Things can go wrong when you travel – but that’s OK!
Travel can seem daunting for many people with swirling thoughts of everything that could go wrong or travel mistakes that could be made.
What if I forget to pack something important?
What if I get robbed or worse, kidnapped?
What if I get sick?
What if I miss a flight?
What if I am culturally insensitive?
Will I be the victim of a scam?
Or thoughts that would never pop into your head ready for you to combat like a whack-a-mole game. What if I get hit by a motorised cart at the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, or interfere with a Balinese ceremony, or have a rickshaw run over my foot in India? Those things happened to me, and I could not have predicted those events!
So, the honest truth is – things will go wrong at some point in your travels, or you will make “mistakes”. Things go wrong at home, so why expect travel to be different? But having a positive attitude, putting things into perspective and learning to forgive and laugh will make all the difference.
Please note, this post is more about silly things I have done or experienced. This post is based on non-life threatening situations and I am not in anyway saying that nothing major will ever happen to you
Why expect travel to be perfect?
Honestly, I often have unrealistic expectations for how wonderful travel should be. Why? Because I love it sooooo much that I am eagerly awaiting those few precious weeks a year that we escape the mundane and truly feel alive!
So when I have waited and waited, and then the countdown gets closer, and the excitement of arriving at the airport kicks in….I am fully invested. Then when things go wrong it can be crushing. Delayed flights, messed up hotel bookings after a long flight or an absent airport pickup can all bring the mood down very quickly. Add in a tired whinging child and ‘Bam’, shitty moods for all!
Before you go
Do. Not. Travel. Internationally. Without. Travel. Insurance. Repeat that several times to yourself if you still aren’t sure. Do some research into the travel insurance to check what they cover and what your needs are. For example, we travel light and on budget airlines so I don’t pay much attention to whether flights and luggage are covered, but ALWAYS get unlimited medical. Others travelling with expensive gear (cameras etc) will want more coverage for electronic items.
Travelling internationally without travel insurance is a big mistake! You will be taking a huge gamble and relying on luck that nothing goes wrong.
Personal Experience | So far the need to use travel insurance has been avoided (thankfully) but research different companies and check out other travel blogs for suggestions.
I accidentally kicked one of these beautiful offerings in Ubud, Bali outside a shop, scattering the contents over the footpath. The shop owner was very sweet and accepted my repeated apology (I was horrified at myself!) and told me it was “finished” – not sure if that was true or if she lied to make me feel better! But I made sure I didn’t do this again!
First Aid course
Undertaking a First Aid training course is highly valuable regardless of whether you are travelling or staying home. Knowing how to assess a situation and determine if further medical assistance is required can be lifesaving.
Don’t assume that if you are going somewhere “safe” like a resort that nothing will go wrong. Accidents happen in even the most safest places so you need to be prepared.
I was cringing watching a TV show years ago – something like ‘What happens in Bali stays in Bali’ – where tourists were doing ocean cliff jumps with a tourist company. One girl jumped, landed badly in the water and needed medical assistance. But the lack of First Aid knowledge meant someone started massaging her potentially broken back! Yikes! Worst thing you can do and could have made the situation much worse. So do a First Aid course so that if someone tries to massage your potentially broken back you can scream at them to stop.
Oh, and travel with a basic first aid kit too. This doesn’t need to be a huge kit just the basics.
Personal Experience | We have rarely used our First Aid kit, but knowing it is there and that we know how to use it is comforting. Only minor injuries have occurred for us – generally from me being absorbed in my surroundings and not paying attention!
I was hit in the leg (well gently nudged!) by a cart at the Tokyo Fish Market, luckily it wasn’t bad. I actually felt bad for getting in the way at a commercial fish market!
Getting sick (Bali Belly, Delhi Belly etc) or having stomach troubles adjusting to food is a rite of passage for travellers. But since you would have completed that First Aid course listed above, you will know to stay hydrated and monitor your symptoms. You will also have purchased that travel insurance so if you need to go to hospital you are covered.
If you are concerned about getting sick then pack some gastro-stop medication and hydrating drink powder. You can stick these in that First Aid kit you packed from above.
Personal Experience | Oh getting sick is not fun! Worst tummy bugs for me was in India and Bali but both times lots of rest and water and patience worked. Getting sick can be really hard if you are on an organised tour without the option of a rest day (like when I was in India). Luckily in Bali we had the luxury of knowing we could have a rest day, and also learnt our son is an amazing sleeper! Both Jason and I were up all night using the toilet right next to our sons’ room and he had no idea what had happened!
Undertake some basic research before you go to help avoid making cultural based mistakes. Lonely Planet guidebooks have great sections on culture and appropriate behaviour. Generally, a tourist being a bit of a duffer (like me!) will be accepted by locals, but if you are openly disrespectful then people may approach you with hostility.
Being culturally insensitive can happen by accident. But just educate yourself, learn from the situation then forgive yourself and continue to a mindful traveller.
The beach at Canggu in Bali where I accidentally interfered with a religious ceremony.
Missing flights/trains/buses etc
I am including this one, even though it hasn’t happened to me personally since I’m that person who turns up 4 hours early for an international flight, and 2-3 hours early for a domestic flight.
Sad, I know, but I hate the stress of being late. I think it’s also ingrained from my childhood not to waste money, so missing a flight and having to pay for new flights just doesn’t sit right.
Most travel insurance companies won’t cover you for missing a flight (without a really good reason like sickness or a death) so make sure you get to the airport early!
Personal Experience | One time I tried to chill-out and not check the flight board at regular intervals – and we almost missed our connecting flight. Moral of the story – don’t expect your partner to take any notice of the time when they are used to you doing it! We made the flight with lots of running and the stark realisation of how unfit I was!
I guess if your flights are changed and you really need to get home across water you could swim?!? (I really just wanted to use this photo and couldn’t find a decent way to work it into the post!)
Incorrect or unexpected changes to bookings
Despite the best planning things can still go wrong with bookings. Even long-term travellers have stories of mucking up hotel bookings or have issues with flights being cancelled, or booking the super bad transport company thinking it was the more reputable one. This stuff happens to almost everyone!
Check your travel insurance inclusions as they might cover an emergency night of accommodation depending on the situation. I generally have a ‘back-up’ hotel saved on Trip Advisor so if we need to make a quick booking we can.
Personal Experience | Luckily, we have not had anything major happen to us when travelling that has severely ruined our plans. Changed flights meant an extra 3 nights in Singapore once, but seriously, who can complain about that!?
I was pretty ticked off though when Jetstar changed our internal flights in Vietnam to really annoying times, only to find the original times were still available to book on the website. However, I called and emailed and no-one wanted to speak with me! These flights were changed without consultation or an option to pick another time which got me fired up on moral grounds! I should have followed it up, or put in a complaint, but I didn’t think it would make any difference.
When what you book is different
Sometimes what you think you have booked is very different to what you actually get.
My first overseas trip was to Singapore and Malaysia when I was 19 years old. We were catching a bus from Johor Bahru to Malacca after crossing over from Singapore. We hopped on a lovely air-conditioned bus, only to pull over about 10km out of the city to swap into an uncomfortable bus with no air-conditioning for the rest of the trip (luckily only 2 hours). As a first-time traveller I had no idea what was going on and just went with the flow while feeling a bit ripped off, but also slightly amused. This actually happened again many years later going from Kuala Lumpur to Cameron Highlands but the picture showed a bus, and we were instead crammed into a mini-van!
Walking back from evening prayer at the Ganges in Varanasi India a rickshaw ran over the side of my foot. It hurt but luckily wasn’t broken. What made this memorable was that some local kids mimicked me when I cried out “ouch my foot!”
Adjust your attitude
Overall, the best thing you can do is try and stay positive and put things into perspective. Does it really matter that you forgot your toothbrush, or had a bruised foot for a few weeks, or wasted too much time on the toilet? Often these “problems” become the funny travel stories, the bits you remember.
For some, these situations will put them off travelling forever, whilst others will just take them in their stride.
Undertake some research, read quality travel blogs and don’t be afraid to ask for help if needed. And make sure you have travel insurance! Don’t travel internationally without it!!
What are you waiting for?! Get out there and explore!