5 Things I Loved About Being Disabled In China

Most of us are scared of the thought of getting hurt abroad, worse still being unable to move like we did before. Being  disabled is by no mean fun, but there are some aspects of it that I loved – especially while travelling in China.

First of all, I loved that my movement impairment was temporary (read more about my accident at work and Chinese medical care), but that does not count towards the list of 5 things. I’m just happy that the worst is behind me and I wish every reader of this article to stay safe on the road and not to experience this.

CEZ POSTCARD.019
An amazing postcard I’ve received from fellow travellers at Travel World Passport. Many thanks once again. I was speechless!

 

Now, let me introduce to you a list of 5 advantages of being disabled while travelling:

#1 No More Queuing.

First day back home from the hospital
First day back home from the hospital

 

This one is especially valuable at the border crossings. Instead of waiting for 30 minutes, or even a couple of hours in some instances, your crutches or wheelchair will get you through the special lane in no time. I have been to Hong Kong a few times while I couldn’t walk without the aid of crutches, and I just couldn’t believe how fast it got me on the other side – every time. Same applies to banks and few other places, wherever there’s a line of healthy people.

#2 Appreciation Booster.

First Christmas in China after my accident
First Christmas in China after my accident

 

We never fully appreciate our health when healthy. The thing about being unable to walk, made me appreciate every single step I took afterwards! It’s amazing how much happiness I had from the fact that I could once again go to the restroom on my own, which was just 3 meters away. The moment I took a step without crutches was simply emotional. I realized that lack of very little things in life can change everything about it.

#3 Friends Filter.

SONY DSC
Some kindergarten teachers have paid me a visit during my recovery

 

We get to know who our best friends are when we are in need. Although normally people find out that the friends they were counting on cannot be counted on, I had quite the opposite case. I have realized that I made more friends in China than I imagined.

#4 Conversation Starter.

Da Lang Hospital
Some memories from Da Lang Hospital

 

In China, there’s a lot of people who want to talk to a foreigner. While normally they are shy, as soon as they saw me on crutches, they had something to talk about. Being disabled somehow convinced them that I’m much more approachable, and people were coming to talk to me all the time. Way more than normally.

Additionally, foreigners in Hong Kong also stopped to talk to me quite a lot.

#5 Upper-body Workout.

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My first proper bike ride after recovery

 

I lost most of my leg muscles, but thanks to the crutches, I gained some strength in arms. It’s not a dramatic change, but if I weren’t able to walk for longer I’m sure the difference would be much more visible.

To sum up

It wasn’t a pleasant experience, but it wasn’t as bad as one may think. I’ve learned a lot during the time.

I’m really happy to be back on the bike again and training hard to regain full capacity of my knee. I want to cycle long distance as soon as I can, but for now, the next time I’m in Europe, I’ll be only able to take advantage of public cycling schemes, like this one in London.

 Have you had an accident abroad? Share your experience and lessons learned in comments!

Get insured

Accidents and mishaps are often a part of travelling abroad, and so you shouldn’t forget to cover yourself and your belongings for any eventuality. Jump over to our budget travel insurance page and get clued up on who we use as our vital travel safety net.

And while we’re at it, we have a special, dedicated etramping page over at Agoda for booking hotels and hostels. Our readers get 10% off! Just follow the link, and enter the code AGODAETR10 (you need to enter this code before payment, case-sensitive). Honestly, we’re really too good to you!

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39 Comments

  • I love how you are able to take the positives out of this situation! Best wishes to a speedy recovery and I’m glad you’re able to get back on the bike again!

  • WOW! I twisted my ankle on a decrepit step while walking downstairs to leave a hostel I was staying in. I ended up being stuck at the hostel in Barcelona for another week as I couldn’t walk. We realize how much we take walking for granted when we can’t do it.

    • Yeah, it’s hard to imagine not being able to walk until something like that happens. I bet you still had some great time in the hostel and people took good care of you.

    • Loved the skipping lines part. I think that eventually someone will make lightweight version of crutches for people who frequently cross the borders and want to pretend they are disabled. Such a time saver.

  • It’s so good to see you better Cez, I remember when it first happened and it sounded pretty nasty. Friends filter is so true – you really know where you stand after something like that!

    • Cheers Tim. When it happened I didn’t much care about the leg itself, all I cared about was being able to cycle in 2 weeks for my Japan trip. Only when they said I’m not going to walk for “several months” I realized it’s serious.
      The support I got from people around me (and online) was something I didn’t expect. Really makes life look better (even when things get worse).

  • Glad to hear that you are getting better and I hope, you will recover completely as soon as possible. I love the way how you listed the advantages of being disabled in China and Hongkong in an entertaining way. I haven’t had an accident abroad, but my Mom had more than one. The most recent and remarkable one was when she broke her arm in Indonesia. She is still praising the excellent medical service in Lombok (I am not joking) plus the friendliness and helpfulness of the local people.

    • Thank you Vanessa. From what you said I see that your Mom also sees positives in every situation. It’s also good to know that Indonesian health care and people are good.

  • I broke my leg in Australia (skiing) and was supposed to be in a wheelchair for 3 months because of the nature of the break (tibia plateau). As we were going overseas I had to make a judgment call and went onto crutches after a while. I was losing leg muscle rapidly so went against doctors ordered and started physio. The walking on cobble stones in Amsterdam and Belgium nearly killed me … but it fixed my leg quick smart. So physiotherapists of the world- I have the answer, cobblestones. So, I do understand all of your points and there are definitely some advantages with everyone caring for you and shoving you through the disabled lanes at airports.I hope you get better as quickly as I have. My limp is virtually non existent thanks to ‘walking backwards’ – it builds the muscles up so that the limp goes and it works. Will follow your progress with great interest.
    Take care
    Paula

    • It would have been much better and easier to be with family, but I wouldn’t have learned so much. I just hope I won’t need to make that decision again to either go home or stay in a hospital somewhere in the world.

  • Great post Cez! Was great to hear all this from you when we met last week. Back in 2007 I also broke my leg and totally agree – that you have to come out smiling and you really get to appreciate things in life a lot more. It’s a realy great article and I hope that anyone in a bad state of health or hospitalised can get through the good times by smiling and staying happy! Also – I read a lot more books and did a lot more blogging when I had my broken leg, which can only be a good thing! Safe travels and catch up soon. Jonny

    • Thanks for your kind words Jonny.

      I remember catching up on sleep big time, but also that basic tasks took me a lot longer than usual. Then, instead of blogging more I actually had less done (and that also applied to my web design gigs).

  • Hi Cez, Great to know that you’re almost on the road to your cycling goals. It’s also great to see that your positive attitude pervaded during your healing period. I believe that dwelling on the positive helps in faster recovery. Take care and I hope to be reading your posts about your cycling adventures soon.

  • Great to see you take so many positives out of such a bad situation. It is also very true that it is during hard times that you discover who your real friends are. It is great that you have so many friends to support and aid you.

    Also great to see you on a bike again. Does this mean the leg support has gone for good?

    I think this incident also highlights the importance people should attach to obtaining medical insurance when planning a trip abroad. Medical costs can be extortionate if you are not prepared.

    • Thanks. Yeah, the leg support had to go. I actually lost so much muscle that if I had it any longer I would break the leg on the first occasion I didn’t wear it. The leg support may have extended the recovery period instead of helping, but I would never know.

      And you also highlighted a very important thing – having insurance. We never insured ourselves during the travels (thankfully this accident happend at work where I was covered). Now that I know how easy it is to get in trouble, I always look for ways to mitigate such risks.

  • Oh what an ordeal! Touch wood I’ve not been injured abroad. I imagine it can be quite a nightmare. Love that you’ve highlighted some positives here!!

  • What a cool way to look at an unfortunate situation. Glad to hear you’re back on your feet and on the mend!

    I’ve never been seriously injured abroad, but I did get quite sick during my first few months in Spain. Dealing with doctors in a foreign country/language when you’re feeling terrible is NOT a fun ordeal. Even now that I’ve been in Spain for 3 years, it’s hard communicating exactly what is wrong with me to a doctor, because when I feel bad speaking another language becomes much, much harder.

    Good luck getting back up to full speed!

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