Travel is deeply personalizable, and each unique experience offers a unique set of challenges. In a quest to normalize the not-so smooth parts of travel, we want to share our stories to highlight how travelers of all experience levels have overcome inevitable obstacles. In my opinion, there is nothing more connective than a narrative story and sharing our travel experiences generates a deeper level of community as explorers. We hope that these stories make you laugh, relate, or see your experiences through a new lens. Please enjoy our mishaps all while remembering that our mistakes never stop us from traveling confidently.
Everyone knows the feeling of realizing something has gone wrong. It may not be something earth-shattering, but for the moment just after you identify a problem and just before you look for tangible solutions, your heart sinks. Sometimes the realization of a mistake is compounded by the realization that your dream trip is at stake because of it. These truths are how I found myself huddled with my family in the hallway of an airport hotel as we racked our brains for a glimpse of a solution, searching for a way for me to be on my next flight.
It was the departure day of my three-week trip around Ecuador. I was only 15 years old and ecstatic to say the least. I had filled one extra large backpacking pack to the brim and had made it from San Francisco to Miami where my family would say their goodbyes before I departed for Quito. It was just three hours until boarding when I realized that my backpack wasn’t going to circle the luggage carousel. My hiking equipment, bathing suit, sleeping bag, toiletries, clothing, and more had been lost between SFO and MIA. I was sure that my dream trip was lost with them.
However, this was exactly when the spontaneous side to my family manifested perfectly. After some team debrief, my dad decided to stay between the airport and the airport hotel in case of a turn up while my mom, sister, and I grabbed a cab to the nearest sporting goods store. In constant communication with the airlines, my dad rushed to and from the help desk for updates while the rest of us ventured away from the airport. In the taxi, we shouted packing list items at each other for the entirety of the ride as my sister's thumbs vigorously typed up a list of misspelled necessities. We began to storm the isles, short on time and amped on possibility. However, It didn’t take long for us to realize that the store was an outlet with solely adult men’s clothing left. We took two minutes to laugh at the image of me swimming in oversized clothes for three weeks and then filled our cart. A child-size sleeping bag, rain pants, and many t-shirts were just some of the items I would sport and use in the coming weeks.
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After checking off most of our list, we got back into a cab and headed for the airport. I didn’t really care what we had bought, all I knew was that I had a full pack with me by the time I got to the terminal to meet my travel group. Those were the most fast-paced few hours of my life and my range of emotions were broad. However, I never recount my trip to Ecuador without telling this story, usually on my feet with a giant smile on my face. Years later, it became clear to me that this rough start made many moments from my trip more entertaining (I did swim in a t-shirt) and made the whole trip feel more fulfilling. My bag never turned up despite my dad’s attentive communication with the airline for months, but he was happy to take the men’s raincoat off of my hands when I returned to the states.
If you're a frequent traveler, I’m sure you have a comparable story that you tell, or three stories, or ten. We tend to remember when a problem falls into what is usually a very meticulously planned process, but travel is always a search for unique experiences. In my case, a lost bag was uncontrollable, but the travel communities that platforms like Ravel create help shape problems into stories to be shared. Not everything can be planned, but the more eccentric the story, the more memorable the trip. Moments like these make us travelers.