There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t feel thankful for the life I’ve created. Sitting and thinking about my life triggers a visceral reaction every time. Travel is a huge part of that. And having spent a quarter of last year travelling I’ve been lucky enough to experience some incredible things. On the flip side, there have also been some less than idyllic moments. In many ways, 2019 was challenging. So I think it’s important to acknowledge those times too.
With the benefit of hindsight, I can look back on some of these occurrences and laugh. Others, well let’s just say I’m working on it…
The point of this post is certainly not to deter you from travelling. On the contrary, it’s to let you know that shit happens and sometimes it’s just part of the process. Without further ado let’s get into my worst travel moments of 2019.
Funnily enough, one of my worst travel moments of 2019 happened within the first week. Little did I know it was foreshadowing a series of events when life crapped all over me. Sometime late in 2018, on a drunken whim, I decided to book flights to Hawaii to spend New Year’s Eve with one of my best friends.
Kajsa is one of those friends I rarely see, but I’d move mountains just to spend a day in her presence. She has an infectious positive energy that you can’t help but get lost in. So when she invited me (half-jokingly) to come to Hawaii for New Year I was immediately in.
To begin with, things were going well. We spent our days exploring Maui and our evenings huddled up in our hostel beds catching up on Netflix (don’t judge). But then when we got a new hostel roommate things took a turn for the worst. I mistook my bad vibes as just being overly judgemental and ignored the red flags. Until everything came to its head and the night before we were due to leave she literally shat the bed.
We moved out of our room in the dead of the night, but unfortunately, the hostel was fully booked so we spent our night sleeping in the communal living room. When I asked management for a refund the next day she just shrugged and said shit gate wasn’t her fault.
Honestly out of everything that happened that was what enraged me the most. Sure she wasn’t the pooper but when you pay for a bed in your room you expect to be able to sleep there. You can read more about the whole experience and all the red flags leading up to it in this post.
So many weird things happened on that trip. I can look back on the whole experience now and laugh but yeah… it was a weird one.
I returned to Hawaii a couple of months after that first fateful time only this time I was staying on the island of Oahu. On the first day, I’d made friends with another girl in the hostel and invited her to join me on one of the hostel’s free tours the next day. What I hadn’t anticipated was us getting us along so well.
We spent until the early hours of the morning partying in some of the island’s most iconic gay bars, doing one too many tequila shots and singing karaoke. When it came to getting up for the tour the next morning we felt 1 – still drunk and 2 – disgustingly ill.
On top of feeling like I was moments away from alcohol-induced death, I had a strange experience with the hostel driver. He was tasked with dropping us off at all the spots and then going off and doing his own thing. However, when we arrived at the beginning of the hike he pulled me to the side. While sizing me up he said I should probably stay behind, that I didn’t seem capable of completing it.
I had no idea why he’d singled me out but it made me even more determined to do it. Yeah sure I spent the entire time wondering if I might vomit – but the view at the top was worth all those feelings 100 times over. And I was so happy to have done it with my new friend.
After Hawaii, I headed to LA. A problem with the plane meant we spent 3 hours sitting waiting and transferring to a new aircraft. By the time we arrived in LAX, it was almost 2 am. Throughout the whole plane ride I’d begun to feel really unwell (I suffer from Endometriosis, which can be an often debilitating chronic pain condition).
Waiting for my bags to arrive off the belt I could barely stand and all I could think about was lying down. On top of that, I was truly exhausted as I knew I had to be up at around 6 am to make it to Warner Bros Studios because I had standby tickets for The Ellen Show.
Around 3.30 am I made it to the hostel and passed out. But in the morning when I woke up and went to charge my phone I realised I had no charger. It dawned on me that my charger had been in one of my bags I hadn’t seen since I’d been at the airport. This bag contained around $1000 of my belongings including my brand new Bose Wireless Headphones. As the panic began to set in I knew I had no immediate way of resolving it. I had no SIM card and if I didn’t leave immediately to get to the studio then I might not get a spot to see the show.
Although I spent a month chasing up airport lost and found and my Uber driver from the night, it never showed up. I still don’t know what happened, or how I lost it.
When the girl I’d met at the hostel in Hawaii asked if I wanted to go to San Francisco with her it seemed like a great plan. I wanted something to look forward to because I’d been having a rough few days. And we thought we’d landed an absolute bargain as the bus was only $20!
We soon learned bargains still come at a cost.
As the bus conductor saw my lugging my 30kg bag behind me he pulled me aside and made me weigh my belongings, which were well over the 23kg limit. I couldn’t believe this was actually happening, I’d taken buses countless times in the UK and never once had an item weighed. On top of that, he wanted me to pay and extra FORTY DOLLARS for my luggage. We managed to negotiate down to twenty but it still left a bad taste in my mouth that I was essentially paying for an entire bus ticket for my bag.
We squished in beside each other on the bus and proceeded to fall asleep and wake up at least once an hour.
When we finally arrived in San Francisco it was freezing and pouring with rain.
Being savvy travellers we booked an Uber Pool to save money. But midway through loading our luggage into the car the driver changed his mind and began putting our items back out on the street in a let’s just say… suspicious neighbourhood. We wouldn’t let him abandon us so he begrudgingly dropped us off at our destination but not without repeatedly letting us know how unhappy he was with the situation.
At the hostel, they informed us that check-in wasn’t until 2 pm to give staff time to turn down the rooms. Luckily we could still go and leave our bags up in the rooms. We were so tired and everyone had already checked out so we clambered on to the unmade beds and passed out.
Gross but I have no regrets.
Arriving back in Scotland after two and a half years of living abroad and an additional 6 weeks travelling on my way back home was one of, if not the most, challenging experiences of the whole year. While I was really excited to be seeing my friends and family I was also dealing with a period of intense depression. I was staying in the spare room at my friend’s place for the first week and cried for hours on end. She unpacked my suitcase, brought me food and pretty much looked after me until I finally felt like I had a grasp on reality again.
So many people talk about how amazing travel is and how life-changing it is and when you’re in it you don’t really consider what it means to come home. You change so much and your friends change too – but without you. On top of all that it felt like well, what now? In coming home it felt like I’d lost myself.
If you’re going through something similar or find yourself in this position know that it’s okay to feel your feels. You will always have a purpose even if things may have moved around a little. Journalling and making a plan for what I wanted to do next helped me place my feet on the ground again. I moved into my sister’s place for a bit and I began to build new routines and a finally found my sense of normalcy.
Last year I was incredibly honoured to have been asked to be Maid of Honor at my childhood friend’s wedding. And as I’d been living abroad for the past two years it had been a long time since we’d last seen each other. The night before the wedding she’d invited her bridal party and family to join her for one last dinner as an unmarried woman.
As a surprise, I’d also prepared a speech, which I was going to share over dinner. I’d made sure to leave in plenty of time to get to the location that would take a couple of hours by train. However, what I didn’t expect was for the train to be splitting into two parts with one going forward and one going back to Glasgow – the original station.
At the time of the change, the conductor politely reminded me to switch to the other side. As I sat in my new seat I watched the other half pull away and become a mere speck in the distance. To my horror over the tannoy, I heard “This is the train for Glasgow Central” and ran off the train with my suitcase bumping along behind me. It turned out the train I was actually supposed to be on had just left. The next train wasn’t for over an hour meaning I’d miss the dinner.
I felt awful.
Throughout my time as Maid of Honor I hadn’t been in the country and now, on this her last day, I wouldn’t be there. As I tearily told the ticket saleswoman at the station what had happened she said she would do her best to fix it.
I stood mortified as I heard her recount to numerous people over the phone that she had a girl in tears at the station. But true to her word she made it happen. Ten minutes later I had a comped taxi from the station right to the door of the pub where we were meeting for dinner.
I’m no stranger to staying in hostels. As such I’m fully aware that sometimes staying with aggressive snorers is an unfortunate part of the deal.
Last summer I checked in to one of the most impressive hostels I’ve seen. The staff were friendly and it was a space with long corridors and high ceilings. I managed to score a bottom bunk and thought I’d lucked out on the hostel lottery.
I decided to call it a night pretty early as I was recovering from my flight. It was then that I first met 3 of my hostel roommates – a group of loud men who I deduced from hearing snippets of their conversation loved to party.
They returned from their partying at around 3 am and I know this because they barged in turning all the lights on and waking me up. For the next hour, they took it in turns to take showers, before finally falling asleep and, of course, snoring out of sync.
I played it off as just one bad night of sleep – but when it happened for the third time in a row I levelled up from my passive-aggressive coughing. When the lights came on again I’d had enough and after one ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?! The lights promptly went off and that was the end of the early morning showers.
Just as I’d finally begun to settle into life back home, it was time to go again. The next chapter of the adventure was calling – but I wasn’t ready. After spending some time thinking on it I pushed my flight back by a month. But two nights before I was due to leave all the anxiety came flooding in. I dreamt the airport caught on fire and that my taxi to come to the airport didn’t come on time.
I shared my worries with my sister and she encouraged me to pre-book my taxi and to just enjoy my last days rather than worrying about what may or may not happen. She even baked my favourite dessert (apple crumble in case you want to send me one).
After we said our awkward goodbyes the next morning I waited for my taxi to arrive. As I’d dreamt it didn’t come. I phoned the company and they said they’d send one out as soon as they could DESPITE ME PRE BOOKING IT but I digress…
I carted my suitcase outside just as it began to rain (typical) and finally witnessed my taxi arrive half an hour later. To my horror – someone else was getting in MY taxi. I didn’t have time to waste so knocked on the window and showed the app, proving that this was my booking. Honestly? I didn’t even feel that uncomfortable papping this woman out in the rain.
Anxiety had hardened me.
OF COURSE, traffic was terrible and when I eventually got to the bus station the card reader for the taxi wasn’t working. I finally paid and began to run to the bay when my rucksack split open spilling the contents of my purse and my toothbrush (face down *cry*) on the ground.
At this point, I knew nothing else could possibly go wrong. And as luck would have it – the bus was still there. I made eye contact with the bus driver signalling I was about to get on and breathed a sigh of relief. Without blinking the bus driver shakes his head from side to side and began to pull away. At that moment I catch a glimpse of everyone’s faces at the windows and burst into tears. It had all been too much.
Luckily, I got on the next bus for free and made it in time for my flight.
The older I get, the less excited I am by my birthday. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still enjoy a little bit of recognition. I’m only human after all. I decided to reach out to a girl I’d been talking to on Instagram as I knew I’d be spending this year abroad in Bali. She agreed we’d meet up later in the day. All was well.
However, unfortunately, my day was not spent relaxing in total bliss.
Instead, it was spent going backwards and forwards chasing up money from two guys who’d been subletting my room. I felt so angered by the situation. I’d told them the night before to arrange money (which was already late) as I didn’t want to have to deal with it on my birthday. Trying to avoid being scammed has a way of putting a damper on things.
Despite having travelled for the past three years I’d never once had food poisoning. In fact, even in day to day life, I eat food that hasn’t been refrigerated and just generally live my life like a rebel without a cause – you know?
However after one (or maybe several) fateful meals in Bali I finally experienced what I assume was mild food poisoning. Although I didn’t have the typical symptoms i.e – vomiting and torrential diarrhoea – something just wasn’t right. My stomach sounded ANGRY and the thought of eating made me nauseous.
I was due to go on an island tour the next day and between moments of ‘holy shit I can’t believe I’m here’ there were moments of ‘crap, it would be really awful to vomit here’. I once heard that when you have food poisoning it’s best to eat bland food like bread and potatoes. So I settled for the next best thing spent the tour destroying a can of salted Pringles.
The feeling passed after a couple of days – but it made me realise nobody is invincible!
Throughout the past three years, I’ve learned you have to surrender yourself to the chaos. To the little things that could potentially derail you. Or even the big things that begin to claw away at your insides. Sometimes they may be insignificant – or they might change the way you see the world. But either way, be kind to yourself.
What about you? What were your worst travel moments of 2019? Let me know in the comments!