Trouble in paradise?

Every year many students decide to take a gap year, but while most of us think they go smoothly, no one ever thinks about the disasters that may happen along the way.

After graduating from university, I’m going to take a gap year – or two, before beginning a life of full time employment and a limited social life. I have already done a lot of research into my chosen countries and there are many famous landmarks that I’m aiming to see along the way.

I may be wrong, but it’s safe to say that every student, no matter where they are from, has seen the video “Gap Yah” on Youtube. If not, where have you been? Go and watch it. It’s hilarious. It’s a spoof of British public school students who boast about their experiences, typically in the third world, prior to attending university.

To quote the actor in the video, gap year students will ‘Chunder everywhere…’ on their travels, as alcohol percentages are different from those here in the U.K. and of course partying is the main priority for any student – no matter where you are.

But while many go off to ‘explore the cultures’ of different countries, no one ever expects things to go wrong. Many people I know have taken gap years or gap months – as I like to call them – and only a few have had something gone wrong along the way.

A friend of mine, Tim, found his bad luck starting just a few weeks after landing down under. He had decided to take a year out after disliking his university course and so set off to Australia and New Zealand for 6 months at a time.

I spoke to him regularly – as I was his girlfriend at the time – and one night he text me saying he was in hospital. Being the panicked girlfriend, there was nothing I could do; he was half way across the world and I was in little old Wales!

“I have kidney stones and I’m in so much pain” he told me, “I had to have an ambulance to the hostel to take me to hospital.” Hearing this you can only imagine how much I wished I went with him on the gap year.

Asking him after he came home how he felt having to be rushed into a foreign hospital, he told me that “you never imagine visiting the hospital when you’re on holiday, so I never expected it when I went away for the year. I knew I would get the occasional cold but other than that, having kidney stones was completely unexpected.”

But Tim’s bad luck didn’t end there, he also told me he broke his finger while working on a building site and dropped a concrete block on his foot –ouch, so much for being careful!

I knew how clumsy Tim was, but to break so many bones and be rushed into hospital really wasn’t on the list – okay the broken bones part was, but we were just glad he didn’t come back to Wales in a coffin.

This story could make someone undecided about whether to travel abroad alone, but just read this next story, it’s enough to make you glad David had someone with him when he ended up ill in Central America – although I’m not too sure that his friend was happy about David being so ill in such a dangerous country.

After finishing his first year exams and receiving all their injections, David and his friend James jetted off to travel around Central America for 2 months over the summer break.

After 6 weeks of travelling, they ended up in Nicaragua, in a surf town called San Juan Del Sur which is where David fell ill – with cold sweats, a temperate and the urge to be sick all the time which wasn’t a good time when they planned to leave the next day.

“There was no way I could go anywhere,” Dave told me, “I was sleeping up to 18 hours, up for 4 hours then straight back to sleep.” Sounds like hell to me, especially as you plan your trips to go swimmingly, not expecting the worst the happen.

Dave and James started to panic after see signs around the hostel telling travellers if they were unwell and experiencing symptoms much like Dave’s they were unable to stay and had to get to hospital as it was likely to be Dengue fever – which is a highly infectious tropical disease which can be transmitted by mosquitoes. That’s one disease to tell your grandchildren you had!

Hiding the illness from the hostel owners, Dave began to take penicillin that they had for emergencies in conjunction with painkillers and 3 days later he started to feel fine.

“Penicillin is a serious miracle drug. Serious miracle!”

Summing up how he felt about contracting a tropical disease in a foreign country, Dave said “it was horrible, I must admit, not only because I was thousands of miles away from home but really because I was in such a dangerous country and it’s a dangerous disease.”

So if you’re thinking of running away for a year or just a few months, always make sure you research your country, have emergencies supplies and remember, no matter how much you think you’ll be fine, be prepare for if things do go wrong at anytime.

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