As a flying writer (a writing flyer?), I feel more or less obligated to enter travel writing competitions when I hear about them. Even when I was suppressing most of my writerly impulses, I journaled like crazy on trips, and my first novels are as much about travel as they are about love, coffee, and wine. When adventure travel specialists Pure Travel asked entrants into their 2013 Travel Writing Competition to “write and tell us about ‘The worst journey of your life,’” I was kind of surprised that I didn’t have millions of ideas. I travel for a living and for fun, I should be up to my neck in horror stories, right? But of course, if you’re paying attention when you travel, even the nightmares (discovering you’ve come down with dysentery while bouncing across Cameroon in a bush taxi, for example, or landing in Taipei in the eye of a typhoon) evolve into retrospective fun; if you’re not going to learn something about yourself — or about when not to take imodium — what’s the point of leaving home?
The story I eventually submitted, about a passenger losing her mind one night and the very senior flight attendant who did not appreciate the disruption, is true. ”Millie” is not her real name, but she sure did whip off her pantyhose and use them as restraints; our flight is one of the reasons crews now have access to handcuffs in the cabin. I was also tickled to learn — and am delighted to tell you — that “Don’t Mess With Millie” made the short list, and is one of the Top Ten stories competing for the Grand Prize. You can read it on the Pure Travel Adventure Holidays website, and if you like it, you can vote for it to win by sending an email to email@example.com with the name of your chosen entry in the subject line. (For more details, visit their blog.)
It was, to date, the most nightmarish and never-ending flight of my career — some days I’m surprised we’re not still on it. But it is also one of my better stories. And as much as I love a chintzy souvenir shop and adding to my Refrigerator Magnets of the World collection, stories are among the easiest mementos to pack, and far and away the most fun to share.
Vote for Me! Send an email with Don’t Mess With Millie as the subject to firstname.lastname@example.org before December 6th!