Recently, I've been thinking a lot about how most Instagram pages and travel blogs only seem to show the best side of travelling. There's always some dreamy photo of a beautiful pink sunrise from a plane window, but never any mention of the fact that if that photo is being taken at 5am, the photographer has probably gone all night without sleep, rammed into his economy class plane seat, busting for the toilet but too anxious to wake up his sleeping neighbour. People love to post photos from the tops of mountains with perfect hair and make up- but realistically how have you done that? Don't you sweat?? Isn't it windy on top of a mountain?? How has your foundation stayed on, what formula are you using??
Don't get me wrong; of course travelling is beautiful and amazing and eyeopening and inspiring- but it is also hard. There are nights with no sleep on overnight transport, rubbish accommodation, meals that give you food poisoning and, in my experience, even the best laid plans end up having huge gaping holes in them.
I want to make sure that I am not guilty of painting an unrealistic image of travelling on my own pages. So I thought I would start counting down my most stressful experiences and situations while travelling! First up: Anxious in Auckland.
When you pay extra for a non-stop overnight bus across Thailand then get woken up at 3am and dropped off at a random little stop with no explanation, and have to wait until 7:30am for the next bus. I tried to sleep on those seats and got so atrociously bitten all over my legs, they were just a lumpy mess for weeks afterwards.
My boyfriend and I had lived in Queenstown in New Zealand for a year doing our working visa. So when we got to near the end of our year, we decided to quit our jobs, buy a camper-van and travel the rest of New Zealand! We bought the camper in Queenstown for $2700 NZD (using my overdraft on my card) and the idea was to sell it on at the end of our trip in Auckland. I've written more about buying and selling cars abroad here and here.
We had the absolute best trip spending about 8 weeks exploring, then arrived in Auckland with about a week and a half before our flight out of New Zealand for good, onwards to South Africa and then home to England! We'd done a ton of research and apparently Auckland seemed to be the best place to sell a camper, as most travellers flew into Auckland to begin their own trip. There were loads of Facebook groups and were even big car selling fairs on the weekends, so we arrived with high hopes that we would be able to sell the car pretty quickly.
As you can probably guess, it didn't go like this at all.
It was the most depressing week and a half. We were constantly posting the camper on all the Facebook groups, and trawling through trying to find someone who was looking to buy. We were selling at the end of summer, so I think the stream of travellers had dried up, and the Corona virus was just beginning to have an impact, so a lot of people were cancelling their trips. We wanted to go and explore Auckland and the surrounding area and we were desperate to head over to Waiheke Island, but we were nervous to drive too far away and miss an opportunity to sell the camper.
So by the Thursday night, we'd not had a lot of interest at all. We'd shown one girl that evening, but she wanted to have a pre- purchase inspection on it (completely understandable, clever girl) so we were looking at booking that in for the next few days. But we were starting to run out of time, as we were due to fly Sunday evening. So we headed to McDonald's that evening (to use the free Wifi, great travel hack) to make a plan for the next few days. We knew there was a car fair on Saturday, so decided to sell it there at whatever price.
I started to look up booking us travel insurance for South Africa, so headed to my emails to check our flight details. Then checked again. And again. I swear in that moment my heart stopped beating.
"Kee..." I whispered, "Our flight is tomorrow morning, not Sunday."
We were literally horrified. We had nothing packed, the camper was a mess and we hadn't sold it. This was about 10pm at night, so we just had to grab all our stuff and drive back to our campsite to try and sort everything out. It was pitch black, so we had to lug everything into the tiny campsite kitchen to pack.
About one tenth of the stuff we had to pack
It took us until about 2am to pack our bags up, and we had to just leave a ton of clothes and books that I'd wanted to give to a charity shop. Then we had to attempt to clean the camper in the pitch black, then finally fell into bed at about 3am, and set our alarms for 6am to head back into central Auckland for a mad dash to try and get rid of the camper-van.
By some crazy, miracle stoke of luck, the girl who had viewed the car the night before said she'd like to take another look, and was bringing her mechanic friend to check it over rather than going for a full pre-purchase inspection. He looked it over and said it all looked good and by some insane turn of luck we had the car sold and waved the girl off by 8:30am. After not a single bit of previous interest, we literally couldn't believe it.
We grabbed our backpacks and literally sprinted down the streets to the bus stop (I had packed so badly I was carrying about 8 different jumpers in my arms, and half way to the bus stop, I just had to shove a few more jumpers in the bin). We managed to get to the bus stop, get the bus to the airport, check in for our flight to Cape Town...
Just as South Africa announced a lockdown due to Corona Virus.
But that's another story...