When travel goes wrong… well then you have a good story to tell!

When travel goes wrong… well then you have a good story to tell!


Traveling is fun and adventurous and exciting. You experience things that you never thought you could, with new people and cultures, foods, sights and sounds. Traveling makes you feel like your soul is expanding and, often, the more you do it the more you crave it. Sometimes traveling does not quite go according to plan – here are a few of my most memorable travel mishaps.

Being thrown off a train in Bangkok

When I arrived in Bangkok on my first ever solo trip to Asia I was overwhelmed with culture shock. Not only did I realise too late that I was ridiculously over-packed and that probably Koh San road was not the best area for an introverted girl to stay, I also faced the reality that language was a huge barrier. After a scary night’s stay in a dodgy hotel near Bangkok’s party street I took a taxi to the train station from where I would be traveling to Koh Tao. I bought my ticket and spent a good part of the morning reading on the platform waiting for my train.

Finally the train pulled into the station and I checked to make sure it was the correct one. I asked a staff member to confirm this even and asked him to point out the correct carriage. I then moved in the direction of the carriage he pointed at and proceeded to take my bags onto the plane. I had a traveling backpack, computer backpack and a large bag full of dive equipment to get onto the train before it departed. The next thing I knew a Thai man was yelling at me and pointing and pointing. Eventually I understood that I had to get off of the train. I got back to the platform with some of my luggage and moved to go get my dive gear- in quite a state of panic at this time- only to have the man throw my dive gear out the window for me to catch below.

Dejectedly I sat down on one of my bags, trying to hold back tears, as the train left the station- only to return about 20 minutes later. The. Exact. Same. Train. Turns out I had tried to get onto a sleeper carriage instead of the seated carriage the next one over.

If in doubt- opt for the bigger luggage option

I had a flight booked on a budget airline from Kuala Lumpur to Bali. Again traveling with a backpack and dive gear I obviously didn’t realise just how heavy my bags were and didn’t book the correct amount of luggage allowance. When I tried to check in they didn’t allow me to check my bags. Because it was less than two hours from departure time it ended up costing less to book a new flight with a higher luggage amount than to pay the luggage fees at the check-in counter.

At the time I was a budget traveller and I ended up spending 4 hours sitting on the airport floor waiting for my new flight to avoid spending a fortune on airport food and drinks just to have a place to sit and wait.

Benaue- yes, you actually do need to walk!

I spent some time in Manila and decided on a spur of the moment trip to the rice terraces in Benaue and Batad. Although I love to travel I am not the biggest fan of hiking. Or walking. Jogging is also out. Really any exercise that isn’t yoga or scuba diving, or maybe dancing is pretty much not my thing.

When we arrived in Banaue we had some breakfast and the restaurant staff came around offering trips to Batad rice terraces. They mentioned a scenic drive through the area first on a tricycle and then in a jeepney (kind of like a minivan shaped a bit like an American school bus but smaller and with two benches running down the sides of the back portion). My friend and I looked at each other and the French guy next to us and said ‘Let’s do it!’. Oh, the spontaneity of the naïve traveller’s heart…

The ride was amazing, we sat on the roof of the jeepney (because we were young and free and fearless) and soaked up the sun and scenes with equal pleasure… Until we stopped and our guide told us: ‘Ok, now we walk’. Wait, what?! But no, I heard him right, he said walk. And not just walking- hiking and climbing up and down kilometres and kilometres of rice terraces. I sweated, my legs burned and my smoker’s lungs were heaving most of the day, but man! Was this little mishap worth it, or what?!

Traveling opens up your mind and alters the way you look at things. For me, it has taught me to always expect the unexpected and that no matter how well you think you have planned in advance, there is always the possibility of bumps along the way. Learning to deal with them as they arise has taught me resilience, empowerment, and lots and lots of patience.

*A version of this article first appeared at www.zafigo.com

Juanita Pienaar

Juanita Pienaar is a citizen of the world, recently settled back down in her home country, South Africa, after spending time traveling and living in Asia and Africa. She has a passionate love affair with the ocean and loves to share that passion by teaching scuba diving. She is a yoga teacher and fully believe in finding the balance in life. She has recently discovered the joy and freedom of wearing yoga pants ‘out-and-about’. Juanita loses herself in the written and spoken word.

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