This is not a proper travel story nor is it one of those advisory columns telling you the twelve things you need to know when buying bus tickets in Argentina. This is more of a cautionary tale that I hope will be a useful story for all concerned. Don’t worry, I made it out alive and well but I learnt a big lesson about travelling that has stood me in good stead ever since.
A few years ago, when I was a student with little sense and even less cash, I decided to travel to Europe on my own. I had scraped together a few thousand dollars for flights and planned to work my way down from London to Rome over the course of a month to stop at all the big tourist attractions along the way.
I was not completely green though and before I set off I had a long chat with a friend who had done a similar trip the year before. She gave me some very good advice, most of which I ignored, but some of which I took to heart. Most importantly, I listened to her recommendation to get a travel insurance quote. In the end I decided to buy some very modest coverage just in case worst came to worst.
A few weeks later I arrived in London. I had plans to contact a mutual acquaintance to stay with for a few days while I found my feet, but when I arrived my mobile phone wasn’t working. I had made sure global roaming was activated but for some reason it wasn’t working. I was more angry than nervous at this point, because I had cleverly written down their contact numbers in my notebook that was in my luggage.
My luggage, of course, was lost.
This was an unpleasant situation. I had people waiting for my call, but no way to reach them. I had travel insurance, but the paperwork was in my lost bag. I had no idea where I would stay that evening so I couldn’t leave a forwarding address for my bag with the airline and my carry-on bag had more duty-free booze than spare clothing in it. On the plus side I had my passport my credit card safely with me.
In the end I was rescued my new friends in London. They called the airport when I failed to call them and an airline rep found me waiting morosely at the lost baggage counter. A week later my bag was delivered and the travel insurance covered my unplanned for expenses. In retrospect it was a storm in a teacup, but it scared me straight about travelling unprepared.
The most important lesson of this story is to always have a back-up plan. In fact, have a back-up plan for your back-up plan. Travelling is by its nature an unpredictable endeavour and if you don’t have a few alternative plans ready to go you will soon find yourself stuck and in trouble. The other big lesson is to never put anything in your checked luggage that you can’t afford to lose.
I hope my tale of inexperience and woe will help you avoid coming unstuck. Safe travels!