Mike Snowden’s post about adventures really got me thinking about my own traveling “hiccups.” I agree with Mike that a trip is not a true adventure unless something unexpected happens. I’ve had to deal with lost luggage, faulty directions, forgotten supplies, dead electronics, a seedy hostel here and there. Mishaps and struggles certainly do translate into vivid travel memories.
That’s not to say that you should seek out dangerous, isolated situations whenever possible. And I’m not suggesting that the best travel method is to simply hop on a plane and go without doing any research beforehand.
What I am saying is that no matter how much you plan, mistakes will be made, and at least one thing will inevitably go wrong, because that is always what happens when you’re traveling. So, welcome the unexpected, I say! If anything, it’s a growth opportunity.
There’s something about being truly, uncomfortably lost, for example, that really makes you realize the importance of understanding cardinal directions. Take an evening during my first week in NYC as an example:
I had just gotten off work at a theatre in Manhattan. It was close to 1 a.m. I needed to take the N train headed uptown to Astoria, Queens, and get off at the final stop. No transfers were needed. Simple.
I took the R instead, which runs on the same line. And I didn’t realize my mistake until I was far out in the eastern portion of Queens.
So naturally I panicked and got off at the next stop. And waited for the next train coming from the opposite direction. And waited. And waited. No train. (I learned later that trains run less frequently in the wee hours of the morning. Oops.)
So I panicked again and went aboveground to use my cell phone. Lady Fate was laughing at me at that point, because my phone had 2% battery life left. I tried to make some calls anyway, but the only people I knew in New York at that time weren’t answering. As it was close to 2 a.m. at that point, I couldn’t fault them for that.
My next step was finding a taxi, but they were all off-duty. Every taxi that drove by had his/her light turned off.
So I used my final bit of battery to quickly glance at Google Maps and determine which way was west. I didn’t have a physical, paper map of the city with me, but I knew that the N train and the R train were vaguely perpendicular after a certain point. I just needed to head west until I encountered the N train (an aboveground train, and therefore easy to spot), then get back on it and go home.
Then my phone, quite dramatically, died. I started walking west. I actually started running after a while, because I was 1) impatient, and 2) uncomfortable with how dark it was in that particular area of Queens.
That’s when a taxi pulled up next to me and started honking.
After I had stumbled into the backseat of his car, the taxi driver greeted me with the following:
“Why you running? CRAZY GIRL.”
Crazy or not, I was safe. I tipped him tremendously once we pulled up in front of where I was staying.
Thanks to that unexpected adventure, I learned things, like:
Bring a paper map with you — I don’t care how dorky it makes you look, it’s always helpful because it doesn’t die at unexpected moments.
Learn cardinal directions.
There are maps in subways. If my phone had been completely dead, I could’ve gone back underground and checked a map on the wall or on the train platform.
If something goes wrong, you’re allowed to panic. The key is to avoid continually panicking — sooner or later you’ve gotta calm down and figure out your next step.
And finally: always tip your taxi driver.
Embrace the unexpected, and thanks for reading,