Hot! When the Shit Hits the Fan

ugh

Well, I’ve discovered one downside of my ultra-cheap travel style: when the shit hits the fan, you’re really SOL.

Today is one of those times when the shit hit the fan and all I could really do was stand by and watch my trip get covered in poo. Figuratively, of course.

Originally, I was supposed to stay with a blogger in Montpellier. Then, that fell through so I found a couchsurfing.com host. Upon arriving yesterday evening, I found that she could only host me on one of the three nights in my request. It was an understandable misunderstanding, but no less problematic.

Thus, I found myself in France, in August, without a place to stay the following night and if there’s one thing I hate when I’m traveling, it’s to not know where my next bed will be. I am not a planner, but I do like to know two things when I travel: where my next bed is and where the closest restroom is. If I know those two things, you can throw a surprising number of obstacles in my path with little effect. If I don’t know those things, you can expect a very stressed Kelsey.

As soon as I realized that I had no room for the following night, I immediately hopped online and opened up several sites: couchsurfing.com, tripping.com, hostelbookers.com, and hostelworld.com. I left messages on the “Last Minute Couch” boards on couchsurfing.com for Toulouse, Beziers, Nimes, Montpellier, and Carcassonne. Nothing. I sent CS requests to at least 5 people in each city. Nothing. Tripping.com yielded nothing as well. A search of both hostelbookers and hostelworld showed me that every hostel within a 200km radius of Montpellier was booked solid. Even many of the cheaper hotels were full or only had multiple-occupancy rooms available.

Well, fuck.

One hostel in Toulouse had a room available on Saturday night (which I promptly booked), and that was the only place in any city I had found that had any availability whatsoever, so I decided that Toulouse would probably be my best bet. It’s supposedly a nice city, but it doesn’t have much of a tourism draw, so I figured that it would probably be easier to find a place there. I resigned myself to paying upwards of €50-€60 for a room and decided to head to Toulouse and just stay in the first reasonably-priced hotel I could find. I went to bed but didn’t sleep well.

The next morning I searched again and found even less availability. I went out into town for a few hours and saw a Brassai photography exhibit that I was barely conscious of because all I could really think about was the fact that I was heading to an unfamiliar city without a place to go once I got there.

Thank god for knowledgeable locals, because after I returned to my host’s apartment, she told me about booking.com, a British-based site that often has last-minute rooms for very cheap. I immediately hopped on the site and within 2 minutes had found a hotel, close to the train station, that had ONE single-occupancy room left for just €25. I snatched up the room for tonight and tomorrow, and on Saturday I will be at the hostel. Now I just have to hope that I’ll be able to finally get through to Marc’s cousins in Bordeaux so that I can make my plans for next week!

Part of the problem is that with my current budget, blowing €50 on a hotel would have been blowing my entire budget for 4 days on one night. In a pinch, I’ll do it if I have to, but then I have to figure out how to make up for the loss later, and I’m not a fan of leveraging the future for a better present.

While I can’t fix my budget, there are some other things that caused this situation which were avoidable:

1. I underestimated how crowded France is in August. I knew that France is the most-visited country in the world, and I knew that August, especially early August, is peak season, but for some reason, I ignored that knowledge and it came back to bite me in the ass.

2. Even though I had at least a vague idea of my schedule, I didn’t start contacting potential couchsurfing hosts until only a few days before I would need them. In reality, couchsurfing requests should be done at least a week out, if not more.

3. I didn’t look at hostels until after my initial efforts left me empty-handed. This should have been my first move, and I would have realized the direness of my situation much earlier.

Thankfully, I was able to find a place, and a good one at that, but I definitely learned some things from this little escapade!

Overall, the lesson from this seems to be that if you’re traveling with a very low budget, there is little room for error. You really need to plan ahead and book ahead or risk being let in a lurch. Also, when your travel relies on the kindness of others, a backup plan is absolutely essential.

Have you ever suddenly found yourself without lodging while traveling? What did you do?

8 Comments

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  1. Sounds like you are learning some good, although tough lessons. Traveling by train or bus? Taking some great shots?

    • Train, bus, plane, truck, hitchhiking, subway, boat, and bike so far.

      If you look back through some of the posts, you can see some of my shots. In the interests of experiencing the trip rather than sitting writing about it, I’m saving most of my posts for after I get back home.

  2. Kelsey – this sounds like it was excruciating. Glad to hear things turned out okay. I, for one, can’t handle that sort of uncertainty. You are a brave gal. :)

    • It was definitely not one of the highlights of my trip, to be sure. I think that next time around, I’ll do a little more pre-booking. There are some kinds of uncertainty I’m fine with, but not knowing where I’m going to be sleeping that night is not one of them.

  3. Whew. Glad everything eventually worked out. I had no idea that France was the most visited country in the world until this post. You learn something new every day, I suppose. I’m also writing down booking.com for our future European visits!

  4. I can totally empathize with your sitch! A few too many times for my liking we have been stuck with nowhere to stay and you know it is bad when you say ok we will have to leave our budget behind and take anything and then you still can’t find anything!! Another site we use when totally stuck and hostels are gone is hotelscombined.com it is one of those ‘coverall’ sites that searches all the last minute sites for you and it has saved our arse a few times.

    • Good to know! And yeah, it’s frustrating that even when you’re willing to sacrifice your budget, you still can’t find anything! I swear, I’m never doing Europe in July or August again.