Travelling is not for the faint-hearted. During our adventures, I am constantly reminded that to travel successfully you will need some level of courage, energy and flexibility.
No matter how you travel, there is always room for mishaps, mistakes, disasters and embarrassing moments. Trust me, it happens. You just need to be prepared and remember, what’s the point in travelling if you don’t have a good story to tell at the end of it?
In what I hope makes for a good story (and might help you to prepare for the unexpected), here are my five top travel fails and most cringe-worthy moments:
Where’s the painting?
Thailand, February 2011: Along with good friends Ryan and Loren, Daniel and I spent an amazing two weeks exploring the culture and beaches of Thailand. We had just checked in for our flight from Phuket to Koh Samui when Loren asked us where our painting was. It took a few moments for Dan and I to realise that she was talking about the tube which contained a large rolled up canvas that was a beautiful piece of artwork we had purchased a couple of days previous.
Much to our horror, we realised that it was lost in the back of the taxi we had hailed outside our hotel earlier that morning. We quickly contacted the hotel, who sent someone out to speak with other taxi drivers on the street. Eventually we were able to convey to them our issue and, after much broken English conversation and confusion, they helped to track down our driver. He promptly turned back to the airport to deliver our package. I still remember the sight of Dan running through crowds of people and security checks to make it onto the flight just in time.
Lesson learned: To this day, “where’s the painting?!” is a question we regularly ask each other as a prompt to double check that we have all of our belongings with us.
Travel tips: The ultimate packing list.
The Hangover: Viva Las Vagas
Las Vegas, May 2012: We woke to persistent alarm clocks, a glass door detached from its hinges, a broken glass sprinkled all over the floor, and our belongings strewn from one end to the other of our Flamingo hotel room. Our three nights in Vegas had been alcohol-fuelled madness, but so much fun! Sadly, we were charged for the “damage” to the unhinged door that I had stupidly dropped on my left leg as I tried to pull it open (as it turns out, it was a sliding door).
Upon arriving dishevelled and hungover at the airport we were told that our flight had been bumped forward an hour and had left without us. I attempted to sleep off my hangover on the airport floor and Dan played a round of slot machines while we waited 5 hours for our replacement flight. The small aeroplane that took us San Francisco was bumpy and claustrophobic. It was the last thing my hangover could handle and I spent much of the descent in the bathroom.
A few days later, while we were in New York, I handed over US$250 for an X-Ray of my severely bruised left leg. The diagnosis was ligament damage and the treatment was rest, ice and compression. This injury earned me a fancy old man walking stick for the duration of our stay in the US. I was lucky considering I didn’t have any travel insurance for this trip and the doctors were wary about treating me at all.
Lesson learned: Travel insurance!! Always have travel insurance… and don’t drop doors on yourself.
Travel tips: How to choose the best travel insurance for you.
Steak-bakes and crutches
London, August 2012: On a weekend trip to watch the Aussies smash the British in the Men’s Volleyball during the London Olympics 2012, we stayed at a hotel in Earl’s Court. On the day of our departure, we went on a morning outing and then decided to split and meet up at the EasyBus airport transfer stop. Dan went to the hotel to collect our luggage and I slowly hobbled on my crutches to the bus stop. In a costly error of judgement, that I can only put down to his Greggs Steak Bake addiction, Dan decided to stop for a snack on his way and we missed our scheduled transfer.
We arrived at the airport 30 minutes later than planned to a large delayed queue for the security check. Since travelling with crutches can be troublesome and slow, airport services transported us on a motorised cart the other end of the terminal, delivering us to our gate just as the doors closed. The airline turned us away and we watched out flight pull away.
Dejected and over budget, we returned to France on the EuroStar later that afternoon. Had the card services been operating correctly at the ticket office that day we would have been out of pocket over £260.
Lesson learned: it is better to rush to wait than wait to rush. I would rather rush to the airport and wait around for my flight than stress about getting there in time.
Travel tips: Tips for travelling with crutches.
Burned by Ra, the Egyptian god of the sun
Egypt, April 2013: We celebrated our first wedding anniversary by joining a 14 day tour in Egypt. We arrived in Cairo a day early and enjoyed the warmth and the sun by the pool of our resort-like hotel after almost 9 months in London and suffering through our first ever northern hemisphere winter. As a fair skinned person from Australia I am an advocate of sunblock, hats and shade, but it seemed to have slipped my mind and I paid no attention to the hot ball of gas illuminating the sky.
At first the burn was tender. Within a couple of hours it was painful, and the following morning I could barely walk. My legs were so red raw that they had swelled to the point that I could not bend my knees.
We joined our tour group and I spent the first week of the tour applying creams and gels and covering up the hideous burn with thick jeans or long pants. It was agonising and embarrassing, but I was grateful that it was just my legs.
Lesson learned: don’t trust the burning sun no matter where you are in the world. It is not your friend.
Travel tips: Finding the perfect tour.
Paris Broke Me
Paris, June 2012: On a spring eve on a pub crawl through the historical district of Montmartre in Paris, we enjoyed a drink (or three) in an Irish pub. It was a couple of weeks after I had dropped a door on my leg in Vegas and we were still getting around to organising our travel insurance.
At a point in the night when I was both careless and merry I noticed that my bag was not on the table beside me. When I asked the bartender to help me look for the missing bag he mentioned that a man had just left the bar carrying what could have been my bag. In a fit of what I can only describe as hysteria, I ran outside after the bag, tripping over the kerb in my haste and falling flat on my face, injuring my left foot. (Why is it always the left?)
We found the man who we believed stole our bag, but he was adamant that he didn’t speak English and he claimed not to have my bag. Drunk, bag-less and unable to walk, we retreated back to our hotel and I cried into the night. I was devastated and broken.
My bag contained all of my credit cards, travel cards, bank cards, driver licence, cash and BOTH Dan and my passports containing our UK working visas. I no longer had a single original document that could prove my identity. Dan got me crutches and we spent the next few days at police stations and the Australian Embassy sorting out replacement passports and police statements.
Six days later we arrived in Lyon, France, and I had X-Rays of my left foot at the local hospital. Up to this point I had been hobbling on crutches, too stubborn to give into the pain and add another disaster to the list of travel fails on our honeymoon. My madness meant that my acutely fractured fifth metatarsal was displaced with my hobbling and I earned myself expensive foot surgery and 10 weeks in a non-weight baring cast… in France… on my honeymoon.
The financial blow that we took for all the foot surgery and medical bills in France was large. Recovering the passports and our work visas was more. Travel insurance would have come in handy…
Lesson Learned: Be wary, dear Traveller, and take care of your belongings, for tourists are targets for theft and pick pocketing. Keep copies of everything and never keep all of your important items in the same place.
Travel tips: What to do when your passport is lost or stolen.
I truly can not stress enough – TRAVEL INSURANCE is so important and can help you in almost every situation.
Travel mishaps and fails are all part of the journey and make for a good story at the end of it. Remember not to panic, go with the flow and ask for help. You might not believe it at the time, but eventually you will be able to look back on your trip and laugh about it.