It is an impossibly optimistic belief that nothing can go wrong while you are travelling. Even with the upmost care and caution, you’re bound to find yourself in a sticky situation at least once during a trip, and this can have the potential to ruin your entire experience. I’ve had plenty of unfortunate incidents occur during my travels, and I’ve learnt when things go wrong overseas, the most important thing you can do is stay cool, calm and collected. Far easier said than done, mind you, but it’s the only thing that will help a situation that is beyond your control. Here are a few mishaps I’ve encountered over the years….
THE PASSPORT INCIDENT
When I first moved into my dorm room at the University of Colorado at Boulder during my study abroad experience, it was completely, utterly flooded. I was lucky enough to have snagged a single room, but unfortunately the universe decided to throw me a test of patience on that first day just for laughs, I’m sure. Cheers for that, universe! Anyway, the carpeted rug on my floor was completely saturated thanks to my leaking air conditioner. Calmly, I advised my residential advisor straight away, and was assured that the problem would be solved that afternoon. Sure enough, I went back to my dorm a few hours later and had a brand new, dry carpet rug, and was told that the air conditioner was fixed. So I then unpacked my stuff, set up the room and happily began to settle into my new home.
BYE, BYE PASSPORT
That afternoon, I left the dorm to go to orientation, and arrived home a few hours later to find the room completely flooded again, despite the fact that my air conditioner had supposedly been fixed. Frustrated, I went back down to my RA and after apologising profusely, he got the maintenance guy to come back and fix the problem once and for all… Or so I thought. The next morning, my second replacement carpet was saturated, but this time something else had happened. Something much worse than a wet carpet in a dorm room. You see, my handbag was sitting on the floor next to my bed, a good few metres from the troublesome air conditioner. Yet the flooding had inched across the entire floor, and had well and truly soaked my handbag. Hey, it’s a handbag, what’s the big deal? Well, the big deal was the fact that my handbag was the current home of the single most important travel document you can have when you’re overseas – your passport.
It was ruined. Waterlogged and damaged beyond recognition, I threw it across my tiny dorm room and broke down in tears. I’d been in Colorado for less than a week and I had already managed to ruin the one thing I was supposed to keep safe. After a decent cry and a few breakdowns to friends and family over Skype, I decided that I needed to move on and focus on fixing the problem. I had my mum express post the necessary documents required for obtaining a new passport overseas (then had to anxiously guard both my mum’s and my own birth certificate for the next six drunken months), I booked flights to the nearest Australian Consulate (which was in California), and tried my best to relax about the entire situation.
FIXING THE PROBLEM
A couple of weeks later, I got up at the crack of dawn, flew to Los Angeles, replaced my ruined passport at the Australian Consulate, killed a few hours at Santa Monica Pier, then flew back home to Colorado that evening. It was a stressful day, but when it was over I felt nothing but relief. Sure, it was an inconvenient and frustrating situation, but I didn’t let it ruin my experience. Although my air conditioner never flooded my room again, I kept my passport safety tucked away on the highest shelf in my room.
ALWAYS DOUBLE CHECK YOUR DATES
When you’re studying abroad and you’re drunk 90% of the time, there are bound to be a few mishaps. For example, I was planning a trip over the Thanksgiving break to visit the University of Massachusetts, where my mate Holly was studying abroad at the same time. Layla, another friend who was studying at the University of Miami, was also meeting us in Boston. I was then flying to Miami with Layla for a week, then flying back to Colorado – so I had to book three separate flights. Excitedly, I booked all my flights in a haste before heading for a night out, eager not to miss a second of the pre-drinking we did almost every night anyways. What I didn’t realise was that I’d actually booked one of my flights for the completely wrong date.
REALISING MY MISTAKE
I didn’t realise my mistake until about a month before I was supposed to fly to Boston, when I got an email from Southwest Airlines wondering why I hadn’t checked into my flight. Confused, I looked up my flight information and came to the horrible realisation that I’d booked my flight from Miami to Denver a month early. I quickly looked up flights and wanted to cry when I realised that they were now twice the price. Again, in a river of tears, I had a breakdown at my absolute stupidity.
Despite my idiotic mistake, after I’d paid the money (which turned out to be nearly $500 for a one-way flight between Miami and Denver), I moved on. A month later, I set off on the trip and although I still felt like an idiot, I was over it because, to put it simply, there was nothing I could do about it.
On a recent trip to Bali, my mate Samantha experienced one of the worst things that can go wrong when you’re travelling – a stolen credit card. It was our first day in Seminyak, and we’d just finished having brunch when Sam went for a quick walk to the ATM to get some cash. We’re not entirely sure what happened, but she either left her card in the machine or dropped it somewhere along the way back, but a few hours later when we were getting ready to head to the beach bars for sunset drinks, she realised that it was gone.
Staying calm, we helped her check every inch of her luggage, before moving onto our own luggage and the rest of the villa. We searched everywhere, but her pink credit card was nowhere to be found. Then we checked her online banking. Looking at the screen in horror, we saw that over $4,000 had been stolen from her account.
Of course, there were tears. There was plenty of swearing, too. Sam, however, calmed down and did what she had to do; she called her partner back home in Australia, who got in touch with the bank, and she cancelled her card and transferred all her funds into another account. She also had a few beers, because if you’re going to have $4,000 stolen from you on the first day of your holiday, you may as well be drunk. Sam handled the situation like a champion. If it had been me, I wouldn’t have been quite so calm, I’m sure. We ended up going to the beach bars that night, just like we planned, and had a really good time, because Sam refused let it ruin her night, or her trip.
WHEN THINGS GO WRONG OVERSEAS
At the end of the day, shit happens. You might ruin or lose your passport, and you might get your credit card stolen or book flights for the wrong dates without realising. Things are bound to go wrong, because that’s life. The only things you can do is try to stay calm, do everything you can to rectify the situation, then sit back and relax, because there’s nothing else you can do about it. Except maybe have a beer, or ten.
What’s the worst thing that’s happened to you when you were overseas?