It wouldn’t quite be travel without some travel fails along the way. While I’ve so far avoided any true travel disasters I have had my fair share of mishaps. My travel plans for 2017 are pretty limited as we’re saving hard for 2018’s adventures but I do have a few things on the cards. Short trips that should be be very straightforward and fuss free. Should being the operative word there.
A weekend getaway to a city in Australia is probably as simple as international travel can get as a kiwi. Yet still, our visit to Brisbane was proving fail prone before it even began.
Let’s start with the fact that we’re going to Brisbane. It’s probably the city in Australia I’m least interested in visiting. But that’s where we’re going.
So why Brisbane?
I had heard in January that Ayaan Hirsi Ali, one of my personal heroes, was touring Australia in April. Several people Zak and I admire have visited Australia in the past but we’d always found out about their visits far too late. Tickets were already sold out or we simply didn’t have room in our budget to do something at such short notice. We’d resolved that we’d try to keep an eye out for appearances by some of our favourite figures, and that we’d book tickets to see them and have a weekend in whatever city they were visiting as soon as possible.
Ayaan was scheduled to visit a few cities in Australia; Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. In terms of doing touristy things I’d way rather visit Sydney, which I’ve already been to and loved, or Melbourne, which I’ve not even been to yet but think I’ll like even more than Sydney. Brisbane doesn’t really interest me at all. I’ve only been there very briefly on family trips that were more Gold Coast focused. It just has never really seemed to be my scene.
However, Zak has family living in Brisbane and said that we could stay with them which would obviously make the trip a lot cheaper. They were apparently going away that weekend and would be only too happy to have somebody housesit for them. Having a house in the suburbs would also make it really easy to rent a car which we could use to go and see more interesting things in the surrounding countryside. So, we bought tickets to the event in Brisbane and found some flights across the Tasman on sale. Sorted.
Even though I wasn’t super excited for Brisbane we would discover what it had to offer and maybe, just maybe, my expectations would be exceeded.
Seriously, why Brisbane?
A few weeks later I saw a post announcing that Ayaan would be visiting another city. Auckland. That’s right, a city in my own country. A city that would be a lot cheaper for us to travel to. A city where we also had family we could stay with. A city with heaps of things I want to do both in and around it.
I told myself Brisbane was still better. We wouldn’t want to stay in Zak’s brother’s tiny apartment. Surely his cousin’s house would be much better. We wouldn’t be able to visit a UNESCO World Heritage site like we were planning to do in Queensland. Since we got our flights on sale they weren’t that much more expensive than flights to Auckland would have been, anyhow.
Then I find out that Zak hadn’t asked his cousins if we could stay with them straight after we booked our flights but only several weeks later. By this point, they’d already arranged for someone else to housesit for them so, no, we couldn’t stay there. Add another expense to the trip. No worries, I found a cheap hotel near the event centre and made a booking.
A Chance to further my UNESCO quest?
I knew I wanted to visit the Lamington National Park while we were in the area. It’s part of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Gondwana Rainforests of Australia area and it looks gorgeous. Zak spent quite a bit of time working in Australia last year and did some road tripping so he’s seen some places like this before but I’ve never seen something similar. So I was looking forward to visiting and adding another World Heritage site to my growing list.
We didn’t want to hire a car now we’d be staying in the city and would therefore need to drive in the city and pay for parking so decided to try and arrange some kind of day tour. I found an option that sounded great – it was for a small group and went to a lot of different places within the park. Of course it wasn’t running on our only full free day. I kept looking around and came across a few more options. I didn’t wed myself to the idea of visiting the national park and looked at some completely different areas that also looked worth seeing. Nothing seemed to run on Fridays. Eventually I found another tour we could take to visit the Lamington National Park. It even ran on Friday! The tour itself didn’t sound as good as the initial one I found; it was on a big bus and didn’t seem to offer much more than transportation.
That’s all we need, I thought, and booked it. I fetched my Erstwilder lamington brooch and put it into my bag, planning to wear it in the park. Because I like to do silly matchy matchy things like that.
The Monday before our trip I took a quiet moment at work to print out our flight tickets, hotel booking form and the booking confirmation for our trip to the rainforest. I also printed out the tickets for Ayaan’s talk that the booking company had finally sent through. If you can avoid booking anything through Eventopia, I highly recommend you do! They never sent our tickets to us and were uncommunicative for weeks. I understand that mistakes and administrative errors happen but that’s when good customer service is most important. Instead of what could have been quickly fixed by emailing us a pdf version of our tickets we could print we had no response to several emails, no ability to leave a phone message for them and no response to attempts to contact them through Facebook or Twitter. Judging by their Facebook page, we’re not alone.
I read through all the documents, folded them up and placed them in my handbag. Then the phone rang. It was Zak’s number. It’s quite unusual for him to call me at work so I curiously picked up the phone.
‘Ayaan’s event has been cancelled due to security concerns,’ he informed me.
‘Are you serious?’ I asked in an awkwardly comedic tone. I knew too well that he would be serious. He was. The talk in Auckland was cancelled too. The whole tour. We wondered what went wrong for a little bit before trying to think positive. It’ll still be nice to have a weekend away together. We’d have to go to Brisbane at some point anyway to get to the rainforest on my UNESCO site quest, it’s good to get it out of the way. We always knew there was a risk of this happening.
Freedom of Speech?
Immediately after our call I went to Google to see what was being said about the cancellation and found a Guardian article. A woman quoted in the article felt that the cancellation was an example of Ayaan being ‘held accountable’ for her often controversial views and that freedom of expression involves having a ‘right of reply’ to push back against ‘divisive speech.’
I don’t want to get too political on this blog but, right now, I can’t hold it in. I hope that everyone, no matter their political opinions, can agree that nobody should ever have their security threatened for peacefully expressing their opinion, even if we don’t like it. I’ve disagreed with Ayaan myself on several occasions. I can admire someone a lot without agreeing with every though they have ever expressed. Also, let it suffice to say I would never consider myself a fan of somebody who expresses hateful views toward any group of people (critique ≠ hate). I’ve probably listened to more of what Ayaan has to say and read more of what she has written than most of those protesting her . For example, she is criticised for lending support to politicians like Pauline Hanson (who I can’t stand) yet she has said she doesn’t agree with a ‘Muslim ban’ at all.
I don’t understand how anyone aware of her fully articulated views (as opposed to selected out of context quotes) could find them racist or hateful. If anyone can show me something that is, I’ll be more than happy to cease being a supporter of hers. Regardless, as I said, threats of violence are always wrong. While the woman in this article wasn’t making threats herself, our reaction to hearing about them should never be so lukewarm, let alone pleased. Having to live with round the clock security as Ayaan does goes far beyond any reasonable standard of being ‘held accountable’ and the right to reply and challenge views you find objectionable does not include making threats of violence. I feel like this should be obvious to all of us but given the amount of people expressing the view that this cancellation is fair enough, it’s clearly not.
A Cyclone Named Debbie
Remember how I said at least we’d be able to visit the rainforest? Well, it got a little too rainy. I received a cancellation message on Tuesday telling me the roads are going to be closed until 11 April 2016, so obviously we won’t be able to get there. The company we were travelling with offered for us to rebook for a later date but we’re only visiting from Thursday to Saturday. So we’ll be going for a refund instead.
So our silver lining was gone. I’m feeling surprisingly okay about that, though. There’s not really anything else I can do at this point. All these setbacks and changes to our plans have been annoying but they’re not real problems. We’ll stay in the city and see what it has to offer. Can my mind be changed? I don’t know but we’ll find out. Either way, it’s another experience had and another story to tell. I’ve developed a little list of places I want to eat at while we’re there. In the way of things to do, we’ve got a few options we’re considering but we’ll probably just see where things take us.
So, if you know Brisbane, I beg you for tips on things to see or do. We’re there from early Thursday morning til Saturday afternoon so should be able to see a lot of the city. Of course, I’ll update the blog with what we do get up to.
Although, to be honest I won’t be too surprised if something else goes wrong. If it does, I’ll probably laugh hysterically in the face of whoever is giving me the bad news.
Have you had any travel fails so far in 2017? Share them in the comments below so we laugh at/with each other.