I had always imagined that if I found myself in Orlando, Florida, USA, it would be to visit Disney World. However, with traveling (as with life) comes many unexpected turns.
Driving into Orlando from Jacksonville in an uber cool rent-a-jeep I could feel the electricity of adventure awaiting us. Cocoa beach, Kennedy Space Centre and Disney World here we come! The only thing standing in our way from complete freedom was collecting our visas at the Mexican Embassy. We had an appointment that morning and were scheduled to fly out the following evening to dive in Cancun. What a life!
Outside the embassy our electric excitement did not go unnoticed. We were easy targets for a clever scam that saw us being directed by the 'security' guard to park our vehicle in an adjacent parking lot. By the time we had claimed our visas, our car was gone. We were informed by the conman that it had been towed to an unofficial depot and we could only get it back if we paid a hefty sum. He had taken us for glamourous foreigners (we were well-accessorized thrifty travellers) and he struck out when it turned out that we did not have the taxi fare to get all of us to the depot or to pay the full ransom for our jeep (in which all our worldly possessions were now trapped).
In retrospect, the correct thing to do would have been to call the police and car hire company. Instead, unaware of the illegitimacy of the towing, we walked for 2 hours to the dodgy depot. We rummaged through the contents of our car and handed over what dollars we could. Bye-bye Disney World, bye-bye Kennedy Space Centre, bye-bye booking in to a hotel for the night.
Defeated we drove to Cocoa Beach (home of the prolific surfer Kelly Slater) where we washed in the sea and slept in our jeep. We parked in an empty lot outside a busy Irish Pub. Dinner was a Coca-Cola to try and make our squatting look legit. We put the seats back, tried to block out as much light as we could using our beach towels and prayed every time we heard another car come along.
Don't let yourself get conned. Whether in life or in your travels, make sure your memories are made in a great bed. Our night in Orlando was a long one and sleeping in that jeep reminded me just how much I really love my bed!