts is a full time job.
What did I learn?
- Creating a social media plan and sticking to it is a life saver
- Patience is a virtue – your blog and posts won’t be an instant overnight success – it takes time and a lot of hard work
- A combination of coke cola and chocolate is the perfect remedy for staying up at night until you finish your work (I don’t drink coffee!)
- Don’t force yourself to write – allow time for creative thinking and experiencing life!
- Invest in a decent hosting site from the beginning – it will save hours of crying and stress tantrums when your site crashes or refuses to load
- Networking is the key to a blogs success….get your blog out there with the help of other bloggers by signing up to support groups
Pursue your dreams
One of the biggest things I have learnt this year is to never let reality and life hold you back from doing what you love and dream about. For me I achieved two things I had only dreamt about until this year. Visiting Burma and learning to ballroom dance.
Firstly, Burma/Myanmar had long been on my list of dream destinations to visit, but I hadn’t been able to go due to country travel restrictions that were enforced by the democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the fact I was too young in previous years to travel “solo” to such a dangerous country. So this year I finally made my dream come true with a 3 week adventure around the country. It was like nothing I could imagined. It changed my way of thinking and I fell in love with the people and culture so much I will be a regular visitor now. I was finally able to understand why my grandfather loved the country and all the stories he told me of his time there during the war made so much more sense.
Secondly, learning to ballroom dance has long been an ambition of mine. I will admit my love for the sport began after watching Dirty Dancing and grew once popular dance shows became a yearly event on television. I was unable to learn as a child due to high costs for lessons and the shear cost of the shoes and clothing needed – as a child who was growing like a weed, it was an unattainable dream. Since moving the the Czech Republic, I find myself abundant in time during the evenings. With the sport being so popular in Eastern Europe I was easily able to find one to one lessons cheaply enough that I was finally able to begin dancing. I could not be happier.
What did I learn?
- Nothing should hold you back from your dreams
- Nothing is impossible
- Ballroom dancing is harder than it looks
- If you want something bad enough you’ll do anything to get it
- The feeling of achieving a dream is the best feeling in the world
Family is everything
Finally, one of the most important things I realized this year is how much my family means to me. Since moving away to the Czech Republic I certainly appreciated my time with my family more than I used to. When I fell very sick after returning from Burma, all I wanted was to be curled up on the sofa at my parents house with my mum beside me. When I was hospitalized and unable to move or look after myself all I wanted was my family to walk through the door and visit me. I was incredibly lucky that I had an great group of friends that supported me and a unbelievably amazing partner who came twice a day to sit beside me and even spent his birthday at my bed side. I also have a fab mother-in-law who gave up a week to look after me when I came out of hospital while my partner was at work. For all of this I am truly truly grateful.
During Easter this year I made the big step to becoming 100% Catholic. I had undertaken a years worth of lessons learning about the faith to finally have my Baptism, Holy Communion and Confirmation at the Easter Vigil in Prague. It was something that meant a lot to me and I was so thankful that my mother and aunt and my partners family were able to make the trip to share this special moment with me. Although I am still heartily sorry for the minus degree weather and the four hour church service 😉
I am also grateful that I am able to spend this festive time with my family around me. I am grateful that I can afford to fly home to be with them, that I can afford to buy them gifts, to sit around the table and enjoy a huge meal and that everyone is healthy and well, for I know that for many people in the world, Christmas is just another day of suffering and pain and that I am one of the lucky ones.
What did I learn?
- No medication or treatment can heal you quicker than the love and support of a loving family
- My family don’t cope well in freezing cold churches
- My partner must really love me. After all he has stuck around even after having to do some pretty gross things for me in hospital
- Without my family I would be completely lost. They are my world – even if they drive me nuts at time.
So before I sign off for the year I want to thank my family for putting up with me over the past year and being there when it mattered most. To my support partner who has been my rock during my ill health and for looking after me – I thank you. For my kind doctor who visited me every day to make sure I was ok, to talk to me and comfort me when I was alone and when no one would talk to me. If it wasn’t for you I maybe wouldn’t of survived 2014 at all.
I can’t wait to see what exciting things happen for me in 2015. I hope its a year full of travel, even more new exciting countries to visit and hopefully a year without any trips to a hospital!
Happy New Year to you all, may 2015 bring you everything you wish for and more.
The Wandering Wanderluster