This is a guest post written by Neil from Backpacks and Bunkbeds
Not everyone is as lucky as some of us and are able to travel the world – we have little to complain about.
On occasions, however, there will be an experience so hideous that you’ll wonder if it’s worth it, whether being back in your own bed at home would be the better option.
In short, no its not, man up and appreciate that it can’t all be handed to you on a plate. Sometimes it’s hard work, you have to earn your stripes.
Here are some of those times I’ve had to dig deep.
Coach from Madurai to Pondicherry, India 2006
My first ever overnight coach experience. It seemed simple enough, get on the bus, go to sleep, wake up at your chosen destination. Easy.
I’d just arrived in India and was starting my volunteer project, so what better way to get to know the other volunteers than sleep with them?
Sleep is easy when a coach is gently rocking along the road, lights out, all quiet.
Sleep is not easy when the back window of your coach falls out an smashes on the road behind you.
A sudden chill hit us as the night air came rushing in. The driver, obviously none too bothered by this, continued onwards, awaiting the next part of the bus to fall off. It didn’t take too long.
Around 2am and we came to a holt. The natives on the bus quickly grabbed their things jumped off the bus and onto another that was passing. This included the driver.
We stood, watched and then looked at one another – should we be on that new bus too? Why did they leave us? What now?
It turned out that the engine had blown, and we were now stranded. It was a bit like a scene from a horror film, we were sitting ducks, just waiting to be picked off one by one in the darkness.
Calls were made to our liaison back in Madurai, and after 2 hours of sitting on a cold bus, a replacement bus of sorts did eventually turn up, this bus looked like a mobile pole dancing club.
Shag carpeting ran throughout and Austin Powers sprang to mind, dare I say it, groovy!
After our weekend in Pondicherry we were all a little nervous to be making the trip back to Madurai again, especially when we saw our original bus waiting for us, complete with patched up back window and a ‘new’ engine.
We couldn’t have written the script any better if we tried.
Flight from Manna Island to Vorovoro, Fiji 2007
Travel romances are hard, there’s almost always a point where you have to say goodbye to one another, tearfully promising you’ll see each other as soon as you get home.
Teary eyed, I boarded a boat that would take me back to the Fijian main land.
Hard as it was, the trip was not made any easier due to our previous night together. 1 am we were awoken, the rest of our guesthouse too.
It seems that the previous days bbq had not sat well with any of us. There was only one toilet and a limited supply of toilet paper…you do the math.
Heart broken and jacked up on Imodium, the flight on my 10 seater plane to a remote Fijian island was an assault on my bodily senses. Luckily the island awaiting me was a paradise, making the trip worth it.
Train from Wroclaw to Krakow, Poland 2010
Before we left London, we’d pre-booked out train tickets from Wroclaw to Krakow. It all seemed simple enough, the journey was cheap, with no changes and took just 4 hrs.
We had a bit of trouble finding the right platform, but a station worker kindly showed us to the right place in return for ‘wonga’ as he put it. So far, none to shabby.
What we didn’t equate for in this journey was the Saturday football.
Now I go to the football in the UK regularly, and yes it gets fairly busy on the trains. What I don’t see on my way to White City station however is riot police with shields, shotguns and dogs.
The train I get to football isn’t full of balaclava weaning, wider than taller, skin head, tattooed, scary as fu*k Polish hooligans either, who crack off flares and bust into intimidating chorus at every stop on the way to their chosen destination.
Nothing in life will prepare you for letting an old lady off a train only for the next person after her to be balaclava clad and screaming ‘f*ck the police’.
At this point I think we all thought we might have made a small mistake in getting the train. It could be a long 4 hours.
On the train the first hour or so was tense.
We all sat looking out the window or at the ground, basically anywhere but into the eyes of the hooligans who would no doubt start throwing bricks at us any minute.
Then it happened, one of them spoke to me. I was stupid and looked in their direction and caught his eye, the horror.
‘Smoke?’, that was all that was said to me.
‘Sorry’ I said and patted my pockets to signal that they were empty of cigarettes. They did contain my wallet, passport, ipod and phone, but I wasn’t telling him that.
‘English?’ was the next question, my stomach dropped.
‘Yep’ I replied, trying to sound vaguely friendly … and that was it, we were in a conversation of sorts.
After 3 hours of so the footy fans got ready to get off the train, this was it. If they were ever going to kill us, it would be now. We held our breath.
15 minutes later, we burst into fits of nervous laughter. That story still comes out every time we go for a drink.
Boat from Ko Pha Ngan to Kao Samui, Thailand 2008
Full moon parties, half moon parties, no moon parties, I love any kind of moon related party!
Arriving back at our hostel after another epic party, my friends and I knew that we had just 1 hour before we had to be at the docks to catch our boat back to Kao Samui, just 1 hour. So what did we do? Sleep obviously.
I awoke to a loud hammering of our door, unsteadily I made my way to said door and opened it.
‘Oh, you’re still here’ said Lucy, one of the girls we’d been out with the night before, ‘Haven’t you got a boat to catch?’.
I swept the vicinity for my phone which held the time …oh dear’. Our boat left in 6 minutes, allowing for Thai time, maybe 30 minutes at most.
I woke Dan, then Carl and urged them to pack their bags as quickly as possible.
Last ones on the boat and only slightly holding up its departure, we slumped to the floor and tried to close our eyes.
At this point the wind decided to pick up, the boat rocked back and forth, back and forth, my stomach went back and forth, back and forth. I felt I was on the verge of death.
Dan later decided to tell me that our alarm had indeed gone off as planned, and that I’d gotten up, turned the alarm off and gone back to sleep.
“Why didn’t you get up and stop me?” was my question,
“I thought I might have been dreaming,” he replied.
The Samsung buckets strike again!
Coach and Ferry from Prague to London, 2010
Due to the Icelandic Volcano eruption in April 2010, myself and two friends found ourselves stranded in Munich with seemingly very few ways of making our way back to London.
Sitting in our hostel bar we counted how much money we had between us. It amounted to little over 5 Euros. Those Euros were swiftly spent on a beer to calm our nerves.
A trepid phone call to work followed. Would we be docked wages? Sacked even?
We couldn’t even tell them when we’d be home by. As it turned out it wasn’t a problem, being unprecedented, work didn’t really know what to say apart from ‘get home safe’.
All of a sudden the guilt was gone and our trip extended. Credit card ahoy, we were on a coach to Prague the next morning.
Another weeks (ish) adventures followed, but our travels soon had to come to an end and we eventually had found a means of getting home, a bus from Prague to London. Oh dear god!
At 6ft 2’ I’m not a fan of coaches, I even struggle on London buses. The thought of 24hrs on one left me in cold sweats.
We boarded at Prague central bus station along with masses of other tired travellers, trying to figure which coach looked the most comfortable.
On first evidence it looked as though we’d done ok. We had a couple of empty seats around us, providing some most welcome leg room. This might not be too bad. Ipod set to shuffle and I closed my eyes.
2 hours later we were stopping.
Why were we stopping?
To fill the empty seats obviously, eek! What to do though. Should we stay in the same seats or move to the back where we could all sit next to one another? We chose the latter, mistake!
Sods law, we ended up with two young children in front of us who one minute couldn’t sit still, and the next wouldn’t stop crying.
Their parents were just as bad, watching films on their laptop so that it was never dark enough nor quiet enough to be able to doze off and get some much needed shut eye. Their film choices were awful too.
Every 5 hours we would stop and be told to use the toilets and eat McDonald’s. There’s only so much McD’s that one can eat.
Road…service station… road…service station. It was like going around on the world’s worst carousel.
After what felt like a lifetime we eventually made it to Calais and onto the ferry, a chance to get some fresh air and stretch our legs at least, if only.
We spent our time on the ferry dodging overactive school children who couldn’t comprehend our plight and exhaustion. We took refuge under a flight of stairs.
Back on the coach at Dover, it seemed only a matter of time before we were home and clean. We didn’t, however, equate for London traffic which took 2 hours to navigate.
We then had a separate hour long coach journey from Victoria bus Station to Hillingdon to make. LONG!
Next time, I’m just waiting it out in Prague and catching a plane.
I can look back on these now and laugh, they’re great stories I can tell my friends and made me appreciate all the great parts of my adventures that much more.
I’m not trying to put people off by writing this, I just think stories like these are amusing. You think you’ve had it bad, I’m betting someone else has had it worse. Let’s hear yours …
Neil is a young (ish) London lad with a passion for all things travel. He got ‘the travel bug’ having first volunteered as a sports coach in South Africa in 2005. This led to more volunteering in both India and Sri Lanka the following year before a round the world trip lasting 11 months followed in 2006/07.
Over the last couple of years his efforts have been concentrated on seeing all that Europe has to offer, including an inter-rail trip in April 2010. 2011 has seen no less travel, Scotland and Ireland already ticked off, Greece and a return to Poland soon to follow.
All his journal entries can travel tips can be found on his blog site – http://www.backpacksandbunkbeds.co.uk/, or you can read his daily ramblings by following him on twitter http://twitter.com/packsandbunks .