When travel is not quite like the advertisements… 107



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Recently I travelled to New Zealand to visit my sister. I arrived with a modest little suitcase which travelled along behind me on its pulley like a well-trained dog. I had to travel from interstate Australia to Sydney, and then from Sydney to Christchurch by plane. The trip over was fine. I was stung with a hefty storage fee while I parked my luggage at the domestic terminal while I went into Sydney to catch up with friends before flying out that night. The only other excitement was that I was frisked as I left Sydney, and here I was thinking I was quite an invisible sort of middle-aged woman. It must have been the long black coat; I guess I could have been concealing something illicit. My trip to NZ was wonderful: family, relaxation, plenty of perfect espresso in cafes I frequented when I was younger. Lots of food, catching up with scenery from my childhood years, and with the help of a stronger Aussie dollar I was morphed into a shopping frenzy, buying small put wonderful bargains which seemed to be a fraction of their original price. They won’t weigh much, I thought as I floated on a nonchalant cloud of denial. Shopping and finding a bargain is a sort of Nirvana for me, a plane of euphoria which is like a planet only bargain hunters inhabit. Several pairs of divine shoes (so CHEAP!) and lots of little gifts for family in Australia. A coat, a hat (well it was freezing) and other bits and pieces. As the day to depart drew nearer, I surveyed the guest room which was festooned with stuff. No way was I going to jam it into the small red case.

My sister unearthed an old rigid plastic green suitcase with a strange handle and wheel system. My niece used all of her packing skills, coercing voluminous garments into small rolled sausages. She neatly stacked them into the green case. I was amazed. No cavity was left unfilled. She filled both the green and red suitcases. I decided we should add suitcase packing skills to her already impressive CV. We dragged it to the airport at the crack of dawn (sparrow fart as it is loving called in Australian vernacular) and went to check in. As I lugged it onto the scale, my heart sank. They were a total of 14kg overweight. About as much weight as I could do with losing myself, I thought as I reached for the credit card. The woman at the counter showed no mercy. “Hard faced b*tch”, I thought, rather unkindly. $140 later, I wandered off for a ghastly travesty of a latte with my dear sister and her partner who commiserated kindly and refrained from too much “I told you so” eye rolling. I said my goodbyes and flew back to Sydney.

As I hit immigration I was told I was to be processed by officials as I was an Australian Citizen with a New Zealand passport. “Fine”, I thought. Whatever. Several stamps and a lecture later, I was through. The green case arrived on the conveyer minus its beautiful little pink cat tag (I know, but honestly it wasn’t tacky). As I wrestled it onto the trolley, I realised that the wheels did not want to go round, and it would have to be dragged. Then the red one arrived. I lugged them onto the trolley which had wheels which only went one way, sideways. “Kick it in the guts love”, a kindly fellow traveller advised as he saw my pink sweating face and frantic look. It worked. Then the customs documents. Fine. Nothing to declare. Chocolate pineapple chunks are not a food item. Then to the taxi rank. The taxi rank was a revelation. It was a compressed zig zag which went on forever. How many people travel this early on a Sunday morning?!

I spent a great day with friends in Sydney, and also scored a well-packed and much needed flat screen monitor for my old PC. Now the fun begins. The taxi back to domestic terminal was fine. Then, carrying the two cases, one with a pulley, one with stuck jammed wheels, and a fragile box, plus a handbag, a big scarf and a heavy coat was definitely one of the biggest challenges of my life. I developed a shuffle, kick, drag walking motion as I shoved, kicked, lifted and ferried my stuff to the counter. Smug people with well-trained compact, stylish and nifty looking luggage gazed at the entertainment with pity in their eyes. Sweating, I arrived at the counter. Another $88. Definitely bugger! Relieved to be temporarily rid of my burdens and dying for a coffee, I went to be scanned before boarding. Of course the alarms went off – my boots. Ripping them off, I threw them on the conveyer with the coat, scarf and handbag. Finally. I pulled them back on and went to order a latte and some water. I went to text to let my family know I was back. No phone. Double bugger!

I limped and dragged the scalding coffee back to the conveyer and security and asked if my phone was there. They finally found it and asked what it looked like (security check I suppose, I mean lots of people probably lose their phones on conveyer belts) I told them it had a screensaver with Zen pebbles piled up symbolising calm. They took one look at my sweating face and panicked expression and took pity on me and gave it back. I calmed myself down by buying a dozen Krispy Creme donuts to add to my hand luggage. I was pleased to finally get on board the plane, stow the donuts and close my eyes for 45 minutes. Finally I was back home.

As I looked at the pile of stuff on my lounge room floor, I realised that I had already been up for 18 long hours and I was looking forward to my own bed, so after scoffing four divine donuts, sharing the rest, catching up on the news, reading mail, I lay down with indigestion and drifted off to sleep.


Have you ever had a travel nightmare like this? What happened? Tell us below.

Karen Jones

Born in New Zealand, Karen now happily lives in the mid-north coast of New South Wales. She retired early due to ill health and now focuses on her love of walking, writing, reading and spending time with her grandchildren. With a degree in writing, Karen became a blogger and book reviewer for Starts at 60, which has enabled her passions to become enjoyable pastimes. Her recipe for bliss is a well made flat white, a friendly cat and a sea view.

  1. Easy , your on a holiday not a shopping trip , there’s really no need to buy lots of stuff you really don’t need .

  2. Karen I know just what you mean. One unforgettable travel adventure for me quite some years ago was arriving on the Greek Island of Mykonos around midnight, and having to sleep beside the pool in a deck chair until the villa manager arrived in the morning to let us in to our room. It took about a week to un-bend my spine from the shape of a deck chair.

  3. If you had weighed your luggage you could have called the airline you were travelling with and the cost of your extra weight would be minimal but if you do it at checkin it’s a huge cost

  4. I’m sure you’re not the only one with a story like that. Glad you had a good time though.:)

  5. Can’t compete with this one but have had a few trips to NZ come close. Go over every couple of months from Canberra and the stories I could tell. Last trip was 19 hours from wake up to home. Just exhausting. But good for a laugh later. Alarms, lost luggage, breakages, missed trains (Brisbane), busses (Sydney), getting lost, wrong day, wrong date, getting sick, setting of alarms, nice staff, horrible staff, making new friends, dozing of while waiting for connection and missing flight, not being picked up late at night, the list goes on and on. But all in all well worth the trips…. That’s for sure. Keeps life interesting and fun….

  6. I would never get myself into that predicament esp when travelling solo keep it simple K I S S and enjoy

  7. After an exhausting 2 weeks in New York and Boston my friend and found we were slightly ??? Over in our luggage weight ( we both had to purchase an extra bag ) .We were lucky to have a very nice understanding guy at the Qantas counter at JFK who let us go . And I now would only use bags with 4 wheels . It’s the only way to travel . But it’s worth the struggle to experience travel . There is nothing like it

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