The Lows & Lows of International Travel

I believe that you need to be a committed optimist to truly enjoy international travel. If you stopped and thought about all the things that could possibly go wrong as soon as you step outside your front door, you would never leave home.

On the other hand, perhaps we need the occasional travel disaster to make us appreciate all the fabulous things about setting out on an international adventure.

I am the first to admit that what I am about to describe below is definitely a ‘First World’ problem.

Travel is truly a privilege when many people in this world are barely getting by. However, as I am one for always waxing lyrical about the amazing, wonderful, glorious, gob-smacking things I see/do when I travel, I thought it only fair to share times when my travel plans have gone pear-shaped.

  • Head and shoulders photo of a German Shepherd with its tongue outDisgusting Accommodation: In 1986 my mother and I found ourselves in a small hire car driving around England and Scotland. Confined spaces (i.e. small hire cars) rarely enhance mother/daughter relationships however we seemed to be going along OK until we arrived in the small town of Perth, just north of Edinburgh Scotland.

We were tired and it had been a long day, so we lobbed into the first Bed & Breakfast we found. Never a good idea! We were greeted warmly by the host and ushered into her multi-storey house. So far, so good, but the further we got into the house, the worse the smell became.

You see, our hostess was a dog lover and it became immediately obvious that her three darling German Shepherds had the run of every floor of the house. Everything was covered in a fine layer of dog hair and the smell nearly made me gag. Even the bath had a furry film of dog hair and I had to clean the bath before cleaning myself.

I am not sure why some people see no need to open windows to enjoy the fresh air, but this was the first thing we did when we were shown to our room. Unfortunately, opening the windows made absolutely no difference to the smell. It was so ingrained. In desperation, I escaped to the backyard only to find it covered in small mountains of large dog pooh! OMG!

Why on earth did we stay? I can’t remember where we went for dinner, but there was no way we could eat the breakfast component of the B&B. It was such a vile place and yet the hostess was completely oblivious to the impact on her guests.

I have never been happier to fold myself up and climb back into a very small car and DRIVE! Unfortunately even +30 years later, it has tainted my memories of the probably very nice town of Perth.

  • A row of backpacks leaning up against a brick wall
    Backpacks wait patiently.  Photo: David Toole

    Cancelled Planes: Airlines have the best business model I have ever found as you pay top dollar for a service that they really have no obligation or compulsion to deliver. Flying to Portugal in 2016 to walk the camino from Lisbon northwards to Santiago de Compostela, I left my home in rural New South Wales very stressed and very early to get to Sydney to then connect with my British Airways (BA) flight to Lisbon via London.

I arrived in Sydney around 730am and then had to wait until midday to check-in. I waited and not-so-patiently waited. Finally it was check-in time and we were advised that out 330pm flight might be delayed slightly. By 6pm, with thoughts of missed connecting flights and forfeited accommodation, we were advised that we should be boarding shortly. By 8pm we were advised that the flight was cancelled as the crew hadn’t had enough rest between flights! You can’t tell me that BA didn’t know this on check-in eight hours previously or even prior to that!

Then absolute chaos kicked in as BA tried to find hotel beds for the night for a plane-load of people, organise buses to get us there and meals to placate us. For some strange reason when we finally arrived at the hotel, I ended up with the job of unloading all the luggage from the bus and was then on the end of the queue for check-in at the hotel. By the time I was allocated a room, the restaurant had closed and there was no room service! Dinner, now near 11pm, was two packets of potato chips from the minibar. To add insult to injury they wouldn’t confirm what time we were to be collected in the morning and then proceeded to telephone me at 200am advising a 400am pick-up time!

If ever there was an example of supreme inefficiency and deplorable communication, this was it!

Grrrrr, I completely lost my sense of humour!

  • Yellow Arrow on the Camino Portuguese in Lisbon in the rain
    A tiny yellow arrow indicates the start of the Camino Portuguese in Lisbon in the rain

    Lost Luggage: The drama of the cancelled flight continued as I landed in Lisbon, but my luggage didn’t. I could not believe I could be so unlucky and have so many things go wrong at the start of a trip.

 I was promised faithfully that my backpack would be on the next flight to Lisbon and would be delivered promptly to my hostel. I had already lost a whole day and night sightseeing in this fabulous city and now I couldn’t even shower and change into fresh clothes. As I was due to start hiking the next day (on a very tight schedule), I desperately needed my backpack.

To top it all off, it was raining and my ATM cash card wasn’t working and I only had €50 to my name. I bet the poor man at the hostel thought I was a complete lunatic when I became tired, emotional and teary in lobby as it all got a bit much after +40 hours with little-to-no sleep.

My backpack turned up at 200am.

  • A white clock with black numbers and hands strikes 12Tight Schedules: How to create immeasurable stress in three easy lessons? Do not allow enough time to connect to the next flight or train.

 All goes smoothly when all forms of transport are running to schedule, but over the years I have become highly skilled at sprinting through massive European airports, leaping luggage trolleys and dodging small children. I view this as the perfect way to stretch your legs after a +20hour flight, but it is not good for the stress levels…especially when you arrive at your platform to see your train pulling away and the rail staff really couldn’t care less.

  • Boredom: While a flight may look cheap, check the layover time. Waiting five-to-seven hours for a connecting flight in a boring airport is a complete waste of time. I have finally worked out (yes, I am a slow learner) that my time is better spent at my destination and if it costs a bit more to get there, so be it.
  • Four people Hiking in Sapa in the rain and mud
    My purple poncho and I head out into the Sapa Hills.

    Weather:Let’s see the real Vietnam’, I thought. ‘Walking through the remote Sapa foothills will be wonderful’, I thought. What I didn’t think about was the rain that fell solidly for three days, the mud that turned my shoes to heavy, mucky bricks, and the slipperiness of the paths that helped me inelegantly step and sit in various watery rice paddies along the way! Ugh!

While these experiences put a bit of a dampener on things at the time, it hasn’t dampened my passion for travel. I acknowledge that with all the kilometres I have travelled, I have got off relatively lightly, especially as I have not experienced any major health or safety issues.

Inconvenience is a very small concern in the larger scheme of things. I truly appreciate that I have the luxury to travel, full stop!

Slippery mud paths amongst rice paddies at Sapa Vietnam
Watch your step!

Can you relate?

 Any travel disasters that you would like to share?

#firstworldproblem, #internationaltravel, #globetrotting, #traveldisasters

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10 thoughts on “The Lows & Lows of International Travel

      1. Yes indeed! Reminds me of the time I booked a direct flight to Rome and a few months before departure they informed me that it now had a layover in Atlanta. My response was, “Ok. How much money are you going to refund me?” I’m sure you can imagine their response. It was basically, “You have two choices lady. Either live with it or you can cancel.”
        Gee. Thanks Delta.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I surely can relate. The bloom can come off the rose very quickly when things go awry. Yet if you try to set aside all that, you can still have a wonderful experience. We went to the south of France one year, intending to see Nice, St. Paul-du-Vence, etc. The first day in the guesthouse (which wasn’t all that comfortable though the hosts were very nice), the rain began. We went to Aix (one of my dream destinations), and tramped around in the pouring rain all day. The next day, I said, “We can’t stay here.” The next day, the sun came out, and we headed back to the Vaucluse for one of the loveliest ten days we’ve ever spent.

    Liked by 1 person

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