The plight of frequent travelers (or as I like to call them, “Traveler Rights of Passage”)
So, the title of this post is, The plight of frequent travelers huh? I bet you’re thinking, “Why would I want to hear about travel problems when I love to travel?” Well, if you LOVE to travel, then you’re in luck because me too!! But, I guess that’s pretty obvious since I am writing a TRAVEL BLOG. And it would be pretty lame if I had this blog and didn’t travel, or secretly loathed traveling (I swear, that’s NOT my dirty little secret. I actually, secretly, yeah no. Too x-rated for the internet. Sorry!).
No, the point of this post is not to burst your metaphoric travel bubble. Travel is fundamentally awesome and will forever be my addiction of choice (If those things are a choice). But if you do travel enough, you will experience certain, (how can I say this delicately?) “educational happenings” that are kind of like rights of passage for every traveler.
And some of these happenings are good, and some not so much, but no matter what, most avid travelers will have these things happen to them. It’s just a matter of odds really. Eventually, if you travel enough, you are going to experience most of the things in this list. It’s gonna happen. I mean, yeah sure, you will prepare and try to avoid some of these experiences at all costs, but eventually your luck is gonna run out and you will live out some of the funny, wonderful, and awful things that all long-term travelers eventually face (if you are as ardent a traveler as all of us self-proclaimed “travel addicts” are).
But the cool thing about this list, is that it represents a set of experiences that unite ALL travelers, no matter where they have been or what they have done. These funny, awful, and epic stories actually interconnect all our journeys and create a universal travel bond that unites us all. And while some of these events may be annoying, these are the experiences that enable us to commiserate over the minute, idiosyncrasies of travel that we are all forced to accept because we just love travel so damn much! And with that being said, drumroll please…..
A list of what I fondly refer to as “Traveler Rights of Passage”
- Food poisoning – Inevitably, it’s gonna happen. You’re going to eat something and have absolutely no idea what it is (Even after asking five times and finally giving up because you STILL have no idea what it is) or you’re going to eat something that looks iffy because you’re hungry and just don’t want to be rude. Either way, you’re gonna pay the price and probably be hulled up in a hotel room, chained to the bathroom, for a couple of days. And don’t feel bad because it happened to me in China. I ate some kung pao chicken that frankly, kicked my butt. I emerged from the communal bathroom three days later, 10 pounds lighter and just praying that I would make the arduous journey from one bathroom to the nest. Not fun at the time, but a funny story in the retelling (And we’re bonding right now over this. See, do you feel it? LoL).
- Flight Delay or Cancellation – This is the WORST. You always hope it’s not you and then BOOM, the announcement hits you like a freight train. As a result, you’re just left there, mouth gaping open in shock. And as the reality of the situation slowly sinks in, you fall to your knees, rocking bath and forth, in the middle of the airport, screaming to the heavens, “Whyyyy???” (Maybe this is just me. LoL. #confessionsofatraveler).I get it. No one knows why this always happens. It just does. But t’s the worst when you get stuck in Heathrow Airport, for 9 hours, with your bosses husband and kids. Talk about awkward!!! I
was about ready to run out on the runway and fix the plane myself. But then I remembered that no one wants to fly to New York in a ticking time bomb. So, to pass the time, I just sat there and binged on sushi and diet coke, waiting and praying for it all to be over (FYI Heathrow has some good sushi).
- Lost or Stolen Luggage – You’re waiting and waiting, and waiting as everyone else’s luggage is twirling happily around
the luggage carousel in baggage claim. You keep telling yourself, “No no, my bag will be the NEXT one out.” It’s okay. We all do this because no one wants to lose their bag before their trip even starts. We like to call this stage of grief DENIAL because you know that you’re bag isn’t coming, but you try and avoid the truth for as long as humanly possible. But eventually, as the luggage stops emerging from the internal abyss of the airport, you fully comprehend that your luggage is not coming and that you now have to deal with not having any clothes or toiletries for the first leg of your journey. Talk about a pain. It really puts a damper on the joyous nature of the vacation spirit. That’s why I always pack toiletries and extra clothes in my carry on (I learned this lesson the hard way). This way, if you do lose your luggage, it doesn’t seem quite, so heinously awful (It still bites the big one though).
- You understand the definition of “culture shock” – Before I traveled frequently, I really thought I was, “too cool” and “too worldly” to be shocked by anything I saw in another country. Well, that sentiment went right out the window, once I saw some of the toilettes used in a multitude of Asian countries. I mean, some of them were okay but I just did not have the muscle strength to squat and go to the bathroom at the same time (Going to the bathroom in China was a WAY better workout than any squats or lunges that I have ever done). But seriously, the bathrooms were just the tip of the iceberg. A lot of the most shocking aspects of a new culture are intermingled in a society’s thoughts and behaviors, both of which can be incredibly different from my own. And
while I try to respect other cultures, because I am a guest in their home and they also have a right to their own beliefs, these differences can be quite jarring when cultural standards of behavior conflict with my own sense of morality. When this does happen, I try and use the experience to enhance my patience and tolerance for people who think and act differently than myself.
- You get scammed – Let me set the scene. You book a flight and know you are going to a country that is notorious for scamming and overcharging tourists. You vow that this will not happen to you and buy every guide book available, to prepare yourself beforehand. You vigorously read all these tips and feel almost invincible because you know what to expect and know the games that the locals will play. Inevitably, when you finally arrive and get off the plane, you hail a taxi, and walk to your hotel. At this point in our story, someone accosts you with their tragic tale of woe. They go on to bemoan the fact that they lost all their worldly possessions in a tragic fire. They politely inquire if you could possibly, “spare some change?” Immediately, you hand over everything you have because I mean come on, you have a heart. You’re not some uncaring monster who remains unmoved by the tragedies of the human race, are you? And besides, you’re on vacation and feeling generous, so why not? Well, as soon as you hand over your money to this “poor pitiful soul”, you feel almost a sense of euphoria because you have just done something incredibly generous and pat yourself on the back (You give yourself a couple of brownie points too. Why not?). But then, you turn and see them do the exact same to someone else and it hits you, YOU JUST GOT SCAMMED!!! You actually just got schooled in the art of the con. And you thought you were SOO prepared. Well, it happened to me, so don’t feel too bad. Only my scammer was a “student” in China who lost all her money in Beijing. And I ate up her story up like a kid sucking down a milkshake. It happens but that’s just how I learned to be a little more cautious when doling out money to strangers. I mean, a lot of people look at a foreigner think dollar signs, or see the word ATM tattooed across your forehead. Just be cautious and it will all work out fine.
Your wallet gets stolen – You think it JUST won’t happen to you. Until it does. Well, welcome to the club. Just do yourself a favor and don’t walk around with a sequined, silver backpack that screams, “I’m a tourist, pillage me.” (I’m not speaking from personal experience or anything). Also, only carry what you need for the day in your wallet. This way, if your wallet does get stolen, then you have another way of accessing money. I mean, you don’t want to end up like me, screaming at your bank operator over the phone, and pleading with her to just change the password on your account because you have no idea what your dog’s, cousin’s, second sister’s name is (I mean, you gave her your mother’s maiden name, isn’t that enough?).
- You forget where your hotel is and get totally lost – You swear you’ll be able to find your hotel, and then two seconds later, all the buildings around you look exactly the same and you’re just left to wander aimlessly around the alleys of Cuzco, Peru, at 1 am. You only hope and pray that no one will attack you before you can find your hotel. That’s why it’s always good to carry a hotel business card with you (in the country’s native language) so that someone can point you in the right direction.
- Things don’t go according to plan – You plan and then the travel god’s laugh in your face. No joke, I used to plan these intricate itineraries that were detailed down to the minute, and then I had my first flight delay. After that, I kind of realized that the stress of potentially missing out on an activity (and a lot of money) was so not worth it. Now, I try to be more of a “fly by the seat of my pants” kind of traveler. And that philosophy works most of the time, except when you want to go to the Amazon and need Malaria pills; but don’t realize that you need to reserve an appointment with an infectious disease doctor like 3 months in advance, to get aforementioned malaria pills. Oooppppssss. I guess some things just need to be planned.
- You don’t like a country/city that everyone LOVES – This is the WORST. Everyone tells you
you’re gonna have an AMAZING time and that you’re gonna LOVE IT there. And then you go and you’re like, “Really? This is what everyone is going bananas over? Lame.” But then you come home and it’s even worse because everyone bombards you with things like, “Oh my God, wasn’t it AMAZING?” And you almost feel bad telling them, “Actually no, I kind of hated it.” It’s weird. I almost feel guilty telling people that I hated a country because I don’t want to discourage people from exploring a new destination for themselves. But, I also want to be honest. Oh the conundrums of a traveler. Well, no matter what, just be prepared to dislike some places that other people think are absolutely FABULOUS! You’re your own person and it’s okay. You’re allowed to dislike a place, I promise. No judgment here.
- You play charades in order to communicate with someone – This happens to me All the time. I’m sad to say that I barely speak English well, and that’s my native language. Therefore, it can be pretty difficult for me to try and communicate with anyone who doesn’t speak English. It’s in these very moments that all of those games of charades, from my misspent youth, actually come in handy. Seriously, who knew that charades would be a life skill that I might actually need one day?
- You have a near death experience (or you think you do) – Whether real or imagined, we all sometimes get into dangerous situations sometimes. I know I saw Brokedown Palace (if you don’t know this movie then you need to watch it right now) and thought that I was gonna get thrown into a Thai prison for accidentally smuggling drugs. I actually double checked all my vitamins to make sure I wasn’t bringing anything illegal into Thailand before I went, just in case (sad but true). But it happens to us
all. A lot of times we think we’re think we’re in danger when we’re actually not. Other times, we really are in danger and narrowly escape, like this time I went spelunking in the Bahamas and almost slipped on a rock and plummeted to my doom in the cave below. Such a scary experience, so just be careful out there.
- You know someone is hitting on you, even though you have no idea what they’re saying – I feel like the language of love, or lust in this case, is universal. When you’re abroad and don’t speak the language, you just don’t need any help translating a guy’s intentions towards you. All you need is to see that overbearing leer in their creepy smile, or a flash of that infamous, “glint in their eyes” to know that they want one thing, and one thing only. So gird your loins ladies, because most men are pretty damn obvious when it comes to affairs of the heart, or groin.
- You hear the words every traveler dreads hearing, “This is not your flight.” – So, I have been on a lot of flights in my time. And no matter how many times I fly, I always get anxious when I arrive at check in, with my email, ticket confirmation in hand. I just feel as though something is going to go wrong, and they are just not going to let me on my flight. Well, that was before I ever even heard the words, “this is not your flight.” Now, I get even more anxious because one time, around Christmas when the airport was TOTALLY insane, I got on the line for a British Airways flight when my flight was actually through Delta (My disclaimer is that I got an email confirmation for the flight from British Airways, so i still maintain that I was not at fault). Needless to say, when the airport staff informed me that I was on the wrong line, I almost freaked out because I never would have made my flight, which left from an entirely different terminal. Thank God the check in lady took pity on me and put me on a British Airways flight because otherwise, I would have totally missed my flight. So do yourself a favor and no matter how often you fly, check and double check all the information on your boarding pass.
That’s All She Wrote
So there you have it, a complete list of some of the most comical tragedies that can befall you while you are traveling abroad. And while I am sure I have forgotten some, you get the idea. These are just all the CRAZY things that happen to people who love to travel and do so on a regular basis. The great part about most of these stories is that while they do suck as you’re going through them, you inadvertently, obtain an experience that can help another, fellow traveler; that or you can just use the experience to commiserate with other travelers over your former misery. Either way, it usually all works out in the end.