This post is probably the most difficult one we have had to write to date, not least because of the content but also because it will draw a definitive line to our “Big Trip” and bring it to an official end. We thought it best to share our experiences though in case they prove helpful to someone else in the future.
As you may be aware, seen as how we mentioned it a lot in our videos and blog posts, Anthony was suffering with a back condition called Coccydynia. The condition started right at the beginning of our journey after our 8-hour drive from Boston to Philadelphia. Whilst it did lessen over the course of our road trip across North America, it came back with a vengeance once we reached Australia. Following a consultation with an emergency doctor in Noosa, a doctor in the hospital A&E in Townsville and a telephone consultation with our insurance company’s doctor when we were in Cairns, we were all in agreement that we should make our way home so that Anthony could rest and receive appropriate treatment at home.
Whilst our insurance covered us for curtailment we still had to pay for our flight home, as the insurance would only cover us for a change to a pre-booked flight. We had already booked the accommodation and flights to and from Darwin so we booked the cheapest direct flight back to London we could find. We flew with Garuda Indonesia and it was the best flight of our entire trip. The flight had barely any people on it so we were able to have a row each. For the first time we were able to order a vegan meal; snacks and drinks were in constant supply, all with amazing service.
Once we were home, Anthony started treatment and we were given the bad news that we wouldn’t be able to do the two tours we’d booked with Bamba and Stray that would have taken us from Singapore through Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and finishing in Vietnam. This would have been our first experience of non Western countries and we were really looking forward to all of the new sights and sounds. Anthony’s specialist also advised him that he should avoid prolonged overland travel in future so we wouldn’t even be able to do the tours at a later date.
In total we had to make four insurance claims. We had three claims for each of the doctor’s visits. We had started a claim for Anthony’s initial consultation but unfortunately they wouldn’t process the claim because we hadn’t submitted the actual receipts and because Anthony hadn’t been able to sign the forms. This was despite being advised that it would not be an issue. The medical claims went through without a hitch when we returned home but it did take three months for the claims to be processed.
We contacted the tour operators directly to advise them that we wished to cancel our passes following medical advice. Both companies kicked up a stink about paying us a refund, firstly they said that we’d booked onto the tours and we were out of the notice period (even though we never booked our tour dates) and then secondly they didn’t want to deal with us because we’d booked through STA Travel. Apparently both companies weren’t very helpful when dealing with STA Travel either and our claims eventually got escalated from the branch manager to the head office. We finally got a partial refund but STA Travel took a nice admin charge for the pleasure.
In order to get the remaining money we’d lost back, just over £2,000, we made an insurance claim for the difference under the curtailment clause of our policy. Whilst we did receive a settlement from our insurance company, our policy limit was only £450 per person so we were still significantly out of pocket.
The moral of the story: always make sure that you have insurance when you travel!