I was talking to a work colleague the other day and reminded myself of a funny story, one which left me chuckling to myself as I walked away. So much so that I perused the jaded travel archives of my brain for some of my funniest, and at times awkward travel moments. I’m sure there are many more which I’ve chosen to block out, but for me this is travellers gold and has the power to take me back to that moment in time. I remember thinking when these situations were happening the following questions:
– How has it come to pass that I’m in this situation
– I can’t believe that just happened
– I want the ground to open up and swallow me now
My Epic Travel Fails
So although there have been far too many to mention, and some I am just too ashamed to admit, here is a smattering of those travel stories which make me smile whenever the moment pops into my head.
The Europe Campervan Scenario
The legendary Europe campervan road trip is a rite of passage for travellers from New Zealand and Australia. It sees us flying over to London, buying a van which has already seen its fare share of road miles and setting up a nomadic home until the money runs out. I was 23 when I hit the European toll roads with two of my most treasured amigos, and a random stranger we met on Gumtree the night before. It became apparent very quickly he was a very strange individual indeed.
So the story goes, we were in Montecarlo and were being constantly being herded out of the city by Police for trying to free-camp. After heading out along those beautiful winding roads we found a bend with a small car park and kiosk which had closed for the day, perfect right? So there we were in our exclusive alcove off the main drag, the van back doors open, music blasting, deck chairs out, eating dinner and drinks flowing. With the lack of toilet facilities we devised a cunning plan:
– Boys and the back and to the left of the kiosk
– Girls (or girl) to the back and to the right of the kiosk
– ‘Number 2’ in the middle
Hindsight would be the first to predict the outcome and it didn’t take long and many drinks before Laurie, abandoning the safety of the plan, managed to tread the remnants of my dinner throughout the van. I’ve heard of a dirty protest but this is just ridiculous!
Lesson: Never buy a camper van with carpet.
The One Involving the Squat Toilet
It can be a strange thing to find yourself in certain situations when we travel. The one I encountered in Xi’an, China was my fault entirely. I was training as an adventure tour leader with a friend named Sally. We ended up at a nightclub called 酒吧 (1 + 1) and had been taking advantage of the cheaply flowing drinks. At one stage I navigated myself to the bathroom and skilfully manouvered the squat toilet crouching position, lowering myself with skilful precision. After all, I had just spent one year living in the Middle East and was well versed on squat toilets; what could possibly go wrong? As my legs gave way, I found myself lying on a squat toilet, inside a busy public nightclub where, lets just say aim wasn’t at it’s finest. Even to this day I cringe at the thought of what managed to absorb into my clothes.
Lesson: Hand rails are there for a reason!
Foot in Mouth in Uzbekistan
Having just met a bunch of lovely people on a familiarisation trip in Uzbekistan, we spent days getting to know each other to reach that comfortable point where we could spend 2 weeks together. I remember we were in Samarkand, a city so impressive it will fill your camera memory card many times over. I mean it, the temples are utterly magnificent and ornate. I was walking side by side with one of the girls towards a temple for sunset when I noticed a fly had landed on her face. Being the kind soul I am, I said “Oh, you have a fly on your face”. However, when she turned towards me and I realised the bug was actually a ‘very-attached’ mole and wasn’t going anywhere. She said “It’s a mole”.
Pass me a spade and I’ll just dig myself into the hole thanks.
Lesson: If I didn’t see it land, say nothing!
The Mark of Cain in Colombia
Whilst travelling in Northern Colombia ahead of a travel trade show, I managed to get awful food poisoning from a very delicious meal. It basically rendered me bed bound for days with all the usual suspect side effects such as hot sweats, freezing cold shivers, and an expulsion of food from both ends. At one stage, I was so cold I put on as many layers as I could to warm up thinking nothing of it as I lay in bed shivering. Just to fill in the story I did attend the trade show after much pleading from the organiser, but between meetings would make a beeline for the nearest facilities.
Anyway, it wasn’t until I was at the airport and flying back to London that I realised the one and only pair of jeans that I had brought with me, bore the mark of cain on the backside. Yes thats right, a brown stain had fashioned itself to the back of my jeans. i was mortified and literally wanted the ground to open up and swallow me.
Lesson: Always take a second pair of trousers!
Paying with skin for the View in Patagonia
I have never seen the purpose of hiking boots on hiking trips. I’ve hiked in flip flops, sandals and slip on trainers, why? Because I am as sure footed as a mountain goat and have never twisted my ankle, fallen, or been unable to go where Gortex boots have travelled before me. I’m not talking about easy hikes either, I’m talking about multi day, strenuous hikes. I was days away from the Torres del Paine trek in Argentina’s Patagonia and a group of travellers had installed the fear of god into me about how difficult the trek was, and how I needed hiking boots. So against my better judgement I raced out and bought a pair to carry me around the 4 day trail, breaking them in as much as I could before the hike. We stopped for lunch on day one and I knew my feet were in a bad way. Having pulled both boots off, I saw the blood through my socks. Then having pulled my socks off I saw the skin in my socks. Luckily a Swedish man offered to lend me his sandals which I wore for the rest of the hike whilst the wounds healed.
Lesson: Always go with my better judgement and personal preference!
The One Where the Heating Got Turned Off – Grand Canyon National Park
I pride myself on being a sensible traveller, and able to pack for any trip at the very last minute. Of course packing last minute does pave the way for some rather epic fails. Conscious of the fact I would be on the Colorado River for 8 days, deep inside the Grand Canyon on a rafting trip I was sure to pack my ski jacket. After all it was September and I knew it could get cold, what I didn’t realise was just how cold it would get and shock horror, that it would rain…for 4 days. Who would have guessed it could rain so much! Apparently not me.
At the last minute before departing Las Vegas, and running out of space in my waterproof pack I asked the guide if I would need it to which he said no. Not his fault and I probably should have made the decision without asking him. The first four days it rained solidly, the rapids soaked us constantly and when we rafted down sections of the canyon where the sun didn’t shine, it got cold. I’m talking about teeth chattering cold and I spent a lot of the time shivering. Shortly after arriving back to London I was diagnosed with pneumonia and needed the next two weeks off work. It’s hard to thank your boss for giving you the time off, and say you need two more weeks due to a rookie mistake!
Lesson: Do my own research and make my own decisions…and don’t get pneumonia!
I’m going to leave you with this TRAVEL FAIL which is a bit more light-hearted. He has managed to stand right in front of the focus of his picture. It featured in the Daily Mail newspaper and made me smile, enjoy!
Happy travels folks!