When Travel Goes Wrong: Valuable Lessons For A Naïve Traveller

Travelling is fun, adventurous, and exciting. You do things that you never thought you could, and experience new people and cultures, foods, sights, and sounds. Needless to say, travelling makes you feel like your soul is expanding, and often, the more you do it, the more you crave it.

However, there are time things don’t quite go according to plan, and you need to be prepared for it. Mentally, at least. Here are three of my most memorable travel mishaps:

All aboard! Or not

When I arrived in Bangkok on my first ever solo trip to Asia, I was overwhelmed by culture shock. Not only did I realise too late that I was ridiculously over-packed, and that Koh San road probably wasn’t the best area for an introverted girl to stay at, I also faced the reality that language was a huge barrier.

After a scary night’s stay in a dodgy hotel near Bangkok’s party street, I took a taxi to the train station from where I would be travelling to Koh Tao. I then bought my ticket and spent a good part of the morning reading on the platform waiting for my train.

Finally, the train pulled into the station and I checked to make sure it was the correct one. I asked a staff member to confirm this, and even asked him to point out the correct carriage. Then, I moved in the direction of the carriage he pointed to, and proceeded to take my bags onto the train. I had a travel backpack, computer backpack, and a large bag full of dive equipment to get onto the train before it departed.

The next thing I knew, a Thai man was yelling at me and pointing incessantly. Eventually, I understood that I had to get off the train. I got back to the platform with some of my luggage and moved to go get my dive gear – in quite a state of panic by this point – only to have the man throw my dive gear out the window for me to catch below.

Dejectedly, I sat down on one of my bags, trying to hold back tears, as the train left the station. Only for it to return about 20 minutes later. The. Exact. Same. Train. It turns out that I’d tried to get onto a sleeper carriage instead of the seated carriage the next one over.

Size does matter

I had a flight booked on a budget airline from Kuala Lumpur to Bali. Again travelling with a backpack and dive gear, I obviously didn’t realise just how heavy my bags were, and didn’t book the correct amount of luggage allowance. When I tried to check-in for my flight, they didn’t allow me to check my bags.

To make matters worse, because it was less than two hours from departure time, it ended up costing less to book a new flight with a higher luggage amount than to pay the luggage fees at the check-in counter.

At the time, I was a budget traveller. So I ended up spending four hours sitting on the airport floor waiting for my new flight just to avoid spending a fortune on airport food and drinks.

Working hard on holiday

I spent some time in Manila and decided on a spur-of-the-moment trip to the rice terraces of Benaue and Batad. Although I love to travel, I’m not the biggest fan of hiking. Or walking. Jogging is also out. Really, any exercise that isn’t dancing, yoga, or scuba diving is pretty much not my thing.

When we arrived in Banaue, we had some breakfast and the restaurant staff came around offering trips to Batad’s rice terraces. They mentioned a scenic drive through the area on a tricycle and then on a jeepney (the Philippines’ most popular mode of public transport). My friend and I looked at each other and the French guy next to us and said, “Let’s do it!” Oh, the spontaneity of the naïve traveller’s heart…

The ride was amazing, and we even sat on the roof of the jeepney (because we were young and free and fearless), and soaked up the sun and scenes with equal pleasure. Then we stopped and our guide told us, “Okay, now we walk.”

To my dismay, I’d heard him correctly. He said walk. And not just any walking – hiking and climbing up and down kilometre after kilometre of rice terrace. I perspired, my legs burned, and my smoker’s lungs were heaving most of the day, but boy was it worth it! This was a wonderful little mishap.

Travelling opens up your mind and changes the way you look at things. For me, it has taught me to always expect the unexpected. No matter how well you think you have planned things in advance, there’s always the possibility of bumps along the way. Learning to deal with them as they arise has taught me resilience, empowerment, and lots and lots of patience. Every little mishap’s only added to the overall experience.

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Jay has travelled and lived extensively in Asia and Africa. Part gypsy, part nomad and part mermaid, she aspires each day to satisfy her wanderlust in any way possible.