There is the Instagram side of travel we show the world – with filters and angles and hashtags. The perfect sunsets, brilliantly presented dishes, smiles and sunglasses – nary a hangover or overpriced meal to be found. Hey, I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to promoting myself when I’m on holiday. In fact, I tend never to mention when things go wrong. Which is why I thought I would have a moment of honesty and come clean about some recent less-than-expected, far-from-perfect-on-social media things that have happened while traveling.
For some context, I’m an expat of ten years and am fortunate to regularly travel on the international scene. Perhaps it’s been my comfort with getting around, but there have been a few times in the past few months where I definitely let my guard down and have paid the consequences. Or maybe it was just bad luck. You be the judge.
Food poisoning in Bangkok
Imagine you’re visiting a city and the whole reason behind your trip is to eat. Well, that’s exactly what happened in February… I traveled to Thailand for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants (Asia) awards. I’d enjoyed the first two days – meeting chefs and other influential foodies, dining at some of the best restaurants in the region. I was looking forward to attending not only the after party of the awards, but also dinner at Nahm (currently ranked #28 in the world). And then I didn’t feel well.
Now, having an incredibly strong stomach, I only get sick like this once every seven years or so and it literally couldn’t have happened on a worse night. Much as I tried to hold things back, willing my guts to agree with me, luck was not on my side. While it was not the amazing meal I’d had the night before, my best guess is either some expired milk or the apple I picked up at the gym of my hotel led to an intense round of gastrointestinal distress.
While I was feeling super sorry for myself and moaning about how much I wished to be out living life to the fullest with the fooderati of the world, I had the same realization that hit me when I’d suffered through a Norovirus attack in Bermuda… Getting sick at a luxury hotel is the best place to get sick. If you’re going to have your stomach turn inside out, why not do so tucked in high thread counts and soft duvets? Where someone else can clean up after you? Where room service (if you need or want anything) is a phone call away?
I was fortunate my bug ran 12 hours and left me a bit lighter. In the end, I was grateful to not be on a plane when the attack hit. It could always be worse.
Stolen money, Qatar Airways flight
Having flown with the big Gulf airlines for years, I’ll admit I’ve been a bit complacent. Still, my husband and I weren’t prepared to have all the cash we planned to exchange stolen straight out of our bag when flying between DWC and DOH in March. While transiting, we went to change our money over only to find it had all been stolen (out of our zipped bag).
As the bag was in sight the entire time, the best we can figure is that during the scramble of getting off the plane the people seated behind us reached around while looking for their bags and simply took the money out. Worst of all? We broke our own rule.
Following a pickpocketing incident in Paris, Hubs and I tend to split up whatever cash we have, so that (of course) we don’t lose everything. And this time we didn’t.
Complaints to the airline went woefully unnoticed and while I think the fault is ours for not carrying the cash in a safer manner, this isn’t the first I’ve heard of similar thing happening en route. While there was no chance at recovering our money, a bit more security on board would do wonders.
I’m thankful because it wasn’t a lot of money and that my husband’s identity cards weren’t touched, which would’ve made for a nightmare during our travels.
Flat tire in South Africa
Meeting with friends in Cape Town, we decided it would be fun to take a trip up the coast. While we debated sharing cars, due to our early departure, it was decided Hubs and I would take our rental car. Caravan style, we got going and about an hour into our trip, we noticed our friend’s car had a significantly flat tire on the front right side of their SUV.
Through a matter of flashing lights and some unread texts, we managed to get them to pull over. I’m not going to say how close we were to a real accident, but the tire was just barely holding on. Through team work, we managed to get the spare on the car and back on our way in under thirty minutes. Crisis averted. What could’ve ended quite dangerously was merely a chance to bond over a changed tire.
Cancelled trip, Socotra
I was meant to travel to Yemen in November of last year. I booked through a company (which is a disaster story for another day), got my visa, and was all set to visit the land of the Dragon Blood Tree. Only I didn’t.
Due to some issues I still don’t know all the details of, our group was stranded in Salalah, Oman for two nights. Yes, it was frustrating. Yes, there was a significant lack of communication. However, in the end, with new friends (who I remain in touch with), I decided to arrange for a bus to take us (free of charge) to a hotel with alcohol.
Twenty-five people from all walks of life gathered around a long table (props to the Hilton Salalah) and together we celebrated a girl’s birthday (the youngest member of our party). It was a memorable trip – just not for the reasons I thought it was going to be.
And the lesson learned? Read the fine print and always get some kind of travel insurance. Understand where you’re going and what might happen if you don’t get there.
Will any of the above stop me from traveling? Of course not! Do my friends want to know I’m puking my guts up for 6 hours straight? They can probably get through their days without that detail. Could I stand to be a bit more realistic in my travels? You bet!
With some red eye flights coming up (I’m terrible on night flights), perhaps I might give an honest opinion of little to no sleep crammed in the back of a plane.
What’s your worst travel story? Were you able to see the good in it?
This is a guest post by Courtney Brandt.
Courtney Brandt is an American author living in Dubai. When she’s not reviewing fine dining in the United Arab Emirates for her food blog, A to Za’atar, she loves traveling to new countries and sabering champagne with kitchen knives. Her favorite places? Amsterdam, Cape Town, and Athens, GA. Her dream destination? Well, she’s going to make it to all seven continents at some point in her life – five down and two to go!