Tuesday, July 29, 2014

When Travel Goes Wrong


When you head out on new adventures around the world it’s inevitable that some things just won't go as planned. Occasionally, however, these unfortunate experiences at least make great travel stories. Remember when I told you about the time I got yelled and spit at in the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam or when I was at the beach in Panama and had all my things stolen from right out under me?  

Let’s put it this way: they were character building experiences. 

(We can always choose to look at the bright side, right?)

Today I’d like to introduce you to four travel bloggers who’ve had their fair share of horror stories on the road. These ladies have travelled all over the world and are here to share a few things they've learned along the way!

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"When Life Throws Eggs At You..."

Be prepared for a pretty dramatic tale of what can happen when travel goes wrong! Lost luggage, hotel mix ups, cockroaches, these things can be pretty frustrating. But what about when travel is just downright dangerous? Let me tell you, it can be – my sister was once shot at by guerrillas in Thailand!

Fortunately, I wasn’t shot at, but this wasn’t the safest situation I have ever been in.

In October 2011 I suffered the most awful break up so I decided to jet off to Rome to do some meditating, some eating, and some soul searching. Of course, I went alone!

All day long, I wandered around Rome drinking in the culture (and eating pizza) and sitting on walls gazing into space, considering life. Maybe it was no wonder, therefore, that certain information did not penetrate the bubble!

There were warning signs – there were police vans EVERYWHERE, the Colosseum was closed and one man handed me a leaflet with the word ‘riot’ written on it.

As I make my way home to my hotel, I had to pass the Colosseum one last time, but it was impossible because there was a huge crowd of protestors wearing V for Vendetta masks. There was a lovely feeling in the air of people joining for a common cause, so I sat on a wall and videoed these people for a while. 

Suddenly, the old man on his bicycle to my right began shouting ‘fascists’ at the crowd and suddenly I was being pelted with eggs and glass bottles!

I fought my way home and as I did so, I saw burnt out and overturned vehicles. Every single bin alight. Buildings burning. Youths sitting in the broken glass windows of the banks having a cigarette. Effigies ripped from walls and smashed on the street. Graffiti everywhere. 

I finally got back to the hotel, where the manager asked, "You didn't go out wearing that did you?!" I was wearing a t shirt with a United States flag on it.

"I am surprised you made it back alive," he said.

When Travel Goes Wrong: Burnt cars in the Rome Riots in 2011
Aftermath of the Rome Riots in 2011

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"That Time in Sweden..."

I’m sure every traveler has a horror story or ten and when I was tossing up ideas on mine, without batting an eye my friend said – "What about the time you had the runs in Finland?" First of all, it wasn’t Finland, it was Sweden and second of all – yeah, that’s a good one.

I went to Sweden for a week back in March on the hunt for the Northern Lights. For this Australian girl, it was a real shock to my system to live a week in -10 degree Celsius weather. After the first 15 hour bus ride up to the very north of Sweden, I spent a week dog sledding, throwing snowballs, and drinking boxed wine. 

When Travel Goes Wrong: Winter in Sweden

On my last night I was staying in a cabin that can only be described as The World’s Smallest Cabin (original, I know) with 3 girls I had only met that week. We were in very close quarters, in a steaming hot room, on bunk beds that were meant for five year olds and I awoke early in the morning feeling off. There are times when the saying "When ya gotta go, ya gotta go" really hits the nail on the head and this was one of those times. 

I can’t even tell this story in a pleasant way... I had the runs, the girls heard everything, it was awkward, I was really sick – what can you do? Turns out another girl in the room was also feeling unwell, so while everyone went sightseeing for the day we stayed in our cabin, a few metres from the toilet and talked about the first time we were heartbroken. Very sad. 

In the afternoon, still feeling like crap and afraid to eat anything, I hopped back on the bus and sat very still for the next 15 hours as we journeyed back down to Stockholm. I was so sick, tired, and defeated by the time we got there, I went to the airport and bought the next flight back to London. 

I didn’t end up seeing much of the Northern Lights in Sweden, but I did prove to myself that yes, I can sit on a bus for 15 hours after having the runs and survive. That there is an important lesson in itself. Thank God for the travel horrors.


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"Trying to Make it Home"

It was hard to pick one story. I could have told you about when I lost my wallet in Berlin, or when I arrived in Miami and realized my flight didn’t exist anymore. But today I'm telling  you about my drive up from Edinburgh to St. Andrews, Scotland, which normally takes two hours. 

I was flying to Scotland after spending the holidays in Canada and all went well, despite not sleeping very much on the plane. We landed on time in Edinburgh, near 10am. Arriving at the main train station, I wanted to buy a ticket home, but was told that there were problems and so I had go to another station. I hauled my massive luggage around the station to the bus they offered to transfer stations. 

When I arrived at the other station, the wait started. The first train was delayed, then cancelled. The second train was delayed, then cancelled. And so on. It was really cold on the platform, there was nothing much to eat, and I was getting exhausted by the minute. Finally, around 3pm I decided that I had enough and that I would take the bus instead. I waited for a bus to head back to the city centre, but it never came, so I got a cab to drop me off at the bus station.

I had mere minutes to catch the bus of 3:40. I got to the counter and was told that the bus didn’t leave from the station anymore but from across the square. No time to make it and the next bus was one hour later! Finally, at about 4:40 I was able to sit down in the bus and catch some shut eye. I finally made it to my flat in St. Andrews at 6:30pm – more than eight hours after landing in Scotland! Next time, I’ll know to check the train situations upon landing!

You know the worst part – I was so tired I burst into tears in front of an employee at the train station asking what the hell was happening. I probably scarred the poor guy. 


Inside an overnight bus in Vietnam
A slightly unrelated but surprisingly comfortable overnight bus
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"My First Week in France While Studying Abroad"

Planning on visiting multiple cities within a short period of time always lends itself to a few travel mishaps that you can never avoid. While studying abroad in Paris, one such mishap occurred while trying to get from Arles to Aix-en-Provence. It was the first week that I was in France and the first week I had been in Europe without my parents. 

One thing after another went wrong. My group was late leaving the hotel so there were 10 of us Americans frantically running to the train station with our large backpacks in tow. But of course, once we arrived at the train station we found out that there had been a fire on the tracks and all passengers were being loaded onto a bus going to the next town.  

The bus was already filled and driving away by the time we realized the situation. So we decided to sit and wait for the next bus to arrive in the freezing cold. Little did we know we'd be waiting for three hours!

By the time we arrived in Aix-en-Provence late that afternoon, all of the planned actives were thrown out the window. I had time to visit Cezanne's house-turned-museum, pick up a pizza, and call it a night. Unfortunately, we were on to the next city in the morning.

When traveling, you must be prepared to be flexible. It's great to have a plan, but understand that unforeseen circumstances, like a train off the tracks or a full bus, will happen and you can't let those things ruin your experience. 


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I think everyone can agree that travel keeps you on your toes. Thank you for sharing your stories and lessons learned the hard way, ladies! Be sure to check out their blogs when you need your next travel or expat fix.

Have you ever experienced a time when travel went totally wrong? What happened?

Linking up with Van / Sammy / Kiki.

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