Travel Nightmares: Gridlock Traffic, Forgotten Essentials and a Fit at 35,000 Feet


I was looking back through some of my favourite travel stories and thought this one really captured the chaos that I encountered before I even took off from London Gatwick. I’ve re-jigged this old post from back at the start of our blogging life and added a few bits and pieces that I forgot to mention last time… hope you all enjoy the first in our series of travel nightmares.

The day had finally arrived and my journey was about to begin.

I was setting off on my first backpacking adventure and I wasn’t alone. I’d be embarking on this journey with 2 good mates of mine, Scott and Michael. Our first stop was Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit… Don’t worry. I haven’t lost my mind and broken out into a cold sweat whilst speaking gibberish. This is actually the full Thai name of Bangkok. Who knew!? The English translation goes a little like this:

City of Angels, Great City of Immortals, Magnificent City of the Nine Gems, Seat of the King, City of Royal Palaces, Home of Gods Incarnate, Erected by Vishvakarman at Indra’s Behest. Catchy right?

The Airport Run

Its safe to say our journey didn’t get off to the best start. We left our very exotic home town of High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire and just 5 minutes after setting off, we reached the M40 motorway. Standstill traffic! ‘Holy horsey! You can’t be cowing serious! Mother cockerel!  (I’ve swapped the expletives for farm animals just to ensure the post is a little more PG). 

We decided not to join the traffic and instead head for the M4… that was gridlocked too! …. You ******* ****** ******** ******  (more obscenities and censored context). 

Well we joined the M4 anyway and hopped things would move a little. Luckily they did, all be it at snails pace. What was even more joyous was that at this point, Michael realised he’d left his malaria tablets and VISA’s at home. Great!

As I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, this was becoming a bit of a travel nightmare. Sure it’s given me a story to tell (thanks for reading by the way) but at the time, we weren’t best pleased.

We phoned Michael’s dad who said he’d try make it to the airport with the forgotten essentials before we check in….. good luck! He was coming from further down the M40 than we had originally started. In that traffic, he could still be on his way by the time we reach Bangkok.

Over 2 hours later we arrived at Gatwick airport. To our amazement so had Michael’s dad who met us with the words, ‘where on earth have you been! I’ve been waiting ages!‘ To this day, how he managed to navigate through the gridlocks and delays is a mystery Sherlock himself would have trouble solving.

We may have been the last people to check in and we may have been fastracked through airport security in order to not miss the flight but as we ran through duty free, I achieved something unimaginable. I grabbed a free Bailey’s sample (one in each hand) and made it all the way to the departure gate without spilling a single drop…. It was a great moment and one I’d like to see Usain Bolt attempt… If you’re reading, Usain, ‘Game on!’ 

We took our seats, caught our breath and could settle down for a chilled journey to Bangkok…. or so I had hoped…

Attack at 35,000 feet

Ok so it wasn’t an actual attack but it sure felt that way at first… let me explain.

We were a good half way through our flight and I was just nodding off. (A rarity for me. My ridiculously long limbs make it near impossible to sleep on plane journeys.)

What happened: Out of nowhere, I was ‘attacked’! A bloke elbowed me in the back of the head before pouncing on me. My dazed reaction was purely instinct as I slung him off of me and onto the floor.

In reality: What actually happened was this… A man had suffered an epileptic fit whilst walking down the isle and collapsed on to my lap. In my sleepy state, I slung the poor man off of my lap and back out into the isle, sending him crashing onto the floor… I had suddenly become a batterer of epilepsy sufferers.

The man’s partner (who was asleep a few rows behind me) woke up and dashed to his side as I called for a stewardess. I felt like the worst person on earth (or at least the worst person flying at 35,000 feet). Thankfully his partner was very understanding. The man laid on the isle floor for half an hour. His head held between his partners knees with stewards rushing around all over the place.

Then a steward turned to me and said we may need to land’. 

God knows what time it was but it was pitch black outside and where we were was a mystery. A mystery until I checked the inflight map anyway. We were just about to fly over Afghanistan. Wonderful!

Luckily landing near a war zone was unnecessary and the man made a quick recovery. The commotion subsided and I’m pleased to say we landed in Bangkok with no further incidents.

We had made it to Thailand in one piece and simply hoped that would be the end of our bad luck.

It didn’t bode well that I had experienced such travel nightmares before I even made it to my first country. This had all happened after taking just 2 forms of transport when I was about to travel through 7 countries in 85 ways. But hey, they say things come in threes right? Traffic (thats 1), forgotten essentials (2) and an inflight attack (thats 3) …. Or was there more to come?

travel nightmares: gridlock traffic, forgotten essentials and a fit at 35,000 feet - The Globe Wanderers

I’m sure many of you have experienced your own travel nightmares. We’d love to hear about the misery and hell you’ve endured 😉

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  • Tamara Wilcox

    Fun story – kept me reading till the end! We’ve had some travel nightmares too: cancelled flights, trying to get a souvenir dagger through security, and sunburnt eyes! (to name a few). I wrote about them in a post called “Don’t Buy a Dagger”

    • TheGlobeWanderers

      Hey Tamara. Pleased my nightmare kept you entertained till the end 😉
      Ah cancelled flights are the worst. Haha, so pleased I’m not the only one to have attempted getting a deadly souvenir through security!
      Sunburnt eyes….always a good look. Will be sure to check out your post.
      Thanks for reading 🙂

  • Chris Nash

    Hmmm, I like the fact she turned to you and said “We may need to land”

    Was the pilot also incapacitated?!

    I’m not sure Usain Bolt would be up for the challenge, seeing as his name’s been mispelt… 😉

    Great little story!

    • TheGlobeWanderers

      Hi Chris. Yeah, think she was concerned because the man was taking a while to recover. No the pilot was functioning. Cheers for pointing out the typo, I’ve given myself a talking to.

  • Amy -Two Drifters

    Too funny! your writing style is hilarious!!

    • TheGlobeWanderers

      Aw thanks, Amy! Really appreciate that 🙂 Please you liked!

  • Once in a Lifetime Journey

    wow this looks like a real flight from hell 🙂 poor man, and poor you, you must have elt quite bad and quite shocked. Sometimes things are just not meant to be

    • TheGlobeWanderers

      Yeah, I felt reaaaally bad! Don’t think I’ll ever sleep on a plane again haha
      Thanks for reading

  • elizabeth

    I have been traveling for a long time and these little hiccups just become the stuff of legend! Okay it takes a while for that to happen but . . .

    • TheGlobeWanderers

      Hi, Elizabeth. Thats very true. If it wasn’t for all that and I had a seamless trip then I’d never been able to write this post 🙂 At least in hindsight their the stuff of legend 😉
      Thanks so much for checking the post out

  • Mary Charie – TwoMonkeysTravel

    My travel nightmare is kids. I love them, but jeeez not on the plane or ques. I also consider delay flights as a nightmare. I’m too organize to have delayed flights 😀

    • TheGlobeWanderers

      Haha, love that!
      I do agree. Whenever people are making their way to their seats on a plane I’m praying there isn’t a child in front of me.
      Ditto on the delays too. Never popular with organised folk.
      Thanks for reading, Mary 🙂

  • TheGlobeWanderers

    Thanks, Lisa. Oh no. Whilst driving?… that couldn’t have been nice to witness.

  • Erin

    What a rough start to what was hopefully a great trip! It seems departure/flying disasters can come in so many forms.

    • TheGlobeWanderers

      Cheers, Erin. Yea it was an awesome trip after all that. Best ever!

  • evankristine

    Holy guacamole that was an experience I have to say. Hope you don’t get the same experience again!

    • TheGlobeWanderers

      It wasn’t the greatest start but so far so good on it not happening again…. stay tuned though.
      Cheers for stopping by 🙂

  • evankristine

    Holy guacamole that was an experience I have to say. Hope you don’t get the same experience again!

  • Trisha Velarmino

    When I first read the Thai name for BKK, I thought it was some Russian airport. HAHAHA! Oh well, James, you know the drill — there are no bad experiences. Only challenging ones. Things like these “unlock” the one star in the wanderer in us. Thanks for sharing!