I’ve been travelling on and off since the age of 18 and, in that time, it’s fair to say that I’ve accumulated a fair few funny tales from my time out in the big wide world. I’ve shared a few of these in previous blog posts, but I thought this would be a good way to go into even more cringe-worthy details and also share some truly hapless stories that happened before my blog existed. So, without further ado, here are some of my funniest, most ridiculous travel stories from my backpacking history so far:
A charity hitchhike of questionable success
Way back in 2013, during my first year of university, me and a couple of pals decided to take part in a charity hitchhike called The Great Escape. It was a pretty simple premise. Each team had 36 hours to get as far away from Nottingham as possible, without spending any of our own money, and the one that got the furthest away would be the winner. To quote Jeremy Clarkson before every disastrous Top Gear challenge, how hard could it be?
Full of excitement at the possibilities of where we could end up in the next 36 hours, we gathered at the starting point in the middle of campus and were eventually all sent off on our way. The stakes were high. Everyone wanted to get as far away as possible. We were pretty confident we would easily make it out of the country. Maybe wake up on a beach on the other side of the world somewhere. Who knows? The possibilities were ENDLESS.
After a quick McDonald’s breakfast for some healthy sustaining nourishment, we headed straight to Nottingham station to catch a train to Leeds. We had managed to blag a Northern Rail pass each for the whole weekend, and Leeds was where we had to pick them up. I had come up with a completely genius plan to go up there, collect the tickets, and use them to head straight down to London where we could catch a flight from one of the 7,000 airports or hop on a Eurostar. Easy peasy.
The tiny little hole in my genius master plan became clear when we got to Leeds and found out the furthest point down the country we could go with our passes was Nottingham, where we had just spent the last two hours coming from. So, we decided to try Plan B, and head to Manchester to see if we could blag a flight at the airport. We did not successfully blag anything, and to make things worse, we bumped into another team who had managed to get themselves onto a flight to a hot and sunny place beginning with M that I can’t quite remember.
We then resorted to Plan C and decided to head across to Liverpool. They have an airport, they have ferry routes. We could maybe get to Ireland? A weekend in Dublin would do just fine. We were definitely feeling in strong need of a pint or three.
We hopped on a train to Liverpool full of slightly reduced hope as we drew closer to the end of our first day. I started to wonder where the other teams had managed to get to. I also started to wonder why we had just spent 24 hours travelling to Lancashire. While other people were potentially on a flight to Thailand by now, we were enjoying a lovely and convoluted tour of the North of England. We got to Liverpool pretty late, found a hostel to stay at, and called it a day. (My only memory of staying there is of the three of us sat in our room eating beans from a can. I think that sums up the success of our journey so far pretty well.)
The next day we got up early and made our way to Birkenhead to try and catch a ferry to Ireland. We got to the ferry terminal and, in one final, crushing blow, were kindly told that there wasn’t another ferry for 14 hours. So, in short, we spent 36 hours travelling a grand total of 90 miles. It was bloody good fun though. We even got to briefly see the outside of the Beatles museum before being told to please move because we were blocking the entrance. What a weekend.
A spontaneous Edinburgh Fringe performance
In 2016, I decided to tick something off my bucket list and book a trip to Edinburgh to visit the Fringe Festival. It’s still one of my favourite solo trips I’ve ever done, and was such a good way to see both Edinburgh and the festival for the first time.
It was the end of my first full day in Edinburgh, and I was getting ready to go and see a show by one of my favourite comedians, Paul Foot. I arrived at the venue and found myself at the front of the queue, so when we were let inside I sat on the front row. How exciting, I thought, I’ve never been sat on the front row for anything. This’ll be GREAT.
The show was called Paul Foot’s Game of Dangers and involved pitting two teams against each other by giving them a series of bizarre, perilous situations, followed by three strange items, and asking them to work out which of the items will save them from danger. A bit like Cards Against Humanity, except I was on a stage with some famous people with several big lights in my face and a room full of people watching me.
The show started, Paul Foot came onto the stage, and he introduced two other comedians who would act as team captains. They then stood up one by one and picked someone from the audience to join them on their team. Here we go. One of the comedians/captains was Mark Dolan, and when it was his turn to choose a teammate he pointed to someone a few seats across from me and asked if they fancied it. The person said no, so he went to the next person down the line, who also shook their head, until he got to me. By this point I had already had a couple of beers, so the Dutch courage kicked in and I leapt at the chance to show off my spectacularly awkward sense of humour with a room full of people I didn’t know by agreeing to go up on stage.
My memory of the show is pretty blurry after that. I think I made about three jokes throughout the whole thing, while putting 70% of my energy into not doing/saying anything stupid and the other 30% on making my Northern accent understandable to everyone involved. I also can’t remember if we won or lost, but it was lots of silly fun regardless and made my first Fringe experience even more unforgettable. I’ll be a panel show regular before you know it.
An incredibly failed attempt at dealing with turbulence fear
A couple of years ago me and my pals went on a 2 day trip to Dublin. We flew from and back to Leeds Bradford Airport so the flight was only about 45 minutes, which was good for me as I’m not the best flyer in the world. However, what wasn’t quite as good for me was the fact that Leeds Bradford is the highest airport in the UK and EXTREMELY BLOODY WINDY as a result of this. On our way back to Leeds we flew into some turbulence and I started to panic so, in an attempt to calm myself down, started to read a new book I had just bought in Dublin airport in preparation for this exact situation. The first words on the first page, however, were less than reassuring: