When Karen Coley first started traveling on her own, travel insurance was the furthest thing from her mind. Airport connections, what to pack, money exchange, and food were more toward the top of her list of things to think about.
The most recent trip she took to Greece proved to be more challenging than others and travel insurance saved the day. She now vows to never travel without it. It was a fantastic trip, with a glitch that no one ever wants to experience, but spoiler alert, she’s here to tell about it so all’s well that ends well!
Karen Coley worked at Moraine Park Technical College until her retirement in 2017. She was Campus and Community Partner and later Career Pathway Manager. During her career she worked with Moraine Park for 27 years. She and her family traveled some during the busy years of jobs and raising children, but international travel was more than a few years off.
When her husband died unexpectedly in 2008 from a heart attack, her sons were 15 and 20 years old. Plans change in a heartbeat when suddenly retirement plans together become a solo look to the future. Travel was going to require new people to be with or new ways to navigate unknown territory.
Her first venture with a group was to Iceland with The Watermark in Beaver Dam. “When you travel alone you meet so many other people who love to travel and are willing to embrace new experiences. The trip to Iceland was spectacular. I definitely want to go back!” Coley said with enthusiasm. Since that first trip, Karen has been on the move, knowing full well that the best time to travel is when you are fully mobile and energetic. She is certainly both.
Her goal is two international trips a year. If dollar signs start appearing before your eyes, she assures us that it doesn’t have to be expensive. Watching for discounts, traveling off season, and going with a group all keep expenses down. Using just the airfare, hotels and transportation from a company is another way to go. Planning your own activities and saving money on meals are worth the time investigating what to do.
In just a few short years Karen has been to Aruba, Prague and Budapest, and Florida, Arizona, Reno, San Francisco, and Washington DC. Each has opened her eyes to the wonders of the world, from the parks to the cultures to the people. She is far from done with excursions. Her next two trips are already planned. Belize first, and then Japan in June.
The most recent trip to Greece hasn’t even discouraged her, in spite of ending up in the hospital. After she chuckles and says she tripped on air, the whole harrowing story unfolds.
“We were in Delphi, the center of the universe. There is actually a rock there that is known as the belly button of the planet. It’s a very holy place where the people would go to ask the Oracle a question. The history that surrounds that area is amazing. I can’t even imagine being where the stone walls have writing from 2500 B.C., but there we were, in Apollo’s Sanctuary, on the top of the mountainside,” Coley recapped.
As they hiked up the path they were in total awe of their surroundings, the views were unbelievable and they could explore on their own. They had a guide who was filling them in on the Greek mythology and the small group was attentive to say the least. As Karen was walking steps to the top of the amphitheater she tripped, fell on her knee, and quickly got up to see if anyone saw her. Embarrassment always is the first reaction…until the pain set in. And it hurt before she realized her knee cap was split in half, and she had no support on that leg.
Walking down to the bus was out of the question. A helicopter would take a long time and it’s not like they had great cell phone reception, so six people carried her as gingerly as they could down the path. Forty-five minutes later they were in a parking area, and her shock clouds a bit of the story.
Since they carried her Goddess style, she regrets now not thinking of requesting grapes, but as I said, shock can shake the wit right out of you! Someone made a decision to have her go by taxi to the hospital. Someone else insisted it not be the local village hospital, rather to get right to Athens.
The taxi arrived and a non-English speaking driver was ready to take her the two and a half hours to Athens. One of her friends rode with her to try to steady her knee. As they were driving through the village the driver pulled over to the side of the road where a woman came running out of a house to pass them three pillows. A few blocks further and he pulled over to the other side of the road and a woman came out with ice and handed it to her friend. All the while she knew this was out of her hands, and the whole experience now seems surreal. The ride itself is a bit fussy, but she remembers that it took four people to get her out of the taxi and into the hospital.
While this was happening, her friends were talking with a representative from Gate 1, the travel agency they booked with, and the insurance company they use. By the time they arrived at Metropolitan Hospital in Athens, someone was there to meet them. As an interpreter and a guide, the representative assisted and in fact, stopped over each day to make sure things were going ok.
She had knee surgery, and 31 staples later she was in a room with four women who were friendly, but as the saying goes, Karen said, “It was all Greek to me.” That didn’t keep them from communicating, commiserating over their circumstances and sharing photos of families.
She insisted that her travel companions continue on with the last three days of their trip. Karen was in the hospital making new friends for four days and another couple of days in the five-star hotel she and one of her friends were put up in.
When you buy travel insurance, if you should have the misfortune of needing it, everything is paid for. Not just all the medical expenses, but the accommodations and food and transportation for a ‘non-medical’ companion. Karen had never flown first class before, so the trip home was an added treat and she wished she could have enjoyed it more!
Representatives were waiting for them at the airports both departing and arriving, and a limousine took them each right to their door. She views it all now as quite an adventure, although she wouldn’t recommend having surgery abroad, but she adds, “But if you need it, be sure to have insurance. It certainly makes it all a lot easier, and it was kind of fun.”
Encouraging people to travel Karen wants everyone to be open to different cultures, food, incredible sights and history. “Going to a different part of the planet helps us realize we are all in this together. Everybody is getting up in the morning, having their coffee, getting kids off to school. We are all on this journey together. I always come back inspired!”
As for the future, once she has her staples out and her brace off, she refers to the quote by Susan Sontag, “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”