When you travel, you are bound to make mistakes. Even the most seasoned of travelers can mess up – real bad.
I have had so many travel fails in my years of living abroad and trying to do something over the weekends. When I lived in the United Kingdom, I missed flights, trains, buses (the list goes on)… to travel to Europe, Scotland, Cornwall… and recently in Canada, Korea and Japan too but that doesn’t necessarily make you a bad traveler. It certainly teaches you to be a better one though!
Lately I have been laughing at all my travel fails when somebody tells me: “wow! you’ve seen the world”. I know I may come off as a very organized and amazing traveler on my Instagram but trust me, I am far from it. Here are stories to prove it:
1. “I’m heading to London, United… wait, Ontario?!”
In September 2016, during my second year of undergraduate studies in Canada, I saw super cheap deals to London in an e-mail from Air Canada. Naturally, I looked at it and was like, well, I guess it’s time to book a flight to the United Kingdom and head back there this Christmas since a lot of my family and friends were going to be there.
I had many friends on exchange that year in the United Kingdom from Singapore. Many of my friends from British International Schools abroad and from the United Kingdom were still based there too so everything seemed to fit. I looked at the flight time – 1 hour. Just an hour before, I saw an article on MTLBlog that highlighted that a jet could fly from Canada to the United Kingdom in an hour. I opened up some random dates and booked it (assuming my exams were not going to fall then!) instantly because maybe Air Canada is using that jet for this ride, eh?
As December got closer, I was happy that luck was on my side in the exams department. I was leaving on the very last day of my exams. Perfect.
Then I saw my ticket. London… ONTARIO?!
I called my mother up and had to verify that London, Ontario does exist. I mean, I had only been in Canada for a year if you count all the trips I take back to the UK, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia. Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal were the only cities I had only really heard of and the only London I knew was in the United Kingdom. Why do they have the same names?!
I had to change my flight and I am pretty sure the booking agent at Air Canada found the situation hilarious. In the end, I made it to London, United Kingdom. And Spain and Germany after… phew.
Things I learned? Check the destination, especially if it’s the same name. I check flights to Sydney, Australia (where my sister is based) very thoroughly now because I have seen Sydney, Nova Scotia on destination lists. I also learned not to trust MTLBlog.
2. “I swear I booked the airbnb for this weekend.”
I had never been to Toronto until September 2016. It was my first time and I was glad I had a friend who was willing to spend that weekend with me there. I was super excited and booked an airbnb and e-mailed it to her to make sure we had the right dates.
We took a midnight bus the week after and got to Toronto super early. We decided to nap at a Tim Hortons’s and check into our airbnb as soon as we could. When we arrived to the airbnb, the host sounded a little confused but still allowed us into her apartment.
As we were beginning to unpack, two other people arrives. My host knocks on our door and whacks her phone out to open the app. At first, we didn’t know if she had double booked but it turned out that I had booked it for the next weekend. I was going to Boston the next weekend and was really excited about it and must have entered those dates instead.
After getting kicked out of our airbnb we were scrambling for options but most hostels had been taken up by American students who were in the six for their spring breaks. Alas, we booked a really sketchy one.
We checked into our sketchy room and headed out. We decided we needed a lot of sangria for this hell of a day. As we stumbled back to our hostel, we realized that we did not take a picture of the code for the door and there was nobody in the lobby after 9pm so we could not ask anyone to let us in.
We just waited it out and eventually somebody opened the door and we made it back into what we could finally call, our place, for the weekend. (P.S. We are still best friends LOL).
Major lesson here? Book your airbnb for the right dates, make sure your friend checks it over, and remember codes in accommodations!
3. “Where is Mount Popa?”
In Summer 2015, I was traveling Myanmar for a good three weeks with a friend from Singapore. The two of us, short and small Singaporean girls, were very tired from traveling Yangon, Mandalay and Inle Lake before arriving at Bagan. Nonetheless, we remained very ambitious.
When we arrived at Bagan we immediately hopped on electric scooters and started on our temple run. After that, we returned to our accommodation and started to plan for our next day. We were a little tight on our budget but wanted to go to Mount Popa to see the monkeys and the amazing temple that sat atop of Bagan. The view looked amazing from pictures.
We googled the distance to Mount Popa. 50km? I have ran a marathon, let’s cycle, I said. We really did not want to hire a cab nor an electric scooter. We were going to cycle (this obviously was a very bad idea).
We started our journey early the next day. The first 10km was nothing. But it got worse. Locals felt so sorry for us and gave us water/food on the way when we said we were trying to go to Mount Popa. Midway it was noon and the sun so blazing hot. We didn’t bring our sunscreen either so yes, we were very burnt, and we were asking each other “where is Mount Popa?” and “are we there yet?”.
As we approached Mount Popa, we had to ride our bikes on uneven terrains and mud. Our clothes were ruined. We didn’t have energy to go up the mountain but we did. Thankfully the view was amazing.
As we got down – we realized we had no way back unless we cycled…. or hitch hiked. And hitch hiked we did. I am so thankful for the locals in Bagan for helping out two ambitious girls who had absolutely no idea what they were getting themselves into!
What did this lesson teach me? 50 km on a bicycle is a lot, even for marathon runners. Also, don’t assume the route is all road! Expect the unexpected.
(P.S: We are also still best friends)
4. “I am only going to pack bikinis, crop tops and shorts”
My boyfriend was visiting me from Canada in Japan during my exchange and we had planned to go to Jeju Island. Right before our trip, I was in Okinawa and a week before, I was in El Salvador. They were super warm. I figured that if Jeju is on the southern tip of Korea, I would not be that cold, especially since it is an island like Okinawa.
I arrived in Jeju and was so cold. Korea is located a lot more north than Japan so naturally it would be colder but little miss me did not think about that. I ended up using the only jacket and scarf I brought on the flight since Japan was getting chilly, grabbing my boyfriend’s clothes and using them as extra layers. Thank God he’s more sensible than me.
I had only packed bikinis to surf and dive, crop tops to laze around the beaches and shorts because I thought it would be so warm. I did not get to do or wear any of those activities. Travel tip, for real: check the weather. As simple as it may sound!
I hope these stories will leave you laughing for days. My close friends all think I am a very special person because I am the only person they know who is able to pull off such mistakes. I mean no one is perfect and just because you had a few travel fails doesn’t make you a bad traveler!
In my opinion, the worst travelers are those who go to France and eat Chinese food. Or people who have never been to Australia or Singapore and slam them as expensive countries to live in. They don’t indulge in the local culture or cuisine, speak to the local people and stereotype countries based on what they “know”. This is a big travel NO.
People who are scared to make mistakes or travel alone also won’t see as much as they would if they were fearless too. If there is one thing I learned from traveling is to always get out of my comfort zone, find my own ways to get to places and make it my experience, with or without mistakes.
So on an end note: see the world with wander and when you think you know a place, just know that there will always be little places still waiting to be discovered. I have lived in 8 countries and I can’t say for sure that I know all of them. I still have so many questions and so much wander in my heart. I am still seeing the world and learning a lot about it too.