I've been a traveller since I was 19 and I guess the more you move around the world, the more you open yourself up to extraordinary experiences, good and bad. I have so many, and thankfully, to this date, they all at least have a happy ending.
I was living in the U.K. in my early twenties. My sister, Merryde, joined me after about 6 months, and after travelling around together for the next twelve months, we were to fly home to Australia. Since she'd flown over separately, she was on a different airline and had to take a train to Paris from London first. I was flying directly from London, but we'd decided to spend a few weeks in Asia on the way home. First stop would be Colombo, Sri Lanka.
The arrangement was that since Merryde's flight was to arrive in Colombo four hours after mine, I'd just wait at the airport for her and then we'd go off and find somewhere to stay using our trusty 'Asia On A Shoestring' guide.
So we said goodbye to each other in London, and as I approached the top of the escalator which led down to the platform that my train to the airport was to leave from, I saw my train slowly pulling out. I watched in disbelief. I knew I was pushing it for time, but I couldn't believe I'd missed it.
I ran as fast as I could with my 18kg back pack to the taxi stand where there was an endless queue of people. I burst into tears and fully aware of how pathetic I must have looked, I begged them all to allow me to take the next cab! Horrified and sympathetic, they stepped back as one to let me in.
Sobbing in the back of the cab, my mind was racing. What if I miss my flight? My sister will arrive in Colombo and won't know where I am. I can't contact her (there were no mobile phones back then). We hadn't even thought to book a hotel so that we'd know to just get ourselves there and wait for the other. Aaaaargh I was beside myself. As well as that, the cab fair used up the equivalent of 1 week's travel money. Asia was very cheap, but now my budget was depleted by 7 days.
Well I did make my flight, within minutes, and I felt extremely relieved as you can imagine. But little did I know that the worst was yet to come.
I arrived in Sri Lanka, collected my bags and was wandering around looking for somewhere to sit and wait the 4 hours for my sister's flight, when a rather large, gold chain wearing Sri Lankan man asked me if I needed assistance. I replied that I was fine thank you, and just waiting for my sister coming from Paris. "Oh", he exclaimed, "that flight has been delayed indefinitely! Maybe it will arrive tomorrow or the next day, but not before". He must have seen the blood drain from my face as I realized I had no accommodation booked, I had no way of contacting my sister, and I had no idea when she would be arriving. All I could think was, what if she arrives tomorrow and I'm not here to meet her? She'll be panicked. She won't know where I am! Was this man even telling the truth? I mean, here I was, a young, vulnerable female travelling alone in a 2nd if not 3rd world country at that time.
So long story short, (I verified this man was a staff member at the airport), and I reluctantly allowed him to drive me to a nearby hotel. Without going into detail, he tried a few things on me including the old "I'll take you to a jewellery shop and you choose anything, anything you want and don't look at the price" trick, but it didn't work of course. I wasn't THAT vulnerable or naive (wink wink).
After a sleepless night, strung out and anxious, I made a few trips to the airport the next morning with my man friend, but we were not allowed past the entry gates without a ticket and were turned away each time and told to come back later. Finally, we got news of an arrival time, and this time we were allowed in. I saw my sister coming through customs, and as she approached me smiling, laughing and waving, I broke down with relief and bawled my eyes out. While I'd been living my nightmare, SHE had been swanning around in a Hilton Hotel in Paris, partying with others from the same flight - COURTESY OF THE AIRLINE THANK YOU VERY MUCH! I don't think she'd even given a second thought about HER sister!
So all's well that ends well and boy was I ever happy to see her. I was also very grateful to my man friend, though a little shady, he turned out to be harmless, and really went out of his way to help me out.
I hope you've enjoyed this week's story and as always, please leave a comment below as I love to hear your thoughts.
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Until next time. Thank you for joining me.
On a train in Sri Lanka eating frozen pineapple pieces.