It often seems like travel bloggers are living the most fabulous lives. It’s easy to write only about the highlights, and I’m a big perpetrator of this too.
But the fact of the matter is that I’m constantly falling down, missing trains, and generally making a fool of myself when I travel.
So I thought that this year, instead of writing a general year in review like I have in years past (click here to see the one from 2018, and here for the one from 2016. I apparently didn’t write one in 2017), I’d share the 10 absolute WORST moments from my year in travel, in the hopes that you might get a few laughs out of it.
So (in no particular order) here goes…
#1 Falling off my motorbike in Bali
Alright, let’s start with the big one. Because honestly, I’m pretty embarrassed about this, but I’ve shared it before so there’s no need to pretend like it didn’t happen.
I fell off my scooter in Bali.
Well, Nusa Penida to be more accurate, but basically Bali.
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🏍 I fell off my scooter… ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ …And worse than being hurt (I actually just walked away with a few scrapes, so no worries!), I just feel embarrassed. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I've been in Bali, scooting around, for about 6 weeks now. And I honestly thought that I could handle myself on Nusa Penida, where reports say that road conditions are less than ideal. And when I got there, the roads were WAY better than I expected. So I got cocky. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ And as I was rounding a corner on an incredibly steep hill, I didn't make a wide enough turn, and I fell straight backwards. I was going too fast to do anything else. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I was so incredibly lucky to not have my bike land on top of me, and to fall on gravel that only left me with a couple of scrapes (I actually only bled from my hand!). I was even more lucky to have multiple different locals who were driving past stop to help me, rub a leaf on my wounds (I can only assume it has some sort of anti-septic qualities, as my wounds are totally fine now), and lift my bike back up from its side. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ And then, like the idiot that I am, I kept going to my destination. And hiked down to 2 different beaches. And swang on one of those Bali swings… Yeah, I was clearly running on adrenaline. I think I also really just didn't want to let the people who helped me know how much it hurt to fall off my bike. I didn't want them to think that I was just another stupid American who got in a motorbike accident. And thanks to my pride, my body FELT IT the next morning. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ So here's a friendly PSA: If you ever head to this part of the world, don't look at all of the tiny kids driving scooters at 60mph and think that you have ANY business doing the same thing. You do NOT. Go SLOW. Be CAREFUL. Trust your gut. If you think you're not ready to drive a scooter, hire a driver. Your body (and your ability to keep sightseeing) isn't worth the extra bucks. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ (And yup, I missed Kelingking and 1 million other Insta spots thanks to my stupidity)
When I first arrived in Bali, my biggest fear wasn’t getting on a motorbike. Or even falling off of it, really. My biggest fear was the looks I would get if I did fall of my scooter. Just another stupid tourist riding unsafely and with no regard for myself or the people around me.
Basically, I didn’t want people to think that I was an inconsiderate, stupid American. And it absolutely consumed everything I did.
Well, after 6 weeks of driving carefully and not falling off my bike, it got to my head a little bit.
And on Penida, where almost no one else was on the road, I let the wind blow through my (helmet covered) hair and started driving just a little bit too fast.
And then, my Illinois-flat-landscape-straight-road-raised-self went around a corner on a hill on the inside. The next thing I knew, I was flat on my back and my motorbike was on its side next to me.
A few seconds later, a bike loaded up with three young boys in height order (the oldest of whom was at MOST 14) came around the corner to my aid. They began with a show of gallant masculinity and tried to get my bike standing again, but to no avail.
Thankfully, the didn’t let their ego get the best of them and flagged down a middle aged man who was riding by who actually got my bike standing again.
He also rubbed a plant from the side of the road onto my various scratches which I can only assume had antiseptic qualities because they didn’t get infected afterwards.
And then, I was back on my bike on my way to my original destination on the other side of the island. You know, because who needs to go home and lick their wounds when you have Instagram pictures to take, right??
All things considered, my fall could have been a LOT worse. People end up in the hospital after motorbike accidents all the time. I just had a few scrapes and bruises.
But it was still mortifying in the moment.
#2 Falling into a sewer in Bali… and not going to a doctor
Surprisingly, the most injured I got in Bali was not thanks to my motorbike accident.
Nope, it actually happened on my very first night on the island. Again, thanks to my complete stupidity.
If you’ve ever been to Bali (or really, any more developing area), you’ll know that sidewalks often just… aren’t a thing. And that sewers are pretty much just holes in the side of the road.
But on my very first night in Bali, I didn’t know this.
So I was walking home from dinner and didn’t pull my phone flashlight out for a small bit of road that wasn’t lit up by surrounding buildings.
And the next thing I knew, I had fallen waist deep into a sewer and had to fish my Birkenstock out of the disgusting water.
I was thankfully only a block away from my homestay, and managed to limp home and wash myself (and all of the blood I quickly realized was oozing from my leg) off.
I basically just laid down in the shower for half an hour because I also often feel like I’m about to faint at the sight of blood.
I then patched myself up with a few bandaids I had on hand and called it a night.
The next morning, I went to the pharmacy for more supplies, where I learned that you can only get Neosporin with a prescription in Bali (an actual wtf moment) and would have to make due with an antiseptic cream.
Oh well, it’ll be fine, I thought.
A few days later, my deceptively deep wounds were oozing green pus and I knew there was definitely something wrong.
Did I go to the doctor then, though?
Nope. I waited another THREE days before finally finding a doctor to go too. He took one look at my leg and prescribed me antibiotics while he cleaned up the pus and even stitched up one of the cuts.
For the next three weeks, I had to return every other day to get my wound re-dressed, and I still have some disgusting looking scars on my legs six months later.
If you zoom in on the pic below, you can see them right after the bandages came off…
So moral of the story? GO TO THE FUCKING DOCTOR.
Yes, even if you’re in a foreign country and don’t know how things work or if you’ll get charged extortionate amounts of money. That’s what travel insurance is for.
#3 Staying at a sketchy hostel in Tulum
My trip to Mexico in January of this year was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken, not gonna lie. I mostly traveled solo, but for 5 days in Tulum my mom joined me.
We stayed in a nice hotel in Tulum Pueblo (you can stay either in town or on the beach, and staying in town is a LOT cheaper) and did equal amounts relaxing and exploring.
After she left, I made a last-minute decision to spend another two days in Tulum (even though I wasn’t totally in love with the place, so don’t ask me what my motivations were) and I decided to book into literally the only hostel in Tulum Playa.
Well, that was a mistake.
While I normally would never book into a hostel with less than a 8.0 score on Hostelworld and that clearly looks kind of sketchy, I wanted to spend my last two days in Tulum in the part that the town is actually famous for. So I booked it.
The place lived up to my suspicions from the moment I arrived (and really, even before that, as my taxi driver took a good 15 minutes to find it).
The dorm room was dark and musty. The sheets had suspicious stains on them. When I was packing my bag on the final night, my sneakers had suspiciously disappeared.
I was definitely uncomfortable for the whole stay, and I definitely won’t be booking a sketchy place like that ever again-no matter how great the location is.
Thankfully, a hostel from my favorite hostel brand ever, Selina, has just opened up on Tulum Playa, so if I ever return, I know where I’ll be staying.
And hey, at least I finally got to try those Matcha Mama smoothies…
#4 My bus from the airport running someone over
Upon coming back from Mexico last January, my plan was to get off the plane, use my Global Entry to zip through immigration, and then hop on the bus from O’hare back down to my hometown a few hours south.
Because it was January, I stayed inside until a few minutes before my bus was supposed to leave, and then walked out to the bus stop.
After a few minutes more of waiting than I expected (thanks to what I assumed was just traffic), my feet were getting super cold (remember, my sneakers had just
been stollen mysteriously disappeared, so I was in Birkenstocks and socks).
Well, turns out it wasn’t just traffic. Because just a few yards down from the bus stop, the charter bus driver had HIT SOMEONE.
She then proceeded to get out of the bus and act like she had no idea what happened and that no one had been hit while a literal ambulance came to pick them up.
Now, since she was moving pretty slowly thanks to the traffic, the person who was hit wasn’t hurt too bad, and the ambulance was likely just a precaution. But still.
Needless to say, I was not only concerned about the person who got hit, but for my own safety if, as it seemed was likely to happen, the bus driver simply got back on the bus and continued her route. Or how the heck I would get home if she actually happened to be taken away. Oh, and my feet were minutes away from frostbite.
As it actually turned out, the bus she was driving wasn’t actually my bus, as I had assumed, and the correct one came once all the traffic had cleared up.
I’m not sure exactly what happened to the bus driver, as I had retreated back into the warm baggage claim area after it became clear the issue wasn’t going to be resolved quickly, but I sure hope everyone on her bus got home safe (and hopefully not with her as the driver).
#5 Forgetting my Lactaid for Italy
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So like… I'm not gonna say that I forgot my lactaid and then completely failed at eating dairy free in Italy but… I forgot my lactaid and completely failed at eating dairy free in Italy. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Look. It wasn't for a lack of trying. I had a color-coded map of gelaterias in Rome that offered dairy free options. But travel oh so rarely goes as planned, and we kept popping into tiny holes in the wall that definitely were NOT focusing on creating anything other than the creamiest, most delicious gelato of all time. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ So yes, my intestines were mad at me for a week straight. I could have done a lot better. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ But hey. I'm human.
I figured out early this year that apparently you can develop lactose intolerance in your 20s after a night of indulging in a cheese board appetizer, mac and cheese, and ice cream (#notfun).
Ever since then, I’ve been doing my best to eat dairy free, and popping Lactaids when the dairy was just too good to resist.
That is, until Daniel and I took a week long trip to Italy (where so many mistakes were made I wrote a whole post about it) and I forgot my Lactaid.
That’s right, I forgot to bring the pill that protects me from dairy to a country where literally all of its most famous foods involve dairy of some sort.
Now, did that stop me from indulging in those foods? Not at all.
But did my bowels have fun that week? Absolutely not.
#6 Absolutely failing to do anything in Italy
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OK Forum, I see you 🤩Although I almost didn't thanks to my absolute failure to plan any part of my trip to Italy. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ So in case you're planning a trip sometime soon, here's everything you need to know about tickets to the Colosseum, Forum, and Palatine Hill: ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 1️⃣There is a combined ticket that gets you entrance to the Colosseum, Forum, and Palatine Hill. 2️⃣Book your tickets AS SOON AS YOU KNOW YOU'RE GOING TO ITALY. I'm serious. The online tickets give you a time to enter the Colosseum so you don't have to wait in line. They sell out super duper fast. 3️⃣If you don't manage to book a ticket online, consider going with a guided tour. Even if you're booking far enough in advance, consider going with a guided tour. Your experience will seriously be enriched if you do. TBH going without a tour was a big mistake. 4️⃣If you have to buy tickets the day of, you can only do this from the Colosseum's main entrance. You MUST stand in the long line. A lot of places online say that you can avoid this by going to the entrance to the Forum or the Palatine Hill where lines are shorter, but this is no longer the case. Tickets are only sold at the Colosseum. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Save this post so you know! Already been to Rome? Drop your tips in the comments! ⤵️
I learned a lot on my first ever trip to Italy this year.
For example, I learned that the best gelato comes not from the places with piled high tubs, but the places which keep their gelato under lock and key in covered metal tubes.
I also learned that I should not ignore my instinct to plan things down to the minute.
You see, one of my goals this year was to be more spontaneous with my travels. To not worry about planning out my itinerary for each and every day and not spend hours researching the best places to eat.
Instead, I would simply go with the flow and do whatever came naturally each day.
And for the most part, it worked out really well.
Except in Italy.
Well, probably because Italians all go with the flow, so you can’t count on them to pick up the slack for you.
That, and the fact that we were going to two of the most touristed cities in the world: Rome and Florence. So simple things like buying tickets for top sights ahead of time are absolutely essential.
But I assumed that, because we were there in shoulder season, we would be fine to just rock up and buy tickets on the day.
Because even in shoulder season, Rome is absolutely PACKED.
Think, you end up having to wait in line even if you did buy a timed entry ticket to the Colosseum packed.
In the end, we waited more than an hour in line to get tickets for the Colosseum, Forum, and Palatine Hill, and only narrowly avoided having to wait for two hours at the Vatican thanks to the fact that I was invited on a tour with Through Eternity Tours.
Also on the list of things we failed to do in Italy?
- Go to the Capitoline Museum. Stood for 30 minutes in line in the pouring rain before giving up.
- Get on a bus which never showed up. Again, stood in the pouring rain for about 15 minutes before giving up.
- Go inside the Duomo or visit the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
All in all, a pretty disastrous trip.
If you’re interested, click here to read all about my other Rome travel mistakes.
#7 Getting on the wrong bus about 20 different times
My most recent terrible travel day also just happened to probably be my worst travel day of 2019, if not my entire life, so it’s stuck pretty firmly in my brain right now.
On my recent trip visiting Christmas markets throughout Bavaria, Germany, I decided that since my flight home from Munich wasn’t until the afternoon, I would be fine staying in Füssen (a two hour train ride from Munich) the night before. And I would have been, had I actually woke up to my alarm.
Instead, I shut that thing all the way off and slept another two hours, waking up just 15 minutes before the next train was leaving (and they only left once an hour). It would get me to the airport with an hour and a half to spare, which was cutting it close but would probably still be fine, since I wasn’t checking a bag.
So I quickly checked out, skipped breakfast, and ran to the train station where I breathlessly bought a ticket and hopped on the train.
Then, of course, when I got to the airport with plenty of time left to spare, my flight had been delayed an hour. Which let me relax a little bit in the security line, but was still annoying.
Finally, for the last leg of my trip, I needed to take two different buses to get back home. The first bus went totally fine, but left a few minutes late. So I missed my connecting bus.
It’s fine, I thought. I’ll just hop on the next one in half an hour.
But nope. For some reason, despite the fact that it was a perfectly normal TUESDAY, the next bus wasn’t for another two hours. WTF.
So I settled into a seat at the bus station and texted my boyfriend to let him know I’d be home even later than I already thought I would be.
But then, oh joy–I saw a bus which would take me home!
So I excitedly hopped on, sat down, and immediately realized I was on the wrong bus.
I frantically Google Maps-ed to figure out how the heck I was going to get home now, and got off at the correct stop. Then got on another bus to take me to another stop 20 minutes away.
At that stop, I was to get on the last bus of the evening that would take me straight home. There were two buses that could take me there, so I just hopped on the one that was leaving first.
As I pulled up Google Maps again to check the route, I realized I was on the bus that took an hour and a half to get home, rather than 20 minutes. F. It had already left the station.
So I (again) frantically got off that bus fast enough that the stops were still overlapping with the quicker bus and (finally) hopped on a bus to get me home.
I should have just sat and waited for the bus I knew for sure would get me there *facepalm*
#8 Not checking (or not believing) the weather while packing
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*running away from my deadlines like* ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Did probably one of the most me things ever and hopped onto a flight to Valencia on Tuesday. I spent 26 beautifully warm hours in the city, stuffing myself to the brim and getting weird looks for not wearing a jacket. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Of course, I have two big deadlines coming up, but who cares about that when there are £20 flights out there??? Now that I’m back thought it’s probably time to hunker down and get to work… 😢
One of the best parts about traveling to southern Europe when you live in Scotland is that it is almost definitely going to be warmer, no matter what time of year it is.
Well, both times I travelled to southern Europe in the first half of this year (first to Valencia, Spain in February and then to Italy in May) I either failed to check the weather or just completely ignored what it said.
So although it was warm enough for me to get away with not wearing a coat in Valencia, it definitely wasn’t warm enough for a sundress.
And it was far more cold and rainy in Italy in May than I ever thought it would be.
So both times, I ended up rewearing clothes a few more times than they maybe should have been, while the other half were rendered completely useless, and it probably wasn’t a pretty smell. Oops.
#9 Apple Juice Gate
While I normally travel around Europe during my spring break, this year a few friends, my boyfriend, and I all made a pilgrimage to Washington DC (my boyfriend’s hometown) and Williamsburg, Virginia to visit friends of ours who were part of the William & Mary/St. Andrews joint degree programme.
The cheapest flights Daniel and I were able to find connected through Amsterdam, with an 11-hour flight from Amsterdam to DC (our first mistake).
We flew with KLM, who for some reason didn’t have air vents in the plane and also served drinks like once the whole flight. I was practically dying.
And then, the guy sitting behind us decided that the apple juice he had been given was clearly NOT apple juice.
He spent at least 20 minutes yelling at the flight attendant about how she was trying to trick him with watered down apple juice, how it was her job to serve him (friendly reminder here that flight attendants’ main job is actually your safety, not attending to your every whim), and how he needed a complaint card IMMEDIATELY because she had given him such terrible service.
Some people are truly the scum of the earth.
#10 Thinking I could lift a 60 pound suitcase over my head
So, you know how men always insist on helping you lift your bags into the luggage racks, even when they’re just, like… a backpack?
It’s one of my biggest pet peeves in the world, and I almost always point out that I don’t need help, thank you very much.
Well, that all came back to bite me in the a** this summer when I was traveling from Milan to Trento for the Traverse conference with a suitcase that probably weighed at least 60 pounds (don’t ask me why I thought I needed all that stuff–I didn’t) and the train randomly decided to just not have floor racks for larger luggage.
Apparently my only choice was to lift that 60 pound suitcase up to the overhead racks (which had clearly been made larger for large luggage, like that makes any sense at all), and I was determined to do it on my own because I am an angry and irrational feminist.
Well, after knocking my head at least 3 different times with my suitcase and no one volunteering to help, I actually had to ASK a guy for help with my giant suitcase.
Like, I thought Italian men were supposed to be misogynists? Why were they not volunteering to help poor defenseless me with my giant bag?
How is it that literally every time I do NOT need help lifting my bag, I get guys basically grabbing it out of my hands, but the one time I do all of the men in the train could not be bothered?
IT MAKES NO SENSE.
But anyway, I also paraglided that trip, so I really can’t complain.
And there you have it: my 10 worst travel moments of 2019! Tell me about your worst travel moment in the comments below so I don’t feel so embarrassed please.