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Short Travel Stories – Meeting Michael Jackson & 5 Other Tales To Put A Smile On Your Face

A blonde woman standing infront of a large window at an airport with the view of a red tail of a jumbo jet

Updated on May 2nd, 2024

After 30 years travelling the world, I share my favourite, amazing & funny short travel stories from the air. Fly with me to New Zealand, Australia, Amsterdam, Morocco & Los Angeles. My tales include meeting Michael Jackson & being struck by lightning…among many others!”


Short Travel Stories - Lions, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Short Travel Stories from the air - Havana, Cuba, Cars
Short Travel Stories from the air - SueWhereWhyWhat, The Solent, UK

I see travel as a combination of experiences & events which always seem to culminate in travel anecdotes. Anyone who knows me is familiar with how much I love to share my scrapes & adventures with others. I seem to have a lot! One of my best short travel stories is about the time I was attacked by lions in the Serengeti. Or when I spent my first night in Cuba in a police station, followed by my first night in Antigua. Then there’s my chequered experience learning to sail. Maybe finding out what it is like to be caught in a bushfire in Namibia is of interest?

With travel on hold, for now, it has given me time to reflect on my 30 years of travel, the many air miles covered, & as such some of the crazy travel experience stories I’ve accumulated along the way. When thinking about the hours I’ve spent in airports & planes, it’s unsurprising that a few experiences have stood out.

For example, there is the time I was struck by lightning, got caught in a downpour while boarding & poured water all over my neighbour at the start of a long haul flight.”

Or the celebrity journeys where I flew with an entire professional rugby team, got stuck in Casablanca airport with the band The Stone Roses … & when I met Michael Jackson. Interested? Sitting comfortably? Then here we go…

Short Travel Stories – Meeting Michael Jackson & 5 Other Tales To Put A Smile On Your Face


Short Travel Stories – London to Los Angeles
Short Travel Stories from the air - SWWW at airport departure

It was a big flight for me, having tragically lost my husband, Terry 11 months earlier. I was heading off to meet my sister & family for a holiday to LA & then Hawaii. I hadn’t seen them since they had returned home a month after the tragedy that had left me coming to terms with my new life alone. During the trip, it would be my birthday, the first for 18 years without Terry.

Short Travel Stories from the air - Hollywood sign and LA street, USA

To treat myself & make the flight that bit easier, I had booked a ticket in Premium Economy for the first time. I’m fairly tall & fitting my legs into airline seats is often a challenge.

As I boarded the plane I was excited when I saw I was at the front with loads of legroom, a big seat & felt very special when they brought around a glass of champagne for me. I told myself “This is going to be a good flight!”

Short Travel Stories from the air - on board a flight
Hawaiian Beach and Mountains

The lady next to me took her seat. She was on the phone talking loudly & didn’t really acknowledge me. I was fine with that. After take-off, we were offered a glass of water & I placed mine on the tiny drinks’ holder between us, then headed for the bathroom. On my return, I did the shimmy to try & get back into my seat while negotiating the pillow, blanket, water bottle & seat belt. Then it happened! I accidentally sat too early & ended up spilling my glass of water. For a small glass, it held a lot of water!

Pouring Water Over My Aeroplane Neighbour
SWWW in garland of flowers having a meal, Hawai

That was it. Both me & the lady next to me were soaked. She was livid. I was mortified. I apologised profusely as she shouted at me for my stupid behaviour. She had a point. However, the more she went on about it, tutting & telling me how wet she was, I started to lose sympathy. I was wet too. My seat was wet & I hadn’t done it on purpose. I requested what she would like me to do to make the flight better for her. She asked if I had a clean pair of trousers she could have. Of course, I didn’t but I could hear her muttering in disgust as she headed for the toilet to clean herself up.

What else could I do? Bear in mind this was a 10 hour flight & we had just taken off!”

I turned to the flight attendant for help. “Excuse me. I am an idiot & I accidentally spilt my water on this poor lady. It there anything at all you could do to help her?” She considered for a second before suggesting that she could move her to a vacant seat. Hallelujah!

Saving The Situation

When she returned from the bathroom, I informed her of the situation. She jumped at the opportunity to move (thankfully!). Then, as she sat back down I saw her bum hit the other glass of water.

As it started to topple I grabbed hold of it, saving us from another soaking. I chose to keep this to myself. After all, it wouldn’t have helped!”

I breathed a sigh of relief as I used the newspaper given to me by the crew member to create a spongy barrier between my wet trousers & the sodden seat beneath. Needless to say, it wasn’t quite the relaxing treat of a flight I had hoped for…but at least I got 2 (wet) seats to myself…;)


Short Travel Stories – Auckland to Sydney
Short Travel Stories from the air - SWWW Sydney Harbour

I had just spent a fantastic 2 months with my friend exploring the beauty of New Zealand. I had a one-year working visa for Australia & was heading back to stay with my sister & find a job. As I boarded the plane, I took my seat a few rows from the back, in the middle section. It didn’t take long before I started suspecting that something weird was going on. The whole of the back section was empty, apart from me, sitting all alone.

Rugby down under

As the time for take-off approached there was a flurry of excitement that wafted it’s way to the back. In its wake along each aisle filed some of the biggest men I’ve ever seen. They looked at me in a bemused manner as they all took their seats, surrounding me at all angles.

The guy to my right had a big smile on his face as he turned & said: “What did you have to pay to get this seat?” To which I replied, “I’m English, I have no clue who you are!”

Becoming An Honorary Member Of A Professional Rugby Team

It turned out they were the Auckland Warriors Rugby League team, heading for their fixture in Sydney. The player on the other side of me was huge. So much so we had to raise the armrest between us just so he could fit his thighs in! We particularly bonded (apart from the constant leg rubbing) when they started serving the meal. He winked as he spoke the immortal lines “They always order us low-fat meals. Would you like to swap? You look like you could lose a bit of weight.” Bit rude…but I agreed none the less.

The remainder of the flight was spent watching the rest of the passengers use the toilet more regularly than I’m sure was required as they came to the back to chat with my new friends. They brought papers & magazines to get autographs of their heroes. I may even have signed a few…just for fun! It’s not every day you become an honourary member of a professional rugby team, is it?


Short Travel Stories – Melbourne to Sydney
Short Travel Stories from the air - Melbourne's Yarra River
SWWW and family beach huts, Brighton beach, Melbourne

I had just spent a lovely few days with my sister, Al, visiting our cousin & his family in Melbourne. We had enjoyed their spectacular hospitality & eaten our body weight in amazing food as we always do when we visit. So much so we were exhausted & looking forward to the next few hours without actually consuming anything. As we waited in the departure lounge, the noise suddenly magnified & we realised that the skies had opened & Melbourne Airport was engulfed in more rain than I think I have ever seen.

They announced that no flights were leaving as there was too much rain for any of the ground crew to do their essential work. We joined our fellow travellers, sitting on the floor & waiting out the storm. Finally, an hour later, the weather had passed & our flight was being called for boarding. The first group were let through onto the tarmac, then it was our turn.

SWWW and Sister Al, soaked on the plane, Melbourne

As Al & I exited through the door, the heavens opened again. We tried to run but within seconds the ground was covered with an inch of water & we were both wearing flip flops. Moving quickly was impossible.”

There was nobody in front of us & it appeared that they had stopped everyone behind us. By the time we climbed the stairs & got onto the plane we both looked like we’d had a bucket of water poured over our heads.

Boarding A Plane Soaked To The Skin

For some reason, we expected our fellow passengers would have been caught too but everyone else was perfectly dry. As were the next group to enter the plane. In fact, all other passengers on the flight apart from the 2 of us were fine. They all seemed to have made the short walk without being hit by a drop. To make it worse, Al was wearing a white linen shirt. With the rain, it had gone completely see-through.

For the remainder of the thankfully short flight, as people passed to use the toilet, they always did a double-take. Without exception, the words coming out of their mouths were “What on earth happened to you two?”


Short Travel Stories – Marrakech to London…via Casablanca
Short Travel Stories from the air - Souk in Marrakech, Morocco

As a wedding anniversary trip, my husband Terry & I had just enjoyed a long weekend in Marrakech. Despite the guidebook describing the climate as “hot, hotter, or hottest”, while we were there it had rained every day. We had made the most of our time by enjoying negotiations in the souks, developing a taste for sweet mint tea & trying to get our one pair of jeans dry before we had to pull them back on again. The day we were leaving the sun came out. Typical!

Stuck in Casablanca with The Stone Roses

Terry & I always loved a celebrity sighting & as we waited at Marrakech airport we spied one. Ian Brown, the legendary singer of UK band The Stone Roses came swaggering past. For the remainder of our time at the airport, we kept ourselves occupied with “Ian Watch”. At least it kept us entertained although we were disappointed to discover that he wasn’t on our flight.

When we finally boarded, we hadn’t realised that our flight back was going to involve a quick stop in Casablanca, before continuing our journey home. When the shortstop seemed to last a little longer than expected we started to get restless.”

The air conditioning had been switched off, so it was getting hot. After about an hour we heard the infamous line “We are sorry. There is a fault with the plane. We need to be here for a while to fix it. You will need to leave the plane”. We formed an orderly queue in the aisle as we all filed off, expecting to be back in the next hour or so. It turned out we weren’t.

Finding Allies

There is a tendency when we are on a flight delay, to form allies. We gang together with fellow passengers in the same predicament, form bonds & short-lived friendships as we deal with our unfortunate situation.

There will always be people who seem to know everything when you know nothing. I like to attach myself to them in the hope of feeling in some way “in control”. Knowledge is power.”

SWWW Marrakech - Morocco

On this occasion, Ian Brown’s band became our allies. We found out that due to an “unfortunate incident” on a British Airways flight a few years earlier, he refused to use the airline again. He flew with Air Maroc, leaving his bandmates to be stranded in Casablanca with us. They were the first to inform us that the flight crew had left the building. This was not a good sign. We were not heading off for a long time to come. In the end, we were there for 13 hours!

Passing The Time

I don’t know if you have ever visited Casablanca Airport, or if it has changed since my marathon sit-in, but there isn’t much there. We grappled with finding things to keep us occupied. Our possibilities were limited, with one café & a small shop that didn’t even sell a pack of cards. There was an England football match being played later that day but nowhere to watch it in the departure lounge. Then one of the band came up with a genius plan.

We joined them in the queue to get our passports checked & stamped so we could “re-enter” Morocco. I’m sure I’m not the only person who has killed a few hours at an airport by going through immigration ‘just for fun’?!”

So, there we were at Casablanca Airport drinking beer & watching football with the Stone Roses. Not words I thought I would ever string together into a sentence!


Short Travel Stories – London to Amsterdam
Short Travel Stories from the air - SWWW and Gemma on an Amsterdam bridge over a canal

My friend Gemma is an interior designer & I was helping her out on a project when the opportunity came up to join her for a design tour & a night in Amsterdam. How could I refuse?

Windmill Amsterdam

It was a small plane & we were excited when we finally took off for the short flight to this beautiful city. As we started to approach the airport, the dark skies looked ominous. Then the heavens opened (once again!) & our plane was caught in the middle of a heavy downpour. As we were coming into land, the flight attendant took her seat at the front of the plane, facing us all.

When My Plane Was Struck By Lightning

Next thing we knew, there was a loud bang, the plane shuddered, went silent & the lights went off. I tensed, grabbed Gemma & we stared wide-eyed at each other for a few seconds before the lights came back on again. We fixed our gaze on the flight attendant. Gemma asked me, “Were we just struck by lightning?”

The lady at the front looked back at us all, as if nothing had happened. Then she picked up the intercom & clearly had a conversation with the flight deck.”

In my head the conversation went like this:

Captain “The plane was struck by lightning. Do you think anyone noticed?
Flight attendant “Yes”
Captain “Do you think I need to make an announcement?”
Flight attendant “Yes”

Rijks Museum and Concert hall, Concert Ge Bouw, Amsterdam

She then calmly replaced the handset & continued to look at us as the Captain came over the loudspeaker. He confirmed our suspicions but waylaid all our fears. Everything was fine & we would be landing in the next few minutes. It was with huge relief when we finally felt the undercarriage make contact with the tarmac. We had survived!

As we left the plane, Gemma decided to try her hand at investigating a little more. She asked the flight attendant “Has that ever happened before?”

Interestingly, neither of us can remember her exact response but both came away with completely different answers.”

To Gemma, she had confirmed that it happened all the time & was nothing to worry about. As far as I was concerned, she told us that it was the first time she had ever experienced it. Who knows, but needless to say we relived the moment numerous times as we celebrated life & toasted our survival in several bars across Amsterdam that evening.

And finally for one my best Short Travel Stories about travelling through an airport…


Short Travel Stories – Los Angeles Airport
Michael Jackson, with entourage and fans, LA airport, USA

Terry had been on a work trip that took him to San Diego. To make the most of the opportunity, I had booked a last-minute flight to meet him for a week in Los Angeles. As a result, we were flying home with separate airlines so spending our last few hours together at the airport. We were both hungry but couldn’t seem to find anywhere that was serving food.

We spotted a security guard so went to ask where we could find the restaurants. She pointed & said “You see that group of people just outside the door? They are waiting for Michael Jackson. Turn left just before you get to them & go up the stairs, there’s loads of choice.”

As you now know, Terry & I loved a celebrity spot so when the opportunity to see the King of Pop presented itself, it was hard to resist.

Underplaying & with a short attention span as usual Terry looked at me “Did she say, Michael Jackson? I’m hungry, we’ll give him 10 minutes.”

We headed off in the direction of the crowd. Some were clearly fans, others paparazzi & we got our camera out to join them. Everyone was just looking intently towards an insalubrious doorway that led into the airport. We weren’t there for long before the door opened & the crowds’ excitement peaked.

Meeting Michael Jackson

Out came a woman with a child under each arm, holding them close to her body in a very protective manner. Both had their heads covered completely with black lace veils which obscured their faces. I totally understand why, but couldn’t help but think how sinister they looked. The cameras went mad as they quickly scurried through the crowd & straight into a nearby parked car.

Short Travel Stories from the air - Michael Jackson, with entourage and fans, LA airport, USA

The anticipation was palpable. If his kids were there, then the legend couldn’t be far behind. Everyone resumed positions staring optimistically back at the door. Terry promised he would take some photos. My job was to find a good vantage point & just watch. I climbed up to balance on the wall of a flowerbed.

The next thing we knew, he was there. The crowd rushed forward, a fan thrust an album in his face, his security guards pushed everyone away. He walked quickly & was gone in a flash. But we’d seen him.”

And Terry got some photos, not perfect but we did get some evidence! And we had actually only been there for 10 minutes. Thank you, Michael Jackson, for being so punctual! Then we went & ate noodle soup while wondering what the hell had just happened?

I hope you have enjoyed the reflections & my short stories on travel from my hours & years spent at airports & on flights. I also hope that someday soon I will be able to add to these when we are allowed to travel again. However, for now, I still have a lot of stories to share.

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  1. I love the idea of your short stories!

    I am guessing that we have a bunch of small stories to tell, funny cute and horrible stories, that are all hidden away from our readers, cuz they are just short stories. Love it!

    And hey, the story about the waterglass, I was hoping she would spill as well 😀

    1. Thank you, Ann. I have so many stories that especially as we can’t travel right now, I really wanted to share. I certainly enjoyed reliving (most of) them. Thank goodness she didn’t spill her water too – it was wet enough as it was! Sue x

      1. Haha true that 😀

        After reading you story I started thinking of some of my own, and particurly one where I got lost in Dublin. In a hotel. Where I ended up walking into the wrong room! I quickly tuned around and ran as I saw a strange man sleeping on the bed! Ran down the stairs again and into what I though was my own room, but wrong again! I found my self standing in the hallway of the family who owned the hotell, horrified and shamed 😀
        Not one of my best moments 😀

        1. I love stories like this! I hope you found your room eventually & can’t believe everyone left their doors so open & welcoming! Your story put a smile on my face, thank you so much for sharing. Sue x

  2. Wow, these are some amazing stories! I love the idea of going through immigration so you can get the passport stamped! You deserved it since you were stranded there for so long! Also, that woman who you spilled on accidentally seemed like a real jerk. That’s why it’s called an accident, lady!

    1. Thank you, Erin & so pleased you are with me about the lady & her attitude. There comes a time when you just have to move on…no matter how wet & uncomfortable you are! 😉 Sue x

  3. Love your short stories and all that experiences with water! Rugby players as well! And wow, you met Michael Jackson – certainly a lot to look back at during this time of no travel.

    1. Thank you Georgina & glad you appreciated some of my stories & mishaps. It felt like a good time to share a few reflective posts right now. Sue x

  4. I can’t believe you didn’t mention about her bum and the second glass of water! I’m afraid I would have done. Just so she knew that accidents can happen, and maybe she’d learn a lesson and think a little bit more compassionately next time something like that happened, so that she would be so mean to somebody else.

    1. Thank you Jay. You make a good point but at the time I made a snap decision & had just negotiated for her to move. I have to admit that by that point I just wanted to get rid of her! Sue x

  5. Enjoyed reading through your short real stories! Wow! You met Michael Jackson – great memories to cherish. I dislike when people talk loudly on their cell phones completely ignoring that they are inconveniencing the people next to them!:-)

    1. Thank you Jan & really pleased you enjoyed reading my antics. Glad you are with me on the cell phone lady too 😉 Sue x

  6. Great travel stories and I am sure you had fun reliving them. It is anecdotes like these that got me started with my travel blogging and always fun to read someone else’s ones.

    1. Thank you Alma & really pleased to hear you enjoyed my adventures & I agree, I started blogging to share my stories too! Sue x

  7. This was one of the best reads ever. So funny made me think of the funny crazy times I have happened over the years with flying.

    1. What lovely feedback, thank you Bree! Glad I allowed you to relive a few funny memories for you too. Sue x

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