Friday, May 18, 2012

From Thailand to Yosemite to Seattle... On Crutches

Oh, hello there, travel blog. I've neglected to inform you of several key events over the past few weeks.

For one thing, I'm back in the U.S., and have been for more than a week! Greetings from San Francisco.

I'm also flying home to Seattle today.

And... I'm now a pro at hobbling around on crutches.

But let's back up a bit, shall we?

When I last wrote, I had left my little island paradise and traveled east to Chumphon, Thailand, where I crashed for one night before continuing on to Koh Tao.

It was there that I fell in love with diving.



Learning to scuba dive wasn't really on my bucket list, but I figured I'd try it since Koh Tao is a relatively inexpensive place to earn an open-water diving certification.

I had no idea I'd enjoy diving as much as I did. I completed my open-water and advanced certifications in five days, and probably would have stayed on Koh Tao much longer if I hadn't already booked a flight back to the U.S.



I'll definitely write a full post about my entire diving experience — I loved and highly recommend my diving school, Scuba Junction — but for now, I'll tease you with a glimpse of the coolest creature I encountered on my whole trip.



That's a whale shark, baby. Whoa.

After Koh Tao, I hopped a boat south to Koh Phangan for a little shindig called the Full Moon Party.



When in Rome, right? Although I doubt Romans drink buckets quite like these.

And then, in an event that may or may not have had something to do with the above photo, I wound up with a sprained ankle and the sketchiest pair of too-big-for-me wooden crutches you can imagine.


Yes, I used rubber bands to attach tank tops to the crutches in a lame attempt to add some padding. Necessity is the mother of invention!

Perhaps I'll get into this more in a later post, but I had a really low last few days in Thailand. I wound up on Koh Samui at an isolated hostel where I'm pretty sure I was the only occupant and the one employee didn't speak a word of English. I had to crutch for a good 15 minutes down a looong dirt driveway in the hot sun to the nearest place to get food. And at the time, I didn't know whether my ankle was sprained or broken. Either way, it was nice and swollen and unusable.

I cried quite a bit. I felt so alone. I really, really, really just wanted to go home.

My epic journey back to the States on May 9 involved four flights, five airports and 18 hours in the air. There were wheelchairs and in-flight movies and vain attempts to elevate my ankle. There was grotesque swelling.

San Francisco welcomed me with a wildly inaccessible hostel (stairs! everywhere!) and the swift diagnosis of a sprained ankle and — bonus! — bronchitis. Between the hostel's complimentary breakfast and dinner, I fasted in order to avoid going down a huge flight of stairs to find food. One night (and day), I slept for 14 hours in a codeine haze.

After a few lonely and sick days, my dad and brother rescued me and whisked me off to Yosemite National Park, where we spent five days with my aunt, uncle and cousins.



I made a valiant effort to keep my crutches out of photos, but just know that my family was incredibly patient in helping me get around despite my inability to actually hike. The strong Mills men even pushed me in a rented wheelchair up steep, paved trails to beautiful sights like Bridalveil Fall.


Dear family: You are the best.



Even though we just left yesterday, I'm dying to return to Yosemite when I can actually walk on my own. I'd love to hike, rock climb and go whitewater rafting down the Merced River. But I had my fair share of adventures these past three months, so I was quite all right with a low-key visit this time.

I'm just glad I got to participate in the event that was the main reason we went to Yosemite in the first place: spreading my granddad's ashes on a cliff that overlooked the Yosemite Valley.



I had to do some extreme, off-road crutching with the help of multiple spotters to get to this viewpoint, but it was well worth it. We had a nice little ceremony in which we shared memories, tears and even some laughter. We said goodbye.

You may remember from this video that my granddad was one of the key people who encouraged me to travel. His passing last September really reminded me that life is short, and we shouldn't waste it doing anything less than exactly what we dream of. It felt fitting to end this portion of my travels by paying tribute to a man who would've been so proud to see me bungee jump in New Zealand, sail the islands of Australia and scuba dive in Thailand.

I'll always remember what he said about making travel a priority: "You'll never regret it." 

And even with the sprained ankle, the sketchy crutches, the bronchitis and the utter misery and loneliness I felt in those last few days, I know he was absolutely right.

People are already asking me, "What's next?" I just say that I'd like to go to Europe, but that I'm taking a break from travel planning for now. After all, it wasn't so long ago that I felt really burned out.

In reality, I find myself staying up late to research flights and browse accommodation options in a few destinations I plan to reach sooner rather than later. What is wrong with me?

I suppose I've been bitten by more than just mosquitoes these past few months. The travel bug is alive and well in my veins, and I no longer fear the idea of traveling halfway around the world to places I've never been.

I now know that life on the road is not always about thrilling adventures, private bungalows and sunsets on the beach; there are also grim, dirty streets, saggy hostel beds and days when you just want to sit around and do nothing. There is loneliness, and even boredom.

But I preferred even the worst travel days to those I spent in a cubicle.

So I will see how long I can sit still — at least long enough to let my ankle heal and catch up on blogging about my travels — and then take off again, and likely not on my own this time. I may take shorter trips with breaks in between. I kind of refuse to nail down plans right now, as it's the possibilities that I find most exciting.

And if that's wrong, I just don't want to be right.

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18 comments:

  1. Glad you had a blast and made the best of things despite the ankle situation. I have a friend who tore his ACL then had to board a plane the next day for Australia. Swelling doesn't even begin to describe what happened to his leg. Yikes. Hope you family spoils you for the short time you're home... You're injured after all! If you're ever in Boston, let me know if you need suggestions on things to do/see or places to eat. Cheers.

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    1. Oh, wow, a torn ACL is no joke!! Thanks for the good wishes and the offer to recommend things to see and do in Boston. I may take you up on that soon! : )

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  2. Great post & I enjoy reading your blog! Just wondering why you haven't considered exploring Africa? Apologies if you covered this in another blog post

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    1. Thanks! I would LOVE to go to Africa, actually, but for now I feel a strong pull to visit Europe first. In Australia I had a tour guide that used to lead safaris in Africa and, let me tell you, I spent a loooong night Googling safaris. It will happen eventually!

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  3. So excited for you!! And can I say I'm proud of you?? It takes A LOT to just pick up and travel....I'm jealous and in awe of you! Can't wait to read more!

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  4. I've been in San Fran since wednesday night...go to denver the 23rd, then back home to seattle for a bit may 30th. Will you be around then?

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    1. I'll be in Seattle almost all the time until July! Shoot me a tweet or something. : )

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  5. Hey Devon, just wanted to pop in and say I've enjoyed following your travels so far, especially your photography. Looking forward to the next leg, wherever that may take you. I'm headed to Europe myself this summer, starting in Dublin and working my way east, hoping to make it all the way to Turkey. All the best!

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    1. Thanks, Scott! Wow, sounds like an awesome trip you've got planned. Maybe our path will cross in Europe!

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  6. Happy to hear Yosemite was so good! Was thinking of looking into paleo myself this summer ... if you're up for coffee or Gasworks Park while you're in town, we should chat!

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    1. I'd love to meet up! Problem is I'm currently car-less and still on crutches... but once I'm mobile again I can easily hop a bus. Let's keep in touch!

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  7. Great point that the worst travelling days are still better than those in a cubicle... I couldn't agree more! Great article Oliver :-)

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    1. Heh, should I start going by the nickname Oliver? : ) Thanks, Meg!

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  8. Oh my! I hope you are on the mend! And that you get to experience hiking real soon.

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    1. Thank you. I'm hobbling around without my crutches 80% of the time now and REALLY looking forward to walking normally AND hiking again soon!

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  9. I love the ending of this post when you talk about realizing every day on the road isn't a dream and yet they are all better than any day in a cubicle. My husband & I were a bit concerned for you when you decided to not do more of Asia and head home earlier than planned etc. We, too, experienced everything you did on the road but in continuing on found that those feelings often changed within a few days...you know, like the old Jimmy Buffet song "Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes".
    Glad to see you're getting yourself recharged and ready to head out on another, new adventure! Good luck.

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  10. Mind blowing post it is. I really impress to see this.
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