10 Lowlights cover photo

If you’ve read Never Ending Footsteps for any amount of time, you’ll know that I don’t have the best of luck when I travel. In fact, more than anyone I’ve known, I have downright terrible luck. You only have to browse through The Incidents to see evidence of this.

2013 was no exception.

Here are my unluckiest moments from the past 12 months:

Broken camera lens

Breaking Both of my Cameras Within a Week

At the start of 2013, after 18 months without a phone, I finally gave in and bought an iPhone. A few weeks later, I flew to New Zealand, downloaded Instagram and started to get excited about sharing some sexy travel photos.

It was then that I realised I had bought a phone with a broken camera. The left-hand side of every photo was perfect, but the right-hand side was super-blurry and out of focus. My photos looked awful.

After searching around online for a fix, I soon discovered there wasn’t one and I’d have to return it to an Apple Store. Except, of course, New Zealand doesn’t have any Apple Stores. They have authorised repair centres that I could give my phone to, and they’d send it off to be fixed, but I was changing location every couple of days and didn’t have a fixed address they’d be able to send it to.

In addition, I was relying on my phone for Internet (data was cheaper than paying for Wi-Fi) and I couldn’t be without it for more than a few days. I decided I would have to make do with half-blurry photos for the entire trip.

And then my DSLR broke and it was entirely my fault.

During an argument with Dave, I lost my temper and threw my water bottle on the ground in a childish rage. Except, I got my hands confused and threw my camera on the ground instead. Hard. The lens broke and I was left using my back-up 50mm lens for the rest of my time in New Zealand. The lens itself is great but, uh, not for fitting in those wide New Zealand landscapes.

Cuddling a koala in Sydney Australia

Forgetting to Apply for an Australian Visa

In New Zealand, I ran out of space in my passport and had to apply for a new one. The application process was reasonably simple but one issue I hadn’t thought about was my Australian visa. I’d bought return tickets from Australia to New Zealand and, given that my Australian visa was valid for three months, the thought hadn’t crossed my mind that I’d need to apply for a new visa for my new passport.

… At least, it didn’t cross my mind until exactly 12 hours before my flight to Australia.

I did some research and realised that yes, I needed a new visa for my new passport.

I jumped on the Australian immigration website immediately and applied for the visa. I was still feeling calm at this point — it had taken less than five minutes for my visa to be approved first time around so I was sure this would be no different.

And then I waited…

Two hours later, I’d heard nothing and the immigration website had just gone down for six hours of scheduled maintenance.

Worst. Timing. Ever.

The Australian immigration offices were closed for the evening, so as a final attempt I called Air New Zealand to see if they had any advice. They told me that there was nothing they could do and confirmed that they would not be allowed to let me on the flight in the morning.

With nothing to do but wait and refresh my emails, I passed the time by looking at alternative flights that would get me back to Asia, bypassing Australia. From New Zealand, these rarely exist. The ones that did were over $1200. I felt like crying.

The morning of my flight arrived, and my visa still had not. I tagged along with Dave to the airport, planning to just buy a ticket to the cheapest place that wasn’t Australia and figure things out from there. I queued up with him at the check-in desks on the off-chance I’d actually be let on the plane.

…I was.

We arrived in Melbourne and I wasn’t asked any questions there, either.

I received an email notification that my visa had been approved three weeks later.

I have no idea how I entered Australia without a valid visa — perhaps entering in the family line with Dave helped — but it was one of the scariest moments of my life.

Koh Lipe longtails

My Boat Almost Sunk in Thailand

I’d just spent two glorious weeks on the Thai island of Koh Lipe and was heading back to the mainland.

We ended up on a scary, dangerously fast speedboat with a demonic driver who smashed the boat over the waves so hard I felt like my back was going to break.

He continuously slammed violently down into the waves every few seconds as we all nervously exchanged glances. I just focused all my energy on not vomiting in front of everyone.

And then, the people in the row in front of me suddenly started grabbing frantically at each other. Pulling their bags up onto their lap, they started throwing lifejackets on and running to the opposite side of the boat, where everybody else started panicking, putting on their life jackets and chucking their things into dry bags.

Dave stood up and confirmed what I was dreading.

Our boat had a hole and water was gushing in.

There was nothing we could do.

The driver slowed down slightly, one of the crew members tried to crawl into the hole and patch things up.

We put on our life jackets and prayed for the best.

Given that I was now completely green with seasickness I didn’t even want to think about how unable to function I would have been if we had started to sink.

Fortunately, we made it to dry land without letting in too much water. Knowing Thailand’s lack of safety when it comes to transportation, it was a pretty nerve-wracking journey.

Drinking in Thailand

I was using straws for quite some time…

Dental Tales of Woe

It was in Thailand that I found myself with a strange jaw ache and decided to go to the dentist to have it checked out. An entirely incompetent dentist then told me I needed two fillings and scheduled me in for an appointment.

I was already extremely skeptical. I take meticulous care of my teeth, I floss every day and rarely ever need to have fillings. I’d had a check-up with my dentist back home four months previous to this and she had told me that my teeth were perfect and I needed to have nothing done. Now, four months later, I had suddenly developed two cavities?

Pushing my fears aside, I returned to the dentist of doom, where I experienced some of the most excruciating pain of my life when she spend two hours drilling into one tooth. Two. Hours.

Two hours!

My favourite part was when she drilled into the nerve of my tooth, when I hadn’t been given any anesthetic. 

I can’t even describe the pain…

Needless to say, a few weeks later the nerve in my tooth had then died and I needed to have a root canal.

Fast forward six months and I was in Vietnam when I felt a strange sensation in the second tooth that had supposedly also needed a filling. I visited a dentist in Vietnam and was told that the Thai dentist of doom who had first filled that tooth had done a terrible job. She hadn’t cleaned it properly. The bacteria left underneath the filling had caused a huge cavity, and it would now need to be re-done.

My poor, poor teeth.

Alien Zone in Roswell

A scenario preferable to living somewhere without windows

Living Somewhere Without Windows for a Month

I moved to Saigon shortly after leaving expensive Australia and New Zealand, happy to be living somewhere cheap for a change.

Dave and I began apartment hunting the second we arrived, finding somewhere great within just a few minutes of starting our search. The guesthouse even gave us a 50% discount because we were going to be staying for an entire month.

We moved in, paid for the month upfront and then realised that our room didn’t have windows.

We made so many stupid decisions. We should have changed our minds, asked for our money back and left. We should have asked to move to a room with windows (though those rooms were on a crazy-busy street full of noisy bars…) We should have never paid for a month upfront.

We convinced ourselves that it wouldn’t be a big deal. We could handle a month there. We’d just suck it up and spend our days working in cafes.

Except, for that month we struggled to do much of anything. With no natural light to wake us up, we would sleep through until 2pm without an alarm. We lacked motivation and desire to do anything. We felt permanently jet-lagged and struggled to even work up the energy to go outside and eat. We achieved absolutely nothing that month. Aside from sleep.

Macbook rage

Macbook rage

I Broke My Laptop and Apple Were Jerks

My Macbook Pro broke while I was in Mexico — and although it was an expensive problem to have, I didn’t think I’d have any issues buying a new one.

Oh, how wrong I was.

I was excited when Apple announced a new range of Retina Macbook Pros a couple of days after my laptop died — it was a sign! I could get a fancy new laptop out of this. I looked up the price and realised that buying one in Mexico would cost me $600 more than buying one in the US would. At the time, it would have been cheaper for me to fly to the US, pick one up and fly back to Mexico again — which is ridiculous.

I thought I’d solved the problem when Matt, who was living in Sayulita with me, was going to have his dad fly down to visit him in a few days time. If I could order the laptop online and have it delivered to his dad within the next few days he could bring it down with him.

I instantly jumped online, went to buy the laptop and then realised that I couldn’t pay on the US site with a UK credit card.

Steph offered to let me use her card and I Paypal’d her the money. When I ordered the laptop I made sure to pay $30 extra to have a guaranteed shipping date by Monday.

However, when I received confirmation that the laptop had shipped, I was told it would arrive on Tuesday, not Monday. 

What followed was an incredibly stressful experience of well over 50 phone calls, incredibly incompetent Apple and FedEx customer service staff, so much false information, so many lies by Apple, and so, so, so many tears, as I wondered if I’d just blown $2500 on a laptop I wouldn’t ever receive.

I ended up with my laptop in the end when it surprisingly arrived on Monday evening. There were so many more stressful aspects to this whole saga that could easily make this post 5000 words long. I won’t mention them here (you can read the whole story over at Too Many Adapters), but needless to say, I am no longer the Apple fangirl I once was.

New Zealand route

Our route in New Zealand

Being Too Ambitious in New Zealand

New Zealand was one of my highlights of 2013. It’s such an incredible, gorgeous country and I can’t believe how much of its beauty I got to see.

Do you know how many places I visited over my two month road trip across the country? Here’s a list:

Abel Tasman National Park, Akaroa, Arrowtown, Ashburton, Auckland, Bluff, Cape Reinga, the Catlins, Christchurch, Collingwood,  Doubtful Sound, Dunedin, Fox Glacier, Franz Josef, Golden Bay, Hamilton, Hanmer Springs, Kaikoura, Lake Waikaremoana, Manapouri, Moeraki, Mount Maunganui, Milford Sound, Napier, National Park, Nelson, Oamaru, Paihia, Picton, Punakaiki, Queen Charlotte Track, Queenstown, Raglan, Rotorua, Taupo, Tekapo, Tongariro Crossing, Wanaka, Waitomo, Wellington.

Yep.

Over the space of two months we drove almost 6000 kilometres. We changed location every couple of days. We also tried to work while seeing as much of the country as possible.

My time in New Zealand was amazing but damn, it destroyed me for the rest of the year. I spent at least six months afterwards recovering from all the fast-paced travel — it’s only recently that I’ve felt an urge to stay somewhere for less than a month.

We should have either spent twice as long in New Zealand or visited half the places.

HukaFalls Jet boating in Taupo

Crying on a jet boat

Thinking Going on a Jet Boat Was a Good Idea

I can’t remember the last time I felt so unwell.

When Dave and Dustin suggested checking out a jet boat experience in Taupo, New Zealand, I had no idea what it would entail. I had no idea that jet boats were 80km/h vessels of hell that would throw me into 360 degree spins every few seconds and make me want to die. I spent the entire journey trying to hold in my tears and vomit.

If you have severe motion sickness, do not go on a jet boat.

Whistler scenery

Canada was beautiful and stressful

Nearly Missing my Mum’s Birthday and Accidentally Giving Someone a 400% Tip

Heading to Vancouver was a bit of a last minute decision. My parents were there for a few days and planning on spending my mum’s birthday exploring Whistler while I hung out with Dave in Tacoma. The night before her birthday, I decided to bus my way up there to surprise her.

I had a series of super-tight connections to catch in order to get me to Vancouver in time — if I missed my Boltbus from Seattle I’d be screwed.

So, of course, that morning, the alarm on my phone decided not to go off and I woke up five minutes before my bus to Tacoma’s main bus station was due to leave. I hadn’t even packed my bag.

Grabbing my laptop, phone, camera, passport, money and a change of clothes, I shoved them all in my bag and went sprinting to the bus stop.

I checked my phone: two minutes late. Maybe the bus was late? Maybe it would arrive soon?

Ten minutes later and I was sat on the floor groaning with disappointment. I had just 20 minutes to get to the main bus station and so decided to flag down a cab and see if it could be done. My phone told me it was a 25 minute drive away, I urged the cab driver to speed up.

We made it! Somehow, we made it with just a few minutes to spare!

It was then that I misheard the cab driver when he told me it was going to be $4 for the journey.

I thought he said $14, gave him a $20 note and told him to keep the change.

My Worst Airbnb Experience Ever

In Vancouver, I ended up having the worst Airbnb experience of my life. I was in a tiny box without windows and without air conditioning on one of the hottest days of the year. It was like a sauna, with no air circulation and a super-heavy door. I worried about suffocating on multiple occasions.

I cope with heat pretty well — I never really feel the need to use air conditioning, and I’ll often cover myself with blankets when it’s 25 degrees Celsius outside. I like being warm.

This room, however, was something else. It was so bad that the only way I could get some sleep was to wrap myself in bedsheets, stand in the shower with the temperature ice cold, and then run to the bed to sleep while shivering. Twenty minutes later I’d wake up dry and soaked in sweat. It was horrible.

If I hadn’t been staying in the most dangerous neighbourhood of Vancouver I’d have genuinely slept on the street outside. It was that bad.

 

What was your biggest lowlight in 2013?

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