I believe anyone can come up with both a “worst” and “best” travel experience. Overall, I think both Brett and I been very fortunate when it comes to traveling, with no really horrific stories. Every time we’ve run into any sort of problem it’s never been as bad as it could have been, and a solution or resolution has been quickly found.
Both my worst travel experience and best happened on journeys to China to adopt our daughters.
Let’s get the worst out of the way first: When it was time to adopt WenYu, I traveled with my very, very good friend Kris as Brett needed to stay home with Meiling, who was too young to travel that far and for that long (two weeks). Kris arrived at our home in Portland the day before our departure, and we repacked her things into one of the two large, hard-sided Samsonite suitcases we would be taking. Back then, you had to bring everything your child might need, including formula, diapers, clothes, food, medications, etc. – there was no guarantee you could find what you needed in China. A full-size suitcase was required just for the baby things we were taking (WenYu was just one year old when we adopted her), and Kris and I shared the other one.
We flew to Hong Kong, where we would be attending a required orientation as well as doing some sightseeing, and after getting through customs we hired a taxi to take us into the city to our hotel. Our suitcases were too big to fit easily into the taxi’s trunk, but the driver wedged them in and we were off.
Kris and I were sitting in the back of the taxi, chatting away, when a car came along beside us, honked and signaled something to our driver. We turned around to look behind us only to see one of our suitcases being run over by a bus, and then bouncing across the highway. As we had just crossed over a bridge over part of Hong Kong harbor, I had visions of the suitcase bouncing out to the edge and falling into the water. To say that Kris and I were devastated at that point would be a gross understatement – we had no idea whether the lost suitcase held all the baby stuff for WenYu or all our clothing for the trip.
Our driver was able to get turned around and we headed back to where we had lost the suitcase. Fortunately it had not gone over into the water but was lying by the side of the freeway, a bit crushed but still in one piece. The suitcase’s locks had held, and it looked like we might be able to rescue it if we could get back on the other side of the freeway.
As we stood looking across the freeway at our suitcase, a very good-looking, well-dressed Chinese man in a sports car pulled up beside it, got out and picked it up. Kris, the taxi driver and I started jumping up and down, screaming and waving our arms as the man put our suitcase into his car! The man yelled something across to the taxi driver before driving off, so we got back in the taxi, turned around and headed into Hong Kong. I can honestly say I have never been so scared and confused – we had NO idea what was going on, but as far as we knew we had lost our suitcase for good.
Our destination in the city turned out to be a police station, which frightened us even more. It turned out though that the good-looking man was a police detective who was on his way to the station and had been alerted about the suitcase. After a short interview and signing some papers, our somewhat flattened and mangled suitcase was handed over and we were sent on our way. I learned later that the taxi driver had to pay quite a large fine for not securing the suitcase properly, and he also got in a bit of trouble for leaving the meter running while we were in the police station, trying to squeeze as much fare from us as he could.
We finally got to our hotel and managed to open the suitcase. We were amazed to discover that not one thing inside had been broken, including several small jars of baby food. The only damage to the contents were a few flattened granola bars. Never have I been so grateful for having a hard-sided suitcase! Kris and I took pictures (which I sent to Samsonite), laughed about the condition of the suitcase and our good luck, and then headed into town where I bought a lovely new suitcase that got us through the rest of a fantastic trip!
And for the sublime: Each one of our three adoption trips was of course life changing, but they were also the best trips I have ever taken. Other than the suitcase incident, everything else went perfectly. The goal of our adoption agency, Holt International, was for adoptive parents to focus on bonding with their child while in China instead of worrying about travel details, and Holt had (and still has) amazing teams in place to make sure every part of the trip went smoothly, from the paperwork to the entire in-country experience. So, besides the absolute joy of having our new child placed in our arms, we also had three incredible travel experiences. We stayed in beautiful hotels, including three stays in the five-star White Swan Hotel on Shamian Island in Guangzhou. Holt not only arranged interesting tours for our travel groups, but also got us out and about on our own. We ate well, including full Chinese banquets arranged by Holt, authentic Peking duck in Beijing, beggar’s chicken in Hong Kong, American food at the Guangzhou Hard Rock Cafe, and incredible hotel breakfast buffets, interspersed with other tasty restaurant and street food meals. We shopped in Chinese department stores, street stalls, mom & pop stores, and even a Walmart superstore. The first two trips included upfront stays in Hong Kong, one our favorite cities, and on our third trip we visited Beijing with Meiling and WenYu for four days before heading to meet YaYu. All three trips took us to Guangzhou, where we saw and experienced something new and interesting each time. Every aspect of those trips was done superbly, and we were able to enjoy a very special time with each of our new daughters in the country of their birth.
So, those are my worst and best travel experiences. What was the worst thing that’s ever happened when you traveled (if you can bear to share it), and what was the best? I love travel stories, and am excited about hearing yours!
(In the photo at the top, WenYu and I are meeting for the first time).