Everyone who knows me well will agree that I am truly the supreme ruler when it comes to misadventures on the road. I always end up with some mishaps at the airport during my travels or just about anywhere I go. It’s like disasters follow me around, and yes, it can be quite annoying, but, when I can, I just take them in my stride and move on with a smile. After all, travel is not all about palm-fringed white sand beaches and cocktails,—well mostly, but not all of it.
When I started traveling solo, I found these misadventures to be really daunting at first. Imagine you are away from home in a far-off unknown land and get pickpocketed or meet with an unfortunate accident and are on your own for miles at end. Yes, it can be unnerving and intimidating. However, as I recovered from one disaster after another, I realized it is all part of the learning process. With every new “incident,” I learned something new and this made me smarter, stronger, and more confident of handling my problems on my own.
When you are traveling with friends or in a group, it is very easy to rely on others to bail you out if you are in a tight spot. When you are traveling solo, you are literally forced to overcome all hurdles yourself. How you deal with it,defines your character! Okay, so I actually cried once, but hey, it gets to you sometimes and can be extremely overwhelming.
With so many distastes to my credit, it was hard to pick the worst ones, but I tried. Here goes –
1. Met with an accident on my first solo trip to Laos
So with no prior know-how of how to drive a semi-automatic or manual bike, I decided to do the 3-day Thakhek bike loop in Laos. However, in my defense, I had a fair knowledge of driving automatic bikes. Well, at least for a week every year, during my annual trips to Goa. By no account am I an expert rider and had just one dirt biking tour to my credit, but isn’t that what adventure is all about? (Not!)
Okay, then I rented a semi-automatic bike (that is usually what you can get in Laos, which I wasn’t aware of), got a shady map and drove off with an over-sized helmet. The first mistake was that I didn’t check the helmet till around 20 kms and then it was too late – I just took it off and enjoyed the wind in my hair. After around 150 kms, I was driving through lovely landscapes and local villages at about 80 Km per hour. A bunch of lovely goats are crossing the street. No issues, right? Wrong! I turn slight right to cross them and one adorable goat got scared. She decided to jump towards me, instead of away from me – maybe she was over-friendly.
At the speed I was going, I would’ve hit the poor goat if I hadn’t stopped. I pulled both the “front” brakes as hard as I could (instead of the bottom breaks, coz, well, I am used to driving an automatic which does not have any other breaks). That resulted in the bike flying off (with me in tow, of course) and landed on top of my right leg – jeez, I still have nasty scars from that one.
The rest is history and I won’t get into the painful array of events that followed – long story short, this results in 3 weeks of bed rest and a wheelchair at the airport to get me back home.
What people said – Why in the world were you trying to save a stupid goat? My response – You are stupid, goats aren’t. I would do it all over again if I was in the same situation, probably not to save a human, though.
Lesson learnt – Don’t get ahead of yourself – know your skills and choose your adventures wisely. A good adrenaline rush is one thing, but going back home from a vacation in a wheelchair is a different story altogether.
2. Lost all my cash, cards, and phone in Bali
One fine day during my 11 months in Indonesia, I decided to enjoy winter vacations on the beautiful beaches of Bali. Little did I know that is was peak season for pickpockets as well. I found out soon enough when my phone got snatched and later my card (After I had spent all my cash).
Since I was working in Bandung, I had my boss transfer some emergency money – just $100 and I survived off it for rest of my vacation (around a week) as I refused to cut it short and return. I would rather survive on Ramen than leave the beach.
It took another 1.5 months of struggling with cash issues in Bandung before I could get my Indian debit card re-issued and had my parents send it to me from India.
Bali, during peak season, is a mecca for pickpocketers but you can still have a great time as long as you are careful. I started putting my last few dollars in my bra before stepping out and that worked well for me.
What people said – Don’t go to Bali for Christmas! My Response – You might as well stop traveling all together then, guys.
Lesson learnt – Be ultra careful with your belongings especially in a commercial touristy destination during peak season. Use pick pocket proof clothing to hide your passport, cards and cash.
3. Had an open wound and was rushed to emergency in Sri Lanka
Ah, this is another interesting one. I had a cyst on my neck which required a surgery for removal, pretty much a normal procedure. I planned it several days prior to my trip so that I don’t have to deal with any unpleasantness. After surgery, I checked with the doc and everything was okayed and I was good to go on my adventures.
Day 1 in my hostel in Negombo, Sri Lanka was very normal – I chatted with a few people in my hostel, went out for dinner, curled up with a book in my dorm bed and slept.
I woke up to something wet on my neck, when I touched it I saw blood – OMFG, I totally freaked out when I looked into the mirror. Blood was oozing out of my open stitches and I started feeling dizzy. I put my handkerchief on the wound to stop the blood flow and rushed to the reception. The hostel manager was kind enough to call an auto for me and I went, by myself of course, to the nearest hospital – right to the emergency.
I was all patched up and good to go to the beach in around an hour.
Lesson Learnt – Well, this was just unfortunate with no fault of mine. I bet the doc didn’t do a good job in the first place, but hey, if this happens to you, god forbid – don’t panic and get help immediately. Also maybe it’s a good idea to avoid traveling several weeks after a surgery – no matter what your doc tells you.
4. Missed my flight to Bangkok from Jakarta airport
This one was purely 100% my stupidity. I reached the airport 4 hours prior to the departure, took out my laptop, got a cup of coffee and started working. After around 3 hours, I checked the board next to me which gave me around 15 mins more before check-in. Wondering if my flight was late, I went to the check-in counter and realized I was looking at the “boarding” notices all that time.
With no online check-in and 30 mins to flight, I had to pay extra, wait another 2 hours and buy fresh tickets for the next flight in order to finally go to Bangkok and start my SE Asian adventures.
Yup, hands down the silliest travel fail.
What people said – You snooze you lose! My response – For the 100th time, I did not doze off.
Lesson learnt – Always check in online and stay alert even if you are a seasoned traveler. This happened to me, so it can happen to anyone (well, okay, this was really dumb of me but be careful.) Also, Jakarta airport allows you to enter the boarding area before checking in (which is not the case with other airports I have been to) so be very careful as this can get confusing.
5. Getting lost in Laos for a night
Laos was my first 100% solo trip – I knew absolutely no one in the country and wasn’t visiting friends or anything. I was staying with a Couchsurfing host that fateful night and we all went for a 4th of July pig roast – sounds like fun; what can go wrong here? Umm… So, anyway, we partied the night away.
In the wee hours of the morning, my host wanted to go home and I wanted to party – I mean, doesn’t the real party start at 3 am? I asked my “friends” and host to go home and I will come after the party is over. Sadly, 10 minutes after they left, the party was dead. I was the only one dancing away to glory. When I realized how silly that was, I started asking people for directions. Everyone was pretty drunk and little did I know that Laos had no house numbers. Just my lucky day, eh?
With no way to go back or find my way at 4 am, I finally gave up after trying to venture on my own in the dark bushes to find the house. I went into one of the bedrooms (of the stranger whose party I attended – yes, It was that weird), locked the door from inside and dozed off.
Sunlight woke me up early in the morning, I had no battery in my phone to call anyone for help. I sneaked out of the house and spent an hour of walking in every possible direction (well, at each fork of the road, there will be two ways to go). All I knew for sure was that the house was a 10-minute walk from where I was. So I started walking 15-20 mins in all directions. Finally, after crossing some bushes and muddy paths I finally found a place that looked somewhat familiar. I was home, at last (Well, my home for the next few hours at least).
What people said – You are crazy! My response – You are right.
Lesson learnt – When you are traveling alone, friends you make on the road are extremely important. Stick to them especially in parties or crowded places. Laos has no house numbers, at all. You even pick up your post from the post office yourself. So when in Laos, keep your friends close and phone charged. If you get lost, no one can help you as you cannot give an address or ask for directions.
6. Almost got stranded in Bangalore
Okay, let’s forget about the past, everyone makes mistakes now and then. So, let’s talk about my latest trip to Wayanad. It was a fully paid media trip so I was pretty confident nothing can go wrong. I mean, from my flights to my food and stay, it was all complimentary and arranged in advance. I didn’t even carry any cash just because I didn’t need to.
Five minutes before stepping out of the house, as a precautionary measure and a last minute thought, I considered carrying my debit card – You know, with my luck, just in case. I am glad I did.
From Delhi, I flew to Bangalore – hurdle free and relaxed. Step one complete and I was even more confident that this could be my one hassle-free venture. Anyways, I was wrong.
At Bangalore airport, I was asked for the credit card which was used to make the booking. The company I worked with was based in Dubai and there was no way I could get a card authorization and docs to prove that my tickets were genuinely paid for by someone else at that very minute.
They looked at me as if I was a fraud and maybe used fraudulent details to book. Yes, there are people who use stolen cards and it’s a security measure by the airline which I understand. Long story short I ended up paying 100% of the ticket cost in full using my card so I could board the flight. Of course they refunded to the same card and the client compensated me later but if I didn’t have my card that time – I would be stranded.
What people said – Wait, what? You got free tickets, stay and meals!? How do you travel for free? My response – First off, it’s not free – it’s hard work. Secondly, did you even hear past that?
Lesson learnt – Always carry an extra travel card or any sort of emergency stash for such situations. If someone else is booking your tickets, ensure that you request for the credit card copy, authorization letter and ID of the person as you can be asked for it anytime.
Apart from these, there were many other things like –
- Excess baggage charges while booking low-cost carriers in Europe
- Fight with an AirBnB owner in Venice
- Almost missed my flight from Ibiza as I got confused between the dates
- Hassled by immigration as I had extended my stay in Thailand for a day by mistake and my visa expired (talk about 31 days in a month – jeez)
- Standing in wrong lines at the airport
- Accommodation not booked even after paying in full
…and many many more. Literally each and every time I travel, something goes wrong – but that doesn’t stop me. I am still striving for that one uneventful trip though with my luck, I doubt that will ever happen.
So friends, please only focus on the lessons learnt from my misadventures and try to use my travel fails to your advantage. If they happen, deal with them and don’t hold off on your traveling, ever!