I like travelling with friends as it’s always lots of fun but the majority of trips I take are what you would call “solo female travel”. I don’t have any philosphy behind that. At first I was kind of forced to travel on my own and then I just enjoyed it so much it became my thing that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I like just about everything about solo travels: the independence, the flexibility and the fact that I can do and see whatever I want to. I covered some cool places on my own, like Iran or Morocco, and fortunately so far I didn’t have any big problems. But sadly it has changed on my last day in Malta… And even if my story is strictly connected with what women have to deal with the lesson I learned might be valuable to everyone as you never know what might happen and when your body will say “enough”…
It was a beautiful Sunday morning after the time change and already at 7:30a.m. I was ready to explore some more sights of Malta. It was my last day in the country, my flight back home was scheduled at 5:45p.m. and I had big plans of what I’d love to see – Valletta, Vittoriosa and hopefully something else if the time allows. The good thing about Malta is that the country is so tiny it doesn’t take much time to visit all the major attractions, hence by 11a.m. I was more or less done with my plan. Since I still had couple of hours left I thought visiting nearby Cospicua was also a good idea.
Already when I was leaving Vittoriosa I started feeling some cramps but they were still not too disturbing to stop me from sightseeing. You see, I had my period but that’s nothing strange, after all we deal with it every month. I used to had really painful periods but in recent years it happened very rarely, last time was over 1.5 year ago. And it didn’t look like this very day in Malta I will find myself in this nightmare again. I took two pretty strong painkillers, those that always help me, and started walking towards Cospicua. It took me few minutes to realize it wasn’t the best idea. The pain was getting stronger and stronger and as soon as I reached the next bus stop I’ve decided I’d better go back to my hostel in Sliema and just lie down and relax before going to the airport. I really regretted not seeing more places in Malta when I had the chance but well, sometimes it just happens.
I was hoping it won’t take me long to reach my hostel but as there was no direct bus from Three Cities to Sliema I had to go via Valletta. And since it was Sunday buses weren’t that frequent anyway. I was waiting maybe 20 minutes for one, feeling worse and worse but at least still I was able to stand. When it arrived I was lucky to find a seat as the pain was hitting harder and harder and the painkillers obviously didn’t do their job. Some 20 minutes later I arrived to Valletta and I was feeling really awful, barely able to walk. At first I thought I’d catch the bus to Sliema right away but since the pain was slowly being unbearable I just crossed to street to find a hidden corner in the park and wait there till the pain will go away.
But instead it was getting worse and worse, one cramp was coming after another, not giving me a chance to catch my breath between them. When I felt it’s getting pretty serious and I might actually be in trouble I somehow managed to pull myself together and walked towards the bus station. It was just across the street but getting there seemed like a big challenge. Step by step I somehow got there and found a quiet corner in the shadow, fairly away from hustle and bustle of station yet everyone could see me in case I faint or something (and there were so many moments I felt I’m losing the consciousness). I sat there for around one hour, on this kind of plastic thing that separate the road during constructions, and all kind of dark thoughts were coming to my mind. The time was running out and I had to catch my flight; the pain was getting stronger and stronger, the cramps didn’t stop and what if I have to go to the hospital; I’m here all by myself and what if I faint… Every time when I was about to start panicking even the heavier cramp got me and I had to focus on that, which was kind of good in a way, at least I wasn’t freaking out as I should have been…
I know myself and I know that when I deal with such a massive pain at some point I just fall asleep from it and when I wake up in something between 15 minutes and 2 hours I feel fine again. It’s probably the way my body deals with this tremendous effort and fatigue. And so when I was sitting on this plastic thing I felt the moment to fall asleep has come like 10 times. Yet I couldn’t allow myself to sleep, not there and then! I was literally whining louder and louder because I had to somehow find the outlet of the pain – it was so huge it even made me puke…
After one hour of sitting there I’ve decided it’s time to go, no matter what. I was pretty woozy but determined to get to the hostel to lie down. Well, as soon as I started walking I’ve realized there’s no way I can get further than few steps, the whole lower part of my body just didn’t cooperate with my brain, I was one giant walking cramp. There was an empty bench, not far away from me, right in the middle of the bus station and I aimed for it. A minute or so after sitting down I just felt I have to lie down, even if for a short while, otherwise I would just fall to the ground. I didn’t care what others might think of me, I just couldn’t control my body anymore, it was taken over by the pain. I lied down for half an hour or so, whining loud-ish, napping, losing the consciousness and coming back… The world around was passing by and I was in the middle of it, in my bubble of pain.
Suddenly I started feeling slightly better so I just used the moment, got up and went to find the bus to Sliema. Lucky for me there was one ready for departure and I even found a seat there. I was again napping for the whole journey of some 20 minutes, I just couldn’t keep my eyes open, it was just stronger than me. Fortunately I didn’t sleep through my bus stop and slowly managed to get to the hostel. I still had less than 1 hour to leave for the airport so I found my way to the comfy couch in the common room and lied down there, still with the cramps but not so heavy anymore. I finally managed to sleep a little bit and when my alarm went on 15 minutes later I felt all fine again, the whole pain was gone and I just was extremely tired, dreaming to be in the plane so I could keep sleeping.
You may think that this story is too personal and I should have kept it for myself. Well, it took me some serious thinking and conversations with friends if I should write it down or not but eventually I’ve decided it needs to be said. Not only to show you that traveling is not always unicorns and rainbows but also to remind myself and all of you that we are all only humans and our own body might fail us in the most unexpected moment. For me it was due to the period but it can be as well a food poisoning, a terrible headache or just the exhaustion and the situation would be more or less the same.
It didn’t take me long to find out some very good life and travel lessons from this story. Hopefully you’ll learn on my mistakes and conclusions too:
1. So what I have a travel insurance bought. I always travel with an extra wallet for the local currency where I also put my ID and the bank card, just in case. My regular wallet, with everything else, is neatly hidden in my backpack. And that’s also where my insurance card was. I could have needed it in Valletta as I was really considering getting to the hospital at some point but the well needed card was in the hostel in Sliema. So from now on it will always go into my traveling wallet as it might be useful in the least expected moment. Never ever travel without a travel insurance!! You can get yours here!
2. Always always always have some water with you. I used the last sips of mine when I was taking the pain killers. Before the whole nightmare properly started I was passing by at least 3 stores and could have stopped to buy another bottle but I didn’t. Then, when I really needed it the small shops on the bus station were within my sight, I just couldn’t force my body to reach them.
3. If you start feeling bad try to be around people. I believe that if something happens (you faint etc) people would help you. At first I just felt kind of ashamed I’m in such a big pain and hid in the park but quickly I’ve realized I need to be in a more busy place. And even if almost everyone looked at me with surprised / concerned / disgusted faces and no one came to ask if I need some help I still believe they would show more interest if I really fainted, lose consciousness etc.
4. Ask for help. Now I know I should have stopped someone and ask to buy me this damn bottle of water. But of course I didn’t do that because I felt too ashamed / proud / whatever. Now I know I was just stupid.
Fortunately everything ended up well for me. I got to the airport on time, pain-free, and few hours later I could enjoy a lovely evening in Wrocław with friends. But it didn’t have to be like that, things could have turned any other, much worse way. That was probably the first time ever when I really wished it’d be so much better to travel with someone. Even if this person wouldn’t make my pain go away just the thought that I’m not there all alone, that there’s someone whose hand I can smash when the cramp attacks would be a big help and make a huge difference. Of course I’m not going to abandon solo female travel, I’m just more aware now that an unexpected problems might arise in the least expected moment. After all we’re just humans. These were absolutely the worst 4 hours in my traveling life and I really wish something like this would never happen to me again!!
And to lighten up the mood a little bit I just used the random pictures I managed to take on that very day before everything started. Because Malta really is pretty!
Have you ever been in a similar situation? What would you do if this would happen to you?
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