6 unexpected events to anticipate when you travel the world
Phone battery: OK.
Yet you know it, you feel it: you're missing something.
You look at your suitcase with an inquisitive eye, as if it's going to answer you. "Come on, spit it out, what did I forget to take?"
We all know that frustrating moment, but what if I told you something even worse exists?
OK, you may have left your flip-flops at home (which can be a tragedy when you go to Asia and the showers flood the bathroom), but you can always buy some once you get there.
On the other hand, the unforeseen, last-minute changes, the blows of fate have no fallback solution that you can find in a market or a grocery shop.
It's up to you to react, to adapt and to make sure that everything goes well despite this last-minute twist of fate!
From a water leak in your AirBnb to an earthquake (yes, I have experienced an earthquake in Japan), many unforeseen events can disrupt your trip, even if you have prepared for it thoroughly.
I agree with you: an unexpected event is, by definition, unpredictable.
Nevertheless, some are more common than others and it is therefore important to prepare for them as best as you can, especially when you travel solo and you can only rely on yourself to deal with them.
Travelling alone is a great experience: you learn a lot about yourself, especially from the different twists and turns you may experience during your stay.
So, are you ready to experience 6 unexpected events that happen more frequently than you think when you travel the world ?
1st unexpected event when you travel the world: the blow of the breakdown... of an aircraft
So no, I'm not talking about a plane crash because unfortunately, this unforeseen event has very few immediate solutions.
I'm talking about the countless problems you can encounter once you get to the airport.
A cancelled flight? A delayed flight? An untraceable plane? Every problem has its solution.
Pay attention when booking your flights
When you book your connecting flights, take at least 2 hours off: for convenience first, so you don't have to run through crowded airport spaces looking for the next boarding gate.
Then for safety, because if you miss your plane due to the prior one... the time it takes to find a solution with the airline at fault, you will be well behind schedule.
Arriving early at the airport
You will have time to manage everything in case of a last-minute change.
Frankly, I'd rather wait 3 hours in an airport with free wifi and restaurants where I can eat than miss my flight!
Take the time to look for your flight number
Yes, I've already waited for my plane in the wrong place and finally had to run with my 7kg bag on my back (thanks to Sylvie's advice) in search of the right boarding gate.
In my defence, the flight number was (almost) the same and it was the same airline, at the same time, for the same destination... How was I supposed to know that there were two different flights to Tokyo?
So I went through a real Survivor mood to finally manage to board just in time.
Don't be like me: take the time to pay attention to the (countless) numbers and letters of the flight number, and to detail the flight boards.
No need to grumble against the company's employees: save your energy to find a solution with them.
Anyway, in case of flight cancellation or delay, the company is obliged to offer you another solution... And to pay you for the hotels if the departure is postponed for a few days.
Homesharing can be the best solution: firstly for the quality of the food served in general, but also for the comfort and help provided in case of a glitch.
Be careful what you eat
So yes, I recommend tasting local specialities in my travel advice for a solo trip, and I still think that eating typical dishes is important when you travel the world. But just because you want to try local food doesn't mean you should eat anything and everything.
First, it is important to eat well cooked food and to avoid what is raw. Tap water should also be avoided: favour plastic water bottles.
If, like me, you don't like the idea of plastic, you can bring a water bottle and buy tablets that can filter any water.
Bring your medicines
My medicine kit is always one of the first things I put in my suitcase before I travel the world, simply because if I have a headache or heartburn, I have something with me right away to relieve my pain without wondering how I am going to get through the next three hours of visiting.
If you have allergies, this is all the more important. And don't forget bandages and some saline solution to disinfect any wounds.
Find out about local emergency numbers beforehand
The fire brigade, ambulances... You will most likely be surrounded by people who can handle the emergency for you, but it is always better to be prepared.
That is why it is also important to have good insurance. Otherwise, breaking your foot in Myanmar can quickly become expensive.
Unexpected event n°3: money doesn't make you happy... Especially when you lose some
Between incomprehensible conversion rates where missing a zero means losing a few hundred euros, the theft of money that can be a blow to your morale or a refusal of payment that blocks you at the hotel, money can cause many unforeseen problems when you travel the world.
It would be a shame to have planned to travel alone and finally have to cancel your trip because of your clumsiness...
Speaking of clumsiness: I remember my trip to London where I had paid for an unlimited transport card. I put this in the same pocket as my credit card.
Conveniently, the two cards always stayed together without me taking them out!
But did you know that the London Underground turnstiles also work with the contactless debit card?
So, which card do you think also paid for each of my underground journeys?
Yes, it was my dear debit card!
NEVER PUT YOUR TRANSPORT CARD WITH YOUR BANK CARD IN LONDON.
Sorry, it had to come out. More seriously :
Take the time to convert every price you're going to pay in euros (or you local money)
This will allow you to understand exactly how much you are spending.
Mental calculations are good for the mind, but even if you are good at maths, it's better not to risk your savings on a small conversion error.
Always have with you larger amounts of cash than your budget
The credit card is extremely useful but also has its limits.
While you’re abroad for example, if your card gets blocked, you have no time to contact your bank and fix the problem. You are stuck with nothing to do.
Foreign currency charges are also sometimes very high and you end up spending almost 10% of your budget on currency conversion only.
In fact, since you have a large amount of cash, it's best to distribute its value in different places.
For example you can put the planned amount of cash you’re going to spend for the day in the purse.
In case of theft, you'll be glad you only lost part of your budget.
Unexpected event n°4: attending your phone’s funeral
I think it's the eventuality that stresses me out the most, because personally, I have everything on my phone: my tickets, my reservations, my family's contacts, my camera, not to mention the translators, the GPS, access to my bank account...
So when I got out of the plane (the one I almost missed) at Tokyo airport and saw my mobile phone screen turning pink, I almost had a heart attack (yes, a lot happened to me on my way to Japan).
Luckily, my phone survived the stroke and started working again after an hour.
Since then I have been thinking of different ways to deal with this unfortunate eventuality when I travel the world.
They don't take up any space and will save you in case of a hard blow.
All you have to do is insert your SIM card and you're done.
Then, of course, you won't have access to the internet... But at least you can keep in touch with your accommodation and your loved ones.
Ask a local for advice
Explain the situation to your hotel or to your host. They will somehow have access to the internet and you will be able to retrieve your important documents with them and print out your various reservations.
Make a note of all their booking references and numbers
The little notebooks are my best friends when I travel alone: I write down all the useful addresses, all the important numbers (relatives, guests, emergencies) so that I can have everything at hand in case my phone makes a fuss.
Print everything you can
Your digital tickets, your booking confirmations, keep with you a paper copy to be used as a support in case of need.
Unexpected event n°5: the reservation has vanished
Well yes, this eventuality is an age-old subject and yet, it still happens that we are fooled by fortune and once we arrive at our destination... Our reservations do not exist.
I am thinking in particular of the hotel, where the receptionist, helpless, tells you that you were expected on the 10th indeed: but on the 10th of August, not on the 10th of July.
And that's a bit of a hassle, isn't it?
It's obvious, but still: be careful with the dates you choose
And I say this as a tourism industry professional.
I have travelled a lot, but I have also worked in tour operators and I can assure you that a mistake of a month can happen very quickly.
Check each selected date carefully and if possible, ask someone around you to check again.
It is always better to have an external confirmation.
Always have a B, C or even D plan
So when you book a train, or an accommodation, or a restaurant, keep a second option in mind, and write it down somewhere.
It can be useful if you are having trouble making a reservation.
First, because you will communicate with your host by phone and mistakes are less frequent.
Secondly, because your host will know much better than you do the alternatives in case of a problem and, above all, she speaks the local language.
She will be your true saviour to repair misunderstandings!
Besides, the world lacks heroines... Why not help a solo traveller, too?
Unexpected event n°6: taking the wrong direction and getting lost
I can already hear people telling me that you can't plan to get lost.
Indeed, it's difficult to anticipate this: on the other hand, you can think upstream about solutions to be put in place.
It will help you reassure yourself, which is essential when you are lost: giving in to panic is a waste of time and not helping your case.
A bit like when you are drowning... The worst thing is to get agitated because that's when you sink even more.
So before we get to that extreme, let's see what we can do.
Take some armbands
Admit it, that little joke was funny!
Tick your accommodation on a map with a visible cross
Digital or paper; it doesn't matter which format you use, the most important thing is to leave a visible trace that will allow you to retrace your steps from where you are.
Also follow your location in real time.
Every two or three streets, try to point out your location on the map in order to locate monuments or street names that will be useful for your way back.
For real adventurers: the compass!
In town, it's not really useful, but in the middle of the forest or in the mountains, the compass continues to be an excellent ally (when you know how to use it).
When you combine it with a map, you can be sure to find your direction.
Drop everything and lose yourself for real
This time, I assure you that I am not joking.
Getting lost is often the best way to find hidden gems.
I'm talking in particular about big cities: getting off the beaten path to discover less frequented areas is a way to meet the true face of the destination.
Today it is very easy to find your way back and in any case, you can always count on the locals to redirect you in case of difficulty.
I have shared with you the 6 most frequent unexpected events when travelling the world... But the reality is that all eventualities are countless.
In fact, whether you are leaving for the first or thirty-third time, to Mexico or Bulgaria... Many adventures can spice up your stay, sometimes events that you could never have foreseen even if you had carefully considered everything.
Like the earthquake in Japan... which, in the end, turned out to be less serious than it could have been.
In fact, it even became one of my favourite travel anecdotes!
You see, even the biggest blows of fate can make funny stories.
So instead of stressing at the thought of facing the unexpected, take it philosophically: you'll have material to tell funny stories when seeing your relatives or friends again.
20 November 2020
The editorial team:
Whether you are an avid traveller or a first-time adventurer, all NomadSister editors are passionate about travel. They share their advice and experiences with the desire to give you wings!