It was the in the height of mid September when it all happened. I was having a great summer so far. I had been far and wide across Europe culminating with a long and exciting 18 days backpacking in Croatia in August.
Yet I was hardly back in the UK when I went out of the country again to my first Nordic country – Finland. After a delightful couple of days in Helsinki, the capital, I went on a press trip with the Porvoo Tourism Board to visit their city. It was an extremely relaxing and interesting few days.
Until the last night when I broke my ribs.
Now, I just want to make sure that what happened next was totally my own fault and no-one else’s.
I had been staying at the Porvoo Hostel and they kindly let us use their bikes for free to roam around the city. You can see where this is going…yet you don’t.
We had been invited to wine and dine at an exclusive restaurant in the city centre and the only way to get to there was to jump on a bicycle. So, dressed up for the part, I hopped on and decided to take a shortcut.
I bet you’re slapping your head now and thinking, ‘oh dear, Ed, haven’t you heard of karma?’
But check out my reasoning why.
To get onto the main road from the hostel, you had to cycle down the hostel driveway and then swing around to get on the side road of the main road. This was probably, in my eyes, a waste of time, as the main road went pass the side of the hostel anyway. So why couldn’t we cycle over the grass to the main road?
Only thing, the grass was actually a steep slope down to the main road. And that wasn’t even the worst part.
In a trio with two other members of the press trip, we started cycling down. I don’t know what possessed me to think that I could handle an old-fashioned bike after possibly a year of not riding one. Did I think I was Tony Hawk or could I be a total BMX champion? I know I have a pretty big ego.
Suddenly, the guy in front of me threw himself off the bike. I gaped and couldn’t register what was happening. Because you see, there wasn’t just a slope down to the road.
Oh, hell, no.
There was a six feet drop at the end of the slope. That’s where the main road was.
Six feet down.
So you could see why the other two jumped off their bikes rather quickly.
What did I do?
For a split second. Then I tried to brake to slow myself down to throw myself off. My hands reached to grab the brakes but touched nothing.
There were no brakes.
You see, remember when I told you it’s an old-fashioned bike?
To brake, you need to pedal BACKWARDS.
Obviously, meeting my impending doom with a terrible hand to eye co-ordination was not what I had planned for the end of my life. I was going way too fast to throw myself off. Damn you, gravity.
So what happened next, felt like it was minutes. But in reality, it was all over in seconds.
Do you remember that iconic moment in the film, E.T, where the alien makes them fly on their bikes across the face of the full moon?
I tried to think of it like that when I launched myself off with the bike at the end of the slope. I kind of hoped that I would land with the bike whooping that I had done an amazing feat and I would take myself home, safe and sound.
Imagine an overgrown lanky British lad screaming his little butt off as he shot off the end of the slope to land on his front tyre with a sickening thud on the main road.
And that wasn’t the end.
As my front tyre hit, of course, the universe had more ways to inflict pain on me for taking a shortcut.
So the laws of gravity dictated that I, too, had to be thrown off my bike as well.
As I flew in the air, minus my bike, I landed on my side against a kerb, also with a deafening thud.
Stars flew in my vision and I felt all the breath get punched out of me.
I lay there for a second, trying to get my breath back and thinking,
‘Ah, so this is what it means to be winded.’
I stood up shakily, still gasping for breath and saw the horrified looks of my little group staring back at me. I checked myself over and I knew I would feel pain on my side. But I was more concerned with my thigh, which I also landed on. I had a key attached to a massive wooden block in that pocket so I landed on that as well.
There was going to be a bruise that would hurt like hell.
Also, I stared at my scraped bloody hands and at the dirt scruff marks on my shirt.
I was more upset about my shirt being slightly ruined.
Finally, I got my breath back and picked up my bike off the road. Surprisingly, the bike was completely fine as I wheeled it back to the entrance.
After a quick change and washed my hands, we jumped on our bikes again. This time we went the proper way and had a good meal out at the restaurant. Turns out, I was none the wiser. I had a ticking time bomb in my chest.
I woke up the next day feeling quite sore but it was mostly my thigh. My side of my chest felt tender to the touch but I assumed it was a bruise rather than anything.
So the next couple of days after my time in Porvoo, I stayed in Helsinki, enjoying the sights and catching up with another travel blogger. I still didn’t feel that bad and continued to feel the same when I headed home to the UK.
Yet I had a couple of days to spend in London before going home to Hull as I had a few events to attend such as Trek America’s Food Vs Trek launch and The German National Tourism Office’s Annual Press Launch.
But it was the last night in London when I went to meet a couple of friends in Vauxhall where we would be catching a play at Above The Stag. I met up with one of my friends in a bar nearby and began catching up in earnest, unaware of what was about to happen next.
This was when I was going to feel pain…
Suddenly, I felt two arms grab me around my torso from behind to give me a surprise squeeze hug. I knew it was my other friend and I began to comment how lame and emotional he was until he squeezed.
There was a distinct pop within my left side of my ribcage.
And like an explosion, ripples of pain crashed through my chest.
I squirmed in shock in my standard flight mode to get out of this sharp pain.
If anything, that amused my friend so much that he decided to squeeze even more tighter.
This time, I bloodcurdlingly screamed.
He let go suddenly, recoiling, and I gave him an angry punch in the arm.
There and then, I knew I had broken my ribs. Perhaps the fall in Finland a few days earlier fractured them and the squeeze was the one to completely break them Who knows.
But it was all confirmed when I visited my doctor a couple of days later when I got home. For the ribs to heal, time would have to be my friend. It would take 6 – 8 weeks for my ribs to be fixed.
So, between Mid September and the end of October, I was out of action.
So that’s the story how I came to break my ribs.
But guys, I’m sure you thought this story was amusing or you’re shaking your head thinking ‘Silly Ed! What is he going to get up to now?’
But you haven’t even heard the worst part of the story. This is me being extremely serious at the moment.
Throughout the whole biking accident that happened in Finland, I was missing something that would have proved SO valuable to me and could have saved my life.
Can you guess what that was?
I didn’t have travel insurance.
In my busy schedule in September, I simply forgot to get travel insurance. It was the ONLY time I’ve been travelling throughout the last four years that I forgot to get travel insurance. Yet the only time, I came the closest to needing it, happened there in Finland.
My accident could have been hell of a lost worse. I could have smacked my head on the ground. I could have actually broken something a lot worse. Or ultimately, I could have been hit by a car.
And I wouldn’t have travel insurance to count on.
My hospital bills could have ran into thousands of pounds. My savings wiped out. I would have gone home disgraced with the knowledge that I was a complete fool for not booking travel insurance. Something that would have taken me barely minutes to organise online. Something that should be deathly important like your passport or your visa. And definitely something that you should organise right now, if you’re going on holiday soon.
So I’m pretty sure you agree with me now that travel insurance is extremely important.
I was extremely lucky. It may not be so for you next time you leave the country without travel insurance.
Don’t be stupid. Get it sorted.