During travel, sometimes even the most meticulous plans can go wrong. From forgetting a toothbrush to getting on the wrong train, the smallest mishap can throw weeks of itineraries, bookings and map marking into disarray. My own experience of an accidental thirteen-hour detour via Rome when attempting to get to Siena, has taught me how to survive a trip gone wrong, and that it is still possible to turn such a change of events into an adventure.
The first rule of travel should be knowing your transport stops. Make sure you research the exact route of your bus, train or boat. Assuming can lead you to make the mistake of missing your stop, which can easily throw off any trip. If we had known ours at the time, the detour would never have occurred.
While it is good to have your wits about you, often people will try to help in an emergency if they can – so don’t be afraid to ask
This leads into the second rule – don’t be afraid to ask for help. Asking our bus driver for some assistance made a big difference in the end, as instead of waiting for a stop that was never coming, we were able to plan in advance before getting to the next stop – Rome. Trusting in strangers often goes against everything we are taught, but sometimes it is better to talk to the people around you than suffer in silence. We ended up being supplied with free snacks before our 3am bus back, thanks to the barman we spoke to. Then, as a result of talking to our Airbnb host, we were able to get a lift into Siena at 6:30am from the nearest bus station, followed by local advice. While it is good to have your wits about you, often people will try to help in an emergency if they can – so don’t be afraid to ask.
It is also important to stay connected by phone. Nowadays, our phones are one of the most important things we carry with us. Making sure you have access to the Internet, signal and a charger are important when plans take a left turn. Although it is great to still switch off every now and again, in the age of Internet bookings, exploring options online can help you find the fastest, cheapest and easiest solution. Without Wifi, we wouldn’t have been able to speak to our host who ended up helping us book another bus back to Siena in the morning. But more importantly, we couldn’t have done this if our phones had died, so charge when you can – any plug socket is your friend.
Don’t make any major decisions when unnerved. Once you’ve given yourself a few minutes to process everything, then make a plan
Next, accept that it’s okay and normal to feel panicked – just don’t let it take control. When heading into the unknown and the unplanned becomes your reality, it’s naturally scary. However, if you can push past this, then suddenly you are no longer lost, but can rather see it as planning a new trip that will put you on track again. Don’t make any major decisions when unnerved. Once you’ve given yourself a few minutes to process everything, then make a plan. If not, you may fall into the trap of taking the first option you find, which isn’t always necessarily the best choice. So let the stress out first, then search for a way forward.
And there’s arguably no better way to relax than in a nice bar or coffee house. Linking in with the second and third tips, researching or asking about such places can help if you have time to kill. During the day, there are often free museums, parks and public spaces that help save you travel money. And in the evenings, late night bars can become your new best friend and help you unwind. I found myself sipping a glass of wine at 1am that night, while my friend had a pot of tea. Places like this help you stay safe and warm at only the price of a couple of drinks.
Things can often be solved easily once you give yourself some time to calm down and think rationally, and you’ll find you may even still be able to have fun with it
This is where packing light also becomes helpful. There’s no better incentive to making sure you’re picky with packing than the prospect of having to lug a suitcase around for hours. Plus, it’s far easier to blend into spaces and travel around cities with just a backpack. So avoid bringing any unnecessary items where possible.
Overall, however, what made it all go smoothly in my experience was embracing the change, and trying to make the most of the new situation. Things can often be solved easily once you give yourself some time to calm down and think rationally, and you’ll find you may still be able to have fun with it, even if it wasn’t on the list to begin with.