The trip you’re on

When it comes to travel, Esteban and I are planners: Before every trip we peruse a stack of guide books from the library, study some history, and map out our logistics.

Trip plan spreadsheet BLOGEight cities and three countries in one trip. WHAT WERE WE THINKING?!

Although we still leave plenty of time for serendipity, planning helps us make sure we don’t miss an interesting event — or accidentally land in the middle of one.

Marathon 1130359 BLOG

Marathon 1130419 BLOG“May I cross the marathon route?” I asked the cop. “How fast can you run?” he replied.

But in spite of our best planning efforts, Esteban’s and my years of traveling together have taught us an inescapable truth: At some point the trip you planned will become the trip you’re on.

The trip you're on P1080712 BLOG

You’ll wake up covered in bedbugs. You’ll get off the train at the Basel Bad Bf station instead of Basel SBB (big difference). Or maybe you’ll be stranded for 14 hours at Rome’s Fiumicino airport as Vueling concocts ever-more-creative excuses for your delayed flight.

The point is that things won’t go according to plan — and there won’t be a damned thing you can do about it. And at that point you’ll have a choice: Will you fume in anger at your ruined trip? Or will you roll with it, and see where this new adventure leads?

Esteban’s and my last trip tested this philosophy. Five days before our flight home, I noted that the stairs to our 17th century apartment were slippery from the night’s condensation, and thus paid the most meticulous attention to each of the 89 steps.

Apartment steps 1110108 BLOG

Finally — on the 90th and last step — I relaxed. “I made it!” I thought. That’s when my leg slipped out from under me and I fell backward onto the stone staircase.

Apartment steps 1090994 BLOG

I heard the “whump” before I felt the searing pain in my back or realized I couldn’t breathe. Instinctively, I crawled around on all fours for a couple of minutes. Then I climbed back up to the apartment to alert Esteban. “I’m seriously injured,” I told him.

Luckily, the scans didn’t spot any broken bones or damaged discs. “Nevertheless, these soft-tissue things can be surprisingly painful,” said the doctor, “but it’s important to keep moving as much as possible.” I nodded while I mentally hollered obscenities.

Back at the apartment I cried a bit as I iced my back and listened to the activity outside. “Those people have no idea how lucky they are to be ambulatory,” I thought. To pass the time I read several books and snapped iPhotos of my newly shrunken universe.

IMG_5774The view from our apartment’s window. At least it was sunny!

Every morning Esteban would help me shower and get dressed (because underwear and shirts become deathtraps when you can’t move your torso). Then we’d set off slowly, down the stairs, and out onto the street.

He’d open doors for me and help me negotiate curbs and prop me up like a mannequin in cafés. He also blocked cars whose drivers were impatient with my snail’s-pace progress, and kept people from jostling me in the markets.

I felt like a burden and apologized continuously … but through it all, he reminded me that “this is the trip we’re on.”

We’re home now, and I’m slowly on the mend. (Last week’s highlight: I put on my own socks. Yay!) But I’m still disappointed about the five “lost” days — mostly because Esteban lost those days, too.

Still, I’m trying to learn from his example. “Stop worrying about it,” he said yesterday. “We made the best of it.” He’s right that it could have been worse (I could have hit my head, or broken a vertebra). Or I could have been alone (crawling around on all fours, tangled in my bra and wearing no socks).

And anyway … now we have a great excuse to go back, and to try one more time to have the perfect trip in which everything goes exactly as planned.


  1. Ow! What a perfectly awful thing to happen on a vacation trip. But as you note, things could always be worse. “The trip you’re on.” That is a concept I need to incorporate into my everyday life.

    • It’s such a Minnesotan thing to say, “Things could always be worse,” but it often IS true, isn’t it? A sense of proportion and perspective goes a long way. Ditto with accepting that sometimes you just have to make the best of “the trip you’re on.” Thank you for stopping by!

  2. Oh dear!! That’s a terrible fall! I know that scary feeling when you know you’ve hit and you can’t breathe and you panic. Terrible! But whatever were you thinking in crawling back up the stairs??!!
    I’m glad you’re getting better, and kudos to Esteban for his care and for his good attitude. Clearly he deserves the Croix d’guerre for service above and beyond.

    Good luck on that follow-up trip….going exactly as planned (cough, cough)

    • What was I thinking crawling back up those stairs? That I didn’t want to die at the bottom of them, Jeff! Ha ha. I will pass on your kudos to Esteban — who, incidentally, had the exact same reaction you did to my hopes for the follow-up trip. 🙂 Thank you for stopping by, and as always for your kind words.

  3. Ouch… you can never plan everything… when me and my wife go on vacation in the backcountry you simply have to plan for changes… every planned trip comes with options… you have to be able to turn back, But what if there are no cabs to be called when you’re down… well we fixed that one… All planning has to include all kind of options.

    • I’m dying to know what your plan is for when there are no cabs and you’re down, Björn! You’re right that it’s smart to think of as many contingencies as possible — which is why next time we’ll maybe rent an apartment that’s a bit closer to the ground. 🙂 Thank you for stopping by, and best wishes for continued healing with your eye.

    • Has anyone ever told you that you have a wise saying for every situation, Tom? “Plan, act, reflect, and adapt” is great. Perhaps next time we’ll adapt by lodging just a little bit closer to street level. 🙂

  4. Ouch! So glad you did not crack your head. And eventually enjoyed the trip you were on. Best philosophy for everything, not just trips. Plans not working out quite right is God’s little way of showing she really does have a sense of humor! Feel better.

    • I love your twist on that old saying that “men plan, God laughs,” Patti! Thanks so much for your kind and encouraging words.

  5. Although at the time, you probably weren’t thinking how great you handled the situation; but you certainly did. Adapting and rolling with the punches is not easy to do…one of those “lessons” it takes us a long time to learn. You can confidently cross that one off the list of Life Lessons. Welcome back!

    • Aw, Roberta … I think you give me too much credit. 🙂 It was actually my emotionally intelligent, strong, pragmatic husband who got us through it. Though I must admit I *do* have a new-found respect for my tough little body, too. Thank you so much for stopping by, and for your very kind comment.

    • Given enough time, almost everything is HILARIOUS in hindsight, isn’t it? I hope in time I’m not only smiling but actually laughing about this one. 🙂 Thank you so much for stopping by!

    • My bum thinks it’s a total bummer too, Co. 😉 But yes, yes … very happy to report I’m on the mend. Thank you!

  6. (((Heidebee))) Oh my goodness, what a scary fall. I’m sorry to hear you’ve been in so much pain. You showed remarkable presence being able to climb back up all those steps to get help. Isn’t it amazing how a part of us instinctively knows when to step in? I’m relieved to hear you didn’t injure your spine or crack your head on the steps. But a bruised kidney alone sounds bad enough. When I traveled in Europe and the UK nearly thirty years ago, I met a woman from Canada that was hit by a motorcycle her first week there. It was one of those look left when those of us from this continent are used to looking right when we cross the road. She thought she looked properly, then stepped out in front of it. She spent a week in the hospital. It happens. You made the best of it. And Estaban sounds like a wonderful man and a great balance to wonderful you. Sending a gentle hug across the miles and wishing for a speedy recovery.

    • Thank you so much for your sweet and caring message … I’ve received (and appreciated) your gentle hug! But that poor woman from Canada. A week in the hospital! See? THAT would ruin a vacation. It appears Esteban was right that I was lucky, after all. (And yes, you’re right in summing him up as a wonderful man. I still don’t know how I got so lucky.) A big hug back to you, dear Alys!

      • Finding real and lasting love isn’t easy. I was 35 when I married Mike. Like Esteban, he’s a wonderful man and I count my lucky stars to have him in my life. But you, too are a wonderful woman, so though luck may have brought you together, I have no doubt that Estaban thinks he’s the lucky one.

        Hug received! xo

  7. OMG, what a way to remember those beautiful stairs! I’m so glad you’re on the mend, and I love your attitude. Make the next trip one of lovely memories 😊😊.

    • You know what’s funny? Even though it was no fun being banged up, I still have lots of lovely and happy memories, thanks to Esteban. He was *so* tender and patient with me. And also I know that one day we’ll look back on this all and think it was hilarious. 😀 Thank you so much for stopping by!

    • Thank you so much, 16forward! It was such a relief to get home after the ordeal of a flight back. And I agree with you that we all need an Esteban in our life. Of all my many blessings, he is the greatest.

    • How kind of you, Anthony … thank you! Don’t feel *too* bad, though. It really could have been way worse — and I really am getting better. I’m sure in just a couple more weeks this whole episode will be hilarious. 🙂

    • You’re spot-on about the difference between safety measures in the U.S. and those in France, Jim. Maybe that’s why the doctors there still make house calls, ha ha. Thanks for your kind words!

  8. I’ll love that phrase: “the trip you’re on…” We’re getting ready to head out for Spain and France in about a week, and while we’ve done a lot of planning, it’s a good time for me to remember that an adventure always includes ups and downs. So sorry yours was a very painful episode – scary! I’ll definitely be on alert around slippery stone steps…

    • Spain and France, Tasha. HOW WONDERFUL! And while every adventures does have its ups and downs, I hope yours will be smooth sailing the whole way through. So eager to hear anything you care to report!

    • You’ve said it, Terry: Esteban is a GEM. Every day I wonder how I got so lucky! Ditto for my accident; every day I get a bit stronger. Thank you for your kind comment and good wishes!

  9. It doesn’t make sense given the complete context but reading this I couldn’t help but form the mental image of Esteban carrying you around Paris like Luke carried Yoda on Dagobah, during his Jedi training. You and Esteban sound like a couple of the most well put-together people I’ve ever heard of.

    Reading the account of your fall here seemed a lot more disturbing than when you originally described it to me. Probably it’s the pictures of the stairs. They look really hard.

    • LOVE, love, love the image of Esteban carrying me around like Yoda (and as a *huge* Star Trek fan he will too). If only I were so wise, and also as nimble with a light saber. 😉 Any credit for being “put-together” goes to my better half, though — I assure you I was whimpering, whiny mess. In hindsight I’m astounded at his patience.

      As for the account of the humpty-dumpty moment: Those stone stairs do put it in context, don’t they? They were REALLY hard. In hindsight I’m grateful I was literally able to walk away from the accident; it could have been way worse.

  10. I hope those injured soft tissue areas are improving steadily, Heide! Falling backwards on stone steps – yikes “( Glad you’ve been to the doctor and are practicing good self-care. Falling as an adult is shockingly hard on us. Keep mending and healing –

    • Although I’m frustrated with how slowly things seem to be mending, at least I *am* seeing progress — and taking some comfort in knowing it could have been worse. Thank you so much for your sweet note and kind thoughts, Lara. xx

    • Thank you for your very sweet note! I’m impatient at how slowly the torn muscles are healing, but keep clinging to my mantra: “It could have been worse.” 🙂

  11. Ouch, I am so sorry H. Glad to hear you are on the mend. I use to be like you and Esteban and study before a trip, but over the years I’ve decided to take my husband’s approach to chill, eat my way around a new culture and take photos of all that interest me and that I think is photo worthy. 🙂 “God bedring” as they say in Danish. xoxo

    • I should follow your example in following my husband’s approach, dear Rochelle — if I’d slept in with him, that accident would not have happened! Fortunately I’m healing up well and it will all (hopefully) soon be a memory. But thank you for your kind wishes! xoxo

    • I’m finally starting to feel more “normal” again, Yann — thank you. On the bright side, I’ve now learned how to navigate healthcare in France. It’s much easier and much less expensive than in the U.S.

  12. Try those stairs after a few drinks! I lived in an old, old, old place in Paris in my early 20’s with stairs like that. I’m sure I drank more than I should have back then, but I always felt drunk trying to maneuver those stairs!

    • Ha ha, Kirk! For how long did you get to live in Paris, you lucky guy?

      I confess to having had a few wobbly nights in Paris myself. Oddly enough, I think I may have fared better if I *had* been inebriated — at least I would have torn fewer muscles trying to catch myself on the way down. Oh, well. Next time. 🙂

      • I was there for a year. On the left bank, a block from the Seine. Good times. Yes, you may have been more flexible and loose with a few drinks, and had less injury:-)

        • A block from the Seine! Oh, mais tu as eu de la chance! The left bank is my favorite district — even if it’s overrun by souvenir shops and gyro stands these days, the sense of history is still so palpable there. So far I’ve had the pleasure of staying on the rue Frédéric Sauton, the rue de la Harpe, the rue St. Jacques, and most recently on the rue de Bièvre, where I fell. The last place overlooked the river, which was surprisingly noisy into the wee hours of the night, but it was worth it to hear the bells of Notre Dame calling the faithful to mass.

          Now you have me feeling all nostalgic — and wanting to ask a million questions about YOUR time in Paris too!

          • Sounds like you’ve seen a lot of the city. The quiet spots face interior courtyards. You forego the view, but at least you can sleep! I was living with a French family, going to school, then in an apartment for a short while. We were on the less touristy side of Place St. Michel (to the west).

          • You’re right about the courtyards, Kirk — they’re a brilliant invention, aren’t they? So glad you got to live there as a youngster; what a wonderful opportunity!

  13. In my case, though I am a big time planner, I have stopped planning at all over these years because I realised I was merely wasting time figuring out the details when things will not happen and take the same course that I created in my head. It’s all about the journey and not the destination like they husband too takes life as it comes, so it’s better to go with the flow. Unplanned trips are more fun as every moment brings in surprises, some shocks too 😂😂😂
    Hope you have recovered completely!

    • I admire you and your husband for being so willing — and able — to simply “go with the flow.” Maybe I’ll get there too someday. 🙂 In the meantime, I’m happy to report I’m 98% recovered. I still have the occasional pull and twinge, but compared to how completely incapacitated I was, I’m not going to complain. Thank you for stopping by!

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