A Perfect Day: Scared and Alone in Chiang Mai City

It was just me, my passport, my hard-earned money and new-found independence. My first real solo travel and I felt read to face anything the world would throw at me. Other than almost missing a bus once and some sort of arm infection from a dodgy pillow in the jungle, my trip had been pretty smooth sailing. Needless to say, when my last day rolled around I felt sad my Thailand adventure was coming to an end, but strangely I also felt proud of myself. I had travelled around Thailand doing and experiencing everything I was hoping for and more, but more importantly I had done it all by myself.

The day was off to a rocky start when the supposed fifteen-minute walk to a museum turned out to take two and a half hours (thanks google-maps…). Upon arrival, I was informed that the entry price had been increased and I did not have enough cash on me to get in. Hot, tired and moody I started my way back to my hotel until a taxi van pulled up next to me. This bright red van was a joyous sight and, after being told it would only cost me 20baht to be dropped off at the gate down the street from my hotel, I hopped in the back. Things were finally looking up. Sitting in that red van I tried to remain optimistic. Determined not to let this bout of bad luck ruin the last day of my trip I told myself that, despite having wasted the morning, I could still make the best of the day by finding something else to do.

On the short walk from the gate to my hotel I stopped at an ATM to take out some more cash. This is where my bad luck struck again, card declined. Not thinking much of a Thai ATM declining a Dutch VISA card I crossed the street to find another machine. Then another… and yet another. Not a single ATM would work, things just weren’t going my way that day. I decided to head back into a more touristy region of the city where I could use a machine I had used the night before. Only when this machine declined me did I finally realize I was in trouble…

I headed back to the hotel once again, my mind racing trying to think why the card that had been serving me perfectly for the past two weeks had suddenly stopped working. I couldn’t figure out what was happening, never mind how I was going to solve it. So, I did what any 18-year-old who was travelling my themselves would do: I called my mom. What else could I do but swallow my pride and all the independence I thought I had, and call mommy to help get me out of this mess?

We were brainstorming solutions but quickly my phone battery died. I went to grab the charger from the bag I had been carrying around that day, only to discover it missing. It must have been stolen only hours before. So, there I was, in a foreign city, no money, no way of contacting anyone, no friends with me, no way of getting to the airport the next morning. And for the first time on this trip I was scared. I didn’t know what to do but cry.

It took a combination of persistence and dumb luck to finally get the whole situation sorted, but eventually I had managed to access my money and obtain a new charger. Still feeling traumatized from the day’s disasters, I called my best friend. The tears soon turned into laughter as we decided that however stressful the day had been, we felt it was the kind of thing that would only ever happen to me. Finally, able to breathe again I realized I couldn’t spend another minute of my last day trapped in the hotel. I headed out and spotted a small art gallery that had stood out to me a few weeks before on my first night in the city. Surprisingly I actually had a lovely afternoon.

So, what good came out of this hellish day? What wise words could I share with the world after this experience? Well, firstly, that you are never too old to turn to mommy when things get rough.

More importantly though, I realized that these tough experiences are often the ones that make travel so meaningful and worthwhile. You often forget when you’re scrolling through perfect scenery and smiling faces on tropical beaches on Instagram travel pages or blogs, that it’s not all like that. Those perfectly picturesque moments are what we all hope for, but more often than not, it’s the tough moments that change us. It’s the thing we struggle with that we grow and change through, that is how travel shapes us.

So, you can look back on horrible days like these and count the things that went wrong. Or you can look back and laugh at how ridiculous it all was (seriously, how can anyone have that much bad luck?) and give yourself a pat on the back for getting through it and turning the day around. I for one will always chose the latter and hope I will always be able to value those days where everything seemed to go wrong.

Love, Sophie den Hartog

What about you? Have you had any travel disasters? Did they end out alright? Let us know in the comments.


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