Social media makes Travel look so dreamy – I’m guilty of it; but the reality is, sometimes it goes wrong. Like REALLY wrong, and people don’t often tell those stories. So let me shake up your life and tell you a real story of when travel doesn’t go as planned: Bosnia style.
Bosnia and Herzegovina was a country I waited forever to visit; I basically rerouted my entire backpacking adventure to hit up Eastern Europe exclusively due to Instagram photos from the Queen B of travel blogging herself, World of Wanderlust (before she became a posh blogger), but due to difficult connections in getting there, I never actually made it. Fast forward 3.5 years later, WizzAir had a seat sale to tiny little Tuzla in the north of the country, and I of course booked a Flight. But WHAT a nightmare it became.
I got a bargain flight offer for £35 return to Tuzla over the first May Bank Holiday and flew over there with a friend I met a few years back while traveling in Macedonia. We arrived in tiny Tuzla where the Airport was a hallway which at one point was an old hobby airplane hangar, and headed straight for our AirBnB. The following morning we took a 2.5 hour bus ride down to Sarajevo where the real trip began!
Parents: Isn’t there a war going on in Bosnia?
Sarajevo, is a really beautiful and historic town – it’s where WWI kicked off with the assignation of Frans Ferdinand of Austria, not the band. If your parents are like mine and thought that there was still a war going on there, the answer is no. It’s been over for nearly 27 years.
Anyways, I spent 3 awesome (and cheap) days exploring the capital of BiH and the former capital of Yugoslavia. I took £100 with me to cover the cost of everything (hostels, food, transport etc). The food in BiH is amazinggggg and the people are really kind. The only thing I would say negative about the city is that you’re allowed to smoke inside bars and restaurants which, for a non-smoker, makes it difficult to want to stay out, breath, etc.
The plan was I’d spend 3 days in Sarajevo with my friend and then I’d travel back to Tuzla on the Tuesday to catch my flight back to London while my friend traveled onwards to Mostar and Croatia. I’d take the same bus back from Sarajevo to Tuzla, where my flight back to London would depart getting me home around 8pm London time with plenty of time to sleep, shower and be fresh for work the next day. In theory…
The Series of Unfortunate Events Begins …
On the Tuesday, I arrived with plenty of time to the bus station to catch my ride back to the airport. Have you ever heard the term ‘Bosnian Time’ ? (You can substitute ‘Bosnian’ for literally any other under developed nation and you’ll get my drift). Well… my bus was running on that clock. To no ones’ surprise, it was late arriving, which caused a chain reaction resulting in a series of unfortunate events. The bus ended up coming about an hour later than scheduled…
There’s something you should know about me. Because I’ve flown so many times in the past few years, I’ve gotten my timing down to a friggen SCIENCE. I always arrive to airports, or bus stations or trains with just enough time to make it through security and customs so as not to waste time I could still be enjoying on holiday. So, I confess, there was an earlier bus time I could have chosen to take but decided against it because, what can I really do in this crap little airport hangar? There wasn’t even Duty Free perfume I could dose myself in! So, here I am, the only non-local person patiently waiting for this stupid coach to show up .. Finally it does and I hop abroad and grab my assigned seat. The first 40 mins I have a row all to myself which is every bus riders dream. Then.. I get this douche bag guy from HELL sit next to me for the remainder of the 2 hour trip …
Seat Mate From H-E-Double Hockey Sticks
My new seat mate was a bald older man in his 40s and was wearing his military uniform. The look on his face told me he’s seen some shit … so I knew not to even play the friendly Canadian card.. he wanted to be left alone. I’m sitting next to the window and he has the isle. You know that term, ‘man spreading’? If not, let me educate you:
Every girl has experienced it, and there’s nothing worse than having it happen while in a foreign country with a man who can probably Chuck Norris my ass in a matter of seconds. It got to the point where I think HE was trying to make his presence known. His legs were spread so far apart and his elbow was LITERALLY digging into my right side on purpose, that I was hugging the window. His legs weren’t just resting there, they were forcing themselves over to make me feel uncomfortable.. I started pushing back trying to regain my space, at which his jabs became stronger and his legs more solidly fastened to the floor on my side of the seat. I was getting so angry and my inner feminist was yelling on the inside for me to speak up, but I was too nervous as there was so much of the drive left to go and he had a scary look to him. So instead, I sat there in silence and allowed it to happen. For 2 hours. It was really uncomfortable, on a physical level but also on a personal level, too.
Hours later, I finally arrived to the bus terminal and used my Bosnian Marks to pay for a taxi to the airport. At this point, I was pretty chuffed with myself because I still had about £30 worth of Marks left over, #DivaOnADime. I told the driver to put the pedal to the metal and get me to the airport. We arrived with 15 mins to go before the gates closed, which I thought would be PLENTY of time considering the airport is smaller than my bedroom. As I arrived, I also discovered that my flight had been delayed and was still sitting on the tarmac!! GREAT news, more time (or so I thought). Turns out, WizzAir is INSANELY strict with gate closures and even though there was 10 of us who got stuck behind the gates for security waiting to board, they wouldn’t let us. We argued with them for a solid 30 mins, meanwhile the plane was still sitting on the runway .. They wouldn’t budge and as a result .. I missed my flight.
The Adventure Continues …
The next flight to London from Tuzla didn’t depart until Saturday, four days later, so I was left stranded in nowhere northern Bosnia and was meant to be at work in a few hours … I was WiFi dependent and literally stranded. In all the hundreds of flights I’ve taken in my life, I’ve never had this happen and I cockily assumed that it never would (… ok .. maybe once more it happened but I thankfully had my work laptop and was able to ‘work from home’ aka the airport so it doesn’t count). So, what does one do when they’ve missed a flight in a foreign country? Cry, obviously.
Blessed be the kind people of BiH. A kind local Muslim girl who was at the airport picking up her grandmother came over to my mascara streaked face and let me use her hotspot to try and rebook some sort of transportation back to London. At first, I was reluctant to speak to anyone and had my back up because, I, this world traveller, doesn’t miss flights. I was mad at myself for being an idiot and pushing things a little too closely to departure but I also realised that I was in need of help. I used her hotspot and immediately hopped on SkyScanner and searched flights from Sarajevo back to London, which would have cost an arm and a leg. Luckily, a friend back in London came to my rescue and within minutes provided me with a spreadsheet of route and price options from neighbouring countries! Then the girl, her mom, and grandmother (neither of which spoke English), drove me out of their way back to the bus station so I could buy a ticket to another country to catch my flight back. I was so thankful for these kind locals, I can only imagine how pathetic I looked. When I think back to my parents concern for me to visit Bosnia, and the actual reality of my experience there and how sometimes you just need to rely on the generosity of others, I felt confident that I’d be able to change my parents opinions on this country with a troubled past.
When I arrived at the other bus depot, I was planning on buying a ticket down to Croatia to catch a flight. I had 15 mins before the last bus to Zagreb left for the day, I’d run out of local currency and, of course the ATM was down and the station didn’t accept card. I was in a PANIC! A local Bosnian couple saw me in distress and asked if I was ok. I explained my situation and they offered to drive me to an ATM down the street to get the cash for the ticket. We raced over, got the money and dashed back and only just made the bus! PHEW!
Shania Twain Brings People Together
When I was on the bus, I called my friend back in London to give my bank card details over the phone to book my return flight, but as I was using my data, just as I gave the final numbers on my card, my phone capped its usage and my battery shut down. SHIT. A Croatian girl on the bus let me use her portable charger to juice up and a group of us all became friends and listened to Shania Twain! Classic Canadian abroad.
Hours later, when I finally got to the Zagreb bus station, I had to withdraw local currency to get a taxi to the airport, and by accident withdrew £187 equivalent instead of €10… FML. You might not be surprised that that wasn’t the first time I’ve done something like that on my travels … (math isn’t my strong suit).
I took my bulging wallet with me and hunted down a taxi to the airport. At this time it was about 1:30am, I’d been travelling since lunch time and my flight was due to depart at 8am… 7 hours later. I got to the airport and was literally the only person in there for 5 of those 7 hours. The ceiling looked like a bird cage, which is exactly how I felt: trapped ha. I started Skyping my family and friends back home to pass the time and try to prevent myself from falling asleep.
When boarding time came, I hopped onto my plane … not realising that it had a connection and layover in Germany for 3 hours . The journey never ends!!! When I landed in Germany, I used up some of my €180 and ate the biggest bratwurst and mash of.my.life. and may have gone back for seconds … I was milking that dirty traveller look for another few hours.
Over 30 hours, 5 passport stamps and £200 less later, I arrived back on UK soil. Exhausted, dirty, hungry (always), and with one less vacation day than planned. Thanks to the kindness of strangers in a region known for recent conflict, and the quick speed of great friends, my heart was full and thankful. Travel isn’t always pretty like social media makes it look, but moments like this reaffirm why I love it; you see the good in people.
Do you have any travel mishaps? Tell me in the comments below.
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