12 Women On The One Thing That Went Wrong When They Traveled For The First Time
Traveling for the very first time isn't just exciting, but oftentimes nerve-racking. Whether you're traveling from one state to another, or making the jump from your home country to a country where you don't know a single word of the local language, there's a whole boatload of feelings, expectations, and even a bit of fear involved. And, of course, there's always the risk that something will go wrong when you're traveling.
The first time I traveled abroad, I went to Paris. I had done an apartment swap (this was before Airbnb) with a couple and because this was also before the release of the iPhone, I only had a paper map they gave me with the address, which was a passage and not an actual street. I wandered around le Marais at 8 a.m. with two heavy bags for over an hour trying to find the passage. When I finally found it, I realized that the code to get into the building was wrong, so I had to sit on my luggage for a few hours and wait until it was an appropriate time to call the couple, since Paris is six hours ahead of New York. Needless to say, I cried the whole time, swearing I'd never travel alone again. But, of course, I did and those three months in Paris changed me forever.
Travel snafus are just a risk you take every time you get on a plane to go someplace else. From little blips to big catastrophes, here are 12 women on the one thing that went wrong the first time they traveled.
1. Ahlam, 26
"Last year I went to an island in the Philippines called Boracay. All alone I traveled from Akron, Ohio. After my time on the island I was on my way back Manila, Philippines when someone swiped my passport out of my bag. I found out when I was checking into my (sketchy) hotel at 2:00 a.m. I was supposed to be getting back to the U.S. the next day for a new job as a NICU nurse. I went to the U.S. Embassy at 5:00 a.m. and waited in the emergency passport line. No one spoke English and I was running around Manilla for 10 straight hours working to get my emergency passport. I booked a $1,300 flight back home not knowing if I was going to have my passport in time, but I did. The day was long and a blur. I was just amazed that I could get a passport as fast as I did in another country and make it back in time to start my new job. It really made me feel like I could do anything... and I can."
2. Jessica, 24
"The first time I travelled alone, happened to be the first time I left the country (for study abroad). While I was pretty lucky with my weekend trips throughout that semester, my return trip home for Christmas was an absolute nightmare. The night before my flight home, we got notified that something went wrong with the computers at Heathrow Airport and all flights the next day were cancelled — I had a connecting flight stopping there. I was up all night trying to figure out a new way home and when I finally got to the airport with a new flight, they had no record of me. To make matters worse, I didn’t have access to a phone with an international plan so I was left sobbing in the airport until just moments before my flight when someone found my boarding pass in the system."
3. Lucie, 51
"I was five years old... [flying] from NYC heading to Martinique. I was terrified. I'd never been on a plane before. My aunt assured me I'd be OK, but it wasn't. I walked in that massive plane, found my seat and, before I sat, I passed out cold! Apparently it was from sheer fear and fright. Now, at 51, I laugh about it, but it was one super scary moment in my young life!"
4. Nicole, 30
"Almost two years ago, my husband and I went on our honeymoon to Bali and fell in love with it... When we arrived I had the week from hell. One thing after another went wrong. It started one day when I lost a family heirloom necklace, then the next day I got into a motorbike accident, then the next day I got scammed by a bank teller who stole $300. then to top it all off the next day I got “Bali Belly” (aka BAD food poisoning)."
5. Karolina, 27
"My first trip overseas was to Thailand in 2014, when I was 23 years old. After 48 hours of traveling I finally arrived to Bangkok, exhausted. I was really happy to go through the customs and get into the air conditioning taxi. Unfortunately, I wasn't lucky. My driver got lost and told me to leave the car and find the hotel by myself because 'it must be somewhere close'. Tired, with a heavy backpack, I felt completely lost. I was in the foreign country with nowhere to go. Fortunately, one guy approached me asking if I needed help. He walked me to my hotel, that turned out to be just around the corner."
6. Angel, 48
"In 2007, my family of five traveled to Italy for the first (and only) time. We took a train from Rome to Tuscany. We had never travelled by train before, though we have a light rail commuter system in Denver, we quickly discovered, it’s not the same. We were approaching our stop, and as soon as the train came to a full and complete stop, we got up, recovered our suitcases from the bins above and started to make our way to the door. Before we got there, the train started to move again! We had missed our stop because we were following the rules of 'airplane' travel — stay seated until the plane comes to a full and complete stop and the seatbelt sign lights up. Our next stop was about 15 minutes further up the track. We expected to hop on the next train going back, but the next train heading the opposite direction didn’t come for another hour and a half. From then forward, we are always standing at the door and ready to depart as soon as the train stops and doors open."
7. Autumn, 29
"After college, my friend and I took a month to travel around Europe. It was the first trip abroad for both of us. We stayed at an Airbnb for our first stop in Italy, an Airbnb that my friend booked. My friend messed up the dates for when we were supposed to leave, so the owners of the flat came home and we were still there and of course the apartment was a mess because we didn’t think we were leaving until the following day. Luckily, after they lectured us about the mess, the owners let us stay that night even though they were back, but it was really awkward and embarrassing. It got the whole month started on the wrong foot."
8. Krista, 36
"Ever since I moved out to California, my dad and I started a tradition of taking a trip together every year, or at least every other year, together. Over the years we've made it to loads of fun places like Alaska, Cambodia, Egypt, Iceland, Vietnam, etc. Our first big trip out of the country together was to New Zealand. I was super excited and decided to stay up late that evening. I went to the gym and then began packing (thinking I may as well wear myself out, so I would conk out during the long 13-hour flight the next day). At some point during my late-night packing frenzy, I lost my wallet. I tore through my closet, opened every zippered pocket in my jackets, etc. looking for it. Our flight was leaving early in the morning, so I thought maybe I left it at the gym before I started packing. I stayed up, waited until the exact moment the gym opened, and swung down there to see if the wallet got left behind in a locker or something. No such luck. I was super stressed about the fact that I had just taken cash for the trip out of the ATM (so that money was now long gone), my driver's license, debit card and credit card were all in there too, but thankfully I hadn't lost my passport. The good news is that since I was traveling with my dad, he was cool with loaning me money during the trip and at least I had my passport, so I could at least still take the flight and this trip we'd been planning for months. Flash forward a few years later and I'm moving out of my apartment. What do I find? The long lost wallet. I had stashed it in a different bag. Inside was the money from the ATM I had withdrawn, my old driver's license and everything intact. I immediately called my dad when I found it and we had a good chuckle about me finding it years later and also all the great memories we made during that adventure to New Zealand."
9. Alexa, 27
"I was flying out to head to London for my school’s study abroad program. When I got to the airport I asked one of the workers if the line I was in was the right one and he confirmed. Over an hour of me waiting in line the guy then comes back and tells me I am in the wrong line and at this point my flight was 15 minutes from boarding and I still hadn’t checked in or checked my luggage. I started having a panic attack and broke down crying in the middle of the airport. One of the airport executives saw me and came over to help. She rushed me to the front of the line to check my luggage (it was obviously overweight but she convinced them to just let me go). Then she drove me in a cart through security straight to my gate. All of this while wearing six inch heels!"
10. Fabiana, 23
"In 2014 I spent a couple of months in Edinburgh, Scotland for a study abroad program. After the program ended I went to Portugal and was going to make my way to Spain. At the time I was in Lisbon, Portugal, the Lisbon airport was under a complete remodel, meaning, that there was no AC, there were no shuttles, and there was dust everywhere. The airport was so large that you [had to] go through security twice and it's a 40-minute walk between these checkpoints. They also don't let you open your bags on your own, they open your bags for you, pull the contents out, examine, and then put them back themselves. You are not allowed to touch anything. Additionally, I was jet lagged, hungry, and super tired. I made it through the first, then the second, and barely made it to my flight to Spain as it was boarding. On the sky bridge I realized my carry-on felt light and that's when I noticed that I FORGOT MY LAPTOP AT THE SECOND CUSTOMS LOCATION. I got to the plane, told the airline what happened and they let me know that due to the distance I would miss my flight. I ran to customs and they made me give an account and tested me for like 30 minutes. ... Then I ran back and had to negotiate another flight with the airline. They were incredibly kind and helpful despite the fact that I was an upset 19-year-old who was trying to deal with the recklessness of leaving my laptop plus the extra fees and more. In the end I arrived to Seville, Spain five hours later. I had my laptop, but I definitely left some of my dignity at that airport."
11. Stacey, 54
"It was my first time traveling abroad. Keep in mind, this was the stone ages, 1987, way before cell phones and the internet. I was part of a college study-abroad group that was based in Tuscany for the summer. Naturally, the first thing I wanted to do upon arriving was phone home to let my parents (who were on pins and needles) know I'd arrived safely. The only mode of quick communication at that time was the bank of phone booths at the town's international phone center. Though I'd taken a six-week course in basic Italian prior to arriving, I was by no means even semi-fluent, but I had no choice but to give it a shot. I listened to the instructions and information on pricing given to me by the woman at the counter, hopped in a phone booth, and spent the next 10 minutes or so chatting with my relieved parents. When I went back to the desk to pay, I was horrified to discover I completely got the pricing wrong and owed about 10 times what I thought the cost would be and I didn't have enough lire [Italy's currency at the time] in my wallet to cover the bill. Frantically wondering if I'd be thrown in the slammer, I cobbled my way through a sentence, told her I needed to find my professor (fluent in Italian) and get the mess straightened out. She must have taken pity on my pitiful Italian because she let me go and I spent the next 45 minutes scouring the cobblestone streets of the village until I found the professor, who straightened the whole thing out. As an American, it was extremely humbling for me to have the shoe on the other foot and try to get by on an unfamiliar language. It gave me a whole new level of respect for whose who leave their homeland for the USA. [It's] not as easy as it looks."
12. Alexandra, 27
"The first major trip my husband and I took together was our week long honeymoon cruise to the Caribbean. After the wedding, we immediately went home to our apartment so I could finish packing for the trip we had to leave at 6 a.m. for. I packed separate bags for all of my daytime clothes, my evening/lingerie/swimsuits, and my shoes/cosmetics. In the morning my husband packed all our bags into the car, and we drive to our port of call. Around eight hours later, we pull up to the terminal just in time to board and start quickly unloading bags from the back of the car. My husband gets to the last bag and I notice something isn’t right. One of my bags is missing. I turn to him and ask if he forgot one of my bags. Of course he denies it, but it turns out it had gotten left at home. In such a rush to pack that morning, I couldn’t remember which bags had which items and start tearing through them. The bag he forgot was the most important one of all: all of my daytime clothing. We yell back and forth, throw out a few curse words and tears, and run as quickly as we can to a gift shop across the street to pick up a sundress for me to wear over my bathing suits. Even though it ruined the first day of our trip, it turned into a hilarious story to tell on the boat to all the older couples buying us drinks. Funny enough, to this day he still denies me ever telling him to grab that specific bag to put into the car."
As Anthony Bourdain so eloquently put it, "As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks — on your body or on your heart — are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt." While that's the case, in the end, the good and bad will be worth it for the adventures that come with traveling.