Nineteen years ago my friend and I spent a month backpacking around Italy. From that point on I’d been ‘had’. I’d caught the backpacking bug.
In those days, before the Internet boom, we didn’t pre-book any accommodation; we’d just turn up and hope for the best. If a place was full we’d just move on to the next place. It added to the excitement of the trip.
This trip is different. We’re not moving from place in a haze after drinking too much beer the previous night, we’re responsible parents backpacking with our baby. Before leaving the UK I spent hours trawling through trip advisor researching the best guesthouses and hostels in the locations we had earmarked. I wanted to make a plan, something we could follow with ease and without a hitch. I wanted to leave the UK secure in the knowledge that we knew where we were going and where we would be staying. Like I said, I wanted, but the other half didn’t. ‘What’s happened to your adventurous spirit’ he said. “What happens if we want to stay somewhere for a longer period of time or we meet people that recommend other locations we haven’t thought of” It took me a while to feel relaxed about heading off with a sparse itinerary, but we’ve compromised by booking a few ‘anchor points’ (as we call them) every few months so that we have a well researched place to stay for a longer duration.
I have to admit that in hindsight the other half is right (so far), we’ve always found somewhere decent to stay and it’s given us the freedom to change our plans. There are also some unforeseen circumstances that throw a spanner in the works. The more flexible you can be, the less it affects your trip.
Take yesterday as an example. After spending one night in Miri we arrived at the airport at 11am to take the 12.30 flight to Kota Kinabalu. As we checked the departure screen our flight flashed up as cancelled. A few obscenities left my mouth but we were lucky and managed to get a seat on the 15.50 flight. Miri airport is tiny with about six shops, but we successfully kept ‘the boy’ entertained for the additional four hours. He particularly loved being wheeled around in the basket of the luggage trolleys and flirting with the many ladies that wanted to hold him and take his photo. At 15.30, feeling a little jaded, we were sitting at the gate when another family that we’d been chatting to came up and told us to check the departure screen. I couldn’t believe it. The flight had been cancelled!! AGAIN. I know we’d only paid £30 in total for all of us to fly but I had hoped that even at that price it would include take off! To cut a long and rather uninteresting story of our trip short we finally made it onto the 20.30 flight and arrived at the hostel we had booked that morning at 10pm.
It was a long, tiring and frustrating waste of a day, but as we hadn’t made any plans for that afternoon we didn’t feel as though we were missing out on anything specific. Just remind me not to fly with Mas Wings again…
Top tip of the day:
If you’re stuck at an airport with your baby for an extended duration don’t be afraid to ask for forms of compensation. After the second flight was cancelled we asked for free entry into the executive lounge so that we could let ‘the boy’ sleep on one of the sofas. We also had free food and beverages and a comfortable space to relax in.