I had diarrhoea, chronic stomach cramps and was drenched in sweat for hours at a time, all made worse by the fact that we were staying in hostels that cost only 50 pence a night so there was only ever a hole in the ground for a toilet. But I did get very thin. I looked like a half-starved hippy by the time I finally made it back to England.
This was a serious problem: they had a yellow fever certificate inspection point at the airport. We joined the back of the queue and I rummaged around in my bag to find the booklet with all my other vaccination stamps. My hands were shaking when we finally reached the front of the line and I handed it over to the inspector. To my relief, he waved us through. I was walking home one night in Paris when I became aware of someone walking behind me. The whole way down the street I was conscious of his footsteps behind me, always at the same pace as my own.
When I speeded up, so did he. By the time I reached the door of our building I was running. There was no lock so he just followed me in, running up the stairs behind me. Just outside the door to my flat he grabbed my arm. The man ran back downstairs. It felt like a lucky escape. I am very clumsy. To make it worse, the monsoon had started and I managed to fall into a pothole see above while I was wading through the water in the rain-drenched streets.
The hotel, which had looked so promising in the photos, was in a terrible state. There had clearly been a party the night before and there was rubbish everywhere. Half an hour after our arrival we were still sat at a table with our luggage, being ignored by the few staff who were clearing up. Our boys, aged 5 and 7, were hungry and upset. Apparently there was not a single hotel room available in the state of Florida this particular weekend. When we came close to the Miami area we started driving through some pretty serious weather.
It was almost as if it was a hurricane. As we continued toward our unknown destination, the weather worsened. The weather was so bad, anything through the windshield was barely visible. My family and I started to lose hope in what was supposed to be an awesome vacation.
We turned around once we drove through the first few towns in the Keys. So our last minute vacation was over. The whole car ride home was dead silent from the disappointment. The four hour long car ride turned into an eight hour long car ride. Needless to say there were lots of bathroom breaks.
When we got home from our road trip, the news report was on TV. We discovered that the rough patch of weather that we drove in was a tropical depression. The news anchor was advising everyone in the Keys and the Miami area to prepare for an expected hurricane.
The morale of the story is to always book a hotel room in advance and always check the news before planning vacations. I have to admit, this is definitely a trip for the history books. I can almost guarantee that every family social gathering since, this story gets brought up. We didn't laugh about it then, but we sure laugh about it now!
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And in that moment, I realized how lucky I actually am to be a person who CAN choose to shake things off. I CAN choose to be happy. And even in unjustified defeat, ultimately the ability to choose happiness is the greater reward in life. I started running into freezing rain outside of Dallas, going over Ray Hubbard Reservoir, and decided to keep going.
Rather than getting better, it got worse—all the way through Texarkana and beyond. The interstates turned into a skating rink and still I kept going. The drive usually takes 15 hours, but by the time I made it 15 hours, I was only in central Arkansas. I stopped to check on the two guys in the truck, and one had hit his chest on the steering wheel and was not in good shape, shocky, and coughing blood. Of course nobody had cell phones, and nobody else stopped to help but me. Via sign language, I was finally able to get someone to call the state police as they drove by.
State troopers showed up, I had to fill out a statement, and I immediately went looking for a motel before they all filled up with other refugees from I By that point, it was the best motel I had ever seen. The next day, when I got going again, there was a big rig in the median about every five miles.
Worst driving conditions I ever traveled in. Have you ever confronted a terrible accident during your travels? Back in , after completing college, I went on a backpacking trip through South America. Best time I ever had. I was in Quito, Ecuador, and I returned late to my youth hostel after getting lost. While standing outside the place waiting for the receptionist to wake up, two ladies approached me—and wrapped themselves around me.
They did so not because of my immense allure, but rather to pickpocket me. She took out a can of pepper spray and gave me a long extended blast to my face. So, I lost my phone. And my eyes were melting. I inhaled quite a bit of the spray, so my airway was burning. I was screaming. While stumbling around screaming and crying, I tripped over something and broke my ankle. And to cap it all, I had an allergic reaction and spent some time in a not-so-lovely hospital. As a result, I missed my flight home.
And upon coming back, I discovered that my insurance claim was denied. My family still thought I was the one at fault. Have you ever been mugged on vacation? Update from Chris, whose terrible travel experience ended up being the best thing ever:. I was traveling through Europe, with a plan to hang in Sevilla for a few years, or until the military junta in Burma collapsed under the strain of international sanctions and the Nobel Peach Prize that had just been awarded to Aung San Suu Kyi this was I decided to stop in Barcelona for a few days en route to Sevilla, so I could get a sense of the city before moving on.
My first night there, I was sitting on a bench on las Ramblas, watching people go by, when a guy tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if I knew where the statue of Columbus was. Next day, I went to the consulate to apply for a new passport, which I was told would take about a week. I called and explained as best I could that I knew Marcos. Long story short, Marcos took it upon himself to share all the best parts of Barcelona with me: his friends, his favorite spots, hikes in the Pyrenees.
By the time my new passport arrived, someone had offered me a job, someone else rented me a room in his flat, and I had met a few women whom I definitely wanted to know better I was going back to Honduras after my honeymoon. I had a connecting flight in Miami. I went to get my bags to get through customs. Flying into Tegucigalpa was frightening, to say the least.
We were all over the sky. We landed safely on the ground once the pilot figured out how to pull this off. Once at the airport I came to the realization that my bags had been kept in Miami. Everything I bought on the honeymoon was lost. Aircraft have to skirt around the mountains of the interior highlands to land in a valley 3, feet above sea level.
On approach, airliners as big as Boeing s make a degree bank to effectively reach the foot runway with well above average rates of descent. Winds require pilots to compensate while hustling their aircraft in a zig-zag path over the terrain. Departures require high rates of climb to clear the nearby peaks.
And the very worst airport to fly into? That airport is featured several times in this long compilation of dicey landings:. Have you ever had a harrowing landing, or an emergency situation on a plane? Lauderdale, Florida, and our branch base in Phoenix, Arizona.
I was the physician on the flight, and we were banking onto final approach to the primary airport in Guatemala City, Guatemala. We were between a lower level of clouds and a higher scud layer of clouds. As we banked, I noted what I thought to be a mountain protruding through the clouds. A huge potential contract is in the balance.
No sleep possible. I arrived in a Brussels hotel at am. No reservation in my name. No mention of the company I was there for. No normal rooms. I rented an extended-stay suite very nice for 90 minutes—enough time to shower, change, and stare at the wall, thinking WTF.
No one from the company is at breakfast. At 9am I finally contact a person in the Brussels office. It was supposed to start at 8am. I arrived just after 10am, introduced myself, and started my spiel. I had to finish by noon, but my head was spinning so fast and I kept wanting to faint, so I had to lose another 15 minutes for breaks.
Europe was not impressed. I was able to keep my existing work for them going, but I lost out on the huge contract. Taking an overnight train in Vietnam was overrated, as it was dirty, uncomfortable, and sized for Vietnamese people. My worst experience though, was flying from LA to Chicago when everyone on the plane got food poisoning, which incapacitated the pilots.
It forced a fighter pilot turned taxi driver to conquer his fear of flying and save everyone on the plane. Many, many hours later and a forfeited hotel room I secured for the previous evening , I made my way to the airport because it was too late to try to get a few hours of sleep.
Then I hopped a connection to Bangkok, where I would have to wait until the following morning for my flight to Yangon. We decided to splurge and get some oysters because I was heading home soon, in four days. Do you know that feeling when you eat something and you know—right then and there—that it's bad? Well, that happened just as I was swallowing one of the oysters I took turns sweating out the sheets in the two single beds that were in my room, while each morning like clockwork , a woman would bang on my door and yell:.
Housekeeping: "MRS firstname!!! On Day 4, I had no choice but to drag my sorry butt out of the room and clamber on to a shuttle bus to the airport because my flight was leaving for Vancouver, natch. I was in Barbados in a rural bar, hungry.
I asked for food and they said they had one thing. It was sloshed out of a big bin. A few weeks ago, I traveled to South Korea for 10 days to present a collaborative science project with my Korean partners. My troubles started at around 5 o'clock the day before final presentations.
We had just finished reviewing critique of our rehearsal when I suddenly began to feel sick to my stomach. Wanting to go back to my room, I went to notify Jeong-Minh, the director of the program, and was in the midst of a conversation with her in the hallway when a roiling wave of nausea hit me. I sprinted to the trash can, doubled over, and projectile vomited not one, not two, but three whole times in a spray of half-digested Korean food.
Jeong-Minh just barely had the presence of mind to leap backward out of the splash zone. Hoping against hope this was just a one-and-done vomiting session, I fled back to my dormitory, only to spend the next day vomiting violently into a pink Hello-Kitty trash can with the worst case of food poisoning since the Borgias. I would upchuck into the can, manage to fall back into a light sleep in that refractory period of relief just after a bout of vomiting, then wake up 30 minutes later to bend myself back over Hello Kitty and loose another wave.
Eventually I was just dry heaving little trickles of bile. I stopped vomiting after 24 hours, but my stomach was an achy mess for the rest of the trip, and I was holed up against my will in the dormitory for most of it, taking Buzzfeed quizzes to distract myself from the fact that it still felt like Kim Jong was conducting a nuclear weapons test in my intestines. We were traveling from Scandinavia and our goal was to make it to Istanbul.
Armed with that information, we arrived at the train station on a Sunday, eager to purchase our tickets to Istanbul and leave Romania as quickly as possible. With no Romanian currency, we had no money for food, lodging, or train tickets. A friendly young Romanian man approached offering to help us change money on the black market. He promised he was not a police officer. He told us he knew of a bus station that would take us from Bucharest to Istanbul.
The locals, who spoke no English, just looked at us and smiled while we ran to duck behind the ticket counter. No problem. We were relieved and willing when the un-air-conditioned, broken-down bus arrived to take us away, shuttling us to a standard-looking coach bus filled with Italian tourists.
Everyone smoked cigarettes. Music blared. Not a word of English was spoken. There was no toilet on the bus. We made it as far as the border of Bulgaria. The bus stopped and turned off the engine in a long trail of cars and buses. Apparently everyone who was supposed to be working the border was preoccupied watching the World Cup Soccer Championship matches.
For nine hours, all traffic was halted while the games played. We exited the bus and wandered across streams of garbage and gypsy children playing on train tracks. Hours later on the bus, mosquitos buzzing, my husband finally fell asleep, but I was desperate to pee.
The driver escorted me off the bus and watched me urinate. Then he put his arm around me and attempted to invite me to join him somewhere else. I elbowed him with all of my might and jumped back on the bus. I shook my husband out of his slumber and did not allow him to sleep after that.
The border crossing finally reopened. They collected our passports and handed each passenger two cartons of cigarettes and eight bottles of alcohol to carry as contraband mules across the border. They stocked the back of the bus, and our passports were returned. Twenty-five hours later, I saw the minarets and knew we had arrived. I developed a migraine and threw up. But at least we made it to Istanbul.
A bunch of Atlantic readers in this discussion group are exchanging their travel horror stories. A short anecdote from the group:. I caught bronchitis when I was in Germany for a business trip. Spent the plane ride home sitting next to a strange drunk man who kept talking at me.
I wanted to die. That was the ninth circle of hell. Peace Corps: On a bus in Guatemala. A group of three teens in MS [ a notorious gang ] decide to rob our bus. Being the only American on the bus and having just gone to the bank, I took all the money I had hidden in my bra and put it in my pocket ready to be robbed. People would get shot if they tried to run, so I prepared to give everything and pulled my passport out of its hiding spot in my bag so I made sure they knew they were getting it.
Then some dude decided to John Wayne and open fire on these robbers, which resulted in a firefight on a very crowded bus. I had actually been the next passenger to be robbed, so the perp standing next to me was actively shooting.
I dove under the seat and stayed there until literally everyone else had gotten off the bus. I have two that beat out all of the other minor upsets though:. The man sitting next to me spread all over my seat, took off his shoes, AND unbuttoned his pants. On a six-hour train ride in China, a man stared at me the entire fucking time. I have my friend drop me off at JFK in the late afternoon with maybe an hour to spare before boarding plenty of time, as this is pre-TSA.
My flight gets delayed, of course. Over the next few hours, the delay gets pushed further and further back. Finally, it gets cancelled. So I can either spend the night in pre-renovated JFK, or take a two-hour train ride home so I can sleep in my own bed for a few hours before trying again in the morning. Both options suck, but I figure some sleep is better than none and head out to the train. Now we come to the actual bad part.
I have to take a rail shuttle from the airport to the station, then take two different subway rides into Penn Station, where I can catch a LIRR train to take me home. The first ride is uneventful. The young hotshot starts sort-of-rapping about how tough and badass he is. Hotshot changes tactics and tries to impress them by provoking me into a fight. He gets in my face and taunts me for being in the wrong place or something, but I just shake my head and keep my eyes on my book.
The train slows and starts to pull up to the next platform. He disappears behind me, and a few seconds later something hard hits me in the back of my head. I was running on fumes and adrenaline. So when I got hit, something in me just snapped. I remember folding the book and putting it down. Thoughts about my physical abilities versus his and the possibility that he may have a weapon immediately popped up.
I entered and looked for my check-in counter. I found it and there I saw a scary line — a long line of passengers. It was nerve racking because I was a chance passenger that time. And my visa would expire the day after tomorrow. As I inquired about my chance with my non-revenue ticket… they told me the worst news I could hear. I was caught off-guard. I thought there was enough space.
Oh well…. Surfed through my phone to find the cheapest flight back home — the cheapest one was a little more than USD, which is not cheap at all. I keyed in my credit card details and purchased it on the spot. I swore my wallet cried that night. After catching up on some sleep on the short flight, we landed in the vibrant city with our first task to find a ride from the airport to the old quarter.
With a slightly blurry head, we were offered a lift from a nice, albeit very persistent man and his friend who said they would give us a good deal. Many people had told us that Vietnam was very cheap, so we quickly accepted his ride. The three of us piled in the back and settled in for the 30 minute journey in an un-marked black car.
This is where we faced Vietnamese hospitality for the first time. It should have cost a fraction of that. With our limited Vietnamese and the drivers limited English, we tried to renegotiate. The driver and his friend started yelling at us and slammed on the brakes. From what we could manage, we figured out they were not happy to say the least.
The last thing we wanted was to come into conflict with what very well could have been a version of the Vietnamese mafia. Finally, it ended well. We managed to sweet-talk our way out of the situation and negotiate an outer-city drop-off. Stinking of last nights drinks, we were more than relieved to reach our hotel after another taxi — this time in a marked car, running on the meter. Besides martial arts, another big passion in Asia for me is tea.
It is also the first place in Korea to cultivate tea, almost a thousand years ago. Well, this festival was advertised online, with a snazzy website in several languages, there were also plenty of Youtube clips showing the festival, which looked like good fun and a chance to learn about tea culture in ancient Korea. The festival was hosted by a large tea museum at the foot of the mountain, just below Ssangyesa Temple.
I arrived there with my wife and her parents, having told them how awesome this festival would be for the whole five hour train journey there, only to find the town incredibly quiet. Besides a few old people hiking, and a few smiling monks wandering the street, it was basically empty. I went to the museum, and sure enough, was empty.
I found a small shop with a lady serving tea to a couple of customers, and my wife who speaks Korean asked them about the tea festival. I eventually found someone else in the museum, who gave the same disinterested, casual reply. We were still able to try some tea and enjoy the mountains while we were there, but it was no festival. There are few things more challenging than scaling a 4,m mountain after a near death experience, but that is exactly what I did in Uganda.
Prior to the hike, I headed to the trailhead in the tiny village of Budadiri and met with my guide Moses. Getting prepped for the hike took a few moments so I decided to explore the sleepy village. While out, I bought a few snacks in the market, including some jackfruit which would prove to be a near fatal mistake. The next morning I violently voided my entire stomach contents. I hoped that the sudden spell of nausea would pass quickly but was woefully mistaken. For the next twelve hours, I purged every time I lifted my head.
The owner of where I was staying was so worried that she called the local doctor who dispensed two shots in my rear and gave me some mystery pills to take. Obviously I did not leave for the hike that day, nor the next. Eventually I set out on the journey but, was it ever difficult.
While hiking after jackfruit poisoning is more than challenging, the memories made were worth the pain. Oh dear — I did a Sahara overnight stay in Morocco and can safely say it was a lovely experience — with proper toilets though you had a little walk from your tent to get to where the toilets were — sounds like Gina had a very unfortunate experience — terrible!!!.
We took loo roll and baby wipes as we were unsure what to expect and it was very cold at night March not hot at all — we took jumpers and layers lol. This is great!!!! I love these types of posts… I could write a whole post on just my own travel follys!! In fact, I should!