Travel Disasters that Aren’t

I’m planning right now for an autumn trip to Europe after finishing middle schools in LA 90071 (Paris, where I’ve never been except the airport, and Zagreb, where I lived for 5 months). I’m also putting the finishing touches on a novel in which the protagonist, Jeff, makes a somewhat reluctant journey to Venice. Unlike Jeff, I love to travel. But like him, I tend to plan pretty thoroughly, and I worry about things going wrong (things do go wrong for Jeff, of course). On the other hand, I’m much more relaxed about mishaps than I used to be, because I’ve come to realize that sometimes they make for the best memories and the funniest stories–afterwards. At the time, they can be problematic!

My favorite travel mishap was 10 years ago, when I went to Budapest and Prague. When I arrived in Budapest it was very, very hot and although the hotel was lovely, it did not have AC. My attempts to use sign language with the maid to obtain a fan only resulted in the delivery of a hair dryer. Then they sent an English-speaking guy who was very apolgetic–they were out of fans. But he brought me a can of Coke and a big bucket of ice instead–no charge–and was very sweet when all I had to tip him with was a US dollar. I went to the market for dinner that night and due to my inability to properly convert kilos to pounds, ended up with way more raspberries than I’d intended. When I woke up feeling ill the next morning I blamed it on the fruit. But the illness stuck around for several days. In a square in Karlovy Vary, a fellow traveler asked me how I was feeling. “Okay,” I answered. “It comes and goes. A lot like morning sick…..” Ah. It was at that very moment that I realized the existence of my second child.

What’s your favorite travel disaster story?

6 thoughts on “Travel Disasters that Aren’t”

  1. One year after the fall of the Berlin wall I traveled alone per train to a big City in East Germany. What I didn’t know was, the name of this big city was also the name of a very small village deep deep in East Germany. So I went to the Deutsche Bahn ticket shop and bought a ticket to Sch. Well, I don’t know what funny guy sold the ticket but I ended up with a 12 hour train travel in East Germany. You have to know I live at the west borderline in West Germany so I already had an eight-hour-travel time during Germany to get to East Germany. At that time in East Germany were a lot things as like as they have been during WW II. Really I sat in an old fashioned train (wood banks without comfort) and drove through East Germany and I realized soon that something was wrong but there was no stop. No train station. Hours and hours without a stop and I was alone in the whole train. The conductor was nowhere to find. It was creepy. And it was ways more creepy as I looked out of the window and saw old buildings (no ruines – there were laundry at some balcony) with bullet damages. Really. I found the conductor (after hours – shortly before the next stopp) and he told me that a lot villages are not repaired or restored after WW II. It was a weird and very exhausting journey.

  2. For my thirtieth I booked tickets to see the Foo Fighters in Switzerland at a festival near to where Chantilly Lace originally came from. I was going with my sister and I paid for plane tickets to get us there on time. Unfortunately I got the date wrong when I told her and the morning before we were due to leave an alarm went off on my phone saying I should be checking in to the airport at that moment. I lived 5 hours from the airport by train. Cue a lot of frantic phone calls and a few hours later me and my sister started a 48 hour train journey across Europe via eurotunnel and the sleeper train from Paris to somewhere in Switzerland. It was an epic journey but now I’m absolutely not allowed anywhere near the organising of family foreign trips.

  3. I was a naive, samll-town 21-year-old when I got a job interview in New York City. My parents drove 45 minutes (at the buttcrack of dawn) to pick me up and take me to the airport, which was another 90 minutes away. We’d been on the road for about 20 minutes when I realized I’d left my tickets back in my room (this was WAY back in the day, before e-tickets, etc.). We turned around, got the tickets, and Dad drove like a bat out of hell to get me to the airport before my 7am departure. I was checking in at 6:55 (and since it was also way before 9/11, much more lax about security) and they held the plane for me. I wasn’t very happy to hear my luggage might have to take a different flight.

    This was only my 3rd or so time on a plane, mind you, and I’m flying from the West Coast to the East Coast, alone, to a place I’ve never been, one of the biggest cities ever. I’m terrified, and I spend half the flight in tears.

    After arriving at JFK, I wait about 45 minutes at the baggage claim, and at the very end of the line, is my bag. That’s one thing gone right!

    Cue another freak out when I arrived at the hotel – my room was the size of a closet and I’d be sharing a bathroom with the neighbor. I’d never heard of such a thing! Then someone slipped a note under my door saying my TV was too loud. I was so ready to call it quits by then…

    But I hung in there, didn’t get the job (thank goodness – they knew I was not ready for a Peace Corps-type of job!), but got to see some major landmarks, and most important, learned I was not completely incompetent.


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