Nobody likes to get sick. Or hurt. Or anything that leaves you feeling like less than your normal capable self.
But stuff happens, right? Even when you’re on the road, traveling by yourself through who knows where. Perhaps you’re in a Walmart parking lot, where everything you need is right outside your door. But perhaps you’re way off in the boonies, with miles of nothing between you and any kind of help.
At the moment, I’m somewhere in between those extremes. I’m up in the Gila National Forest, with no cell service, and about 1.5 hours drive to the nearest town. And I’m typing this with a super sore back, after spending most of the day in a prone position resting it.
Life happens! So does getting hurt, even on the road
So what happened? And what’s the lesson?
This quiet little campsite seemed like an ideal spot to hole up for a few days and get some work done on my camper. I’m still working on installing the composting toilet, and need to paint the roof, and reorganize all my storage areas, and install a fan, and … You get the idea!
Anyway, the project I was doing involved lots of bending and lifting and twisting, and working in awkward spaces. After a couple of hours, my back was so sore that I could barely move.
Uh oh… End of project work for today, tomorrow, and possibly the next day too. Ouch and double ouch!
But as I was lying here, I figured we might as well get something out of it, right? So here are a few lessons learned…
1. Yes, it is different than in town
At first, I thought getting hurt on the road wasn’t terribly different from the same thing happening in town.
I know the steps to take: plenty of rest, pills of your choice (I do aspirin, ginger and turmeric), avoid further stress, and move around frequently rather than sitting in one spot. As it improves, I’ve got a regimen of back exercises to strengthen it again.
None of this is any different on the road than in town. So why is it a bigger deal out here?
First, help is further away and harder to get. It’s not such a big deal for a simple back strain. But something more serious, like a broken leg, would be a different ballgame!
Secondly, until I’m ready to drive back to town, I’m limited to just what I have with me. If I open that aspirin bottle and discover I’m down to my last little white tablet, then I’m SOL. (I might have to resort to drinking wine as a pain killer!)
So it really is a bit different, and it’s something to take seriously. But what to do about it?
2. Be careful. Prevention is everything!
There’s nobody here but me. I’m all I’ve got, so I need to take care of myself! They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That’s sure true here. It’s a whole lot smarter to be careful up front, and avoid getting hurt, than to deal with it afterwards.
I know how to lift properly to avoid back injuries. It was just too hard to follow the normal rules working in this tight space, so I just did what was expedient, rather than figure out a smarter way. And I should have listened to my body sooner. I’m sure there were some warning signs that I blissfully ignored, and that had I been more attentive, I could have spared myself some pain and recovery time.
A couple of days ago I was out hiking on a section of the Continental Divide Trail. I didn’t see another person on the trail all day. Cows 41, people 0. 😉
Since I knew I was all alone out there, I was super careful, going slower than normal, and watching every footstep so I didn’t twist an ankle or take a fall. Preventing an accident may take a bit longer, but it means having an enjoyable hike and winding up back at camp happy and whole. Better all around to avoid getting hurt on the road.
So think prevention first – it makes all the difference!
3. There’s no rush, is there?
One of the things I love about this free-flowing life on the road is that there’s rarely a rush to do things. My deadlines are usually self-imposed, and often getting something done on Wednesday isn’t a whole lot different than doing it on Thursday, or next week. (Or sometimes ever, but that’s a different topic!)
Sure, there are cases where you do need to hurry, like getting across a mountain pass before a storm hits.
But these are exceptions. Usually there’s no external reason why you need to rush. So why give yourself that self-imposed time pressure?
In my case, I think it’s a vestige of my days in corporate jobs. We need a project plan, and this task is assigned to me, to be completed by this afternoon. It’s a pre-requisite for task B, that I’ll want to do when I’m in town on Thursday, etc…
Now I know there are reasons why it’s good to have self-imposed deadlines. I know I’m more productive when I’ve got some solid goals to work towards. And it will be nice to have my projects done sooner rather than later!
But by making myself rush, I ended up hurting myself. If I’d stopped the project sooner, or taken a break and then gone back to it later, there’s a very good chance I wouldn’t be in this sorry state right now.
Taking a couple of hours break might have saved me a couple of days.
4. Self reliance is a virtue
When you live alone, you learn to be self-reliant. There’s nobody to hover over you and ask solicitously if there’s anything they can do for you. There’s nobody to make chicken soup when you’ve got the sniffles, or close all the windows if the rain starts, or take care of the problem with your lug nut.
You’ve got to do it yourself.
For us single people, this is true all the time, not just when we’re sick or injured. But it’s all the more poignant when you’re not up to par. When you’re lying flat on your back waiting for the pain killers to kick in, it’s easy to wish there was somebody else to refill your water glass.
Traveling as a solo woman is a double edge sword this way. I adore the absolute freedom it provides, but the downside is that it forces self-reliance. It’s a trade-off, and I’ll choose self-reliance every time.
5. Be prepared. What could you need?
When something happens like getting hurt on the road, and you need to hole up for awhile, do you have what you need? Food, water, shelter, first aid or medical supplies, clothing, etc?
It could be a long way back to town, at a time when you’re not in good shape to make the trip. So make sure you’ve got everything you think you’ll need, and then some.
Keep a list of emergency supplies, and you can add to it over time. For instance, I never used to have “knee brace” on my list, but after an incident in Colorado, now it’s there… 🙂
If you’re traveling in your home on wheels like I am, it’s not hard to do. Just keep everything somewhere easy to find, so you don’t need to dig through all the cabinets to find that knee brace. And remember to restock when the aspirin bottle is running low.
Even though you’re not in a rush, and you’re practicing prevention, stuff may still happen, so be as ready as you can for those unforeseen events!
Have you ever been injured or sick while you’re traveling? Any advice or thoughts on your experience you’d like to share, so others can avoid getting hurt on the road? Please let us know in the comments below!
PHOTO CREDITS: Ouch – Gerry Dincher, Lift correctly – Anders Sandberg, Busy traffic – dingcarrie, First aid kit – www.directline.com