First World Problems: Travel Complaints

Travelling, whether to an exotic once-in-a-lifetime destination, or simply as part of a routine commute, often exposes us to uncertainty, adventure, and terrible, disgusting bathrooms.

Luckily for me, (and most certainly for you, the reader) my post today contains no sordid tales of toilet trauma. Rather, it takes a look at the ubiquitous “travel horror story” (providing easy party anecdotes since, um, Noah?).

And then we totally got stuck on top of a mountain! Did I mention the rotting corpses?!

Photo:Wikimedia Commons

My (mis)adventure began this weekend as I arrived at the Edinburgh Airport to catch a flight to London to visit my girlfriend as well as a respectable chunk of the McMaster University ArtSci Graduates Seeking Prestigious British Degrees and Qualified Teachers Who Can’t Get a Job in Ontario Contingent (5 out of 15, not bad!). As this was the first time I was travelling by plane within Britain, I was extra cautious about what I packed in my hand luggage. I was determined not to repeat packing mistakes that had previously interrupted smooth travel and resulted in some altogether unwanted attention to my nether-regions by impatient uniformed strangers.

Not only did I forget to take the cellphone out of my pocket as I walked through the metal detector, eliciting the ol’ grope and feel which, to be honest, was quite painless (we had a nice little chat about how ever-present technology is in the modern world), but the guards also took issue with my half-empty contact lens solution container which had a capacity that was 5 mL over the liquid limit. After offering to pour what was sure to be some sort of explosive liquid into my eyeballs to prove my innocence, I was forced to abandon the offending article. I skulked off to the Boots pharmacy inside the waiting area and promptly bought another bottle that was substantially larger than the first, albeit ostensibly vetted by Her Majesty’s Royal Rule Sticklers.

After a magnificent weekend in London and Oxford, I boarded a train for the long journey back to Edinburgh, content in the knowledge that I would be whisked comfortably to my destination without having someone’s hands down my pants. It wasn’t until some sort of backlog resulted in me missing the connecting train to Edinburgh that my “travel horror story” radar again perked up. Initially, as I roamed the platform looking for someone to tell me what was going on, I imagined myself spending the night huddled on a park bench, ironically forced to survive on the meagre nutrients of my newly-purchased contact lens solution.

But alas, I was rescued from my fate when the train company, somewhat grudgingly, arranged a taxi to drive me the 2+ hours from Newcastle to Edinburgh. When I arrived directly in front of my flat in the wee hours of the morning, I happily thanked my personal chauffeur (and new best friend) and stole a peak at the meter: £239. If only they had offered me the cash instead, I would have had 3 round trips to Oxford AND a much better travel horror story full of decrepit alleyways and run-ins with hobos (no, I would not have spent the money on a hotel room for the night, thank you very much).

But these inconveniences really do not merit being called a “travel horror story,” as perhaps a certain friend who has been unceremoniously ejected from the country over a volunteer visa can attest. The truly amazing thing that we all seem to forget from time to time, as we complain bitterly about the late train or the delayed flight, is that never in human history have we been able to get anywhere so fast for so cheap. Even our grandparents (or for some of our longer-toothed readers, parents) crossed the Atlantic in steam ships that took up to 15 days. Considering that it is now theoretically possible to travel anywhere in the world in under 24 hours, one’s total bummer of a layover in Minnesota seems to pale in comparison to the fact that, prior to 1869, it could take up to half a year to get from New York to California. That’s if you even made it there alive.

With new technology comes drastically higher expectations, and a growing sense of entitlement towards things our ancestors would not have believed to even be possible. So the next time you find yourself in a huff over the lack of movie options on your 7 hour flight from London to Toronto, take a deep breath, recline your seat, and ask yourself Louis C.K’s thankfulness question: “Are you flying through the air, incredibly, like a bird, are you partaking in the miracle of human flight you non-contributing zero?” Indeed, you can’t go wrong with a good ‘travel horror story,’ but let’s just remember a little perspective, clean toilets or not.

What’s your favourite travel horror story? How has travelling made you aware or thankful? What are some other amazing technological advances you find yourself taking for granted?


6 thoughts on “First World Problems: Travel Complaints

  1. Great way to put it into perspective! I recently drove with my father and his 92 year old Aunt and she was commenting on the roads. Prior to the new highway being built, it used to take all day to go the distance we did in little under 2 hours! Guess the lead foot driving (dad – not me!!!!) helped to quicken the pace. We could still take the old road – it would still be faster than back in the day, and we would have seen all the communities along the way – perhaps a trip for another day – or by bicycle!

    • Absolutely! Thanks for bringing it back to biking Anita, it’s definitely true, you see so much more and in my experience, are more appreciative of the landscape you are passing through…especially going up the hills! Your comment reminded me of Aldo Leopold’s description of the land and the changes brought by the introduction of highways in A Sand County Almanac. Cheers!

  2. Some people may think I’m a non-contributing zero as I read this at work but laughing is never a waste. I travelled by ship to England in 1964 and it took 5 fun-filled days. There was an afternoon of panic however when I batted a ping pong ball over the side of the ship and watched it roll over the waves into oblivion. I spent several hours looking for a replacement…no one thought to tell me I hadn’t done something completely irresponsible and to forget it. Thanks for the laugh Patrick and keep it coming!

  3. As an avid traveler myself these days, I was interested to read this. You really put it into perspective how we take the ease of traveling for granted. I have to tell you though, I had the exact same airport experience in London last March while trying to fly to France. All because of a quarter of a bottle of shampoo which they forced me to dump out, after I attempted a 10 minute negotiation. My friends were laughing at me because I was so angry about having to go and buy another bottle at Boots that ended up being twice as big and I had to throw out for my flight back to London. Needless to say, I think I spent more money on shampoo that trip than anything else ha ha.

  4. Pingback: A mountain of schoolwork | Searching For The Road Less Travelled

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