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.
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.
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.
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!