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Travel is therapy that we cannot place a price tag on. Seven years prior to my visit to St. Maarten, I never thought I would experience such beauty on the side of a mountain. Having spent one full year learning how to walk again after shattering the L4-L5 discs in my spine, I was reinventing myself. And a visit to St. Maarten changed my life.

A camping trip a few years back had turned into an emergency room visit that I will never forget. My right leg had given out from under me and it was at that point that my foot began to drop. A visit to the local emergency room showed these discs had shattered into more than a dozen pieces. Upon seeing a surgeon at the hospital, I was a hurry patient for surgery. I felt much better after surgery, as the pain had left. But I also knew I had a long road ahead of me as my right foot was still dropped.

The writer's tour guide in St. Maarten.
Sara Broers

Physical Therapy Helps On The Road To Recovery

After surgery, I was told that there was a slim chance I would ever walk unassisted. This meant I would need to use a cane, walker, or brace for the rest of my life. I knew that I did not want to live the rest of my life under these circumstances. Physical therapy was going to have to be my saving grace. Passing the time in recovery from any major surgery is challenging. And this particular case was a tough one as I tried to wake up my dropped foot.

I spent a year working with several physical therapists. Pool therapy and many hours in the physical therapist's office were both part of my recovery. The first few weeks were extremely hard, but as time went on the sessions got easier. Then, as the years passed, life began to return to normal. A full seven years later, my husband and I found ourselves on a cruise ship. We looked at the different shore excursions that were offered in St. Maarten and chose a hike.

The writer on a group hike in St. Maarten.
Sara Broers

Challenge Yourself To Live Life

It came time to head to the line to disembark the ship, and I was nervous. I felt good, and my foot was moving really well on that day. Our tour guide drove us to the side of a mountain alongside the blistering blue Caribbean waters.

We took off with our group and headed down the trail. We were hiking for a few minutes and I realized how lucky I was to be where I was. I had tears in my eyes as we crossed the side of the mountain. It was only a few years ago that I was faced with the possibility that my days of hiking were gone. I glanced at all of the people in our group and reflected on how lucky we all were. We were all hiking on the side of a mountain in St. Maarten and enjoying the view. I never thought that I would have the opportunity to see something as beautiful as what was there in front of me.

I knew that I had challenged myself, and it felt so good to be on the side of that mountain. The realization really hit me when we all hopped in the van to head back to the cruise ship. Seven years ago, I never thought anything like this would be possible. It was through my hard work and determination that I was able to complete the hike. A few tears rolled down my cheek as the cruise ship came into view. I was ecstatic, humbled, and relieved to know that I could complete a hike.

The writer enjoying her hike in St. Maarten.
Sara Broers

Push Yourself To New Limits

To this day, I have continued hiking and frequently think back to this experience in St. Maarten. This hike was the one that pushed me to be strong. My foot is still dropped today, yet most people don't realize that it is. I have learned to live with it and my gait is close to normal.

Life is too short to not challenge yourself to try new things. Set your goals high and realize that you can do things that you never thought were possible. When life throws you curveballs, make a conscious choice to change things around. Others may tell you that something is not possible, but I can tell you that you can do it. Accept the fact that you may not do things the way that you used to, and learn to do them in new ways. My visit to St. Maarten changed my life, and for that I am forever grateful.

Want to read more about overcoming fears and making the most of fabulous travel opportunities? Read about how one woman faced her fear of heights and crossed Carrick-a-Rede, an iconic rope bridge in Northern Ireland.

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