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Very Short Travel Stories

Posted by on 22 April 2009

The Holland Herald, the inflight magazine of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, recently held a ‘Very Short Travel Story’ competition (which I missed somehow — something quite strange considering how often I fly on KLM).

travel tales

They printed eight of the judges’ favourites in the March 2009 issue, along with the winning entry.

I’d like to share with you my top 3 picks from the eight:-

Love In The Air

I am first on the plane for a KLM flight from Amsterdam to Johannesburg. I am sitting in window seat 15A. My plan is to catch a film and a bit of shut-eye before landing. The flight attendant tells me the flight is full. My heart sinks: there goes my vision of stretching out over two seats. A small boy is sitting in 15C. I wonder who will occupy 15B. A snorer? A talker? Please, no! Then a discussion: the child is standing, bags are moving and the stewardess is orchestrating the move like a seasoned choreographer. In place of the small boy now is a man, a blond Adonis with a ready smile, putting his bags in the overhead locker.

I look up to him and say, “I think we’re going to be lucky…” These words are prophetic, but at the time I am referring, of course, to the seat between us. The doors shut and 15B remains unoccupied; the only free seat, as far as I can tell. We take off, and over the empty seat we strike up the best conversation of my life, spanning travel, literature and the virtues of chocolate. Somewhere over the Sahara, real magic happens; divine chemistry is at play. By the time we land, plans are being made. “Do you want to have dinner?” he says. “I do,” I say.

Eight months later I face him, beaming, and say “I do” in a garden chapel in Africa.

This is a KLM love story…and it’s all true!

– Bree O’Mara Leach, Kosmos, South Africa

Camp Alaska

“Alaska!” they say. “How wonderful! Are you doing a cruise?”

“No,” I reply. “I’ll be camping,’ and then, as their surprise turns to horror, I add “in a tent.”

Thirteen strangers, from different countries, we’re crammed in a mini-bus for three weeks. I share a tent with a German woman whose only words to me are: “Hold the pole,” as we construct our tent each day. It is a heatwave and I have a backpack filled with jeans and fleece. I wake up in pools of water and develop welts where mosquitoes have swarmed. But I also watch a sunset over mountains so majestic I am moved to tears. I “drink the toe” in Dawson City [a cocktail containing the alcohol-preserved remains of a human toe] and watch puffins struggle to take flight, their bellies filled with fish. I am mesmerised by whales in their sensual water dance, come face-to-face with a moose and her twin calves, and eat halibut cooked on an open fire on a beach watched over by eagles. I touch glaciers, hike through forests like fairylands and learn to kayak on a journey through a fjord that makes me believe I have entered a place where God dwells. I return, exhausted by awe.

“Alaska!” they say. “How wonderful! Are you doing a cruise?”

“No,” I reply. “I’ll be camping,’ and then, as their surprise turns to horror, I smile my secret smile.

– Areana Eivers, Oslo, Norway

Shanghai Surprise

I could not see the look on my face when I stood with a complete taxi door in my hands in Shanghai. I may have some strength, but the experience of ripping a door out of a taxi was new to me. The driver overwhelmed me with a torrent of words, which I did not understand, but it was clear that he was not pleased with the situation. After two minutes, the crime scene was surrounded by Shanghai inhabitants who were laughing themselves silly. What type of businessman am I? I felt helpless: driver shouting, spectators enjoying this outdoor event. Suddenly there was a twist, the driver pushing me into his car, and carefully managed to put back the door. This was rather strange, how did he…? I started to feel relieved on my way to the hotel, until I saw the doorman who normally opens doors, including taxi doors. With wild gestures I tried to prevent this, but there it went again, a totally amazed doorman with a taxi door. The scene that followed was somehow familiar, the expression on the doorman’s face must have been the same as mine 30 minutes earlier.

A tough discussion for compensation, lasting 15 minutes, followed. Starting with $100, the taxi driver finally agreed to $3. And off he went looking for new victims in business suits; his way of opening doors for a new car. Just another 1,000 or so customers to go.

– Benno Leemeijer, Hoorn, The Netherlands

And, now, drumroll please…for the winning story:-

Mexican Breakfast

We’d driven all night to reach Saltillo, Mexico. The morning sun was gaining strength, reflecting off the stucco and adobe walls of the colonial city. No trees, no shade. We needed rest, so we parked by a door under a big, red Coca-Cola sign, and went into the tiny restaurant for some much-needed breakfast. We plopped down at the table, and in my high-school Spanish, I greeted our waitress, ordered some coffee and eggs and requested an ashtray. The waitress served us and then stood at the kitchen door, watching us and anticipating our every need. The cook stood behind, peering over her shoulder. While I dipped my yolk, I commented to my friend on the sparseness of the restaurant, but he replied that the food was fine and the service couldn’t be beaten.

We finished our food but needed a little more time to rest, so we asked for seconds on the coffee. We took our time, smoked some cigarettes, chatted and finally, when we felt somewhat refreshed, I asked for our bill. To our surprise, the waitress refused to give it to us. She said we were travellers, and she was happy to serve us. I insisted, I said this was a business and I was happy to pay for the excellent service and food. “No señor,” she said. “This is not a restaurant — this is our home!” When we stepped outside into the blazing sun, we found a Coca-Cola sign hung over every doorway!

– Darion Hutchinson, Tucson, Arizona

My thanks to Holland Herald for giving me permission to reproduce this portion of the original article in my blog.

21 Responses to Very Short Travel Stories

  1. kg

    what such nice travel stories! i would love to have have read all entries! nakakatuwang basahin ang mga experiences nila! the last one was hilarious! :)

  2. mordsith

    i like the taxi story the best! i was laughing alone here in my desk! :)

  3. dong ho

    the first one and the last one are my favorite. funny experiences. this post lead me to think of my own funny travel experience.

    thanks for sharing. it’s worth the read.

  4. fortuitous faery

    hi, this is conniechiwa from postcrossing. i love the first story! i always read inflight magazines when flying.

  5. Mimi

    kg: you can read the entire article at, click on ‘march 2009’. it’s on page 38.

    mordsith: be careful. people might think you’re going nuts, laughing all by yourself ;)

    dong ho: pls share with us some of your funny travel experiences.

    fortuitous faery: the first story’s my favourite, as well, incurable romantic that i am ;) i read inflight magazines, too. and i have a little collection of them at home hehe.

  6. Jan Mckingley Hilado

    Hi there! I’m interested to exchange links with you. My site is

    If you are interested, just add to your blog roll the name: “Best Places In The World” linking to and if you’re done placing the link, contact me back with the NAME and the LINK to your site so I can place it on my link roll. Thanks and more power to you!

    Janmck Hilado

  7. francesca in france

    touching stories yung klm flight and home restaurant.

    Mahirap lang ang bansang mexico, pero there are still people that made efforts to give free.
    And happy doing it.

  8. Josiet

    I love the first one! I love any love story. Thanks for sharing! =)

  9. J.

    Thank you for these bite-sized travel tales! Especially the one about the Human Toe Cocktail in Alaska. That almost made me spit out my water at my desk this morning. Haha.

  10. odette

    i love the love story too! kilig!
    and the mexican story is so touching, i can understand it’s the winning entry. ^-^

  11. cpsanti

    love love the first one mimi! kileeeg! ;-)

  12. a-moms-diary

    Thanks for sharing…nice stories indeed.

  13. SDI

    I love the first and the last story….:)

  14. Abhinav

    Wonderful stories indeed.. thanks a lot for sharing

  15. Mimi

    Abhinav: Which travel story is your favourite?

  16. Alex

    Brilliant post, I love these stories. I used them as prompts for my grade 12 English class in a travel writing unit of work… you’ll have lots of high schoolers trawling through your blog now (sorry ;-)

  17. Mimi

    Hey Alex :) Glad to know something from my site is of practical use to someone. I remember my creative writing class in college — my teacher would bring some random object and make us write about it for 5 minutes; the results were pretty surprising. You might want to try that with your class sometime.

  18. Creativerudro

    It’s nice story,

  19. Molud

    Mexican hospitality

  20. Molud

    Mexican hospitality :))))

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