In the back of my mind since I starting living full-time in my trailer and traveling around with no home base, I’ve wondered what would happen if I got in an accident and broke something like an ankle or a leg. It literally never occurred to me that breaking a finger would cause the same kind of commotion.
When I fell while running on Memorial Day 2017, the first thing I did was roll over and check ankles, knees, hips, and pelvis, to make sure I could walk. Only then did my brain register that something was screaming in pain. One look at my left hand and I almost threw up – my ring finger was at a right angle to the other fingers. My first, second, and third reactions were all “Oh, shit, this isn’t good.”
From this point on, my daily reality changed fast and hard. I ended up with left hand in a cast for 4 weeks. That was not awesome news for a solo vagabond.
The kind intervention of a wise friend got me moved to a residence hotel for a week, where I mostly slept, watched bad TV movies, and microwaved meals whenever I got hungry. By day 5, I was feeling more like myself, and began figuring out how to get to the Alto camping rally that was the whole reason I had been heading east. I cashed in a slew of hotel points (via a credit card) for a week of Holiday Inn Express rooms to get me from Indiana to North Carolina. I hitched up once and then just parked my rig in hotel lots overnight, while I ate takeaway food and showered in big hotel bathrooms where I could hold my cast over my head to keep it from getting wet.
After the rally, I got my cast off in Lancaster, PA, and started physical therapy while staying with kind and patient friends. The second week there, I moved to a nearby KOA to test how the weak and sort-of-still-useless hand would do back in the Alto.
I spent the rest of July and August on Cape Cod, housesitting for a friend and then driveway surfing on her property while I got in a full 6 weeks of physical therapy. By the time Labor Day came around, the hand was about 75% of its former self and I headed off the Cape and out of PT with a list of exercises and tools to keep working it on my own.
It’s been 12 months now since “The Fall That Changed Everything” and my hand is mostly OK and I can do most things with it, although that ring finger is never going to be what it was (some nerve damage remains).
Things that worked:
- Having generous, kind friends. From Terre Haute (a friend since 8th grade) to Pennsylvania (a couple I’ve known years and years) to Massachusetts (30+ years of friendship and counting), knowing that people had my back was a relief. And at the rally, everyone gave me a pass for not bringing food to the potlucks, and that was a big relief.
- Emergency fund. Knowing I could pay for a week in a decent hotel, buy takeout food, and not have to scramble for funds or run up a big credit card bill was a relief. One less thing to stress me out during what was already a challenging time.
- Good medical insurance. I was on COBRA from my last employer and that helped lessen the financial impact. The total cost of the accident (ER, doctors, x-rays, meds, physical therapy) was just north of $12,000. My out of pocket? $1000.
- A credit card that piled up points towards hotel stays. One of the best pieces of advice I got before starting to full-time was to find a decent hotel chain, get their affinity credit card, and spend on it till I built up a solid bank of points, enough for a few weeks of rooms. I ended up using 15 nights worth of points and still had a cushion for future needs.
Things I would do differently:
- Not fall. Seriously. The sidewalks in that part of Terre Haute had already given me pause because they were so cracked and uneven. I should have been listening to my gut and changed my route.
- Accept offers of help faster and with more grace. I was fighting so hard to prove I could do everything with one hand that I was often brusque when people offered to lend a hand. I’ve learned to think before I automatically say no, or at least I try to.
Biggest takeaway: when vagabonding, expect the unexpected.
This happened my first day back in the trailer. Yep, that’s my trailer tire. Ran over some road junk. Honestly, I just laughed when I realized my tire had blown out. What else can you do?!
We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.