I always like to share the fun happenings of life on the road, but here's one that may make you appreciate simply having a home address!!
As wonderful as travel is, it can sometimes make the simplest of tasks far more challenging than they should be. Refilling a prescription, finding a post office, and you can certainly forget having anything shipped to you. So what happens when one of your most beloved electronic devices - that isn't sold in stores in foreign countries - kicks the bucket?
I never really wanted an electronic book. I love reading books, real books, and feeling the weight of the pages, seeing how far I've gone or have left to go, my fingers brushing back each page one by one. But when I wanted to start reading a 500+ page paperback on a trip to New Zealand a couple of years ago, when I actually risked finishing it and *needing* to have that next one readily available… I finally caved and bought a Kindle. And promptly fell in love with the ability to carry however many books I wanted with me, anywhere, as well as the ability to instantly download anything I decided I needed to have on hand.
Sadly, my beloved Kindle started slowly dying sometime in the middle of Laos (this would be late June). First it was a little smudge across the pixelated ink, then a few lines running across the page, and after a couple of weeks, the entire top left corner of the page was simply missing. That's the trouble with an electronic book. You get a smudge on one page, you now have a smudge on every single page.
|At first, not too bad...|
I assumed once it started to go that I would need a new one - electronics don't often magically repair themselves. And I already had dozens of books purchased (and was in the middle of the latest book in my favorite series… that same one I started way back in New Zealand), so going back to 'real books' for a short time would not have been ideal. But then, I was in Laos. I knew that I was planning to go to Vietnam next, and I knew I would be spending some time in the northern part of the country, using Hanoi as a home base to see Halong Bay and Sapa. And I already had a solid hostel recommendation from two different people. I contacted Amazon to see first, if they sold Kindles in Vietnam (that would be a no), and secondly, if they could deliver one (thankfully, yes). But the model I had been using was an old one, and they don't make them anymore, and mine was no longer under warranty. I decided to go with the most basic, no-frills Kindle option with the fastest, most expedited shipping option. As I used Amazon's chat service, I emphasized over and over to the customer service representative that I would only be in the Hanoi area a brief time, and speed was absolutely critical. She helped me out by providing the fastest international shipping option at no cost, which would hopefully get my Kindle to Hanoi a couple of days after I arrived in Vietnam.
Two days later, I got a confirmation email with an expected delivery date…. "September 23 - October 10". What?! Yes, the Kindle, Amazon's #1 item, was backordered for three months. And no one bothered to mention that. We were getting on a bus that morning for our final stop in Laos, so I didn't have time to sit and chat with an Amazon rep, so it was an entire day later when I spend hours in a cafe in Vientiane canceling and changing my order to the more expensive Paperwhite Kindle, which was actually in stock. But there was a big risk that it wouldn't arrive in time. Thankfully the service rep comped me the fastest mode of delivery available, but even then, it was still a risk, especially when it took a couple more days for the order itself to be confirmed.
I continued on in my travels, thankfully still using Hanoi as a home base, but time was running out, and my Kindle screen was rapidly deteriorating. My labor-intensive workaround involved reading from the bottom two-thirds of the screen, then increasing the text size before advancing the pages, then decreasing the text size again, to hopefully arrange the last portion I had read to fall within the blank section, allowing me to continue reading. While I had developed a rhythm by this time, it was not in any way an ideal way to read an electronic book! When we returned from Halong Bay, the Kindle still had not arrived at the hostel, so I continued on to Sapa.
|Rapid decline of useability.|
After a day in Sapa, I checked on the status of my order - Amazon showed that it had been delivered and rejected! I immediately got on their chat service, and they confirmed that yes, the hostel had rejected delivery, and no, they could not re-deliver, I would need to contact the local DHL directly. I was absolutely livid. I recruited my mother back in the States to call the international toll free DHL service line, and I got on the phone at the restaurant with my hostel. According to the hostel, there had been an additional charge upon delivery (local taxes?!) and so they had refused it as those fees had not been paid. Mom confirmed the charge with DHL, but since it was international, they wouldn't accept payment for the fees via credit card over the phone. I instead begged my hostel to pay the fee on my behalf, only able to promise them that I would reimburse them in cash upon my return a few days later. Graciously, they agreed, and we were able to ask DHL to re-attempt delivery the following morning.
The next morning, I left for my trek through the mountains of Sapa, only to return directly to Hanoi two mornings later. I would only have one full day in Hanoi before departing for further travels in the south, so I desperately hoped that the package had been successfully delivered. And thankfully…. it was! As soon as I arrived back at May De Ville Backpackers in Hanoi sometime around 6am, my Kindle package was there waiting for me. And the Paperwhite turned out to be the perfect one to purchase, as my headlamp had gone missing during my initial overnight bus ride to Sapa, so reading in the dark otherwise would have been a major difficulty.
So, long-term travel may be fantastic and exciting and provide incredible experiences, but the nomadic lifestyle can make some otherwise very simple activities a whole lot more challenging!