That time I almost died last week

Well I guess it’s pretty clear by now that I’m not on my plane to Brazil.

I’ve gotta say, this has been the most emotionally fucked up week I’ve ever had. I have learned more about myself in 10 days than I have in my whole 26 years, and for once I don’t know how to properly tell the whole story. So I’m going with the straight facts. Let’s start with the insane car accident.

I was headed back to St. John’s with my friend Melissa. It was a rainy, drizzly day… nothing out of the ordinary for Newfoundland. Then we hit a patch of water on the Bay d’Espoir Highway (which happens to be one of Canada’s Top 10 Worst Highways, by the way). I remember it very vividly – I didn’t lose consciousness once. We zig-zagged. Melissa and I never said a word. And then the car took a sharp right, and started flipping.

That crunching of glass and metal and everything was SO FUCKING LOUD. A roar. We kept rolling. I kept thinking, “Why aren’t we stopping?” We rolled and rolled, about five times. We came to an abrupt stop. I felt remarkably ok. I looked at Melissa, who looked at me. We sat upright in our seats, completely cool and calm. There was blood EVERYWHERE, from one tiny cut in Melissa’s hand.

All the windows had shattered and glass was everywhere. The roof over the driver’s seat was crushed and peeled back, exposing the sky. I couldn’t open my car door. I reached down to undo my seatbelt, to find it already undone. The airbags hadn’t deployed.

I leaned out the hole where the window used to be and flagged down a guy in a truck. Before we knew it, at least 20 people were by the side of the road, rushing over the bank to help us. I remember being freaked out by how normal I felt, although I was certain I could feel pieces of glass behind my eyes. Someone helped me pry open my door, and I climbed out, easily. Walked away.

We were so incredibly, unbelievably lucky that no one else was on that road with us, and that we landed in an area that had been cleared of trees. The odds are unreal.

We didn’t know what to do after all that. I saw my quiver filled with arrows lying in the dirt, and asked someone to pick it up. It was important to me, that Halloween apparel, because my father helped me make it.

All our belongings were fine. We started lifting them over the bank and into the car of a lady who was headed to Grand Falls-Windsor, where we could go to an emergency room to treat Melissa’s hand. Everyone was searching around our car for our belongings. Everyone was so damned nice, and I had no idea what to do. I just stood there shivering. It was COLD. Melissa was amazing – cool, calm, collected, concerned about me while she gushed blood.

About 10 minutes down the highway, we saw the police lights headed in our direction. Then, the ambulance. We assumed they were for us, and turned the car around. We showed up at the crash site where the policemen were milling about. I rolled down my window and stared at them until one of them said, “Are you the girls who were in the crash?” Yep.

We were told to immediately get into the ambulance. Sure we had been walking, but we had no idea what COULD be wrong with us. Pats, the lady who helped us, unloaded our luggage and took off before we could offer our thanks. I made sure the policeman packed up my bow and arrow. We were clamped with neck braces and strapped to boards to keep stabilized, and then our vitals checked. All the fun stuff you watch in Grey’s Anatomy but never want to experience.

That’s when shit started getting real. I’d never been inside an ambulance before, nor been admitted to a hospital.

When we showed up, the ambulance doors were thrown open and we were wheeled onto stretchers. I felt like it was all too much fuss. I felt fine. I kept downplaying everything. I had smacked my head on something – bruised my cheek and blackened my eye – but that was nothing. I just needed to pee.

We were taken in for emergency x-rays, rolled for spinal problems, etc. I’d never had so many good-looking doctors manhandling me before. The whole scene made me want to hyperventilate.

Finally, after our x-ray results, we were given a clean bill of health. Cleaned up Melissa’s hand, and told to leave. Bewildered, dirty, and bloodied.

We picked up our belongings at the police station. The policeman told us he had been at the site, and said we were lucky to walk away from it.

And that’s when my stomach fell right down to my feet. To hear him say that – someone who sees that sorta thing all the time – made me sick.

Melissa and I rented a car and we drove back to St. John’s. We might not have been thinking properly.

And here comes the hard part.

When that car flipped and I walked away from it, I wasn’t thinking, “Shit, I’m gonna miss my trip to Brazil.” I was thinking, “Shit, I need to hug my family and see my friends.”

I decided to pull from Brazil.

If you don't got amazing friends, you don't got nothing

The reality of that crash, man…I’ve been fighting with myself about it all week. I should be yelling, “I’m alive; it’s time to celebrate!” Instead, I crawled into bed and barely left for the five days. All I wanted to do was be back at home with Mom and Dad and my brother and feel warm and safe and okay, not taking 15+ flights (including two overnights on my return trip) to South America.

I tried really, really hard. I went to the doctor for some Ativan for my fear of flying (ironic, yes?), and for my malaria pills. My bags were packed. I had already blown cash on my Portuguese language guidebook, a Brazil book, and a universal adapter. But I remained in a constant state of stress and indecision every waking moment.

It was literally the craziest week of my life. One minute I’d be brimming with excitement over hunting down pink dolphins in the Amazon; the next minute I’d be curled up in my bed sobbing my face off.

You wanna know what’s even crazier? I had been SO apprehensive about this trip from the beginning. My final few days at home were neurotic. The night before the crash, I wrote a good-bye letter to my friends and family, and then emailed it to myself. Just in case.

Looking at this now, how the heck did Melissa get out of there?!

In that letter, I cited the things that made me happy. My family. New books. Those amazing random moments with my friends sitting around the kitchen table with a beer. This little room in St. John’s. Experiences like rooftop drinks in Montreal and impromptu games of chess in a random café in Calgary.

It put things in perspective. I just wanted to stay grounded, for a bit. I was 100% not in any position to put my body through that extra stress.

I was back and forth all week, and finally made my decision at 5 PM on Thursday evening, less than 12 hours before I was supposed to leave. I cancelled my flights, and told the girls.

I didn’t feel relief like I expected. I hung up the phone and thought, what have I done? I crawled into bed and cried until I fell asleep.

I had no idea how much that trip meant to me, until I ended it. I had no idea how much travel, meant to me until I ended it.

I feel a bit like a failure, completely disappointed in myself. I’m obsessing over what to write about for the next few months in my downtime. I really wanted to be brave. I am absolutely devastated over losing a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Brazil. I won’t get it back, as my LAN ticket expires at the end of November. I’m out a few hundred dollars. I see the girls’ photos and I am filled with regret, and I cannot tell you how much that hurts me. I know I will never get this experience back. But I knew it was the right decision, and I think it’s best I start listening to my body.

There's been a lot of lounging around on floors with cats

The short version of all that:

1. Life is unbelievably fragile. I nearly lost mine in 20 seconds. I am not invincible, who knew?
2. I don’t have anything without my friends and family. Their importance to me is far greater than I ever knew, and it’s okay to be at home.
3. The same could be said for travel. When it becomes a lifestyle, you tend to take it for granted.

Now, time to start planning that next big trip…whatever it is.

Thanks so much to everyone who sent me messages and emails and love. It meant the world to me! Made me realize how precious my existence is. Made me realize how delicate it is. Big thanks to my parents, roommates, and friends (especially Lisa, Ashley, Jessica, Lesley, Glassman, Nancy, Maggie, Coady, Mitch) and just about everyone on my Facebook who stuck with me while I bounced back and forth between indecision. I’m losing out on one big experience but I so hope you’ll all stay with me until my next one!


  • November 05 2012

    I’m so sorry to hear about your accident. It sounds like you are listening to your gut and doing what is best for you right now. Big hugs and I hope you feel better soon!

  • November 05 2012

    I guess there’s not much else I can add to this except that I’m really really glad you are okay. Brazil will always be around, but our loved ones won’t. I think you made the right call by letting yourself feel the emotions from the incident instead of ‘forcing’ yourself to go on a trip that you weren’t mentally ready for.

    My cousin’s van (filled with 9 people) rolled over a hill in China recently, and everyone got
    out safe. Your story reminded me of that.

  • November 05 2012

    I shouldn’t have read this at work, trying not to cry now. I love you!
    I loved how honest this post was, too. <3 Please live forever.

  • November 05 2012

    I’m so glad you are OK “all things considered”, Candice. And I agree with your decision to trust your gut on this one, FWIW.

  • November 05 2012

    Wow. I’m so glad that you are okay. It’s completely fine that you chose to stay home and did with what you thought was best for you instead of what you thought you should do. When things like this happen it makes you realize what is the most important to you and that is a great thing. You will be back on the road before you know it, so enjoy your time with your friends and family and don’t regret about not going to Brazil.

  • November 05 2012

    Wow! Wow! Wow! It sounds like you made the right decision to not go, even though it will suck looking at the girls’ pictures. Brazil will always be there, and you’ll make it there one day – it just wasn’t the right time for you! Stay safe

  • November 05 2012
    Queen @ Curtains are Open

    Sometimes, we just need the room to allow ourselves to breathe. I’m insanely proud of you… and look forward to your next adventure… when you’re ready.

  • November 05 2012

    You’re tough as hell, Candice—and I’m so, so glad you’re (1) healthy and OK and (2) listening to your gut. Sometimes we get so focused on “travel” that we forget to consider any warning signs, so I think you’re wise in giving that hesitation some clearance.

    Keep your chin up :) You’re doing great

  • November 05 2012

    Oh, Candice. I love you so much and am so thankful you were able to write this story.

  • November 05 2012

    This might be the best thing I’ve ever read by you. The part about learning you’re not invincible .. well that scares me. Because that hasn’t sunk in for me yet. I’m so sorry that you’re going through all that, it sounds not fun at all. I think it’s really good you made the right decisions for yourself though- very wise.

  • November 05 2012

    Hi Candice, long time I followed your adventures but this time I have to leave you a comment. I feel you. I had a car crash in Egypt some 3 weeks ago… it was different but what happened next was the worst part, as in your case. I was in shock, I still am. Panic attacks and no will at all to travel again. These things really make you reconsider so many things. I am sure we’ll be fine. :) *hug*

  • November 05 2012

    wow, what a brush with mortality. I love your honesty here. glad you’re okay!

  • November 05 2012

    Just relieved to hear that you are safe, Candice…
    ‘the World’ will be there when you are ready…
    you are worth the wait.

  • November 05 2012

    I want to go hug my Mom. And then come and give you a big squishy messy one too. xo

  • November 05 2012

    Glad you are okay. Sorry you’ve missed out on Brazil. Don’t worry about us readers. We’ll read whatever you write. You’re hilarious and talented when you’re in Canada just as much as when you’re in Brazil!

  • November 05 2012

    Sometimes it takes a scary-ass event to help us or remind us to listen to our bodies and our intuition. I’m so sorry you had to go through this, but it sounds like you’re learning much and that is how to move forward and be ready for the next one of life’s challenges. So glad you are here. Well, technically there, but you know what I mean. :-)

  • November 05 2012
    Ashley of Ashley Abroad

    I’m so glad you’re okay! That sounds so terrifying. And don’t worry about the trip – there will be many more. Your health is what’s most important.

  • November 05 2012

    Choked up reading this.

    I am deeply sorry for what transpired Candice. And sorry you missed out on Brazil. Nobody could blame you for making that decision. I had to make a similar one recently. We’re all grateful you’re still here and hopefully you’ll continue sharing your amazing stories with us soon.

    *hugz* & <3

  • November 05 2012

    loves you.
    you already know all my thoughts on the issue, really…. but lovely post, and I am so sorry you had to go through this, but I secretly (well, not so much secret now) very happy to have you stick around town a little longer! miss you when yer being all globe trotty ;P

    i always say things happen for a reason…. maybe life wanted you to slow down for a moment. there will be other once in a lifetime trips, I am positive :)

  • November 05 2012

    I’m so glad you’re okay! Brazil might have been once in a lifetime, but life only happens once and treasuring the time you have with loved ones is just as awesome as travel.

  • November 05 2012

    You made the right decision not to go. You shouldn’t question that, you should be proud of what a courageous decision it is. So glad you were ok, there is definitely some divine providence at work here. Thanks for telling the story- it is possibly the best written piece I’ve seen in a long time (and I have 400+ blogs in my Google Reader). Get healthy- I doubt Brazil is going anywhere :-)

  • November 05 2012

    Candice, this is an incredible post and incredible thoughts from an unreal situation. I’ve been following the aftermath of your crash on Facebook, but never posted anything on there because I just didn’t know what to say. “I’m glad you’re alive?” “I’m glad you’re okay?” (Even if you sometimes don’t feel like you are.) Of course, I thought those things and wanted to say those things, but, I don’t know, it just didn’t feel like enough.

    No matter what you had chosen – to go to Brazil or to stay home – you’ll always feel uncertain about it. My thought is that whatever choice anyone makes is the right one if it comes from a genuine gut feeling – and this need to stay home is a gut feeling if I’ve ever heard one.

    Take care of yourself.

  • November 05 2012

    Wow. I’m happy you came away from the accident all right, Candice! I believe your next trip, wherever you may go, will be extra special. Best wishes from one Canadian to another!

  • November 05 2012

    Wow, I think the most telling sign is what you said to yourself about needing to hug your friends and family. We are blessed to travel, but our blessing are those that love us. I’m so glad you are okay. This experience will probably change the way you think about the world from here on out.

  • November 06 2012

    So glad to hear you’re alright, Candice. And yeah, listening to your body is always the best call. Hope you can stop being hard on yourself for what was likely the right decision. Stay healthy, stay happy.

  • November 06 2012

    Brazil can happen another time. Just glad you are alright.

  • November 06 2012

    That’s so scary. I’m glad your okay. Life really is fragile. Take it easy on yourself. Brazil wasn’t meant to be this time, you’ll get there one day, and it will be worth the wait.

  • November 06 2012
    Terri Lynn Grothe

    so glad your ok, your the only Candace we have and there may be other chances for Brazil. xo

  • November 06 2012

    You had a major crazy life incident – you can’t expect to bounce back emotionally and mentally, all at once. You did the right thing by not going to Brazil, and if you are meant to go, the opportunity will present itself again. I’m so very glad you are ok. {{{hugs}}}

  • November 06 2012

    Wow that was an amazing escape, so glad you are both ok. Never mind Brazil, it will still be there when you are ready to go back.

  • November 07 2012

    Wow. I don’t have much to say, just that it’s great that you’re all right (more or less). You can always do the trip another time…and there WILL be another time.

    • November 29 2012

      I do believe you’re right, Anis, and thank you for your kind words!

  • November 07 2012

    So, which one of those cute doctors did you ask out? Seriously, the fact that you are okay is what counts. There will be other trips and opportunities.

  • November 07 2012

    Candace… I’m just a lurker… a bored receptionist who reads your blog from time to time on a slow day… but I HAD to leave a comment today just to say you’re such a fantastic writer. You make it look so effortless too. I hope you find peace in this crazy week and take something good from it. Listening to your body is always the right thing to do!

    • November 29 2012

      Thank you for commenting, Sarah! Lurker or not, it means a lot to me :)

  • November 08 2012

    Wow Candice. You write with such emotion it just rips out my heart. Glad you’re in one piece and you WILL find your feet again. You made the right decision at the right time for the right reasons FOR YOU. Little else matters.

  • November 11 2012

    Candice, this is insane! I’m glad that you’re OK and that you came out relatively unscathed (physically) from the accident. There’s always another time to do the trip, but for now, quality time with loved ones sounds like what you need the most. Chill out and have some uninterrupted “you” time :)

  • November 11 2012

    Very glad to hear you are ok. Sounds like such a crazy and emotional experience. Really puts things into perspective.

  • November 12 2012
    Caroline Eubanks

    I’m glad you’re okay! Brazil will always be there.

  • November 12 2012

    I just wanted to say a big collective THANK YOU for your love and well wishes, they meant the world to me. I kinda took a step back from the blog this past week and I’m sorry that I don’t have the time to respond to you each individually. But know that every comment and every word has made me feel far more loved than I ever imagined. <3

  • November 16 2012

    Thank you for this moving and inspirational story. I hope you’re feeling better and don’t fret about Brazil. You never know what life will throw at you.

  • November 17 2012

    So I realize this is really weird for my first ever comment on your blog (I just “discovered” you because Twitter, which I rarely use, told me we should be friends), but here goes: You weren’t listening to your body. You were listening to your intuition. This is something too many people — especially women — ignore. I’m not really religious or anything, but I do believe that sometimes we experience very clear feelings about things that, if we don’t want to believe them, are really difficult to acknowledge. It took a car accident for you to recognize yours, but you did. And you listened. I’m pretty positive there’s a reason you weren’t supposed to go to Brazil. At least not this time. So stop beating yourself up — literally and figuratively! There are other adventures to be had. :)

    • November 29 2012

      Thanks, Katie! After a month has passed and all, I definitely do feel it was the right decision. It was hard to convince myself, though. I appreciate your insight. :)

  • November 19 2012

    Wow Candice, so happy you are okay. Don’t worry about walking away from a trip, it’s not like Brazil is going anywhere. Take care of yourself and travel when you are ready.

    • November 29 2012

      Thanks, Ayngelina! I really hope that’s sooner rather than later…

  • December 09 2012

    You are such a fantastic writer and truly an inspiration! I’m a fan of your blog and of traveling and have my own fledgling travel blog, and yours was one of my inspirations. That sounds like it was such a scary experience, I’m glad you’re okay! Near-death experiences are certainly very rattling…

  • December 15 2012

    Candice, omg I had no idea! I hope you’re feeling much better. What an unreal situation. Take all the time you need to heal. Please don’t worry – Brazil WILL come back around to you. I promise! You’re such an amazing writer and an even better human being. So positive, charismatic, and f-in hilarious! I’m a HUGE believer that things always happen for a reason. You still have so much more to offer and inspire, and so much more travelling to do! Even this post reminds me to live my life now and no doubt it has inspired your other readers too. Thanks for writing it and I’m so glad you’re okay XO

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