I am a big fan of the travel blogger OneStep4Ward. He has traveled all over the world and along the way he has had experienced some awful situations (arrests, near death experiences). I like how he is transparent about these situations. Travel can be dangerous. If you do massive backpacker trips you are likely to encounter tricky situations. The world is not as dangerous as Fox News makes you think, but it is naive to think we live on a crime free planet.
Money Worries, Criminal Bosses and Getting Blacklisted From Vietnam
Travel can be incredible. When you are low on money and have no job lined up then travel starts to suck. In January 2016 my money situation was awful and I was living in Australia, a country which is certainly not easy on your wallet. I jumped for joy when I eventually got a job. It would allow me to save some money for the road trip my friend and I had planned to do in February.
This job was beyond awful. We were expected to work 13 days straight, we were doing 50 hour weeks, being paid below minimum wage, the accomodation was filthy. Worst of all the boss threatened to punch one of the fellow backpackers.
I eventually found a good job in Moranbah Australia. The town restored my faith in Australia and travel. It was a great shame having to say good bye to all the Aussies in that town.
A year later this messy stressful process played out again, only this time it was in Vietnam. I arrived in Hanoi with about £800 (it had taken way longer than planned to get my tax back from Australia). Within the first few days of being in Hanoi I signed up with the recruitment agency MIC (Minh Quang International).
It turned out the recruitment agency was complete garbage. They originally said the process was going to be delayed because of the TET holiday. This sounded like a very plausible reason.
During TET I was trying to live on less than $20 a day. It was manageable but frustrating. I was not particularly concerned though because I envisioned making money soon after TET had finished. I was anticpating MIC calling me to organise more training or a job opportunity straight after TET. After a few days though, I had to give them a nudge.
They asked me to do a visa run to Bangkok so they could secure me a business visa. I had still not got my tax back from Australia so had to borrow money from a relative. After forking out nearly $300 on flights, taxis and visas I got back to Vietnam and the company had no job for me.
I then did three unsuccessful trials with other schools. After the second trial I felt defeated, could not sleep and genuinely thought my trip was over. My parents were planning to transfer me some money for a flight home. The second trial was ‘my last attempt’. I was there for a month, the school saw potential but ultimately decided to let me go.
I returned to Hanoi and then the immigration police came knocking. The jist of the conversation was ‘why were you on a trial with company B when your work visa is with company A’. MIC had told the immigration police I started ignoring there calls and stopped turning up for work. I can assure you that this is complete tripe. MIC never found me a job and lied to the immigration police. I got blacklisted from Vietnam.
Around the time this was happening I was suppose to start training with Apax (a language centre company who was / is growing very fast). I messaged them, explained the situation and said I could not attend training. They rearranged my training for two weeks time and got me deblacklisted. What Moranbha did for Australia, Apax did for Vietnam.
You can read more about MIC here – https://tnhvietnam.xemzi.com/tw/spot/14629/mic–minh-quang-international-cooperation-jsc-hanoi
Nearly Dying in the Outback
As the plane came into land a smile stretched along my face. I was about to experience the heart of the Australian Outback. Who would not be happy. 24 hours later I would not be happy. I would be on my own in the dark feeling very anxious. I wanted adventure but it turns out not all adventures are born equal.
I had a day to myself till we set off for Uluru (Ayers Rock), Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon. I loaded my bag with 1.25 litres of water and headed off to Mount Gillen alone. It was suppose to be an easy 5 hour walk, it took me 9 hours and involved hitch hiking home with a ‘big Aussie who had a gun in his car’.
You could not walk to the top of the mountain, you had to climb for the last few minutes. I was in two minds about making the climb. I was nervous but really wanted to experience the view at the top. I gave into my stubbornness. and precariously made my way to the top.
The view was amazing, nature stretched as far as the eye could see. Giving into my stubbornness had been an excellent decision, that was till I tried to get down the mountain. Suddenly it started feeling like a very bad idea. It was extremely deceptive which way I had actually come up.
After much looking and observing I finally found the right path. It was a precarious descent, I was making extremely good use of my hands and legs. Suddenly the mild smile on my face collapsed. I was not on the right path after all. I had to crawl along a metre wide ledge to get the right path. Had I stood up I would of potentially fallen to my death. This was daunting and crawling through a thorn bush was fairly painful. What was more daunting though was realising this second path was also not correct. I had no choice but to go back to the top of the mountain.
After much deliberation I decided to head down the other side of the mountain. It was going to make the day far longer than planned but I had no other choice. Once at the bottom of the mountain though, my day was far from over. I had no idea how to get to the main road and Google Maps could not pinpoint my location. I was endlessly wandering and panicking about night setting in.
I was lost, dehydrated and alone. For the third time in less than 12 months I called the police for assistance. The phone operator was going to speak to his manager and then call me back. Before he did this my phone died! Great!
I had no water, no one to give me support, it was dark, if it could go wrong it had gone wrong. I had no choice but to keep walking. I could tell my body was dehydrated. I was not scared at this point, I was too distracted by the mission at hand.
After endlessly walking for hours I eventually saw what looked like a dirt track and off roaders. As much as my dehydrated body allowed, I paced it over there. It was not a dirt road. It was the main road. Never before and probably never after will a grey concrete road seem so magical and wanderlust. I stood at the side of the road and frantically waved when cars came past. Two cars drove straight past me. I could have cried at that point. Then for the first in five hours I had some good luck. One of the drivers had seen me. He turned around and came back to rescue me.
I never kept in contact with the driver but I will forever be grateful for his assistance on that daunting day. I woke up next morning covered in cuts and bruises but I was alive and had a roof over my head.
A lot of lessons were learnt after that ordeal! If you travel on your own then tell people where you are going, take lots of water and a emergency phone battery with you and call for assistance before the situation gets too out of hand.
Getting Assaulted in Kuta
On my second night in Kuta (Bali) I went out clubbing with a few other solo travelers in my hostel. They seemed like decent people and I was excited for my first clubbing experience in SE Asia.
After a few hours out we called it a night, headed home and decided to carry on the fun at the hostel. The other guys already had beers in their rooms so I popped to the convenience store 100m down the road on my own. I never made it to the store. Someone punched me in the face 20m away from my hostel. I am not sure why I was targeted. Maybe it was because in my semi drunken state I looked like an easy target to rob. Maybe it was because I was hanging around with some people who had been in a argument earlier in the night.I want to emphasis that I had no part in this argument.
After the first punch to my head a few locals luckily grabbed the thug and I sprinted back to the hostel. I was scared and my head was whirling, the hostel staff were as useful as dog shit but the other backpackers stepped up. They stuck with me that night. I had only known these other travelers for 24 hours but that did not bother them. They were fortunately the type of people who were willing to come to anyone’s aid.