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We All Dislike Travel Sometimes

Everyone has those moments. The moments where the adventure has become a nightmare that you just don’t want to deal with anymore. Why did you decide to do this again? Wouldn’t it be nice to sleep in your own bed, surrounded by the known, with everything part of a standard routine?

I had that moment very soon after I began traveling solo. I’ve traveled for my whole life with my family, so whenever we had to deal with adversity, my parents took care of it. This time, I was completely on my own.

The original plan was to fly from Queenstown to Auckland, pick up my baggage that I had stored at a hostel in the city, and then fly onwards to Sydney, where I would be doing the BridgeClimb and then joining others in my study abroad program for orientation.

The Clouds Roll In

The clouds roll in across Lake Wakatipu.

Things went wrong from the very beginning. At Queenstown Airport, I was told that my flight to Auckland was cancelled; there was too much fog in the area for pilots to be able to safely navigate the very difficult passage around the Remarkables. There would be no flights for the rest of the day, but they thought there was a chance they could get me out on the next morning’s flight.

I really didn’t want to depend on that chance, so after a long negotiation that resulted in me paying Qantas an extra $90, I was booked on a flight that would almost certainly fly from Christchurch to Auckland the following morning. This would give me just enough time to take the hour-long shuttle into the city, pick up my bags, and then return to the airport.

I hit another snag when I got to the Queenstown i-site and tried to book myself onto a bus to Christchurch. Apparently everyone had had a similar idea to me, so there were no seats available on any of the bus lines…until a cancellation appeared in the system. I immediately grabbed that seat and was soon on my way.

I got sick on the bus ride. That’s what happens when I try to watch movies in a moving vehicle. Usually I wouldn’t be tempted to, but the fog and pouring rain had obscured any possible views I could look at out the window — a fact the driver kept rubbing in when he told us things like, “You would have a fantastic view of Mount Cook right now, if only it weren’t raining.”

Eventually we made it to Christchurch and I checked in to the only hostel that had room for me (a hostel that sadly no longer exists). I bought a high-class dinner of 2-minute noodles from reception and then climbed up to my top bunk for some well-earned shuteye. None of the owners of the other bags in the room were around, so I went to sleep easily.

Those (drunken) roommates came home at about 3am. Banging things around and playing with the ever-present and ever-annoying plastic bags, they eventually turned the lights out and went to bed. That would have been fine, except as soon as the lights went out, my bed started rocking, complete with a soundtrack coming from the bottom bunk.

In bed in Fox Glacier

I much preferred my bed in Fox Glacier. It wasn't attached to anyone else's.

I was not happy. Were they seriously having sex on the bed attached to mine? If it was across the room, I could have tried to ignore it. But I couldn’t ignore it when my entire bed was rocking back and forth.

They went at it for a while, but eventually got tired and let me have a bit more sleep. When I woke up before dawn for my early-morning flight, I was groggy and absolutely covered in bedbug bites. This didn’t stop me from taking out every plastic bag I owned (between frantic bouts of scratching) and slowly crinkling all of them until I knew my bed buddies were wide awake. They didn’t say a word.

By this point, I was fed up and wondering why I’d even bothered. If I’d stayed at home, I would be comfortably ensconced in my dorm room, probably studying for an exam, not frustrated, exhausted, and wondering if I was going to make it to my study abroad orientation in time.

Thankfully, my flight to Auckland was uneventful, but my visit to the city was a mad dash.  I only barely made my flight out, and a bus driver that was in even more of a hurry than me literally ripped a hole in the side of my suitcase (which I had to duct tape up & later replace).

Finally on a plane

What a welcome view -- sitting on a plane with no fog in sight!

All of this meant that my memories of my first day in Sydney will forever be of sleeping and washing all of my clothes in an attempt to rid my bag of bedbugs. But in the long run, it’s just another story I can laugh at.

There were a lot of mishaps on that trip to New Zealand, but I’m actually happy for that. It meant I wasn’t under the illusion that travel is always a cakewalk and something that is always fun.

It also showed me that, when faced with adversity while traveling solo, I would do just fine. I may have been grumpy, but I also got the situation sorted.

The important part of travel (for me, at least) is that the good times outweigh the bad, and that when bad things happen, I don’t dwell on them. I just try to get through them as best I can. If it means spending my entire first day in a city that I’ve dreamed of visiting since I was eleven in bed or loading up laundry, so be it.

I knew that the Opera House, Sydney Harbour, and the Harbour Bridge would all be there the next day. I was hoping that the bedbugs wouldn’t be (and they weren’t).

Plus, did the day-long pain of my trip from Queenstown outweigh the amazing feeling of swimming in a pod of 200 dolphins? Of standing in the rainforest, looking down on a massive glacier? Of going jetboating through a canyon with the rocks just inches from my head? No way. And that’s what made it all worth it.

What’s your strongest memory of just wanting to give up while traveling? What helped you overcome that feeling?

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2 Responses to We All Dislike Travel Sometimes

  1. Deborah August 25, 2012 at 8:31 am Reply

    My very first trip overseas was to Portugal to learn Portuguese before going to work in a Portuguese-speaking country in Africa. I’d NEVER travelled before though I was in my mid 20s. I was supposed to have been met in Lisbon by the family I was to be staying with but they were given the wrong date. I had no contingency plans. I waited for an hour or two and as I had no contact numbers but the organisation’s (it was a public holiday) I had to find alternative (affordable) accommodation.

    The rest of the trip was okay (though I didn’t like my host family that much) but there was a similar stuff up on arrival in Africa. My boss-to-be decided that rather than stay in the room my organisation had booked for me, that I should stay at her house and pay her the money instead. I was trapped on the outskirts of town (in a relatively violent city) with no phone or way to contact anyone with only my boss’s husband to transport me.

    I eventually made contact with someone else on my volunteer program who drove out to get me and helped me escape to the booked accommodation but it took AGES to smooth things over with my boss who’d thought I would continue living at her place for the 2yrs I would be there!

    I’d cope way better now with it, but at the time it felt really stressful!

    PS. Can imagine why you wouldn’t appreciate the couple boinking on the bunk underneath you! Ugh!


  2. Erik August 28, 2012 at 11:21 am Reply

    I got violently sick on a flight from New York to Athens in December 1999, and saw only bits and pieces of the two countries. I didn’t truly get better until I got back to the US 10 days later. We never found out what made me so sick, but it certainly was some kind of food poisoning.

    Sorry you had these moments in NZ, of all the trips I’ve ever taken, it was that one where I had the least amount of “What am I doing here?” moments.

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