By: Lala Franklin-Apted, VP of Experience at Unsettled
“So much of who we are is where we have been”…
Sometimes inspiring travel quotes get literal in a not-so-good way.
That was the moment, after washing my hands in an airport bathroom in Chiang Mai, that I realized my backpack was feeling way too light and I was about to get on the plane without the one thing that constituted my ENTIRE office and working life… my laptop!
As a nomadic member of a fully “dispersed team” I pride myself on what I consider to be pretty expert-level travel skills and my ability to turn anywhere into a work spot thanks to my trusty laptop.
I would even go so far as to say that my laptop makes up a part of my identity and sense of self. Sounds a bit extreme, but knowing what I need to make a life on the road work means having what I need and having good habits around it – standard packing lists, plenty of tips and tricks, of course the tech tools to let me be productive, and knowing how to wiz through the airport like a pro.
Well a lot of good that does you if you pack your laptop cord without remembering to put the actual computer in your bag.
As I learned that night, when your laptop escapes to take a break, it’s probably worth giving yourself one too, bruised travel-expert ego and all.
So in the spirit of celebrating our less than perfect moments, we wanted to share some Unsettled digital nomad travel F#*k ups as a gentle reminder that even the most experienced travelers sometimes leave their brains at home.
From tech mishaps and passports jumping ship, to living in past time zones and forgetting our own names, here are some of our best mishaps from the road. Queue face palm emoji!
How Do You Say Oops In…?
There are a few travel essentials that are important to me for life on the road, especially during an Italian summer. When I was traveling in Italy one sweltering July, I was staying at a hostel outside of Venice and innocently ran out of deodorant. I woke up to a deodorant-emergency and knew that it was essential for a day of gelato, pigeons, and canal exploring in the summer heat. Fortunately, there was a little grocery store near the hostel and there it was! Italian deodorant! Only later did I learn that for a full week I was using solid bug spray to curb my perspiration… I guess I should have learned a little more Italian. Maybe that’s why I never met my Italian prince 😂 !
– Naomi, Unsettled Tuscany and Nicaragua Alumni and Unsettled Team
I didn’t realize that the voltage was different in Greece and consequently my plug-in vibrator blew the circuit (at a very inopportune moment) and shut off the power for the whole hotel floor. I had to explain to the front desk about my “hairdryer” accident. 😢🙃😉
– Tanya, Unsettled Marrakech alumni
My most ridiculous story was on my first trip out of Africa to St. Anton, Austria. I was on a train that disconnected….. My luggage, passport, jacket etc was in the cabin in the first carriage… and I was in the loo……in the disconnected carriage…..waiting for the train to pull off before flushing!
– Scully, Unsettled Team
Max and I rented a campervan for a 10-day road trip in Portugal and he learned to drive stick like a champ just days before we arrived. But when we turned up, the van company gave us the most massive van I had ever seen. Portugal is essentially a country made up of the quaintest, tiniest towns with super windy, narrow roads. While driving “through” one town, between the tiny alleys and confusing one ways, we actually got stuck in a maze of winding cobblestone streets while Google maps was glitching out, having a panic attack. Luckily an entire Portuguese family hopped in their car having us follow them and literally drove us out of the chaos and into freedom. The whole town was watching and shouting and cheering and it was both awfully stressful and freaking hilarious.
– Renee, Unsettled Cape Town alumni and Unsettled Team
Accidental Digital Detoxes
Once, I left my phone in an Uber in Cape Town. I realized 5 minutes later (I had already ordered a glass of wine at the restaurant) and so I asked a random guy to use his “search my iPhone app”. The red light indicated that the phone was in the restaurant but it was nowhere to be seen! I checked outside and the same car was there and two people came out of it with my phone in their hands 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻!
– Clara, Unsettled Bali alumni and Unsettled Team
I left my iPhone on the seat as I got off the train from Florence to Cinque Terre. And I purposely didn’t bring my laptop on that trip. The phone had all my Airbnb and return travel info. Somehow my Airbnb host found me at the station when I didn’t show up at his house. No tech for a week on the beach was delicious. It felt so free that I didn’t get a new phone for a couple weeks after I returned home and, years later, still don’t have any push notifications. That travel fail turned into a life win.
– Brooke, Unsettled Porto alumni
I arrived at the airport 3 hours early for a flight home from 2 amazing weeks in Prague and Vienna, all organized and ready to head back. Or so I thought. I wasn’t 3 hours early – turns out I was 21 hours late. My flight was at 5 PM the PREVIOUS day. Thank god I had a great travel buddy, so we booked a room in a hostel, found a great local pub for some food and good beer and made the best of it.
– Kathryn, Unsettled Marrakech alumni
I was off by my landing time in LA by 4 hours and didn’t realize it until I was in line to board my flight leaving China!
– Danielle, Unsettled Medellin alumni
… Who am I?
Once, I locked my passport in the safe box at a hotel before putting the code in. Turns out they can open those, but my first thought was where do I find a blow torch OR how do I fit a 100-lb safe in my suitcase? Only *mildly* embarrassing having the front desk open it up. 🤦🏻♀️
– Charlotte, Unsettled Marrakech alumni
After a lovely weekend break with my girlfriend, I realized when we got back home that I left my passport in the safe box in the hotel. A minor inconvenience except that I was due for my visa appointment the next day. Fortunately my girlfriend saved the day and was able to get the mainly non-English speaking staff to A: open the safe and B: send it over to me by express delivery.
– Mikey, Unsettled Bali alumni
Out of all the times I’ve ever had to write my name – the one time I did it wrong happened to be when I was buying a plane ticket. That bruised my “I’m-a-competent-adult” ego.
– Ben, Unsettled Cape Town and Marrakech alumni
… And Where Am I Going?
I once booked a ticket to Charlotte, West Virginia instead of Charlotte, South Carolina. Shit. I mean CHARLESTON, West Virginia instead of Charleston, South Carolina! See. I still can’t get it right!
– Jonathan, Unsettled Co-founder
When we were flying to Peru we didn’t have a flight back booked yet, which you need to in order to be checked in. So we tried to get creative. First we pretended that a flight we got sent in Gmail that had automatically been added to our calendar was our flight… we totally got called out that we weren’t who that flight was booked for! We tried to get out of that one by saying that we “couldn’t find our confirmation” until finally, in a panic, we caved and booked another flight… 5 minutes before the cutoff of letting us through!
– Taylor and Jon, Unsettled Team
Finally… Some Airport Embarrassments
Not a digital nomad moment, but a dumb blonde one in the Bali airport. I was being wheeled through the airport in Bali to go home after I had a scooter accident. I got finished checking in while balancing on one foot to be able to hear them at the counter… went to sit back down in the wheelchair behind me…. which they had evidently moved…. and fell flat on the floor in front of several hundred people. It was exactly what I needed to compliment my concussion and bandages 😂!
– Ashley, Unsettled Bali alumni
I once reached the end of an easily 200/300 people immigration line at an airport only to realize I’d dropped my boarding pass somewhere along the way. 😑 I had to go all the way back to a different floor to explain the issue and get a new one and then all the way back 🤪 So much for being a cool traveler- I was a hot mess.
– Khaula, Unsettled Tuscany alumni
So in the end, what happened with my runaway laptop?
After accepting my humanity and inability to work that night, I was able to hop on a super cheap roundtrip flight back to Chiang Mai to pick it up myself the next day. I’d left it at the house I was staying, and it was probably having a great night off – and I guess I needed one too!
Turns out it was cheaper than having it mailed to me which just goes to show how easy travel is nowadays. The flight back did take up most of my day, though, giving me plenty of time to contemplate my over-dependence on tech and where I’ve outsourced my sense of identity before soothing my bruised expert-traveler ego with a tasty bowl of airport noodles!
Good thing too, because last month I rushed out of a closing cafe I had been working in all day, leaving my phone behind to enjoy an unplanned sleepover with the electric plug. *Facepalm round 2*. Since I knew it would be safely locked up until morning, luckily this time around I was able to enjoy my own accidental digital detox, laughing and reminding myself that sometimes it is ok to simply be a perfectly imperfect (and completely analogue) human on the move!
Ready for your next (mis)adventure? Join one of our upcoming retreats… and try to avoid the mistakes above 🙂