travel hor­ror and hi­lar­ity

Pink skinny jean dis­as­ters, for­eign al­pha­bet menus and a wed­ding gate­crash – travel hitches can make for great din­ner-party hi­lar­ity.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS - JO SEA­GAR With

Con­fes­sion time… I’m a travel ad­dict on the road to re­cov­ery. Nah, just kid­ding – I’m ac­tu­ally on my way to the air­port. Travel is my ther­apy and, as usual at this time of year, I’m about to head off to the other side of the world, es­cort­ing foodie tours to Europe.

Travel is such an in­vest­ment in your­self. It’s of­ten been said that it is the only thing you buy that ac­tu­ally makes you richer. I’m a firm believer in the the­ory that the only trip you will re­gret will be the one you didn’t take.

How­ever, along with all the joys, ex­cite­ment and lib­er­a­tion of travel, there are, at times, the slightly scary sit­u­a­tions and ac­ci­den­tal mishaps. Turn­ing these in­ci­dents into hi­lar­i­ous din­ner-party travel sto­ries is my way of cop­ing with them, and I can re­call many from my years of trav­el­ling and es­cort­ing tour groups. Be­sides the usual night­mare sce­nar­ios of missed flights, weather de­lays, lost tick­ets and burst­ing-zip lug­gage mal­func­tions,

I’ve had times when things have gone a bit crazily – and fun­nily – wrong.

When my chil­dren were quite young – about five and six years old – we went to Sin­ga­pore for a hol­i­day. There was much ex­cite­ment for these coun­try kids to be stay­ing on the 29th storey of a huge high-rise ho­tel in the heart of the city, but even greater ex­cite­ment when the fire alarm went off and sprin­klers started spray­ing water ev­ery­where in the mid­dle of the night (some­thing we were not re­spon­si­ble for, thank good­ness). I’d seen enough Tow­er­ing In­ferno kind of block­buster movies to take this very se­ri­ously. Grab­bing our pass­ports and wear­ing our fluffy tow­elling ho­tel dress­ing gowns and slip­pers, we headed off down the fire exit stair­well. No one else any­where in the ho­tel seemed par­tic­u­larly per­turbed by

events but the sen­si­ble Sea­gar Gang of Four weren’t tak­ing any risks, so off we traipsed, down and down and down all those hun­dreds of stairs to the ground floor and through big, clearly marked Fire Exit doors... only to find our­selves on cen­tre stage with the bri­dal party of a huge, ob­vi­ously very grand, for­mal Chi­nese wed­ding! Here we were, hold­ing hands in sin­gle file, look­ing like the von Trapp fam­ily singers… On this floor of the ho­tel, the alarms were def­i­nitely not blast­ing out, so the very red-faced Ki­wis had to do some pretty fast ex­pla­na­tions and apolo­gies for gate­crash­ing.

Ap­par­ently there was a faulty alarm just out­side our room, con­fined to our floor only, but no one had told us. At least we were pre­pared and got safely out, and, of course, it added to our travel sto­ries worth re­peat­ing.

On another trip, this time to Odessa in the Ukraine, we were with a small tour group in a lovely, very lo­cal, non-touristy res­tau­rant. The menu was in not only an un­fa­mil­iar lan­guage but also a com­pletely for­eign al­pha­bet, so very tricky to read. Even prices were im­pos­si­ble to de­ci­pher, so we just pointed at var­i­ous things and the wait­ress wrote them down. I felt quite smarty-pants chuffed when my huge plat­ter of beau­ti­ful caviars ar­rived with all the ac­cou­trements, how­ever Ross was not so thrilled when he was pre­sented with what loosely re­sem­bled jel­ly­meat, and some­one else re­ceived a sin­gle red let­tuce leaf on a plate. Even more star­tling was the five-litre flagon of sweet sherry I’d or­dered as our wine choice. A fun and mem­o­rable meal was shared that day and it has made a good story to dine out on ever since.

In Rome, my best friend and brides­maid, Tr­ish, had been ad­mir­ing those cool Ital­iano girls on Ves­pas whizzing by and was quite taken with one girl’s fab­u­lous pink skinny jeans. Tr­ish, be­ing an en­vi­able size 6, de­cided she just had to have a pair of these uber stylish pants, so off to Zara we marched. The fit­ting rooms were small even for my svelte friend, and the skinny jeans were more of a chal­lenge to squirm into than any of us in our group could com­pre­hend. We never give a moment’s thought to Tr­ish hav­ing a pros­thetic leg, but do­ing the only thing she could to get out of the “skin­nies”, poor Tr­ish re­moved her limb com­pletely. This was fine in it­self, un­til the ter­ri­bly ef­fi­cient sales lady popped in to as­sist with siz­ing and fainted clean away with a case of the vapours big time – the tears of laugh­ter from all of us mates not re­ally help­ing the sit­u­a­tion. When­ever we get to­gether now, some­body will start the “re­mem­ber the pink jeans in­ci­dent” trip down me­mory lane.

At other times in other places, I’ve been known to mis­read route-num­ber signs as speed lim­its… slow­ing right down when pass­ing the High­way 45 sign and speed­ing up alarm­ingly on the 140 ex­press­way.

How about try­ing to ex­plain to Cus­toms why you had 14 small, clear plas­tic pouches of white pow­der ly­ing flat on the bot­tom of your suit­case? “Well, Of­fi­cer, it seemed a space­sav­ing idea at the time to re­move all the pack­ages of an­gel food cake mix from their bulky card­board boxes.”

I was very nearly ar­rested for a snorkelling in­ci­dent in the Greek is­land of Sky­ros when I thought I had dis­cov­ered a buried An­cient Greek urn a few hun­dred yards off­shore, only to be mis­tak­enly dig­ging up a sewer pipe from the beach­front ho­tel.

Another time, the sleep­ing pills taken to help my friend Peggy and I cope with a three-day bus trip from Lon­don to Dubrovnik were a bit of an overkill – we slept through all the sched­uled con­ve­nience stops so had to be ter­ri­bly cre­ative with plas­tic bags, if you fol­low my drift.

Sav­ing the fun­ni­est and best till last, my Dubai night­mare still comes back to haunt me – ac­tu­ally, it usu­ally re­turns as a hor­ror-filled, scream­ing night­mare. I was lead­ing a party of 12 dur­ing a stopover in the UAE en route to a cook­ing tour in Italy. We were head­ing out to din­ner, as well as to see the fan­tas­tic night-time foun­tain dis­play and do a spot of late-night shop­ping, as you do in Dubai. I had briefed every­one on the dress code… be­ing a strict Mus­lim coun­try, women don’t wear ex­pos­ing out­fits – so no bare shoul­ders or plung­ing neck­lines and quite mod­est, long hem­lines to avoid ac­ci­den­tal leg ex­po­sure. Every­one had passed in­spec­tion and I was lead­ing the way down a long es­ca­la­tor in the very busy shop­ping mall. I had taken a quick glance at my re­flec­tion in the big mir­rors as we passed by them and thought, “Not look­ing too bad, Jo Seags, you’ve scrubbed up quite nicely.” Well, you know about that moment of pride be­fore the fall… sec­onds later I stepped off the es­ca­la­tor but – Hello! – my dress got caught in the con­certina-ing steps and it de­cided to go once around the cogs and head back on up, leav­ing me fully ex­posed in front of hun­dreds of star­tled

Emi­rati shop­pers and se­cu­rity guards. The dress was shred­ded in the me­chan­ics of the con­veyor sys­tem and all the peo­ple fol­low­ing be­hind were hav­ing to back­track up the com­ing­down es­ca­la­tor! It was a to­tal “dis­as­tro­phy”, as my friend Jen would say, and there was Monty Python-like pan­de­mo­nium un­til some­one kindly pressed the emer­gency stop but­ton. My dar­ling new best friends from the tour group dashed into a shop to buy mul­ti­ple pash­mi­nas to wrap me up, ban­dage-like, to tod­dle back to our ho­tel in. This was my Mi­randa moment! I was mor­ti­fied and I still blush when­ever I re­call it. It took quite a few medic­i­nal brandies to see the full hu­mour of it.

How­ever, it was not enough to put me off and here I am head­ing off again. The travel bug has bit­ten and with no known an­ti­dote I’ll be hap­pily in­fected for life.

“I stepped off the es­ca­la­tor but my dress got caught in the steps, leav­ing me fully ex­posed in front of star­tled shop­pers.”

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