Travel Insurance is important.
I speak from experience!
I have great experiences, I really do. From losing my passport on the Chopta Chandrashila Trek in the Himalayas to being ‘ haunted’ in India, from twisting my ankle during a three-month backpacking trip to catching a disease I could barely pronounce in Delhi, I’ve dealt with a number of situations that made me question my relationship with budget traveling.
Am I too unlucky or just way too clumsy?
Whichever the case, my experience has taught me that I am not one to forgo insurance.
It might work for others, but definitely not me.
Truth be told, before I started traveling extensively, I never thought I needed to buy travel insurance. I mean, why spend all that money when I can just take some extra caution? But thank god I did not follow my instinct.
Here are some of my favorite experiences:
5. That one time in Budapest when I rolled down the Gellert Hill and sprained my ankle so bad that I limped around Europe for a month with a 35L backpack 💀⠀
4. The # of food poisonings I had. Delhi belly was by far the worst, but a bad Mexican taco was a close second. Have you tried holding everything in on a flight? It doesn’t work. I met death 🤦🏻♀️⠀
3. When a tram ran over my bike in Tulum and completely squashed my front tire. It was inches away from my foot, thank god I still have my foot.⠀
2. When our motorcycle hit a curb and flipped over while we were heading down the Himalayas. It was a narrow route so going max 30km/hr, but we were thrown off the thing, a few feet away from oncoming traffic. Anyways the bike wouldn’t start afterward and we had to roll it down the mountain in the middle of the night, fun times 😑⠀
Really, travel insurance is worth it.
1. After fracturing my skull on a night out, I live to tell the tale:
“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” Ernst Hemingway
I was cramped in the miniature Parisian elevator with Camille, bickering drunkenly over the events of the day. We were both frustrated and agitated from the poorly-planned Euro-trip. It was her second-last day in Paris. We were determined to have a night out.
Outside, the mid-June evening was warm and inviting. The pine trees rustled blithely in the breeze. We walked towards a group of friends and discussed intensely on what to do for the night. In-between the chaos, Camille wandered off into the streets of Paris, a city she had barely known for 2 days.
I didn’t see her again until the morning.
I fell for the idealized version of Paris years ago. For the outdoor cafes that line the narrow streets during the peak of summer; for the charming accordion melodies that seem to accompany a Parisian’s every move; for the enchanting romance actualized by the smell of fresh baguettes and the taste of delicious wine.
I knew I had to visit.
What I didn’t anticipate, was that years later, I’d waltz through the narrow streets and barge into hidden alleyways as if I lived there-because, for 5 months, I did.
Yet, I was amazed to find that the ideal, even flawless city from the films and commercials I had watched, was ridden with prickles and thorns. Paris was a city with costly, microscopic rental rooms, brusque pedestrians, more-than-necessary pick-pocketers, and the occasional racist outburst (being followed by a group of schoolboys, who found amusement in shouting ‘chink’ behind me, had left its mark). A city with distinct neighborhoods and vibrant streets; an electric, irritated, jovial, turbulent city, which fed on rolling tobacco, loathed them as much as it needed them; in which the buttery croissants and juice steak fed into slim figures and sophisticated silhouettes; a city split into two, one of which underground, dark, and smelt permanently of urine.
Instead of the decorative outdoor cafes, I became acquainted with the cost-effective croissants at Carrefour. Instead of unearthing my life’s theme song, it was the grey-blue winter skies that chaperoned my days. I didn’t witness much romance but grew familiar with the close-knit Parisian architecture and the crowded metro during my morning commute to school.
Don’t get me wrong I have many a light and bright memory about the City of Love. Yet, it’s the dark side of Paris-the the sharp edges and spiky corners so very rarely discussed, that I Alice in Wander landed-into.
I landed in Paris days into 2015. Shortly after, I moved into a shared apartment in Boulogne-Billancourt. A search for residence led me there—or rather, not so much a search for residence as a hunt for budget lodging. The hunt for budget lodging that seemed nearly impossible in a city dotted by eye-widening, brow-raising rental expenses. At the time I became aware of the rental rates, I was staying with a family friend in the 13th arrondissement. The grandma, the mom of my parents’ friend, didn’t appreciate that I was going to board for free while my house hunting. I left after two days.
The small, cozy apartment was a 5-minute walk from Porte-de-Saint Cloud, close enough to the mainline that it was still considered convenient, yet far enough from downtown Paris that it seemed a world apart. It had sizable, sun-filled windows that brightened each room, a cubical-sized lavatory that was abruptly separated from the adjacent tub with a hastily-installed cardboard wall, and two bedrooms. On days when I had school, I’d leave the building around dawn, when the winter sky was still dark and frosty. On weekends, I’d lay in bed till noon, when the afternoon rays light the bedroom ablaze. My roommates consisted of an outgoing Brazilian and fellow Sciences Po student, Luiza, an older couple that I never ran into despite the 400 sq. feet living space, and our landlady, who slept on the couch in the living room to offset the cost of living.
I paid 400 Euros/month for the bed, and I was lucky.
2015 was a frightening year for Paris. In January, the Charlie Hebo Shooting shook the city to its core. In November, a series of terrorist attacks silenced the world. In-between and thereafter, Paris was held under a gloom that was far more severe than its worst winter days.
Sciences Po is spread across the 6th and 7th arrondissements, the epicenter of Paris. Each exchange student felt, in another, the instant connection propelled by being in a foreign land. There were invitations to all sorts of events and outings that looked to broaden the experience of being in Europe. Yet, I also recall days when classes were canceled due to an unattended backpack and the semi-packed streets with heavily armed French Police patrolling the streets.
It may be an exposition of pessimism, but I find the dim corners and murky fringes of a new city infatuating. It is with the shedding of the deeply-rooted, idealized fantasy land, that I am made acutely aware of a living, breathing metropolitan underneath. Paris was no different.
After having my phone stolen in February, I decided to roam the city mobile-less for the remainder of my stay. Every engagement became a combination of rough time-estimate, luck, and faith.
When Camille decided to visit in May, we drafted an entire 15-day itinerary consisting of Amsterdam, Hamburg, Berlin, Dublin, Belfast, Brussels, and Paris through a spontaneous, 2-hour Skype session (mind you, buses were cheap and I thought it genius to squeeze in as many destinations as possible).
Two days before she came, I slipped and fell in a Parisian club. I woke up in a daze and decided to visit the hospital. What was supposed to be a 30-minute consultation turned into a 4-day hospital stay. The French doctor looked at me gloomily and proclaimed that my skull was fractured. “There is internal bleeding,” he pointed at a tiny shaded region on the CT scan of my head, “maybe surgery if bleeding turns into the clot.”
That night, I stayed in the ICU nursing a concussion that made me feel nauseous at every turn. It took a long time before drifting off to sleep, which was accompanied by the vocalized, agonizing pain of other patients nearby.
Despite the lack of foresight in informing Camills where I was, she found her way to my recovery room 2 days later. I was in a state of misery and self-pity but was overall grateful that I didn’t kick the bucket from slipping in a dirty night club in one of the most romantic cities in the world.
I was also very thankful that I didn’t have to pay the CAD 5000 out of pocket. Because, well, I had travel insurance.