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What A Bunch Of Big Mistakes Taught Me About Travel

What A Bunch Of Big Mistakes Taught Me About Travel


Ahhh, it’s just like the set-up to a Hallmark movie… the heroine is on her way home two days before Christmas, when her plans are thwarted by a sudden New York traffic jam. Now, she must rely on the kindness of relative strangers to get back in time.

Sounds good, right? Except it’s not a movie and it was a pretty shitty way to end my one-month trip to the US. Although, to be honest, the start was pretty bad too, after my passport and all my money was stolen within two days of arriving.

That trip ended a bad year or two of travel mistakes, which started with a flying visit through Egypt in the height of the 2011 riots. But as well as some interesting stories, I managed to get some lessons out of it that have so far kept me out of trouble over the past year overseas (touch wood).


You. Need. Travel. Insurance.

Maybe it’s just because I’ve really gotten my money’s worth over the years, but I cannot BELIEVE people don’t get travel insurance. That’s a level of confidence us mere mortals can only dream of.

But it’s not just the “peace of mind” trope. It’s that when you’re stuck in Cairo airport in the middle of an uprising and you have to pay cash for a business class flight but the ATM ate all your money, it really helps to have someone who’ll help you out (and pay you back).

Ditto for medical. I can vouch for Cover-More three times over, though I’m happy that I’ve never had to use what I’ve heard to be their outstanding medical cover. It’s worth a bit of extra money to cover yourself for any health situation or hospital transfers, especially if you’re going somewhere with expensive health care (looking at you, US) or less advanced facilities (like in parts of Asia and Africa).

But it’s 2019, so if you want to save your cash for an extra poolside cocktail, there are now an incredible number of funds out there at different prices. is a good place to start.

People Are The Best (And Also The Worst)

While my travel mistakes have been a pretty well-balanced cocktail of poor decisions, bad luck and other people’s behaviour, it’s that last one that really feels like a soap-opera-worthy betrayal. Someone else ruining something for you is a sucker punch to the empathy region of your brain, but the good news is that many other people will still have theirs intact.

A should-be-cranky TSA agent who cheerfully accepted a police report as my only form of ID was the best thing about my day when my wallet was stolen – though the bar was pretty low by then – and a friend I’d just met turned into a roommate both when I missed that JFK flight and when I returned home to Australia.

…. And parents! Ah, parents. They can always be counted on to answer 4am phone calls or try to get you a new flight home.

Flexibility Is A Travel Essential

You can’t see me up on here on my high horse, but that might be because I don’t follow my own advice. But! Thanks to hindsight, I technically know this is the right move.

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If something goes wrong despite all your best intentions (or sometimes your carelessness), there’s nothing you can do to take it back. What you can do is muster any remaining calmness and find a plan B – and in a year’s time, the bad times will be all blurred out by the great times, so you might as well focus on making them as good as possible.

You need more money than you think. No, more than that too.

It’s pretty sound advice to take more money than you think you need, but it’s not just about treating yourself or having a buffer for spending.

Even with the best travel insurance, if something goes wrong, you could need a lot of cash fast. And let me tell you, a 24-hour bank transfer from someone feels like an eternity when you’re cashless in a foreign country.

Never put your bag down and make sure you leave way too much time for the airport

And maybe don’t travel to politically unstable regions.

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