When Travel Plans Fail

View of Gold Coast from Skypoint Observation Deck

They say there are many types of travellers and two among them are the "planners" and the "spontaneous" ones. I have always been the former. I guess making itineraries is my forte. It comes with my personality as well - I always want things to be planned and under control. I don't mind doing a spontaneous trip, I've actually tried it with friends on a trip to Macau and it was so much fun. But most of the times, I still prefer to plan ahead. It gives me more control on what the trip would be like. And when things go wrong or way out of hand, it will be a disaster for me! 

99.9% of the trips I have organised, it flowed according to "the schedule" until a recent trip to Australia in which unexpected events (as I have listed below) have happened that I thought would ruin the entire trip!

1. Bad Weather (or even worst, a Cyclone!)

I was travelling with one of my good friends/travel buddy and we have decided to visit the three popular Australian cities - Gold Coast, Sydney and Melbourne last February. Our first stop was Gold Coast. 

It is a very usual thing for anyone who would travel to another city to check the weather forecast. December-February is Summer Time in Australia and according to AccuWeather, we should be having clear days with a bit of showers at some point during our trip. 

Unfortunately, the forecast failed us. We were welcomed by some showers and grey skies upon arriving in Gold Coast. We thought it was just for that day. Little did we know that there was actually a cyclone about to hit Queensland the next day. We never anticipated this for sure!

Hoping for some sun and beach time, what we had was long walks soaked in the rain, sharing one umbrella, trying to explore Gold Coast. The first leg of our trip was not what I had definitely planned for and I was starting to get a bit upset.

Soaked in Surfers Paradise
But as we know, weather is still something unforeseeable, it can change easily in a blink of an eye. In this kind of situation, one's resilience in travelling is definitely put to a test. We had to improvise. We only had a whole day in Gold Coast and it would be a shame to get it wasted just because of a bad weather. Gone are the plans of sunbathing or even my friend's dream to surf. We had to find alternative things to do.

So we found ourselves at The Skypoint Observation Deck, 230 metres off the ground, getting a blurred bird's eye view of the city.

In less than a minute, a super fast elevator took us from Level 1 to Level 77. The lift has a camera on which you can actually see in real time that you are moving up and indicates the altitude and floor level. It reminded me of Dubai's Burj Khalifa.

Heavy rains and roaring waves welcomed us on our first morning in Gold Coast
We kept ourselves warm in here while waiting for the rain to subside. There is a bar where you can eat and sip drinks while enjoying the view seated on the comfy chairs around. There is also a short film being played on a little cinema they have set up inside showing Surfers Paradise history. It wasn't even on our plan to go in here but at least we got to do something touristy indoors.

A look inside Skypoint. Visitors are busy accessing the Free Wifi
[Photo Credit: TripAdvisor]

When the rain has subsided for a bit, we decided to see and hear the waves of the beach up close. It was a bit scary but it was still a lovely sight.

Strong waves at Surfers Paradise
The rain eventually poured down heavily after a few minutes so the beach has been closed to the public. We went back to our B&B feeling happier that we manage to at least explore a little bit despite of the bad weather we had to endure.

2. Cancelled Flight!

That night, while we were preparing for our flight to Sydney, I got an email from TigerAir indicating that our flight for the next day has been cancelled due to the cyclone! I panicked!

I didn't want to stay any more in Gold Coast but I didn't want to risk flying and end up not reaching Sydney at all. I talked to our B&B host and he was kind enough to accommodate us for one more night if we can't get any flights out of Gold Coast. We politely declined his offer and decided that we will try our luck on the airport first thing in the morning. We didn't sleep so soundly that night.

The next day, there was a bit of a chaos going around at the airport as some passengers like us were distressed trying to get onto the next flight out of Gold Coast. Apparently, only TigerAir has cancelled all their flights. We tried to go to each and every airline counter hoping to get any flight. 

Every traveller's nightmare
[Photo Credit: TigerAir]

We ended up having two options: Fly via Qantas for AUD 450 or fly via Jetstar from Brisbane for AUD 220 departing both in the afternoon of that same day. My friend wanted to get the Qantas and I wanted to go for the Jetstar. To be honest, it crossed my mind not to go at all on that day because of the cyclone scare. But we were already losing time and had all our tours booked in Sydney so any further delay might ruin the next leg of the trip.

I thought travelling with only one person would be easier compared to a big group in terms of decision making but it still wasn't. I will always have to be reminded that every one has their own travel preferences and disagreements is inevitable. You just have to compromise with the people you are travelling with. After a few more discussions, my friend finally agreed to travel to Brisbane instead and go for the Jetstar flight.

Train Station from Gold Coast to Brisbane
After almost 7 hours of waiting at Brisbane airport, we managed to board our flight to Sydney. We arrived later that evening and have definitely lost the whole day as we were supposed to arrive in the morning. Anyway, we were just thankful that we made it to Sydney safely.

3. Another Bad Weather Day

The next day, we were so excited to finally start our tour to the Blue Mountains. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't cooperating again on that day and rain just seems to follow us everywhere we go! 

Lincoln's Rock

We didn't even get a chance to get a glimpse of the famous "Three Sisters". It was just too foggy.

Blue Mountains
I can tell my friend was a bit upset because she was the one who wanted to go and see the Three Sisters. Again, weather is something we can't control. So what we did to cheer ourselves up was to enjoy the unlimited train ride which happens to be the steepest inclined railway in the world.

Scenic Railway, inclined at 52 degrees
4. Misreading information leads to a Missed Ride

The next day, we were up very early and quite positive that we would get a nicer weather. We had a scheduled pickup at 7:45 to go to Wollongong to do Skydiving, which was the highlight of our trip.

We arrived 20 minutes earlier than schedule. At around 8:15, there was still no pick up vehicle to be seen. We started to get worried and re-read our email a hundred times just to make sure we had the right time and address. I asked my friend to call them up. What we missed to read on the instruction was to inform them (by phone or email) that we needed to be picked up! 

Our time slot was at 11 AM so we ran to the train station only to find out that the next train to Wollongong will only arrive at 10 AM and it will take an hour or so to get there. I was really worried we won't make it on time. I was agitated and kept checking on the time hoping the train would go any faster! The clouds were starting to get dark and I thought it will rain again so either we will miss our time slot or the skydive will be cancelled due to bad weather.

We arrived at Wollongong at 11:04 AM and thankfully they were still able to pick us up from the train station and let us join the next group instead. Phew!

After all the worrying, waiting and agitation I felt from that morning thinking we will miss the opportunity to skydive, that it will be another bad day for us, the jump definitely made it all go away.

Skydive the Beach, Wollongong, Australia

And after all the cyclone and bad weather we experienced from the beginning of our trip, that day we were given clear, blue skies and a warm, bright sun which made the skydive experience all the more amazing.

Priceless view from the top

I definitely have a lot to take with me from this trip. That no matter how carefully you plan any trip, it may still change and you have to be flexible, creative and spontaneous enough so you can find alternatives to get through. I think it goes the same with life, we keep on planning ahead for our future but sometimes, it doesn't go according to our plans or schedule so we have to keep an open mind to any changes that come our way.

That sometimes, cancelled flights, bad weather, a missed ride or any other misfortunes that you think have ruined your travel plans are actually good experiences that make your trip a more memorable one. That you shouldn't let any hiccups hinder you from still enjoying your trip.

It's not just the sceneries and activities that define what travel is - it's the whole journey on how you made it from one destination to another.