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Upon our arrival in the Galapagos Islands we instantly hit the beach. We packed our towels, wet-suits, snorkel gear, suntan lotion, umbrellas and hats, and headed straight for a day of responsible sun, sand and surf.

We snorkeled close enough to touch enormous sea turtles, were slapped around under water by playful sea lions, and swam through schools of sharks, rare coral, and colorful fish while blue footed boobies and frigatebirds circled overhead. At the end of the day we collapsed onto the beach next to an equally as exhausted sea lion, enjoying an afternoon nap under the warmth of the fierce Equatorial sun.

That day I made one tragic error in judgement which left me with severe burns.

What's wrong with this photo?

What’s wrong with this photo?

Now, what’s wrong with the above photo? Can you tell? I’m wearing a hat, applied suntan lotion twice hourly and am safely covered from head to toe in a wetsuit to safeguard me from the sun. Well, not exactly from head to toe.

The sun is something I am incredibly conscious about while traveling. Having been viciously burnt in the past on numerous occasions, I now apply suntan lotion each morning out of routine, and carry it with me everywhere we go. I was burnt so badly in 2009 while traveling through Europe that it ruined the pigmentation in my nose which is now permanently red.  (I may comment on social media when someone asks that it’s just very cold out, but now you know the truth!).

A lot of expensive laser surgery later, my nose is slowly on it’s way to recovery. I also listed not being sun smart as one of my 5 biggest mistakes while traveling. There is a pretty hideous photo if you care to click through to that link.

So I have a pretty bad track record with the sun. I have light skin, and I harbor a hatred for those who can spend all day in the sun and walk away with nothing more than a glorious tan. Seriously. I hate those people.

I took every precaution I could think of while we were in the Galapagos, including a full body wetsuit and umbrellas for shade. But I forgot to apply suntan lotion to my feet. And the results were pretty catastrophic.

Did you think I was over exaggerating in my headline?!

Did you think I was over exaggerating in my headline?!

Freaking OUCH.

Freaking OUCH.

So swollen that I couldn't tell I had ankles.

So swollen that I couldn’t tell I had ankles.

The next morning the island of San Crisotbal awoke to the blood curdling screams of me in excruciating pain. My skin was so tight and swollen that I instantly collapsed as soon as I attempted to stand out of bed and walk. The pain was agonizing. It was as if someone had tightened my skin to it’s breaking point and at any moment my foot would violently tear apart.

Normally with sunburnt feet, your ankles swell to kankles. Mine were so swollen that I couldn’t even tell I had ankles. My leg was one solid trunk.

I’ll save you from the pictures once the peeling began. It was a level of disgusting that I wouldn’t wish upon even those who tan.

Moral of the Story


I’m sure you can easily guess, that the moral of the story is to remember to apply suntan lotion to your feet while at the beach. But also to stay sun-smart while traveling.  Be aware that when traveling internationally you may be entering a country with UV Rays more fierce than you are used to at home. Act accordingly to protect yourself and your health.

I’ve long since ditched my skinny bikini while traveling, and if the sun’s out, usually hit the water wearing dorky T-shirts and pants. I would rather be able to enjoy the following day, plus, now that I’m married, he’s legally obligated to love me no matter what I wear!

We always travel with a hat, and usually now take umbrella’s with us on beach trips just in case the sun becomes too brutal.

Suntan lotion should be applied regularly, and immediately as you exit the water. And my biggest piece of advice:




Victim of my own stupidity, but a burn victim none the less.

Victim of my own stupidity, but a burn victim none the less.


 About Megan Claire

Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging around the world for the last 7 years to inspire others to embark on their own worldwide adventure!  Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Follow their journey on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter.


  1. OH MEGAN! I am so sorry, you definitely had the worse case of sunburn I’ve ever seen, including on myself. I went snorkelling in Thailand, and didn’t know the people I was with well enough to perk up and say ‘hey, will someone spray my back for me?’

    WORST. MISTAKE. EVER. This was me (bottom photo here) on the first night, and after that it got worse. So bad in fact that two days later, I had two confused bell boys bring up two buckets of ice for me so that I could dump them in a bath and lie there for an hour.

    Definitely learned my lesson though, jeez!

    Sara | This Girl Loves

    • Tried to click through to the photo but doesnt look like the link works – I’ll believe you that it was horrible though!!

      I remember my first horrible sunburn which was literally from head to tow – my mum made me sit for hours in an ice bath and man did I SCREAM! Lesson learned! Glad we can learn the lesson and move on relatively unharmed in the long run!!

  2. Holy crap that is absolutely unreal! I once burnt my shoulders so bad I got blisters and now they’re redder than the rest of my body and have big brown freckles. Your feet look so painful!!

    • Ouch that’s horrible – trust me I feel your pain on that one!! Lol I’m surprised I’m not very very brown from the mass amount of freckles I have all over!!

  3. Oh no!! That looks crazy painful….I am one of those people that doesn’t need sunscreen. Maybe a little pink shoulder here and there but all through Galapagos, Africa, Oceania, Asia I was fine. Hope your healed and back on your feet :-)

    • It’s was SUPER painful!! Sigh – my own fault though!! Lol you’re one of those people I despise – but awesome for you! I wish I could go about my travels without needing it!!

      Thanks Hannah!!

  4. Ouch!! I hope you’ll recover well!

    • It was pretty painful!! Thanks for your well wishes!!

  5. ok gal, well you better get ready for the Arizona sun!! Remind yourself daily!

    • Oh God do I know it!!

  6. Oh my gosh Megan, that’s so horrific! So sorry that happened to you :-( We made fun of my red-headed brother-in-law who spent our Barbados trip hiding in the shade wearing a T-shirt, but now I get it. Hope you healed up OK!

    • Thanks Tamara!! Hey, I’m totally there with your brother in law lol! I’ll put up with being teased if it means I’m cancer free :D!!

  7. Ouch! Actually I’m not even sure if a sunblock would help that much in the Galapagos… I put filter 50 when I was there and just by walking around Puerto Ayora I ended up with 3rd degree burns on my entire back :(

    • OUCH!!! I definitely feel your pain!! It’s so ridiculous! I try and wear sleeves with all my shirts now whenever I hit a destination with high UV. Lol life’s hard for us light skinned!!

  8. I burned the tops of my feet once (not as bad as yours!) in California on a cloudy 50°F day. They swelled up so bad. I couldn’t wear shoes and we had a Disney trip planned. It was horrible and so painful!

    • Ouch! I can imagine that would have been horrible! Especially since Disney is supposed to be the happiest place on earth!!! I hope you recovered ok without any permanent damage :)

  9. With you being Australian I dare say no education is needed in the dangers of the sun.

    This looks very painful and as a victim of sun burn myself you have my sympathy.

    This example just shows how unforgiving the sun can be to any patch of skin which has not been treated. BTW sorry to hear about your nose :-(

    I’ve had a few bad incidents in my past, Dubai being the worst.

    More recently whilst in Greece (with my now wife) I was liberally applying sun tan lotion on the hour ever hour. Sadly it was not strong enough and not expensive enough as I suffered a bit afterwards. My wife was astonished since she’d seen how diligent I was.

    • Yep, we grew up having sun smart information drilled into our skulls!! It’s a big part of even the education system in Australia and schools place a huge emphasis on it. So I was fairly well educated meaning no excuse!!

      It’s crazy how it can still burn through even the best efforts! Just shows you suntan lotion is something you should definitely invest in the good stuff!

  10. Oh my goodness…I prepared for a little peeling, but not that. I saw the wetsuit and thought…oh, she’s fine! I’m so sorry, I hope it didn’t interrupt your trip too much.

    • I thought the same thing…that with the wet-suit I’d be totally fine! I worse my sneakers permanently for the next few days and didn’t even take them off for swimming! The cold water of the beaches actually probably helped a little!

  11. OUCH!!!!!!
    I have been burnt before but never as bad as to go all swollen – you poor thing!

    • Wear suntan lotion and you’ll never have to find out lol! Thanks Sam :)

  12. OMG! My skin is absolutely crawling right now. As a fellow pasty-face I can really sympathize but I definitely haven’t been THAT badly burnt before. YIKES

    The worst burn I ever had was the day I painted “Let’s GO” and “Blue Jays” down my arms for a baseball game. I spent the next 5 months (no joke) walking around with Blue Jays tan lines…

    • Lol that’s a pretty amusing story though :D I’ve seen that on friends before – they paint smily faces into their backs with sun tan lotion and then spend the day on the beach lol idiots!

  13. That was brutal – makes me cringe a bit as I have had serious sunburn before, but not as bad as yours. Thank you for the reminder of just how serious it can be.
    I’ve been looking into visiting Galapagos Islands and I’m sure when I do go I will remember this advice!

    • The Galapagos is amazing and I highly recommend a visit! Lol yes, just heed the suntan lotion advice and take a lot with you!! Seriously though, you’ll love the islands – we skipped a cruise and based ourselves on land on San Cristobal – it was fantastic!

  14. Congratulations! On the “cringe inducing” scale of 1 to 10, this post is a 12!!!! This also brought back memories of one of my favorite “songs” from my teen years. You can look it up on Youtube under “Baz Lurhman Wear Sunscreen”. It’s a fantastic narration of an amazing essay. Biggest point being “wear sunscreen”!!!

    • It takes serious skill to get a 12 on the cringe scale! Lol :S! Heading over to YouTube now!!

  15. Woah! That looks extremely painful. I have been sunburnt very bad a few times and ouch, it hurt!

    • It hurt so much! It was the level of pain where you don’t know whether to laugh or cry lol!!

  16. Ouch! That looks sooo painful. I’m one of the lucky ones who normally walks away with a tan, and I’ve seen enough people burn that sunscreen is a must for me regardless these days.

    • Very jealous of your tanning abilities lol you’ll have to let me know your secret! My brother walks away with nothing but a tan too. He was obviously lucky with family genes lol!

  17. Oh my, that looks really painful! Both Laura and I have had serious sunburns on trips, but nothing like that. The feet…I never would have thought about that!

    • I thought I was really all over the sun conscious thing…but just forgot about my damn feet … at least we know though I’ll never forget about them again!!

  18. Omg, this sounds like a nightmare. I can imagine how you felt, Megan. Last month on Tenerife I went to the beach, left my flip flops next the towel and had a walk. Sand turned out to be so hot that it burnt my both feet from the bottom. It hurt so much I couldn’t wear any shoes for another few days and missed hiking the Teide :(

    • OUCH! I feel your pain! I think yours possibly could have been worse from the sounds of it!! I at least managed to force shoes on my feet and leave them on for a few days until my swelling went down…I think I actually slept in my shoes the next night because I didn’t want to touch or remove them!!

      We’ll learn someday!!

  19. OMG, Megan! I hope you’re fine! Either way, I am so jealous because I skipped Galapagos in lieu of the World Cup. :( And I didn’t get the chance to meet you too! :( Maybe next time when I hit your city!

    • Thanks Trisha! Everything turned out ok in the end – just a few very painful days in there!! We’re back in the States for a while now but def let us know if you hit up the West Coast!

  20. I’ve made the same mistake at the beach, forgetting my feet! But I thank my lucky stars that I don’t burn as easily or badly as you… That was Really Nasty!!!

    • I wont be making that mistake again I can assure you!! Glad you came out of yours relatively unscathed though!!

  21. I always tell my kids to reapply and not to forget their feet. If only I took note of my own rules…. Last day of our seaside holiday and the tops of my feet got so burnt and swollen that my toes are going blue and my skin feels close to splitting. So now we’re home 2 days later, it’s my birthday and I’m bedridden with my feet elevated to try and bring the swelling down.

    • OH no!!! Trust me, I feel your pain! I hope that the swelling comes down quickly for you. I know firsthand how easy it is to completely forget about your feet, so you’re not the only one!!

      Keep them on ice, as much as it’s painful, and aloe vera gel is also a godsend. Wishing you a happy birthday from Australia, I hope that you can find something fun today which will help take your mind off your feet. Maybe a favorite movie with chocolates and champagne in bed!

  22. I think i have something similar. what did you do to heal it? my feet are severely swollen from a beach day.

    • Hi Maro, Aloe vera is the way I treat burns on my skin – it’s best used when it’s in 100 percent aloe vera gel form, which you can typically pick up from the chemist or pharmacy. It’s beneficial in healing first- to second-degree burns, which include mild to moderate sunburns, so if sunburn is what you have that’s what I would recommend. The plant has anti-inflammatory properties :)

      Hope that helps! Sorry to hear you’re dealing with this too – not fun!!

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