Traveling with a Disability – How a Broken Knee Changed My Life

coping with a broken knee when travelling

Traveling with a Disability – How a Broken Knee Changed My Life

It’s any traveller’s worst nightmare. One day you’re out on the road, loving and living life, and the next you’re struck down with some health issue that can keep you grounded for days or possibly even months. At the drop of a hat, that freedom you so long for, the thrill of exploring the world, the adrenaline rush of experiencing new countries and cultures – it all comes to a shuddering, grinding, gut-wrenching halt. Ask any traveller what their biggest fear is, and they will say “not being able to travel.”

travelling with a broken knee
The last place a globetrotter wants to end up

But it happens – and it happens with alarming regularity. Sometimes it might be due to an act of carelessness. Other times someone’s had a bit too much to drink. Maybe it’s being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or simply a case of bad luck. For Cez Krol – one half of travel blog eTramping, that’s exactly what happened to him while teaching English in China and exploring East Asia. Here’s his story – and how it shaped his life.

The Promise of a New Day

It was a day like any other – or so I thought. When I awoke on the morning of the 4th of July 2015, I was eager and ready to get going. At the time I was working as an English teacher in China, educating local children between the ages of 2-6. This day was particularly special because, upon completion of the class, I was looking forward to continuing my preparations for a forthcoming cycling trip to Japan. As much as I enjoyed working with and teaching the kids – I was keen to get out and explore once again.

teaching english abroad
All smiles teaching English

Alas, everything wasn’t going to go according to plan. As you might know, you need to have a lot of energy teaching little ones – especially if you don’t speak their language.

My Chinese isn’t up to scratch at all, so I regularly fooled around, jumping about to keep the kids engaged and entertained in my lesson.

It was during one such bit of light-hearted tomfoolery that I twisted the ligaments in my knee. I won’t go into the gory details, suffice to say it was excruciatingly painful. This wasn’t something you could walk off – a visit to the hospital was the only course of action.

The Prognosis

I had a mixed experience in Chinese hospitals – being required to move from one to another – and they were polar opposites. The first was very kind and welcoming, while the second was colder, kept me in the dark about my situation and demanded bribes before I was allowed to be treated. My leg needed to be psychically reset, a pain I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. While several scans and X-rays later I was told I would be out of action for 6 months.

in hospital with a broken knee
This was going to be home for a while

They say you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. It wasn’t until that moment when an unfortunate travel accident clipped my wings, that I realised just how lucky I had been in having my health and ability to explore the world. But I had to get on with it – and make the best of a really bad situation. I was to discover so much about myself, that it could well be considered a blessing in disguise.

The Best Support

I wasn’t going anywhere for a while. Grounded. Either bedridden or wheelchair bound, you can imagine I had a lot of time to think about things. Added to that, I wasn’t travelling alone. I was in China with my best friend and fellow eTramper Agness, so what happened to either of us would affect the other. But she kept my spirits high, visiting regularly and keeping me from darker days. I don’t know what I would have done without her.

best friends when travelling
Best friends for a reason

You certainly figure out who your real friends are when you’re in a time of need, and this experience really brought the two of us closer. Well-wishers, family, and friends around the globe kept me going, but with Agness at my side, I felt this was just a minor hurdle.

Something to be conquered, to learn from and to use to better oneself anyway you can. There’s a lot of time to reflect while being unable to move!

The Outlook

I had to take the rough with the smooth, with good and bad days. Looking on the bright side – I never needed to queue for anything! People were so helpful and polite while I was hobbling around on crutches. Locals would engage with me more, eager to help and understand what happened to this foreign boy in their country. My arms got a great workout too!

coping with a broken knee when travelling
Long John Silver eat your heart out

But I think the best thing I’ve taken from the experience, is to take life with both hands (and legs) and really live it. Sure, it wasn’t a life-threatening condition, but it made me appreciate my health more, and only further confirmed my desire for adventurous travel. Fast forward to today and I have trouble saying no to anything! From rock climbing to skydiving to bungee jumping – I bounced back and then some!

The Small Print

Without a doubt, having this accident changed my life. I’m even more active than I was previous to my ordeal in China. I was also lucky I had a decent budget travel insurance. It doesn’t bear thinking about what might happen if you get into difficulty while traveling and you’re not covered.

rock climbing after a broken knee
I’d never rock climbed before – now it’s one of my favourite hobbies!

In short – protect yourself. And if you’re on the road and something negative happens, stay strong, roll with the punches, keep your friends close and learn from the experience. Tomorrow is filled with possibilities.


Cez is one of the co-founders of adventure travel blog eTramping. Along with his best buddy Agness, the Polish pair have been wandering and writing since 2011, bringing you the best travel advice to your doorstep. As you can tell, they’re pretty well versed when it comes to China and East Asia, but follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest to find out where their noses take them next.

Thank you to Cez for sharing his story. If you would like to share you travel story then please get in touch.

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A broken knee when travelling ǀ travel accident ǀ travelling with a disability

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