Tips on handling bad travel incidents: The worst ever day of my travelling life

It's 9.30am in Buenos Aires, and I feel horrendous.

A few seriously bad decisions were made last night. I'd elected to go out for a "quiet one". I'd met up with some people from my hostel and gone to a bar. I'd then decided to go on to another bar, and another bar… and then another bar.

I'd got back to the hostel at about 6am, knowing full well that I'd have to be awake again by 8am to get a taxi out to the airport and take my flight home to Australia. Little did I know it as I was tucking myself into my rickety bed for a full two hours of deep slumber, but I was about to have the worst day of my travelling life.

We've all been there. Anyone who's done even the slightest bit of travel will know that it's not all good times and selfie sticks. Travel can and will go wrong. You'll miss flights. You'll get robbed. You'll wind up in places you really shouldn't. Everyone will go through this.

So enough of the Christmas cheer! Let's get down to the reality of travel. This is my worst-ever day on the road (narrowly edging out the time I got extremely sick in Peru, the time I broke my collarbone in the US, and a couple of tense travel-buddy dramas).

It's 9.30am in Buenos Aires. I've made it, with a skull-hammering hangover, out of the hostel and into a taxi to Ezeiza airport. I've arrived to find that, rather than bundling straight up to the check-in counter and getting rid of my luggage as quickly as possible, I'm going to spend probably the next hour and a half in a queue.

I perch on the edge of my bag and slowly shuffle forward in the line, hoping that either all of these people will magically disappear, or I'll be struck down by a freak bolt of indoor lightning and never have to worry about this whole mess ever again. Neither happens.

Eventually I make it to the front of the queue and manage to check in, then head through security to the gate lounge to wait for the flight to get called. Except, it doesn't get called. It gets cancelled.

You see, it's a bit foggy outside – foggy enough for Aerolineas to decide to can my flight to Santiago. But I need to make it to the Chilean capital to catch my connecting flight to Sydney. I'm in deep trouble.

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Already there's a scrum forming at the service desk as everyone tries to figure out how to get on another flight. The announcements are all happening in Spanish. The negotiations are happening in Spanish. I'm trying to make my brain function just enough to understand the foreign words and make it clear that I don't really speak any of them.

An Australian woman hears my bumbling attempts at Spanish and latches onto me. "Can you please get me on another flight as well?"

I'm cursing the German guys who persuaded me to stay out last night. I'm cursing the Argentineans for being so great at running bars and yet so terrible at running airports. I'm cursing the weather, and the Australian woman who's placing all this trust in me, and basically trying to blame anyone but myself for the situation I'm in.

Eventually, I manage to get myself and the Australian woman on another flight to Santiago. We'll make it in time for our connection – but only just. At least, it should be only just. We end up making it to Santiago with a few hours to spare, because our next flight has been delayed as well.

I mope around Santiago airport for a few more hours before eventually boarding and flying the 13 hours to Auckland, and then the three more to Sydney. There I wander down to the baggage carousel and wait for half an hour or so as all of the bags slide down and whizz around and are collected and then the whole thing stops. My luggage, obviously, doesn't turn up.

I go and report it lost. I then go through customs and immediately raise suspicion as a single guy coming back from South America without any luggage, and I'm taken away to have my daypack searched. Everything is turfed out onto a countertop. My hacky sack (gimme a break, this was a while ago) is sliced open in the search for drugs.

Eventually the customs guys get tired of me and send me on my way, into the open air, into a taxi, and on my way home.

So ends the worst day I've ever had on the road. And yet another day is just beginning.

It's 9.30am in Sydney, and I feel horrendous.

What has been the worst day of your travelling life? Leave a comment below.

Email: b.groundwater@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater

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