8 Times Things Have Gone Wrong While Backpacking! | Real Stories 'Behind the Instagrams'
Updated: Apr 20, 2019
The realities of travelling / backpacking aren't always as flawless as a perfectly edited Instagram photo - things do go wrong and you have to be prepared for that! But one of the greatest benefits of travelling is you learn how to solve problems and be resilient in such situations. I reflect on 8 times things didn't go right for me while I was travelling including getting caught in a natural disaster, flight delays and getting sick!
It's important to note that that I realise that how incredibly lucky I have been to be able to travel and all of these stories have just been minor inconveniences in the whole scheme of things! Travelling comes with lots of ups and downs and think it's important to share the lows and well as the highs - wether it's to laugh at, learn from or cringe at.
1. Caught in floods in China
This experience was so crazy that I actually wrote a whole blog post on it! (you can read it here). But pretty much what happened was that we arrived in a small town in rural China that was on the verge of flooding (we did not know it was on the verge of flooding us as no one spoke English to warn us). We got flooded-in at our hostel and spent the night without power, wifi, working toilets/shower and minimal food. We went to sleep that night not knowing when we would be able to get out or if we'd be able to get in contact with anyone at home!
There seemed to be no presence of authorities or the media like there would normally be during a natural disaster in Australia. So we had absolutely no clue that the town we were in was about to experience it's worst flooding in 65 years. Thankfully, the water receded the next morning and we got straight out of there!!
2. Not reaching the summit of Mt Kinabalu in Borneo
Last year I travelled to Sabah, Borneo with the goal of summiting the highest mountain in South-East Asia - 4,094m high Mt Kinabalu. The trek to the summit operates as a 2-day, 1-night climb where climbers take the first day to trek 6km to an overnight rest house at 3,272m and then begin the climb to the summit at 2:30am the next morning with the goal of watching the sunrise from the summit before climbing all the way down again.
I wrote a whole blog post detailing the experience here, but prior to our push our push to the summit the weather turned and we ended up attempting the summit in torrential rain and heavy winds. It got to the point where it was too dangerous for us to continue and our guide told us that we would have to turn back. I was also feeling the affect of altitude sickness as a result of the insanely quick, steep climb.
It was pretty disappointing to come all that way and not make it to the summit - but I learnt that I was capable of ascending 1,600m in less than 18 hours, a pretty epic achievement! I also learnt that a $5 Target rain jacket will not keep you you dry or warm in torrential rain.
Mt Kinabalu, Malaysia
3. Money crisis in India
I visited India in December 2016 and prior to my arrival, the Indian government decided to scrap their currency's 500 and 1000 rupee notes in an attempt to curb tax evasion. In India's cash-dominated society this caused a lot of problems. People were flooding to ATMs and banks in a panic to withdraw money and pretty quickly the banks and ATMs ran out of cash altogether.
We had learnt about the situation before leaving Australia but we couldn't get Indian Rupees from our local currency exchange as foreigners aren't allowed to bring rupees into India. Instead, we were advised to bring USD to India to exchange.
When we arrived in Delhi we tried all the ATMs at the airport but none of them had cash. We lined up at the currency exchange desk for around 2 hours, only to be allowed to exchange USD for 2000 rupees (just under $40 AUD). It was frustrating knowing we had money, but just couldn't access it!
The ATM next to our hotel had money in it one morning - but there was a line in front of it that snaked down the street. Thankfully, the rule for the ATM was 'ladies-first' so we were able to skip the line up and withdraw some rupees! We were also able to get some extra cash through a dodgy exchange place on the street where we swapped our USD!
4. Massive flight delay in New Zealand
At the end of a 3 week trip through New Zealand's North and South islands we celebrated with a big night out in Wellington. As our flight was 6am that next morning we decided to not sleep and just go straight to the airport. While waiting at the gate, the boarding time kept getting pushed back. First 1 hour, then 3 hours, then 8 hours, until it finally got cancelled. They announced that the plane had engine problems and we would have to return to the check in desk and collect our bags. Of course I'd way rather have the flight delayed than fly in an unsafe plane, but we were pretty exhausted by this stage!
We were thinking 'this might be good, we might get put up in a fancy hotel and get to stay for another day!' But we didn't... we got put on an Air New Zealand flight that would connect to Brisbane via Sydney at 7pm that night - 13 hours after our original flight was meant to leave! So we just had to hang around at the airport for a while longer. Virgin did give us a couple of meal vouchers, but our friends who were flying with Qantas had their flight delayed just 4 hours and received a $50 food voucher each! While Virgin only gave us x2 $10 meal vouchers for our 13 hour wait!
Thankfully, we eventually made it home to Brisbane safely - just around 18 hours later...
Thankfully Wellington airport has comfy couches!
5. Getting Sick in the Philippines
Up until the Philippines I had never gotten sick while travelling despite previously having travelled to 10 Asian countries. I was pretty confident that I knew how to avoid getting gastro - lots of hand sanitiser, not drinking the water, eating vegetarian etc. That was until during my Tao Expedition in the Philippines...
I had spent the day snorkelling and exploring incredible deserted islands and had a delicious feast for dinner of green curry, before passing out asleep in my beautiful beach hut. I woke up in the middle of the night with stomach cramps and couldn't even make it to the bathrooms before I threw up everywhere! Let's just say the green curry didn't taste as good coming up again... I spent pretty much the whole night sitting outside vomiting.
The next morning we had a 5 hour boat ride and I was not feeling good... I tried to take a sea sickness tablet but it wouldn't stay down. I vomited off the side of the boat for much of the morning. So much fun!
I started to feel a lot better in the afternoon - I found drinking Coke helped as the chemicals in the soft drink can kill the bacteria in your stomach! I was so thankful the whole ordeal lasted less than 24 hours as I've known other travellers who have picked up bugs that have lasted weeks.
I'm 100% sure the bug I had wasn't from the food as I ate the same food the rest of my Tao Expedition group ate. I have a feeling it could've been from swallowing some dodgy sea water while snorkelling - many boats in the Philippines have on-board toilets that go directly into the ocean! Gross!
6. Massive train delay in India
I was in India in 2016 on a group tour with Intrepid. The itinerary was to see the Taj Mahal in Agra then catch an overnight train to Varanasi. Varanasi was one of the places I was most excited to visit in India. It's regarded as the spiritual capital of India as many Hindu pilgrims travel to the city to bathe in the Ganges River and perform funeral rites along its banks.
However, we learnt that our train from Agra to Varanasi was delayed by 15 hours because of fog - a journey which would normally already take 15 hours! Our guide decided to make the decision that we would not go to Varanasi and instead take a 10 hour bus to the city of Rishikesh.
Although it was disappointing not to visit Varanasi, the compromise turned out pretty good! Rishikesh is another holy city in the foothills of the Himalayas beside the Ganges River. It is known as the 'yoga capital of the world' and home to the ashram where the Beatles visited in the 60's. I actually really liked Rishikesh and was glad I got the opportunity to visit!
7. Scooter accident in the Philippines
While visiting El Nido on my Philippines trip I decided to hire a scooter for the day to explore the beaches/region north of El Nido. So I paid a scooter-hire man $10 and hopped on my snazzy orange scooter after being given a 2-minute demo on how to operate it. It was my first time riding a scooter and first time driving on the opposite side of the road - but I felt pretty confident fairly quickly.
Everything was going fine and I was having a blast up until I decided to ride to Nacpan Beach. The road to Nacpan was so bad, it was super sandy, eroded and filled with pot holes. I managed okay on the way there but on the way back I fell off my scooter going downhill around a corner. I was actually going pretty slow when I stacked it but still managed to cut my left leg pretty badly and bend the side mirror of the scooter.
The worst part was that I drove all the way back to my hostel with blood pouring down my leg and when I arrived they told me they were 'fixing the water' so I couldn't have a shower - but they did help me fix the side mirror of the scooter! I returned the scooter early as I'd had enough!
El Nido, Philippines
Nacpan Beach, El Nido, Philippines
8. Sweltering in Australia
My sister and I were road-tripping down the East coast from Brisbane to Sydney when the aircon broke in her car. Each day it was between 30-40 degrees and we were absolutely sweltering! But nevertheless, it gave us an excuse to stop-off at the beach as much as we could to cool down!
Lennox Heads, Australia
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You can read more of my crazy travel adventures right here on my blog!