Travelling: Mishaps and All by Joe Dodkins
Forgive me, for I must burst a bubble. Travelling is not all sunshine and rainbows. Stories are told of travel’s treasures – new cultures, languages, people, food, sights; I could go on. There is however another side to this magical venture. With travelling comes a certain level of – shall I say – unpredictability. While there is a lot that can go right, there is similarly a lot that can go wrong. It’s not quite as damning as Murphy’s law, but you catch my drift.
This is not a piece written to instil fear in the prospective traveller – quite the opposite actually. Experience would suggest that every traveller out there has a plethora of comical – or rather, not so comical – tales from their trips: lost passports, misdirected tuk-tuk rides, muggings from over inquisitive primates, and the rest. There’s almost a beauty in the erratic nature of it. Well, my travels thus far have proved equally fruitful.
I’d purchased an Australian working visa for my trip down under – a safety net in case finances ran dry or I happened across a promising job. Coincidently, diving with sharks eats up a substantial amount of capital, and so I was looking for a quick influx of funds. In the depths of an Aussie job app, I came across a listing for a sales member. The description was looking for someone to sell artwork from local, Melbourne based artists – offering five-hundred dollar a week minimum, and forty percent commission. Throwing caution to the wind, I applied; texting a mobile number of my interest in the position. The process seemed a little odd, even unprofessional – a testament of what was to come. Mere hours passed before the number rang me. I had the job – somehow.
Anyway, the next morning I waited expectantly outside my hostel. A truck pulled up and a man jumped out – dishevelled and greasy. We shook hands and he directed me to his boot. It opened to reveal stacks of paintings, each roughly cut and fixed to cuttings of plastic board. His strategy was to drive around local businesses, taking in paintings and trying to make sales. The unprofessionalism of it all eluded me – I’ve never really been known for my common sense. To save myself at least a little dignity in this tale I shall fast forward.
Driving around he encouraged me to invent stories for the paintings – to fabricate their authors and their origins. Something wasn’t adding up. Further questions revealed the base salary was similarly fabricated – a bait to catch out-of-pocket travellers. Upon fierce demand, the gent – whoever he was – pulled over. Needless to say, I left, and didn’t look back. Lesson one: have some common sense.
On a more laughable note – and with less need of explanation – an aggressively hot washing machine laid claim to the majority of my travel attire. I’ll tell you for free that a crop top-esque look on me is not a good one. Yet another unexpected hit to my bank balance. So, I guess, lesson two: be tentative in your trust of prehistoric-looking washing machines.
With travelling comes airports, and with airports comes hassle. Its unavoidable – for the most part. Four months deep into my travels I was yet to fall victim to trouble – too good to be true apparently. I’ll set the scene: Sydney Airport, the food hall – bags checked in. Mouthfuls of pre-flight food punctuated thoughts of what New Zealand had to offer. I’d be flying into Auckland. Looking down though, my ticket had the letters LAX printed on them. LAX – I read it again. Sh*t. Before my mind could even get into gear, my legs were carrying me to security – back through to the check-in desk. My good fortune had caught up with me. As of that second my luggage was being transported to a plane – not one destined for Auckland, but one departing for Los Angeles. The race was on, and it wasn’t until I was about to board my plane that I was pulled aside and informed that my luggage had been hunted down and transferred. Crisis aborted. And with that, comes lesson three: always land in the same city as your luggage.
Finally, I must speak of a woman named Karen. Now, this is not a tale of misfortune. Nor is it a story of bad luck. Instead I wish to end on a high – to restore faith in humanity. Sat on a train from Sydney to Melbourne, I had little in my bank account – even less in my pocket. As with any long journey, I spent my time pouring my mind onto a page; writing of my thoughts, emotions, anything. The woman next to me made profuse conversation – company that I enjoyed greatly. Whilst finishing a rather sober entry about my financial situation, the lady nosed over my shoulder. Ten dollars were then thrust under my nose. Retracting myself from my book, I looked at her, confused. She broke the silence, telling that if her son was on the other side of the world, she hoped another would do the same for him. She thought the money would serve to get me some food, or a drink, or a taxi ride – just something. I besieged her with thanks until her departure. All this way from home, and I felt as safe as could be.
Travel is a fickle thing. It’s in its nature. The world is filled with possibilities, be them good or bad – that’s the beauty of it. Travel isn’t always sun-soaked hammocks, lavish dining spreads or immaculate scenery. It’s raw, and unrefined. The roll of the dice may be unfair – but one thing is for sure, it’ll make for one hell of a story.