I wrote earlier about the importance of backup plans and today I got reminded of this on the bus trip from Berlin to Copenhagen. I overheard a phone call of a Spanish couple sitting next to me. They had booked a hostel some days earlier but never got the booking verified. Now when they called the hostel the booking didn’t exist, and after borrowing my laptop and using the free wifi on board the bus they realized all the hostels in town were fully booked because of a football match. They also tried doing a last minute search on Couchsurfing but without luck. A sms to my father confirmed what I already knew, that there were no possibility for me to let them stay in my fathers apartment. What happened to them after arriving to dark and rainy Copenhagen? Nobody knows, but I gave them my contact details to use if they got into trouble or needed help. Hopefully they could sleep in a couch or floor at the hostel that lost their booking.
Before you start traveling into unknown territory you can prepare against situations like this. First mentally, by visualising how it would be to sleep in a backyard, park or beach. If you think this would be overwhelming for you, then you need to make a backup plan. This would typically involve having addresses and phone numbers to other hostels, friends or just researching where you could sleep if everything is fully booked. Bringing a tent with you while traveling is very helpful in these situations, although it is usually difficult to find a decent place to put it up. Be careful with your backup plans though; if you like spontaneous travel, backup plans take away all the fun of improvising.
This situation also made me think again about the way I am living when I am visiting Copenhagen. I always travel here for short periods of time, usually a weekend trip. Because I have very limited of time in Denmark I spend it all with my family. This means, although I have traveled to this country for a countless number of times during the last 20+ years, it is the country in the world where I have the least friends. If the situation with the Spanish couple in the bus would have happened in any other country, where I have been before of course, I would have been able to help them quickly and without problem.
The situation is also interesting because when you travel and something happens, like you run out of money or you have no place to stay, you are really stuck and need to stop and think your way out of the situation. This is even more difficult in big and civilized cities then in smaller towns or more southern cities. It takes so much before somebody reach out to another person to help him, if it ever happens. My suggestion to you is to do more. Give money to musicians and artists on the street. Buy the street paper, paper tissue or flowers that the homeless people sells. If you see somebody lost, give them a hand in the right direction even before they ask for it.