Travel not only nourishes the mind but also rejuvenates the body. It offers us that much needed respite from the monotony of our daily grind. But not everything about travel is always so joyful and exciting. Sometimes, we hit road blocks and mishaps happen when our best planned vacations go awry. In my fifteen years of traveling, I have had a basket full of such experiences, which I am going to share with you now. These range from annoying to plain awful to embarrassing, but I will try to inject a sense of humor in them to make them palatable. Because humor is that one thing that helps you tide through bad times, traveling or otherwise. So here is my share of travel mishaps for your weekend read!
Travel Mishaps # 1 Missed Flight
I will start off with the grand daddy of all missed flights, hailing back to 2004 when I encountered hell with Air India on my first solo transatlantic flight from USA to India. Everything was fine till I reached Mumbai when after clearing my humongous suitcases from customs, I was barred from entering the domestic terminal due to lack of a valid ticket. My domestic flight had taken off thanks to a delayed departure from USA and Air India had failed to provide me a backup by not transferring funds to the partner airline on time. Long story short, everything that could go wrong, did so by clockwork. Air India offices closed? Check. No place to store Chewbacca sized luggage? Check. Parents bawling over the phone on the other end? Check. But despite all this I prevailed. Running like a mad woman between the two terminals (domestic and international), which by the way are anything but CLOSE to each other, I managed to flag down one sane officer who helped me board a homebound flight. Two things have endured in my memory since that day. First, the kindness of random strangers that day at the airport and second, the pledge to never ever fly with Air India. I have had several missed flight episodes to fill up an entire page since then, but nothing has ever come close to that first harrowing experience.
Travel Mishaps # 2 In-Flight Passengers
2004 was bad enough but then came 2006 when I met a very rude and very white and very mean Grandpa on my flight to you guessed it, India once again. Not sure what was going on with him; maybe he was constipated or maybe the sight of a scrawny brown girl desperately trying to stuff her luggage in the storage cabin above grossed him out, but he kept on grumbling and being very rude to me with comments like ” can’t you hurry up? Who do you think you are? See how you are holding up the entire flight? Is this what you want?” Blah, blah and more venom spewing. I narrowly averted the disaster of enduring him for the next 12 hours by spotting an empty seat and slinking away just in time, with an agreeable nod from the air hostess nearby who was silently witnessing the said Grandpa’s rants. It has been 11 years since then, but I still fail to understand why some people hate others for no rhyme or reason. Just because I look different does not make me less of a human than them. This questions is probably more pertinent in 2017 than ever before, given the political climate of the world where we are so mistrusting of each other.
Enough of this hate, let’s talk about how some “love” trumped it. Unfortunately, this was not the kind of love I was looking for, but nevertheless makes for a slightly more appetizing read. In a complete U turn of affairs, I met another white guy on a domestic flight from Chicago to Minneapolis, who could not take his eyes off me and I mean this as no flattery. I was and even now am in no zip code of a sexy siren, but I tell you this guy was all over me. So much so that it was downright uncomfortable. So much so that I kept on squirming in my seat. So much so that I still remember his exact words which go like this ” You are so cute. You are like a tiny puppy that I want to take home”. I still shudder as I recall these words. The only good thing about that flight was that it was short one.
Travel Mishaps # 3 Nose Bleed
I once missed a connecting flight in Dallas because a) I had forgotten to reset my wrist watch (yes, I wear a watch and I am that old) and b) I got a sudden nose bleed. This nose bleed thing took me quite by surprise because I am sturdy as heck on and off a flight and have never had bodily discomfort flying. So engrossed was I in stuffing my nose with tissue that the thought of running down the terminal to catch my flight took a backseat. Obviously when realization dawned, I found out that the stone hearted ground crew wouldn’t budge and let me in on the flight, although the doors were yet to be closed. I missed that flight by a whisker but managed to gross the flight staff out with my blood tainted napkins sufficiently to get me a seat on a latter one. Sometimes, the right amount of crazy helps.
Travel Mishaps # 4 Stomach Bug
Istanbul, the city of my dreams. My first international vacation destination (this was 2013). A city I had grand plans of tearing apart with my gluttonous pursuits. A city where I had pledged to gorge on kebabs and Turkish delights all day and night long. A city where I contracted a deadly stomach bug and kept throwing up at the slightest mention of food, leave alone eating some. We stayed in Istanbul for five days which were evenly divided into sightseeing and running to the loo. Plus, surviving simply on yogurt,bread and my salty tears to stay alive. That painful memory of not being able to eat almost anything in one of the most culinary diverse regions of the world haunts me, a bona-fide foodie, to this day.
Travel Mishaps # 5 Vacation Birthday
Turkey is definitely a treasure trove of comedic tragedies for me. To being with, this was our (mine and newly minted husband) first international trip together which we bumbled through with poorly etched plans. The stomach bug definitely blew the holiday up on my frowning face but there was another small incident before it which seems funny as heck in retrospect but was awful while it unraveled then. You see, we were traveling to Heirapolis and Pamukkale on my birthday and the ever thoughtful tour guide had a surprise birthday party planned for me since the tour company had copies of our passports. Except that the cake had Sriram’s (my husband) name all over it in big bold letters with the tour guide breaking into his biggest pearlies while singing “happy birthday to you Sriram” as he waltzed to our lunch table with the cake in his hands, clearly beaming with joy at his accomplishment. Imagine his horror when he saw my equally horror struck face as I laid my eyes on that travesty of an icing on the creamy concoction. On top of it, I had to follow through on the cake cutting ritual because of the bazillion apologies that the guide couldn’t get tired of uttering. I had never felt such deep misery while slicing a cake before. The only good thing about the whole saga was that the cake was delicious, never mind if it did not have my name on it after all. This reminds me that I actually have a photo from that moment as well (see below) which I need to fish out to show the Grand Canyon depth my facial expression plunged to when I saw that damn cake.
Travel Mishaps # 6 Uprising
Have any of you found yourself in the eye of political storm or a volatile political situation while visiting a new country? Well, Turkey had that in it’s kitty as well when we landed there. I am obviously not talking about some kind of extreme coup (thank goodness for that) but our visit coincided with the famous Taksim square protests in 2013 in Istanbul. The protests started off as peaceful but turned violent due to Government brutality later on. I still remember the day we landed when we saw a crowd of people merrily walking down the street while banging on pots and pans to make some noise. Little did we know then that this protest would snowball into such a potent political movement in the coming months. Thankfully, our fears were allayed since nothing much happened on the Sultanahmet side where we stayed (and where majority of the tourist attractions are located) and we did not cross the Galata bridge towards Taksim. The general atmosphere amongst Turks was that of support towards the movement (because it was against the authoritative government policies) as was ours, albeit silently. We had to give the square a miss due to the protests but I guess that gives us one more reason to return to one of my most beloved cities in the world.
Travel Mishaps # 7 A Different Kind of Breakfast
This is not a mishap per se, but more of an embarrassment since those were my early days of traveling for work and I was dining with a colleague (who is now my manager and still laughs his head off recalling this episode). The hotel where we stayed provided a breakfast buffet at $20/person with kids half off. Our bill came to $30. You guessed it, I was charged the kid’s meal. I was 32 then , yet not enough of a full grown woman to the staff:-) Clearly, I was born with it, these “youthful, money saving” genes, thanks but no thanks Maybelline! I also inadvertently booked a special needs room on that trip and stayed guilt ridden for quite some time for unknowingly doing so. Not one of my most memorable business trips for sure, and something that still makes for good recruitment dinner conversations. No matter how many laughs this incident gets, the 38 year old me is pretty happy recalling it every time I discover a new white hair or an extra crow’s feet around my eyes.
This brings me to the end of my blog post on my travel mishaps saga. I hope you could chuckle along and have recalled some of your not so pleasant travel memories that you would be OK sharing. If so, pray do tell cause I am all ears. To me, these stumbling blocks are all lessons learned in some way. A reminder of baby steps towards self discovery and how I handled these situations, in ways I never knew I could. I hope you enjoyed reading this post, so please leave some comments behind to share your experience.
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