An Epilogue from a Humbled Traveler
I have committed pretty much every possible travel error on the planet. While many travel blogs paint a rosy picture about the places and things someone has done, I try to give you a balanced perspective on what goes right and what goes wrong. I nearly lost my customs card in Argentina, my ATM card expired in South Africa, and I lost my GoPro in Thailand because of an idiotic belly flop off the top of a yacht in the Andaman Sea. Those were all honest mistakes. I wasn't paying attention, and I paid for it.
Every once and awhile, I knowingly make a gamble that may or may not work out. I took MREs from Argentina to Chile for a 55 mile hike, I have played dumb at numerous border crossings because I didn't want to answer extra questions about benign things, and I sped across the United States in what was not exactly in keeping with public health (it took 40 hours, 17 minutes, and 41 seconds to be precise to go from Sacramento to Ocean City, Maryland). But when you gamble, you're eventually going to lose.
India has a very odd system to apply for visas. You can either send your passport to San Francisco, have them apply a sticker, and wait for four weeks OR you can just apply for an electronic visa. I applied for an electronic visa because of my well-documented lack of patience, but the only hitch was that it was single entry. At the end of our Maldives adventure, I had flights booked back to Hyderabad (since that was my original stop) and then I was hoping to fly back from there. I knew the single entry may cause a problem, but I rolled the dice reasoning that I wasn't REALLY leaving the airports. I thought I could argue my logic and win the day.
I lost. The Maldives airport didn't let me get on my flight, but Danielle was able to go forward since she had a work visa. She was left to go get the bags of souvenirs we had stashed in Kochi, and Wendy and I were left to figure out the next stage of our trip. India was out, we knew that. I talked to Emirates, and they said that we basically had to pay for new tickets since we could not buy tickets to fly to Dubai and then "just resume" our flight.
I was livid. "Do you realize that if you make me pay for a whole new flight back to the USA we are basically stranded here?"
Furious typing ensued. Calls to managers were made. Approvals were submitted to the Grand Sheikh of the UAE. Finally, I was informed that for about 400 US dollars per ticket, I could change the flights for Wendy and myself. Relieved, I hesitantly handed them the credit card. I rationalized the gamble that I am sure that the purchase would give me $8 in travel rewards, the Indian government didn't like me and there was some intricate conspiracy to keep me away, and/or they just didn't understand the nuance of my sophisticated arguments. Ultimately, it was my mistake, and despite the equivocations, I own it as a hand that anted up and subsequently lost.
Travel is really the ultimate gamble, and it's extremely exciting. I've stared down rhinos, raced super-cars, jumped off of buildings, and braved the Pantagonian elements. I won those battles. But the losses are what make for great stories. I have told that damn story about the crooked Mozambican cops that my wife visibly rolls her eyes every time I tell it now. I totally gambled, and pretty much lost, but it's a great story.
I've never wanted to die rich, famous, or even well-loved, that stuff has never mattered to me. I do want to get to my twilight years with a few funny stories, though. I guess we'll add this one to the books.