Before embarking on a voyage, even the most experienced traveller starts to mentally prepare for an inevitable mishap. However, as a general rule it is impossible to predict the bizarre situations you may find yourself in – especially if you’re as scatty as me!

I really should have known better than booking my hostel accommodation a mere two hours before I left for New York in the height of August – definitely not my best, or most sober moment. It spelt trouble. North Brooklyn, is an area notorious for gang culture and serious crime, the kind of place where the mesh fronted shops never open and the police refuse to patrol. Petrified I scampered off the littered streets into my pre-booked YMCA hostel, relieved to be free from staring eyes. Feeling a lot less vulnerable, I happily filled in forms regarding my current medication, and with hindsight, other bizarre requisites for a hostel. I climbed the stairs, getting the eerie sense, and smell, of entering a hospital. In fact I wasn’t far off. I’d just voluntarily checked myself into a YMCA facility for the mentally unstable, sex workers and drug addicts. The community computer room, of the ‘hostel’ I found myself in, instead of being used to help the deprived neighbourhood children progress academically, is instead where seven year olds research hand grenades and eight inch blades.

Some mishaps only become laughable with the wonderful healer of time, or in my case, blurring it from your memory. On a night out, or for anti-muggable safety, I regularly stash miscellaneous objects down my bra…including train tickets. Never normally a problem, I did this whilst crossing the Rajasthan Desert in India by railway. The toilets, if they can be called that, on Indian trains, have a lot to be desired. Generally they merely consist of a hole in the ground surrounded in sun-baked excrement and urine. On a moving train they’re particularly awkward for a girl to handle and to my misfortune the train ticket fell down the latrine hole. Imagine my delight in realising I had no alternative. The ticket had not yet been inspected by the Indian ticket Gestapo; without it, I’d be forced to alight into the 47ºc desert. There was only one thing to be done… Reach in!

Chloë Painter

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