When it all goes wrong

20:35, Feb 14 2013
Backpacker anger
VENT: Even the most seasoned, organised traveller can lose the plot sometimes.

When you think about it, I'm just like Mike Hussey. Bold statement, I know, but hear me out.

Mike Hussey, the recently retired all-round legend of Australian cricket, was about as reliable a sportsman as you could get. The guy just never failed. He'd go in to bat, take guard, and then make lots of runs. The end.

He was Mr Cricket. There were few better exponents.

However, even for someone of The Huss's reliability, there were a few times there when he would struggle. In sporting terms he'd "lost form", when for a few matches in a row Hussey would inexplicably get out for low scores, and fail to make an impact on the game.

After a couple of average Tests, of course, Mr Cricket would return to his normal self, but those occasional dips in form were unavoidable. It happens to every sportsman.

What's this got to do with anything? Well, I've had some dips in form of my own lately. My career, however, is not cricket, but travelling around the world and trying not to mess up.


For me "form" is all about turning up on time, carrying all of the things I'm supposed to carrying, going where I'm supposed to be going, and generally making the travel experience as organised and hassle-free as possible.

Usually, I'm good at that. Really good. This is a product of being naturally forgetful, which has meant having to think really hard about things like where the hell I left that phone charger, and working for a while for a tour company, which meant having to organise myself each day, plus 40 hungover backpackers at the same time.

My travel preparation is a well-oiled machine these days. I know how long it takes me to pack my bag. I know that if I pick up my day-pack and it feels a little light then I've probably forgotten my camera, or my laptop. I know where all my chargers are.

Before I check out of my accommodation I've already researched how long it will take to get to the airport or the train station, and I know how how to get there. I know the Metro line. I know the changes.

I have a place where I always know my passports will be. I've figured out foreign currencies before I've left home. I've sorted out how to get where I need to go on arrival.

I've been doing this a while. I've got it down to a fine art. I never miss flights, I'm always on time for trains. I don't lose things.

That was until a few months ago, when it all went awry.

I missed my first ever flight, not because of a traffic jam or some other major incident, but because of pure idiocy. I had to resort to one of those inglorious sprints through the airport terminal and some desperate but pointless pleading with the check-in staff. Usually I'm the guy standing calmly in line thinking, "Well why didn't you just turn up on time?"

About a week later I lost my passport for 12 hours or so. Turns out it was just in a jacket pocket, but those 12 hours were 12 hours of panic.

A few days after that I lost the little connection thingy from the end of my iPhone charger. Do you know how hard that is to replace? Very hard, that's how.

Over the course of the next month or so I left things at home by mistake, I missed a couple of trains, I turned up for a European winter without a coat, and then I decided to wander around Seville without a map, got hopelessly lost and had to get in a taxi to be able to find my way back to my hotel.

It was a disturbing time when, like sports stars of Mike Hussey's ilk must do, I questioned whether I'd lost the plot entirely.

Since that month of ridiculousness, however, I seem to have returned to form. Which is lucky because, unlike Mr Cricket, I'm not quite ready to retire.

Have you ever "lost the plot" while travelling? What's the worst thing you've forgotten or lost?

- Sydney Morning Herald