It’s easy to look at someone’s Instagram/social media account who is traveling and just think that they either 1. Travel to places on a whim and 2. Have a ton of money. From someone who has spent the past 4 months traveling, what you may not know is the constant planning that goes on behind the scenes, and the hours that I’ve sat on my butt – currently 122 hours and counting.
Currently as I am typing this, I am sitting at the airport in the city of Manila in the Philippines… I’ve been waiting for 8 hours so far to board my plane for San Francisco. This is the hottest airport I’ve been to because there is almost no AC. Thank goodness there’s wifi, but I still feel like I’m trapped in a box here. The terminal I’m in is pretty small – there’s one duty free shop, and only a couple of plane gates. I couldn’t imagine being here any longer. (On the other hand, the Singapore airport is on point. I watched Inception in a mini movie theatre before boarding the plane.)
I do have long layovers, but at least I am able to get up and walk around the airport. Bus rides are different – I get stiff from the crunched position that I have to hold. The longest bus ride that I was on this past summer was going from Berlin, Germany to Lille, France. It was 14 hours and yes, we had a couple of stops where we had to get off so the bus driver could take a break, but most people called me crazy for taking that bus. The bus went smoothly, and I continued traveling without any hiccups – until I was trying to fly from Europe to Asia.
I had a 7am flight, and I had taken a bus at 4am to London Gatwick so that I would be at the airport early. I was at the gate getting ready to board my EasyJet flight to Moscow (then to Taipei on a separate flight) when the flight attendant checking for visas told me I couldn’t go on the plane. Wait… what visa? I didn’t know I needed a visa. I was only going to be in the airport for 4 hours for a layover.
Read the fine print. We are a point to point airline, which means you need a transit visa for Russia. Your ticket is nonrefundable. We can’t help you.
I started bawling.
I felt so frustrated with myself – for trying to save money from buying two separate tickets in the beginning, but made a mistake, so ended up having to spend even more. So what did I do? I didn’t want to go to the US embassy and wait a couple of days to get a visa. I just bought a new ticket to go to Taiwan that was 12 hours later at a different airport in London. Pretty expensive, but I was so relieved and thankful that I had the funds to get to where I needed to go.
I felt so homesick that day, and so helpless. Money stresses me out immensely. I guess if I had an unlimited amount of money, I could have hopped on another plane at a better time, but I still tried to find a decent priced ticket (It ended up being $780.) No one could help me, but some strangers did provide some emotional support. They made me laugh and we had a brief conversation. It made me realize that it’s important to take a moment to breathe, when you’re going through a stressful situation.
That incident made me wonder “do other travelers ever experience mess-ups like this?” Probably. But you just never hear about it. Ask those questions, and maybe you’ll be surprised with their responses. It’ll give them a chance to be vulnerable and reflect on their travel experiences. Hey, you might even save yourself from making an expensive travel mistake.