‘What went wrong?” is a question I get asked a lot and my answer is usually, “Well, er, nothing really”. Nothing really did go wrong. I got robbed but it was fairly uneventful, I got ill at various points, I had three weeks of fairly questionable digestion. Nothing too awful.
But I did have a series of little…mishaps.
Travelling is never perfect, but I would say that my trip was about as close to as you can get. I’m lucky because nothing truly terrible happened to me and the things that did happen are more things that we can all laugh at than the events that make you never want to leave warmth of your Hampshire kitchen again.
So no, this isn’t a post about my 10 day fight with death or surviving an Amazonian infection and I’m very thankful for that. Instead, this will be a series of posts to show that sometimes, when you’re away, things don’t go totally to plan, but it’s important to see the funny side anyway.
My advice? Whenever something bad happens just remember, it’ll make a good story when you get home.
Here’s post number one to answer the question of what went wrong; a battle with a beetle, set in the beautiful beachside resort of Florianopolis in Brazil.
The first pickle we got ourselves into in Florianopolis, was that there were no cash machines working in the town. This doesn’t sound like that much of a drama, but we spent all our cash on Caipirinhas and literally didn’t have enough for food. Yes, I know there are people in the world who are genuinely starving and I’m definitely not going to claim that we were starving, But, we were fucking hungry. I had £3.50’s worth of Brazilian Reals which I could either spend on getting a bus to the next town to get cash out, or on a Caipirinha. I choose the Caipirinha.
The thing with Brazil, or Florianopolis in particular, is that everyone is so relaxed that it makes you feel more relaxed. If they tell you that the cash machine will be fixed in the next day or two, you convince yourself that you can survive without food for the next day or two. Eventually, I believe I swapped some Argentinian money with a random lady on the street and got the worst exchange rate that has ever been given to anyone. This isn’t a joke. But it paid for our dinner and that’s all that mattered.
So at the time that this event happened, I was very hungry. So just imagine all of this happening with an empty stomach and you might sympathise with my typically over-the-top reaction slightly better:
A Battle With A Beetle
We had been in Florianopolis for around 3 days, and had to move hostels because our current one was full. The hostel we moved to had a free breakfast which is all I really need in life, but it also had separate male and female dorms. This was actually great for me, as I had spent the past few weeks stuck in dorms with only boys and I was starting to crave female company.
Of course, my roommate turned out to be a middle-aged Brazilian who spoke no English, but I like to think we bonded all the same.
It was our first night in this new hostel. My new Brazilian friend was probably out on the lash as she was much cooler than me. I had just texted Matty to say goodnight and was snuggled in bed with my book when I heard a sudden flapping and felt something heavy land on top of me.
I leapt out of bed and sprinted to the corner of the room (as you do). On my bed was an was an enormous black beetle, roughly the length of my middle finger and the width of two of my fingers. Please just measure this on your hand now so you can appreciate the sheer size of this monstrosity. The worst thing about this cockroach/beetle hybrid? It could fucking fly.
Now, I absolutely hate bugs – more than anything. I would have preferred a snake to slide in through the window than this beetle land on top of me. I stood in the corner of the room for a while staring at it, weighing up my options and thinking what the fuck have I ever done to deserve this. When it dawned on me that I would never be able to sleep in that bed again, I began to cry. Over the top? Perhaps.
After a few minutes of silent weeping and a severe existential crisis, I made the decision to be brave. My thoughts went as follows – Come on Alex, this is what travelling is about, learning to push yourself, staying calm when things go wrong, being strong and independent. You shouldn’t wake Matty up. Matty is tired, he deserves to have a nice sleep, he’s probably got sunburn. Alex, it’s time for you to be the strong one.
I decided to tackle the beast head on.
This determination did not last long but I was proud of myself for even surviving a minute when faced with this cockroach of death. Trying to get rid of it was torture, both physically and mentally. I had opened the windows, I had tried to trap it in the bathroom, I had turned out all the lights and stood outside trembling in the hallway, wearing very little, but knowing that someone seeing me was the least of my worries.
I was exhausted. I couldn’t do it anymore. It was time to call for backup, in the form of Matty.
I texted him and received no reply, so I began to panic even more. I knocked on the door of his dorm a few times, then sprinted back to my dorm in my pyjamas, convinced that the cockroach had snuck inside my pillow case.
To anyone who is thinking right now, “She’s seriously saying this is one of the things that went wrong? A fucking bug?!” , I’m going to insert a screenshot of my messages to Matty, so you can hopefully get a sense of my sheer panic at this point.
Yes, in hindsight I was a bit dramatic.
Anyway, as you can see, I was standing in my room crying because Matty wasn’t replying and didn’t wake up when I knocked at his door. I was a total state by this point. I was violently sobbing, the beetle was showing me up to be the total wetbag that I really am and I didn’t know what to do. I’m not made for this travelling life, I thought. All I wanted was to go home. To sit on the sofa with my mum watching Corrie and drinking tea. To be comfortable and content. To be safe. To eat boring food. To work a 9-5 job and know that the scariest things in the UK are pigeons and Brexit and the possibility that soon you will have no soul. The more I thought about it, the more I cried, and the more I wished I had chosen the comfortable life. I was alone, I was trapped in a room with a bug double my size, and I was ready to book the next flight back to London Heathrow. The only thing stopping me was that I didn’t have enough money to pay for a taxi to the airport.
Suddenly, I had a brainwave. I would go to reception and ask for a key to Matty’s room. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of this before. Of course they had a spare key, then I could sneak in without waking up any of his roommates, he would come and get rid of the cockroach for me and then I could go to sleep. The weight of the past hour was lifted and I was starting to see the light again. I could do this.
I wiped my eyes and went down to reception confident that soon all this would be over, and quickly explained that I had had a family emergency and needed to speak to my amigo, Matty ASAP. I might have spoken a bit faster than usual as I was a tad stressed and actually using the phrase ‘ASAP’ was, in hindsight, a bit ambitious, but it wasn’t until he looked at me totally blankly that I remembered I was in Brazil and he most likely had no idea what I had just said. I tried again, this time in broken Spanish (I had at this point learned two, entirely useless words of Portuguese). The Spanish worked amazingly well and I allowed myself a few moments to feel smug as I made my way back upstairs to Matty’s all-male dorm, armed with a key.
The first thing that hit me when I unlocked the door was the heat, and the second was the smell. I forgot to mention, Matty’s fully booked, all-male dorm had no air conditioning. I actually sympathised with Matty for a few seconds before remembering that I, of course, had it much, much worse.
“Be brave”, I told myself, as I headed towards his bed and gently shock him awake, even as I quietly explained what had happened tears began to stream as the emotion from the past hour hit me.
As we headed back to my room, it dawned on me that Matty might be just as terrified by the cockroach as I was, although I was confident that male-pride would stop him from admitting this.
“Thank you, you’re sooo much braver than me”, I said a few times just to boost his ego, although I’m sure I saw him shudder a little when I explained just how huge the monster was.
After roughly half an hour of him searching and me standing outside the room trying not to cry again, he came to the conclusion that it must have gone out the window without me realising. Of course, I knew this hadn’t happened as there is no way in hell that I am that lucky. The universe had sent that cockroach to punish me for something, and I knew it wouldn’t let me off that easily. Besides, how could we even know that for certain? I had made up my mind, I was going to sleep in Matty’s bed with him.
I saw his face drop a little when I informed him of my new plan. Yes, his dorm smelled like someone had died inside a gym changing room and it was definitely hotter than the sun, but it seemed the lesser of two evils.
What followed, was the hottest and sweatiest night of my entire life. I was drenched within around two minutes and I began to feel as if my insides were starting to rot. I also hadn’t eaten since the free breakfast that morning which further contributed to my virtually sleepless night.
The next day, I still wasn’t quite at the point in which I could laugh at my traumatic ordeal, but I was getting there. I felt relatively positive and ready to face another day of hunger as we waited for the cash machine to be fixed. At the free breakfast, I ate until the thought of more food made me feel violently ill, and then prayed this feeling would last until we could get cash out. I even dabbled with the idea of sleeping in my own dorm that night, then remembered the sheer size of it and tried to tell Matty that I missed him too much to sleep on my own, so it was imperative I slept in his dorm again. He saw through this almost immediately but it was worth a go.
As we were heading out to the beach the receptionist called us over. He told us that if we didn’t sleep in our own dorms, we would be asked to leave. We flatly denied any wrongdoing at first, caving only when he told us that someone in Matty’s dorm had actually complained about me sleeping there. I wasn’t too sure what there was to complain about as all I had done was lie on my back sweating for 7 hours. He was the one who was snoring, selfish twat.
That night, I was forced to sleep in my own dorm with still no sign of the Brazilian lady or the cockroach. If I thought the night in Matty’s dorm was long, the next one was even longer.