We’ve all experienced the travel meltdown, the point at which you just lose it at some point in your journey. You’ve missed a flight connection, dealt with weather delays, were stranded overseas, waited at the baggage carousel only to realize that your bags are not coming anytime soon, been so hungry that you are miserable. I’ve experienced all of these and for the most part dealt with them the best I could. Thankfully, I won’t be on YouTube or other viral video stomping my feel or yelling causing a scene – I tend to escape to my room with cookies and hopefully wine to regroup and have a private pity party to decompress. Absent cookies and wine, my South African travel meltdown took place in public in the expansive, welcoming lobby of the Westin Capetown, specifically at the concierge desk and it wasn’t pretty – I wasn’t pretty (both physically and emotionally at this point).
Traveling solo for so many years, I’ve developed a host of backup plans after imagining all of the possible “what could go wrong” scenarios. This is the dark side of solo travel for me – having no one to help fix things and give me a hug to say “it’s going to be ok” – I’ve had to learn to just move forward, adapt and learn from the situation.
How did i end up here? It was a slow build-up and looking back now, I wonder if coming back to a connected society (after two weeks on safari disconnected) with the multiple issues didn’t put all my senses on overload to push me over the edge more than usual.
It first started after I left Botswana on the way to Zimbabwe when i lost phone coverage. I didn’t think much of it, figuring that my plan didn’t cover Zimbabwe. While truly disconnected from work (always a good thing) I was also disconnected from family/friends with no text/phone access. After the phone withdrawal, I was free and it was like magic! I had nothing pulling me away from the safari and I was able to immerse myself in the experience. Continuing onward to South Africa, the coverage didn’t return, so I just continued to enjoy my journey.
As if the technology failure wasn’t enough to deal with my skin decided to have a reaction to my bug creme/sunscreen combo. While I discontinued use, it wasn’t until looked in the mirror in the airplane bathroom that the whole “flying dries out your skin” came into play. My slight reaction mixed with the dry air of the flight dried out my face so much that it was peeling white and flaky (yes, so gross!).
Arriving in Capetown with my ghastly peeling face (which i couldn’t hide with my hair) I was met by my tour guide who promptly explained that I was transferred to another tour company for the week as I was the only guest and he was going on vacation. I didn’t have a backup plan for “when your tour guide/company ditches you”.
So now at the hotel with a peeling face and faxed confirmations from the new tour company, I approached the desk to check-in. I inquired about my luggage I shipped from Johannesburg two weeks prior and was told it didn’t arrive yet. WHAT!?? How can that be? It had two weeks! I was escorted to the concierge desk for help. The concierge said, “we were waiting, but nothing came” . Both the Johannesburg concierge and I had sent an email with the information and it was disappointing that no one was proactive to find out what happened.
So with no phone/internet for two weeks, a peeling dry face that I can’t hide, handoff to unknown tour company and now my city luggage (jeans and cute shoes) was missing on a holiday weekend? It was too much for me to deal with and my travel meltdown began. Tears formed and my voice was full of emotion, enough to freak the concierge out as she realized I wasn’t moving until this was resolved. I had to direct her to call Johannesburg and talk to the hotel concierge who shipped the luggage for the tracking number (without internet access I wasn’t able to retrieve my email confirm). She was hesitant and I think she wanted me to figure it out on my own (really? I’m in tears and you don’t want to place a phone call for a guest? so much for customer service) . From the call, we learned that my luggage was at the local Post Office.
The local post office was nearby but closed for the day. I would have a small window on Saturday to retrieve my bag otherwise with the bank holiday I would need to wait to Tuesday. I couldn’t fathom spending another five days in the city in my safari clothes so I would need to reschedule my Saturday morning tour.
The concierge did all that I asked (directed) her to do, so I retreated to my room to begin working to fix the other things (my pity party would need to wait as I had a “to do list” to work on). Calling the new tour company, I canceled my Table Mountain/City tour and rescheduled it for my free day (always good to plan a free day in your schedule). My next call was to the hotel spa to book an emergency facial for the next morning after my luggage retrieval, hoping they were miracle workers. Trying to contact the phone carrier was moot and that wouldn’t be resolved for a few more days. With a quick shower to wash off the safari, I was almost fully in “city mode” and the memories of being disconnected and relaxed were quickly, sadly, fading as I made my way to the waterfront to forage for food, wine and chocolate.