The Undesirable Adventure

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My adventure on The Isle of Skye in Scotland turned out to be way too adventurous for my taste.

So what happened? To put it in the words of an onlooker, I “drove [my] car off a cliff”. That’s…not quite accurate.

Yesterday I drove into a trailhead parking lot on top of a steep hill. Then I did something incredibly idiotic, or rather failed to do something: I did not put my car in park and took the keys out of the ignition. When I let go of the brake, the car slid out over the edge and down the hill.

The car stopped halfway down due to the underbrush, a broken tree trunk, and the miracle of God.

I’m okay. Physically, that is. I’m working on the emotional, financial, logistical and spiritual aspects of the situation.

I don’t have a picture of the car after the wreck, but here’s what the car looked like before. It’s a tiny Kia Picanto – a classic European size. The car’s make and model was fine for any the roads in on the Isle of Skye, but it probably didn’t help to have such a tiny car for sliding down a hill.

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So what was this experience like? Rather excruciating, to be honest. The aftermath, in particular, was worse than the initial event. It seemed designed to trigger all my pressure points, weaknesses and fears.

I’m going to share all the details with you. I’m not leaving anything out. Putting all of this on a public website was not easy for me. But I feel the need to be vulnerable–no matter who reads or doesn’t read this. I believe there is healing in vulnerability. Granted, what that looks like in each situation varies, but here I feel that this is the right choice. I welcome any who may be able to offer comfort or encouragement. I will accept it the best I authentically can.

So here are the pros and cons of the situation. Like most growth experiences, there was light and dark. I believe in being honest about how I see the situation. I’m not going to fake happiness. I’m working through my emotions and that starts by facing them. So I’ll start with the bad news and end with the good.

Cons:

-Minor injuries. A cut on the inside of my lip, cuts and bruises on and around one knee, a sore back, and a jaw that hurts on the left side of my mouth

-I feel that God is chastising me. I have been chastised before and most of the time it ultimately feels like love. But I’m mostly just feeling the harshness of it now.  I don’t really understand the implications of this.

-I feel betrayal. I came to Scotland as a giant leap of faith. The night before I left, I suffered a legitimate panic attack. My fear was that great. Driving, in particular, was a major source of stress, but I didn’t see a way around it in Scotland because of the very limited transportation, so I chose to trust that all would be well. I felt God’s support in this matter, when I could see beyond the fear. He kept me and the car safe all the way to the Isle of Skye, and then this happened. I recognize that I made a mistake, that it was MY stupid mistake, and I know God protected me and anyone else from serious injury, but irrationally, I feel betrayed.

-I am alone. I have friends and family in the U.S., but they are thousands of miles away. I thought about just giving up and going home early, but that would cost me like $700.

-It took 22 hours to get a tow truck to the accident site – and not for lack of trying to direct it there earlier. Several phone calls were involved.

-Wi-Fi here is spotty and cell reception nonexistent, making it difficult to get information and get things done. It took all day today to resolve things.

-I ignored a prompting to get full coverage car insurance on the rental car. It was 140 GBP for four days and I didn’t want to pay that much. So my deductible on the car is 1500 GBP with tax. That’s more than $2000. My regret in this matter is rather intense as it may mean that I will need to cancel much desired trips to Italy, France and/or Greece to pay off my debts. I do not yet know the cost of repairs, and this not knowing is a source of anxiety. We shall see.

-My travel insurance company told me over the phone that they would pay for travel to the hospital. I went to make sure I was ok. I took a taxi because no ambulance was available (believe it or not). The insurance company later said that their coverage only included ambulance visits. That’s 90 quid down the drain….

-I traveled 1 1/2 days through thick and thin to go hiking on the Isle of Skye, but I could not go hiking because I had to be near a phone all day to resolve car concerns. Most of this involved waiting. Lots of waiting. I attempted to distract myself with other things but all I could think about was the accident and the consequences. I stared at nothing for most of the day. Then I started writing this.

-I hurt a dear friend of mine, who in turn hurt me deeply. I reached out to this friend for support, making them aware of the situation, and when I didn’t the support I wanted, I lost my patience and wrote a single sentence with an accusation that was somewhat selfish and unfair. That person in turn called me verbally abusive and has not contacted me since. I lost my patience three other times, though I don’t believe I hurt anyone in the process.

-I slept only 4 hours last night.

Pros:

-I slept 4 hours last night. That I slept is a miracle in and of itself.

-No major injuries. I am certain that God sent angels to my aid to protect me and anyone who may have otherwise been hurt by a car sliding down a hill.

-Some very concerned strangers rallied together at the trail head to help me and make sure I was alright. These were young people from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Poland and India. Three of them gave me a ride back to the hotel just down the road from my bunkhouse.

-The employees at the Sligichan Hotel have been incredibly nice to me. They let me use their landline several times today and asked me frequently how I was doing.

-The landscape in Scotland and on Skye is absolutely remarkable. I did not know that brown and green could be so rich and lush. I have never seen such rugged beauty. It is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Here’s a sample of what I mean – though my skills and equipment could never capture it:

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-Liam, the tow truck driver, was kind to me. He was also extremely helpful in answering questions.

-The rental car’s make, Kia, offers free towing to anyone who owns or rents their car as long as no special equipment is used. Long story short, the tow was free.

-I am able to get back to Glasgow tomorrow in time for my evening flight to London. I will take a bus there tomorrow morning, thanks to my parents booking it on my behalf at my request.

-Ionut, a friend of my family, is driving 50 miles to Stanstead Airport bring me a large luggage bag I left in London.

-I have had kind words from friends, coworkers and family back home.

Thank you so so much to all who reached out. It means so much to me. I am so grateful to have you in my life. Your prayers are especially appreciated. I am grateful to be alive. My faith in humanity has been renewed and strengthened. I love you all.

10/4/17 Update:

I discovered that according to the car rental company, Easirent, I do indeed owe the maximum amount allowed through my rental insurance – that’s over $2100, factoring in exchange rates. I am disputing the charge because the car rental company has failed to provide me with a bill. As the repairs on the car are apparently not complete, so they do not know the complete charges and therefore should not be charging me yet. This means Capital One will take the charge off my card – for now. But I’m pretty certain that a large charge is coming. In the meantime, I am faced with the choice between paying off my credit card debt as soon as possible and going on the trips I planned.

I know I simply cannot do all that I’ve planned. My frugal nature tells me I shouldn’t do any of it. I have cancelled my trip to Greece and have discussed with my travel partner, Jaylee, about turning Paris and Italy into weekend trips. I no longer know if this is a good idea. I had planned to see various places in the U.K. such as Wales, Preston, Stratford on Avon, Stonehenge in Salisbury, Bath, and York. I feel ambiguous about these as well.

After one individual with whom I was staying in Birmingham learned about me likely cancelling my trips, they advised me to return home early to America. I looked into plane prices and seriously considered it. This same family is not sure that they are comfortable with me staying with them until December if I am no longer going on my trips. Though I now understand their point of view, this was rather upsetting to learn. I am now staying with a kind woman in the Sullihull ward here in Birmingham. The length of time I will spend here is uncertain.

I am rather ashamed to admit that for a time after I wrote the portion of the blog above that my attitude and faith were not as they should have been. I felt a great deal of anger and betrayal. I believed that one mistake had turned all my hours of planning and excitement into nothing. I was exhausted after all the travail I had experienced on my so-called “vacations” – not to mention all the blogs I had to write to make up for it. The troubles seemed to far outweigh the good. I didn’t want to be in England anymore; I didn’t want to be anywhere.

It just so happened that this past weekend was the time of a General Conference for Latter-Day Saints. Here prophets address the world. The timing of this Conference was no coincidence in my life. It renewed my faith and brought peace back to me after several days of darkness.

During this Conference, I repeatedly received nudges telling me that I am here in England for a reason, and that I need to stay. The message was reinforced again and again that I need to trust in God and that I am here to serve others – in His way, not my own.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s address entitled “A Yearning For Home”  – the very first talk of General Conference – opened the floodgates of light into my heart. Click on the link if you haven’t read it or seen it or would like to do so again.

I realized that in my trip planning I had failed to consult God on many occasions – especially on where to go and how long to stay. Honestly, He is the one that made this trip possible, but I, like a spoiled child, assumed that I could take this gift and do what I want. I do not say this self-deprecatingly – or if I do, it’s in the sense that Moses perhaps felt after God unveiled a vision to him of His plans for the world (this is found in the Pearl of Great Price, a book of LDS scripture). He said that “Man is nothing.” Maybe Moses realized how much greater and expansive the Lord’s plan was than His own. God’s “rebuttal” was to say that His plan was to “to bring to pass the immorality and eternal life of man”. Moses was a part of that grand plan. And so are we all.

I received a priesthood blessing a few days after the accident wherein the speaker stated that I would understand “where I am called to go.” I know that if I turn to God He will provide a way for me to accomplish His plan for me. I am not yet certain what He wishes me to do or where I am called to go – but I trust that He will reveal His will in time. Meanwhile, He will take care of me – as He cares for the lilies of the field, for the sparrow in the nest. I will do what I can, and He does the rest.

 

10/10/17 update

Friends, I have some great news. I believe that my Capital One Venture credit card will probably cover the damage to my vehicle for which I am liable from my car accident in Scotland – amounting to over $2000. This will totally revolutionize my plans in Europe.
I am flabbergasted that my credit card would cover such a thing. I am so grateful to my expert travel friend Java Plum for telling me about the possibility. I have since checked with two different customer service agents and read the terms and conditions several times. I won’t know for certain until the claim has been processed 8-10 weeks from now, but I know as much as I can know and it seems like it will happen.
While the claim is processed, I have decided to go forward in faith and plan trips throughout Europe, confirming my decisions with God as I go. It doesn’t feel right to go back to my original plans, but I am certainly going to travel! I’m going to Preston next week to see some church history sites and visit the temple. I’m going to Paris next month with Jaylee Willis during my birthday and will likely go to Italy with her in December as well.
This trip experience has been such a whirlwind of emotions, and most emotions have revolved around how much I trust God and myself.
When I went to Scotland, I was desperately afraid, but I knew God told me it was okay to go, and it was even ok to go in a rental car. And despite my questionable driving history, I believed because I had the ok I would not get in an accident. That was not actually His plan. And for the majority of two weeks, I felt quite a bit of anger and betrayal and doubt.
My decision to go on the trip was not wrong, and I did actually consult Him in the matter–perhaps not so much on the other trips, but that’s another story. And He did not betray me. Rather He had a plan to teach me about mercy, patience, and trust.
I am thankful that I chose to trust Him again before I found out about this amazing financial rescue. I am so grateful to Latter-Day prophets, friends and family who helped me to get to that point.
Perhaps someday I will have enough trust that even when there is no magical credit card company to pick up my debt, even when I don’t see a way out for months or years, I do not lose faith in Him. In the meantime, I know He loves me and that He forgives me for my weakness.
I feel so incredibly blessed.
I have been told that whenever God bails us out like this, it means He has a work for us to do that would not be possible otherwise. I am still not quite sure what that is, but I am looking forward to the work He has for me to do here in Europe.
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6 thoughts on “The Undesirable Adventure

  1. My first reaction is, “Whew! I’m so glad that you’re okay!” My second is, “Holy MOLY, that’s crazy!” My third is, “Friend, I totally know what you mean about feeling betrayed.”

    I myself have never driven a car off of a cliff, but I have done the metaphorical equivalent. Perhaps this is not what you want to hear, but it’s taken me about a year and a half now to work through those feelings of betrayal, and honestly, I don’t yet understand what happened and why it happened. However, I do feel (now, eighteen+ months and a lot of turmoil later) that I’m in the right place doing the right thing. I don’t know if what happened “had” to happen in order for me to be here…but even if it did, I’m still confused and upset by it.

    I really hope that everything from here on out will go smoothly and well. I am so sorry that you didn’t get to go hiking! And I hope that you’ll still be able to take your trips to France and Italy and still pay off your debts. I’ll pray that everything will “work together for your good”. ^_^

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    • Thank you, AnnMarie. I so appreciate your empathy and well wishes. 🙂 I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I am feeling SO much better today. Maybe someday I will be privileged to hear more about your metaphorical drive off of a cliff. Sounds like a good conversation. Hope you are enjoying your grad program!

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  2. 1) It’s a hard lesson, but ALWAYS use the e-brake/parking brake when parking, on a hill or flat ground. It’s there, might as well use it…for both auto and stick!
    2) Did you book your rental car using a credit card? Most credit cards have a rental car insurance provision on it. If you have a travel credit card, they might have other services available to you whilst traveling. Read the term: it might save you tons of money: canceled trips, lost luggage, etc.
    3) Check with your insurance in the US to see if they cover international incidences: they insure you, the vehicle you’re in, your belongings.
    4) Having a good travel insurance is key! You never know what could happen, but it’s comforting to know you’ll be covered. So if you don’t like what you got, get a different one, a better one.
    5) Not necessarily for this unfortunate event, but register your travel with the State Department. In case of any threats or emergency, they can send you evacuation information to keep you safe and alive.
    6) Find humor in difficult situations. It’s all a learning opportunity, even more so when traveling. There’s no point on blaming yourself or taking it out on people. Your choosing to do this adventure speaks volumes about you as a person, how you react to these kinds of situations teaches you about you since you are outside of your comfort zone. Learn to laugh at your mistakes, they make great stories to tell new friends at the pub.
    7) The spirit of travel is always with you: most travelers (and people who work in hospitality) are friendly and kind and will sympathize with you. Ask for help, don’t let ego get in the way.
    8) Be flexible when planning your trips. Things go wrong, you have to have a backup plan. Remember, you can always go back.

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    • Ooo…Lanie, that’s a great idea to look into your credit card agreement, to check whether it may cover some sort of travel insurance. I’d be happy to take a look if you can find it. It’s probably online where you can access your credit card and your profile.

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  3. Obviously do what you feel is right… but consider these before you decide to cut your adventure short.
    1) If you paid for the car repairs using your credit card, pay that off immediately…like yesterday! You don’t want 20-30% of the balance added to your bill every month! Paying a little bit at a time is like trying to dig yourself out of quicksand using a baby spoon.
    2) Find other friends willing to take you in. Find friends who know people over there who are willing to house you.
    3) Be a nomad and couch surf. Check out Mormon Explorer (http://mormonexplorer.com/) or other travel hosting sites and apps.
    4) Do what other young travelers do: work for boarding. Most hostels let you stay for free if you work a bit for them. You can also work at a farm or other trades for free lodging and boarding.
    5) Consider staying at the temple housing.
    6) Modify your travel plans: maximize money and exploration, minimize travel time and expense. You can radiate from a central city or do a daisy chain of nearby cities in one country or more. Busses and intercity trains are a pretty cheap way to travel.
    7) Make friends. All those travelers you meet on the road, they have to go home sometime! And they probably have a spare couch you can crash on for a day or two.
    8) Attend a family ward or a singles ward, if there is one in the area. Network your way into member homes!

    If there is a will, there is a way. Don’t get discouraged by the car accident that set you back financially. You will find people in Europe who will be sympathetic to your story and cause: you just have to ask for help when you need it, work hard to stay within your budget while trying to explore as much as possible, and share your story with others so they can learn from you. If all that doesn’t work, charm your way into making good friends 🙂

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  4. Melanie, that is a crazy experience. I felt the Spirit whispering to me that it was also a necessary experience for your spiritual growth in this life. I can’t imagine the adventures you are having…I want to be having them right along with you. Almost desperately. But my place is here. I will be in London Dec. 2-5th I believe…let me know through facebook (if you can) if you want to meet up. I love you.

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