If you travel, then you probably have experienced the following syndrome – new location, something goes wrong, you don’t speak the language, and pretty soon you see that much-needed escape evaporating into thin air. You can fret and fume, but our experience has taught us that it gets us very little. Instead what does get us out of a soup is infinite amounts of patience, sweet talk, acting skills, and of course, demonstrating profuse levels of gratitude! Here are some of the interesting challenges that have come our way.
- Getting to the ATM machine in Beijing to withdraw money and realizing that our ATM card has been stolen. Surviving in a cash driven society with no access to funding is an interesting dilemma. We realized we had not set up our credit cards with pins for cash withdrawal and collect calls to our card issuers led to more bureaucracy than a solution. We applaud American Express for coming to the rescue, quickly arranging for our credit card to work as an ATM card, enabling us to get enough cash within a few minutes to enjoy the rest of our Beijing experience.
- Using award miles to book travel from Beijing to Lhasa, paying for the entire stay, and being told the day before departure by United that our tickets are no good. This one sent me up the wall. I called United in Beijing and in the US, with the US acknowledging our reservation and Beijing denying it. Our only option was to pay for tickets at $800 a piece! Which is exactly what we ended up doing. It took us months of fighting with United to get our money back.
- Getting to Bangkok after a very long flight from the US and being told by the Marriott that we have no room! Thankfully, in this instance they took us over to the Peninsula and transported us back the next day and of course apologized profusely for the mix up.
- Having a massive stomach upset in Shenzen and looking for drugs in a pharmacy where not a stitch of English is spoken. This one required a full on demo, relying on every facial and bodily gesture to get the much-needed medicines.
- Landing in Fairbanks, Alaska for a 10 day break only to be greeted by the smell and dust of forest fires. Everyone was leaving town and we had picked the perfect time to come in! Within hours, our Fairbanks escape was converted to a train/drive vacation that took us from Fairbanks to Seward!
- Going shopping at a big center near Guangzhou and finding ourselves in the midst of a counterfeit raid. Shopkeepers shoved us out of their stores, closed down their shutters, leaving us bewildered as cops patrolled the place. In a few minutes, business was back to normal with the stores vying for our attention.
- Redeeming points to fly to Chicago for Lollapalooza and being caught in the worst accident leading us to miss our flight. The only option was to take the last flight of the day leading us to miss a significant part of the Chicago experience. While others in line argued and fought with the agents, we apologized to the agent for bothering him on such a crazy day, told him while it wasn’t his business, we had spent a lot of money for the tickets and it really would be such a shame for us to miss this experience. When the next flight was called, we were on it!!
Stay tuned for more challenges and funny experiences in our future posts!