Friday, August 22, 2014

So many mistakes, so little time

They say those who succeed, do so because they learn from their mistakes. If that is true, then I have laid the foundation for a successful future. That is to say, I made quite a few mistakes in the last couple weeks.

Mistake #1: Not consulting a map

Unfortunately for me, this error had serious ripple effects (as you'll see below). Instead of consulting a map to see where the Whitsunday Islands were in relation to my jumping off point (Cairns), I instead logged onto the tourism page for the islands. According to the tourism website, people generally fly from Cairns to Hamilton Island and then take a ferry to Airlie Beach (ground zone for Whitsunday Island adventures). I also learned that there is an airport specifically for the Whitsunday Islands which you can fly to from Brisbane. Since I knew I'd likely be flying from Brisbane to Auckland to Tonga at the end of the week, I figured that'd be the easiest way to get to the Whitsunday Islands for me.

Boy I was wrong. One-and-a-half days later--after two flights (Cairns to Brisbane and Brisbane to Whitsunday Coast), an expensive night stay in Brisbane, two airport shuttle rides and a last-minute car rental--I decided to look at a map. That's when I realized the error of my ways: Airlie Beach is less than an 8-hour drive from Cairns. Yes, I could have been there in 8 hours instead of 36 simply by renting a car for a day, which I did anyway to get to and from my hostel in Brisbane. I'm not willing to calculate how much this little mistake cost me, but suffice to say, it did not come cheaply.

The red was my 1400+ mile, highly inefficient route to Airlie Beach. Too bad I didn't opt for the <400 mile drive instead.

Mistake #2: Booking lodging without figuring out how to get to it

For someone who has traveled as much as I have and considering that I work in the public transit sector, you might expect this to be an obvious step in arranging lodging. Sadly, it completely slipped my mind on the evening when I booked all my lodging for my week of solo travel. I don't know if it was fatigue, too much wine or just plain dumb luck, but I booked stays at 3 highly inconvenient hostels.

The first, in Brisbane, was selected for it's seeming proximity to a highly recommended neighborhood and also the train. (See, I was slightly thinking of transit.) However, I neglected to account for three key things:

  1. The train did not run early enough to bring me back to the airport in time for my 6:30am flight out.
  2. The "oh-so-close" train stop was really a half-mile from my hostel with hills in between.
  3. I would be arriving after sunset and leaving before sunrise, meaning I'd have to walk in the dark alone if I relied on transit.

Ultimately, I decided to rent a car, which cost nearly $60, more than doubling the cost of my stay in Brisbane.

The second place I booked was in Airlie Beach and I picked it because it seemed to have less of a party scene than the others. It also required a ten minute walk to/from town along a quasi-highway, while carrying all my belongings. Oh, and there was a hill on the way.

Auckland was my third booking. After suffering from last-mile anxiety with the first two places, I learned my lesson and looked to see how I would be getting from the airport to the hostel, which again I picked because it is in a desirable neighborhood full of vintage shops and artsy places. One look and I knew it was not a good pick, logistically. I found another place on Airbnb where the host offered to pick me up and drop me off for a small fee. Even though I couldn't get my money back on the first place, I booked the other and that's where I'm staying tonight. It's delightful and completely worth it.

In summary, let's just say, this lesson also wasn't free.

Mistake #3: Avoiding tolls by taking the indirect route without the Internet

On my way back to the airport in Brisbane, at 5am mind you, I opted for the more complicated, but toll-free route Google Maps dreamed up for me. This route promised to get me to the airport in nearly the same amount of time as the direct, tolled route, but for free. However, when you take into account the time I spent getting lost and then found again, and the cost of ending up on the tolled route after all, this was almost a total fail. I did, nonetheless, make my flight. And in the future, I will take the easy route when I'm traveling without modern technology.

Mistake #4: Opting for a small tour while traveling solo

It's not that I had an awful time sailing the Whitsunday Islands on a 14-person catamaran. In fact, the views were quite lovely. But it wasn't the best time either. In fact, I'm not quite sure how to describe my lesson here.... Perhaps, don't travel alone if you're an introvert who gets lonely? Or don't travel on boats where everyone else knows each other if you're an introvert? All I can say is, I have more fun traveling with my hubby than traveling solo. Which, I guess, is a good thing since I'm married to the man. :)

Mistake #5: Leaving essential items on shore when departing on a 3-day sailing adventure

I won't go into details, but suffice to say a lady should always travel prepared, especially when she will be on a boat with no access to outside provisions. Luckily, not everyone on the boat was as ill-prepared as I was.

Mistake #6: Getting into an unfamiliar hammock too quickly

After a long day of sailing, walking with all my luggage and then skipping lunch, I decided to relax in a hammock. It decided it would be funny to flip me out onto my face on the concrete. End of story.

So there you have it: six learning opportunities in less than six days. At this rate, I'm bound to be the most successful traveller at the end of this long adventure.



P.S. Mistake #7 struck just as I was typing that conclusion, while standing in the customs queue in Auckland. Balancing your iPad on a luggage cart. I know you are probably laughing at me for being completely silly, but let's just say that 12 hours of travel, followed by an hour in assorted queues trying to exit an airport, will make even the least accident-prone person more likely to do something daft. And, you know by now, that I'm a tad accident-prone. Luckily, the iPad survived and you get to read this post.

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