Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Travel Disasters! (and how to handle them)

With all the vibrant travel blogs and perfect Instagram pictures out there, it's easy to forget that traveling can sometimes be hard. Things can go wrong, it's easy to get stressed out or maybe something wasn't the way it was supposed to be. You could get lost or pickpocketed or your flight could be canceled. As great as glossy pictures are, it's important to sometimes share the other side of travel, because travel disasters can happen to anyone.

For example, last April, we took a big trip through Italy and most of our problems stemmed from taking the bus. In Rome we had no idea what bus we were getting on and we took it one way, only to take another bus back the exact same way. In Sorrento we didn't know how the bus system worked and we ended up in a tiny town center, a few miles away from our hotel, with all of our bags piled up at our feet.

But the worst thing that happened was on the last leg of the trip, when we were going to Sicily. We arrived in Palermo on the ferry, at 6:30 in the morning. We needed to get down to Sciacca, a fishing town on the southern coast, where we would be staying for the next week. We knew we were supposed to take a bus, but we didn't know which bus - and for some reason, we never thought to plan ahead.

When we got off the ferry, we asked for directions to the bus station and were told that it was at the train station, which was a little ways up the street (a little ways turned out to be about a mile, but it felt like five because we were lugging all of our bags with us).

It was early Sunday morning and it looked like Palermo had had quite a Saturday night. There was trash everywhere - smashed beer bottles, napkins matted to the sidewalk, paper plates blowing around in the wind - there had been a food truck festival the night before, but it looked more like the end of the world.

We finally reached the train station, but we didn't know which bus to take and we had to ask multiple people - but everyone we asked had no clue what we were talking about. One woman told us she had absolutely no idea; a group of men debated it for so long that I thought they forgot that I was standing there - until they told me that we had to get on the train at track 1 (there was no track 1) and take it for one stop and then get off and take a bus from there; another man told us that the bus to Sciacca left from down the street but for some reason, he wouldn't tell us exactly where.

We were getting frustrated and panicky and we didn't know what to do. So we went to a cafe and had a cappuccino. And while we were there, it occurred to me that I could Google it myself (hello). It came right up on Google and it turned out that we were right around the corner from where the bus left from (which was not at the bus station, of course).

Hopefully travel disasters are few and far between, but here are three tips for handling them when they pop up:

Keep a sense of humor. It's truly not the end of the world and panicking about whatever is going wrong will only make it worse.

Ask for help. Most people will be completely willing to help you. And, as in my case, if you think they're giving you the wrong information, Google it yourself. There is so much information on the internet that you should be able to find something that can help you.

Have a glass of wine. And remember that it could make a funny story one day - in the distant future.

We'd love to hear - what's your travel disaster story?!