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How A Back Injury Made Me Reassess My Priorities

Last Friday evening I collapsed in my bathroom as I was about to take a shower.

Just like that: I twisted slightly to one side and fell straight down like one of those controlled demolitions, leaving me housebound for over a week. The problem seems to be a slipped disc in my back that is pressing on the nerves running down my left leg. If I sit for too long my leg weakens and I am unable to get up without assistance, or a great deal of pain.

Having now spent the majority of the week lying in bed quaffing painkillers whilst flicking through issues of Lonely Planet, India, I’m suffering from chronic Wanderlust like never before!

As I slowly get back to normal, this week—more than any other—has been a timely reminder of things that are easy to take for granted:

I am lucky

I hear a number of travel bloggers react indignantly when people comment on how lucky they are to travel all the time and I agree that travelling is a lifestyle choice which takes a tremendous amount of dedication, work, time and effort.

But, good health is not a lifestyle choice.

Amongst my friends and acquaintances I know people suffering with acute back pain, not just for a week but every single day of their lives. I have friends with colitis, cancer, and ME. I have family members with paralysis. For them travel would not just be uncomfortable, it would be practically impossible.

With regular physiotherapy, I expect that my back pain will be gone in a few weeks – hopefully in time for me to enjoy my trip to Sri Lanka at Christmas. This time, I am lucky that it is nothing more serious.

Good health is not a guarantee

We’re all getting older, there’s no stopping that train. I have no idea what challenges aging will bring me: maybe my knees will be the first to cave, or my hips, possibly my back will go again. My asthma could return or I could get any number of new illnesses.

It is time to reassess my lifestyle choices before it’s too late. My back would be stronger if it didn’t have to support those few extra kilos that have crept up on me over the last few years. My kidneys would not have to work so hard if they were not always so dehydrated. My heart might appreciate a bit more exercise once in a while. It has occurred to me that using a backpack when I travel might not be sensible – I couldn’t even lift one right now.

I’m not saying that this epiphany will send me running to the nearest yoga meditation centre, but small choices make big differences. That’s why I ordered a fruit salad instead of cupcakes yesterday, and in a week (when I can put the costume on) I will try to swim daily.


Don’t Wait. Do the things you want to do NOW

I spend hours on my computer researching the next country I want to visit, but I have not yet tried the amazing food at the temple up the road, or visited the beach less than 10 minutes from my apartment. I’m always ‘too tired’ and think ‘next weekend’, ‘when I have more time, or more energy’.

There is a motivational saying that goes along the lines of ‘You’ll never be as young as you are right now’, and at 35 I am already starting to feel my age. My back ailment this week makes me feel double my age. I can hear my body creaking and groaning when I move.

It is not entirely about age, of course, but health deteriorates as you get older. If you want to get things done then you have to do them before your health prevents you from ever doing them.

So, I am going to spend the next hour or two revising my Travel Wish List so that I can get out there as soon as my back has made a full recovery! IMG_3672

Have you ever had a health issue that made you reassess your priorities? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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  1. Jeremiah says:

    Hi from Nova Scotia! I enjoy your blog! I am 35 and after having spent the last eight years away, have recently found myself back in Canada. My first solo travel experience in 1999 saw me working at a hotel bar in Cambridgeshire. One morning in my rush to catch the hotel shuttle, I slipped down the stairs and damaged my back very badly to the point where I was bed ridden on strong pain killers for about a week. I recovered and have had no lingering effects. I wish you a speedy recovery!

    1. Thanks very much for the recovery wishes. After a week of bed-rest I am back on my feet, but it’ll be a while before I’m back to normal. How is life back in Canada, any reverse culture shock?

  2. says:

    I can so relate to this post! In July I bent over to pick something up and felt a “click”. Like you the pain radiated into my leg and not only could I not walk far but I was in pain and absolutely miserable. My arthritic knees acted up and one knee ballooned so much you could see it through my trousers. I am finally feeling better after months of physiotherapy and massage. I am so conscious of lifting and moving properly now and it too made me realize I lucky I am if that’s the worse thing that was wrong with me. Although it hurt when I had to quit walking long distances – I could barely make it to the bus stop. Now I can finally walk for an hour if I take it slowly – I used to be able to walk two hours plus with no problems and hiked the 120 km Great Glen Way in Scotland last year. I am chubby despite the love of walking (I love my food!) and I’ve only gained more weight…so I too need to do something about this… In less than three weeks I am off on my six month adventure in the UK and Europe and am feeling confident I can handle things if I take it slowly. Take care of yourself, pace yourself and I hope you are in fine form for your trip to Sri Lanka (lucky!) at Christmas.

    1. It is so debilitating isn’t it? I was hoping to shape up a bit before Sri Lanka, but it seems it will go the opposite way – I can’t exercise and am just eating all the time (there’s not much else to do when you can’t leave the house!).

      It is easing off now and each day is miles better than the one before, which is promising.

      Where will you be visiting in the UK and Europe? Although I am really looking forward to Sri Lanka, I would love to be home for Christmas.

  3. says:

    I’ve been fortunate to enjoy good health, but my mother has a lot of trouble with her knees. She’s never exercised in her life and carries around a lot of extra weight, and a few years ago it finally caught up with her. She can no longer go up or down stairs, and walking long distances exhausts her. She had one knee replaced last winter and will have the other done in a few months. She hasn’t let this hinder her travel, as she’s here with me in Latvia as I type, but it does impact her enjoyment. She can’t climb to the top of the church tower to enjoy the view or walk up to a second floor restaurant. I know she regrets not taking better care of herself when she was younger.

    Wishing you a speedy recovery and continued good health!

  4. Thank you.

    I’m so pleased to hear that your mum gets out despite her knee problems – many people would be too afraid to try. My dad came to visit me in Sweden last year not long after a hip replacement. I must admit that we were terrified he would slip in the snow, but he didn’t.

    I went back to work today where my Grade 6 students asked why I had been off, so I told them about my back and that they should all work on keeping good posture before it’s too late. They all tried to sit as straight as they could until the end of the lesson 🙂

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