Sunday, December 4th, 2016

My 13 Worst Travel Moments of 2013

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Well, you’ve heard about my best travel moments and favorite new destinations of 2013…but the year won’t be complete until I share the worst moments. The ugly moments. The stressful moments. The disgusting moments.

If you’re ready to hear about vomit, sweat, and uncontrollable farting, you’ve come to the right place. Here are my 13 worst travel moments of 2013!

Puking in the Magnificent Tuscan Countryside

Oh, Tuscany. The land of rolling green hills punctuated with perfectly formed cypress trees and stone villas stood for generations. Beautiful, timeless, and a destination you must visit once in your lifetime. But with all those winding roads, it’s not the best destination when you suffer from motion sickness.

I fought my motion sickness again this year — and usually won. I won on the boat to Koh Phayam. I won on the bus in the mountains of Kosovo. I won in the theater during Gravity.

I lost in Tuscany. I ran out of the van and puked on the landscapes immortalized by the masters of the Renaissance.

Getting Stuck Overnight in China

I was so proud of getting us super-cheap flights from Dubai to Tokyo for just $280 each on China Eastern. Sure, it did have stops in Kunming and Shanghai, but the first stop was just a stop, not a switch. What could happen?

Well. We landed in Kunming and they announced that something had broken on the plane, canceling subsequent flights. And you haven’t seen angry airline passengers until you’ve seen angry Chinese airline passengers. There was screaming. There was spitting. Things were thrown.

It got worst — when we tried to book another flight, any flight, it was so hard finding an employee who could actually speak English and who would pay attention to us for more than ten seconds!

Luckily, we got a flight to Pudong Airport in Shanghai, where much more English is spoken, and the airline put us up in a hotel for the night (and we left the airport, so technically we visited China…?). Unfortunately, it meant that we lost a full day in Japan when we had few days there to begin with.

Lesson learned: I am never flying internationally through China again unless it’s Beijing, Shanghai, or Hong Kong.

Fishing Village near Kampot

Getting Extorted in Cambodia

Probably the biggest shocker of this year is the 180 I did on Cambodia. After my visits in 2010 and 2011, it was one of my top three favorite countries. After this year’s visit, I have no desire to return. Ever.

Within the span of a few weeks, a friend of ours was robbed in two different cities. A friend of a friend was nearly raped by a motorbike driver. We heard reports of frequent drink spikings in Sihanoukville, a place where the crime has increased to the point where a task force was created to warn tourists of the dangers. A friend saw a backpack stolen off a woman’s back by a motorbike driver.

It felt like we were in the middle of a Cambodian crime wave. I published a post on these experiences while still in Cambodia, and that post is now probably the most controversial post I’ve published here.

Days after publication, more information came out. Phnom Penh’s chief prosecutor revealed that crime in Cambodia was increasing year over year — but blamed local protesters and wouldn’t release specific numbers. I then found out that the UK government is now reporting an increased amount of crime against British citizens in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville in 2013.

But if my experience in Cambodia boils down to a single moment, it was when I dropped my phone out of my tuk-tuk outside Kampot — a very stupid move on my part — and the man who picked it up would not give it back to me unless I paid him $200.

After weighing the situation, I paid him $200 for my own phone.

Hongdae

The Flood in Korea

To make it from Seoul to Darwin in a single day, we had to make a super-early flight from Incheon Airport. To make it on time, we would have to make the 5:37 AM train. Just as we prepared to leave at 5:15 AM, it suddenly started pouring — harder than almost every rainstorm I’ve ever seen.

Buckets were pouring down straight on us. The streets were an ankle-deep river.

Korea is a country that stays open late — everyone is still out at 5:37 AM. Consequently, there was no way in hell we could get a cab. We spent 15 minutes sprinting through the rain and got soaked through — both on us and in our bags. Water actually got into my camera lens.

And then we got to the subway station and found out that we had missed the first train, and thus nearly missed our flight. All of our clothes inside the bags were soaked, and they spent more than 15 hours in transit. Everything smelled vile. We had no time to wash anything before our three-day camping trip in the Northern Territory, so we ended up wearing smelly, soaked clothing for days.

Bulgaria

The 110-Degree Train Car in Bulgaria

This summer, I took some of the best train rides of my life (well, not THE best, but some of the best!) using my Eurail pass (being over age 26 means you’re automatically in first class!). And then there was the worst one: Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria, to Bucharest, Romania. The train was old, falling apart, and had a putrid, horrifying toilet. There was no water or food on board. But the worst part was that the temperature was approximately 110 degrees (43 C) inside.

In no time, I was roasting, covered with a sheen of sweat, and I burst into tears, sobbing alone in a train car for the next hour. It was just too much. There was no way out. I was stuck in that oven with no relief for the next seven hours.

That was one of my lowest points in recent memory, and one of the worst travel experiences I’ve ever had. That said…it did turn into one of my best posts ever written.

Ta Prohm

Food Poisoning in Siem Reap

When I first went to Asia, everyone told me I’d get sick from the food at some point. I was prepared — and then it never happened. For more than three years, I traveled the world and had no problems.

Until that weird glass of water in Siem Reap. The first pitcher of water was fine — normal purified water. The second pitcher wasn’t normal. It had a texture. It tasted grainy. I had a few sips and decided to stop, but the damage had been done. 36 hours later, I woke up to the last thing you want to experience while traveling. It was a symphony.

Probably the best part of this is when I went to the pharmacy and asked the pharmacist for something for food poisoning and she loudly responded with, “You ha dia-reh?”, which the middle-aged American lady behind me in line took as a cue to join in with, “Oh, you have diarrhea? I have diarrhea, too! Do you have a headache? I have a headache.” Sigh

Berlin Bear Picnic

A Head Cold in Paris

It doesn’t sound so bad at first. Colds aren’t that big a deal. Even if they’re in the middle of summer and on your first day of a trip around the world.

But…PARIS. Paris is one of my favorite places in the world to eat, and I had lost my sense of smell. And I was only there for five days!

All of the meats. All of the cheeses. All of the crepes. They tasted like nothing.

Thankfully, I got my sense of smell back partially just in time for our Paris picnic, and a dose of Indian food later cleared my sinuses back to normal.

Hongdae, Seoul

The Plate of Sizzling Korean Octopus

When it comes to ordering food, it’s a bit of a challenge in Korea. Menus rarely have pictures (unlike Japan), food usually isn’t on display within the restaurant, and English isn’t widely spoken in older generations. We did a lot of gesturing to food other customers were eating.

And one day we were given a giant skillet of sizzling spicy octopus, each tentacle writhing over the open flame.

Now — I like octopus. I like sizzling. I like spicy. I had a problem with one of the condiments, though: noodles dripped in mayonnaise.

Mayonnaise is one of the few foods (along with Swiss cheese, sweet pickles and raw onions) that I just can’t consume without wanting to throw up. So, naturally, I avoided the noodles and just loaded up my lettuce with plain octopus.

Oh, dear God. So, so spicy. TOO spicy.

But that’s what we were eating, and we had paid a lot for it, so I kept eating.

I drank water. I ate the carrots on the side. But that spicy octopus made my stomach writhe in terror, just as those octopus tentacles writhed over the barbecue.

I spent the rest of the night holding my stomach and force-feeding myself ice cream. Turns out there was a reason for those mayonnaise noodles — they protected your stomach from the spiciness!

Fleas :-(

FLEAS

In Korea, I started getting what looked like mosquito bites. I soon realized they were hives, and they swelled, connected, and covered huge portions of my body, only going down when I took an antihistamine. Mario and I started calling them fleas, as we call anything itchy fleas. Then things got worse — my lip swelled up a few times.

I still have no idea why. I’m not allergic to anything that I know of.

I saw three doctors (and in the process, learned that Australian doctors look like Kenny G and introduce themselves by their first names). Each time, I was pretty much told to wait it out and take some prednisone if it ever got really bad.

The fleas did calm down significantly, though not completely. These days, if they ever pop up, they stay tiny and disappear within 30 minutes.

Bologna Bus

Missing my Train in Bologna

How does a full-time traveler make as rudimentary a mistake as missing a train that she can’t afford to miss?

Because Italy.

It was the last day of Blogville Emilia-Romagna 2013. Nick and his colleague from Emilia-Romagna Tourism came to close down the apartment. I had to catch a train at 2:04, and it was about 1:00. I planned on grabbing a final cappuccino at Kamit Espress and heading to the station, and then Nick asked if I wanted to grab a final lunch at Osteria dell’Orsa. One of my favorite restaurants in Bologna. Of course I did!

And that’s where BECAUSE ITALY joins in. Meals in Italy are pure joy, especially in Emilia-Romagna. We were enjoying fabulous pasta, drinking wine, talking about Italy and travel, enjoying company as old friends and new friends, giving advice to the American tourists at the next table, and of course I’d have a caffe…

And then I glimpsed at my phone and OMG 1:40.

We sprang into action. They called me a cab. Those trains are often late, I’d be fine…and despite my best efforts, I missed the train by two minutes.

Ordinarily this would have been okay. It’s just that I needed to make that exact train in order to make a series of connections taking me all the way back to BANGKOK. I was going to miss my nonrefundable, unchangeable flights.

I called Nick to let him know, then got on the phone with British Airways, trying to see if I could use my miles in the crappiest way possible (British Airways Avios are perfect for short-haul flights but expensive for long-hauls), when Nick burst in and with the train line employees figured out that because I was flying from Linate Airport, not Malpensa, I could actually take the next train and still be on time, since I could get off at a different stop right near the airport.

PHEW. Nick saved me that day. I was actually early for my flight!

Koh Phayam

The Flu or Whatever It Was in Koh Phayam

The day after arriving on the island of Koh Phayam, I woke up sicker than I had been in a long time. Forget the food poisoning in Cambodia — that was nothing compared to what I had in Phayam. I was running to the toilet constantly. I hurt everywhere. I couldn’t stand for more than 30 seconds. I couldn’t even sit up.

I literally spent the day writhing and moaning, moaning and writhing. It was seriously ugly.

Thankfully the bug passed through me quickly and I felt good enough to explore the island the next day…but suddenly I could not stop farting.

Mario enjoyed that.

Kate at TBD Italy

The Freelancer’s Nightmare

If you plan on getting into freelancing of any kind, know this: you will not always be paid in a timely manner. In fact, you will often not be paid on time. Yes, there are contracts, and they should theoretically protect you, but if the company paying you is unable to get that money to you, contract or not, if they don’t have it, you don’t have it.

(My favorite excuse after not getting paid after writing a city guide for a website? “Well, we only process payments on Thursdays, so technically your payment is only four days late, not four weeks late.” I’m not making this up.)

It’s a reality of the business, and if you have enough projects in the pipeline, you usually have enough payments coming in regularly to make up for the ones that don’t.

But what happens if everybody doesn’t pay on time?

That happened to me this summer.

I got to a point where I had gone through my backup savings, was down to $181 in my checking account with my $176 student loan payment scheduled in days, and was owed $9,461.05 from various clients. It was one of the most terrifying situations I’ve been in since beginning of my travel blogging and travel writing career.

And then one payment came in — a big one. And another. And another. And another. I rejoiced. (Though I am STILL working on getting one of those payments, if you can believe it.)

Since the summer, I’ve landed a few long-term writing gigs that pay me enough each month to cover most of my expenses, giving me regular income and hopefully preventing me from getting into this situation again.

But still — these moments weren’t that bad in retrospect.

I do this list to show you that travel isn’t an endless parade of perfect days and happy moments. It’s ugly, it’s uncomfortable, it’s lonely. Feeling this way does not mean that you are a failure because this is LIFE, and of course travel is filled with awful moments, just as life is.

I by no means live a charmed life; I work my ass off nonstop; I haven’t taken any time off in more than a year and a half (that weeklong vacation I planned to take this year? Did not happen. Too much work), and I spend much more of my time writing and hustling than actually enjoying the places I visit.

But there’s another moment that is undoubtedly one of the worst moments of the year, but doesn’t belong with the light, funny tone of the rest of the piece.

This moment affected a lot more than just me. It was a moment that shattered my city.

Washington Square Marathon

The Boston Marathon Bombing

I was at the Boston Marathon this year, watching at the Mile 24 marker in Brookline with Mario, my friend Beth, and her fiance Brian. We were nowhere near the explosion, but it was a terrifying day nonetheless. You can read about that day in detail here.

In the months that have followed, I’ve joined my city in sorrow, mourning the four people who lost their lives. I’ve followed the stories of the survivors, watching them leave the hospital one by one, learn to walk with prosthetics, even find love.

I’ve watched Big Papi (David Ortiz, designated hitter for the Red Sox) declare, “This is our f*ckin’ city,” and I’ve watched the Red Sox win the World Series, bringing so much joy to our city, and pausing their victory parade at the marathon finish line to honor the victims. I also watched Yankee Stadium play “Sweet Caroline” in Boston’s honor, just as Fenway Park honored New York after 9/11.

I’ve watched Governor Patrick shut down the Boston area until the terrorist was caught — yet another radical and controversial move of his that, once again, was exactly the right thing to do. I’ve watched people line up in tattoo shops for “Boston Strong” tattoos, the shops even giving them away for free.

But most memorably, I’ve watched my city come together, helping and comforting each other in one of our darkest times, and becoming stronger than ever before.

I am filled with so much pride for my city, it brings me to tears whenever I think about it. And even as I travel the world and live on the other side of the Atlantic, I will always, always be a Boston girl.

What was your worst moment of travel this year?

Comments

62 Responses to “My 13 Worst Travel Moments of 2013”
  1. Stephanie says:

    I cringed at the flea picture. I’m walking the Camino de Santiago this year, and I’m already having nightmares about bed bugs. Oh well, life is a wild adventure – and adventures can’t be all positive! I look forward to following along in 2014. Happy travels!

  2. Oh my, I lived in Korea for two years and they use mayo on everything.. and I would have done the exact thing you did when eating the octopus! Thank goodness I never went out to eat it and can instead learn from your mistake, hah. And as someone who is staying home sick on NYE in Taiwan – combination of the flu and allergies to the local food, its nice to read this list and remember all travelers have been where I am today! Thank you for sharing.

  3. Sarah says:

    Wow you’ve certainly had your share of challenges this year but thankfully they were merely blips as opposed to halting your travel for any period of time.
    I’m only four months into my travel life but after just one month I thought it might all be over. I had to visit the Doctor after 4 days of tingling in my arms and a case of vertigo. Turns out my blood pressure was quite high which it had never been in my life. Doc had me drink lots of fluids with electrolytes and come back daily to have my BP checked and said that if it didn’t improve she would recommend I go home to have it sorted. I was terrified…not so much of the high BP but of having to go home when my travel life had only just begun! Luckily it seems it was dehydration and change of altitude and so I was able to continue on my journey. It sure made me realize how important it is to take care of yourself when you’re traveling though.

  4. Sara says:

    Thanks for this post Kate!
    My worst travel moment of the year was arriving in Seoul to meet a friend that was teaching in a town about 4 hrs away. I never get sick and as soon as my plane landed I started to feel congested, achy and feverish. Fast forward to the next morning, I had a full blown cold and it was brutal. I sucked up all the sightseeing but had to skip a night of clubbing I was really looking forward to since we were only in Seoul for 2 nights and then were heading onto a small town where my friend lived. Not the end of the world, but a bad way to start such a short trip!

  5. Michelle says:

    Haha interesting list! We went to St. Thomas just a few weeks ago and I literally had over 200 sand flea bites. And W had some sort of food poisoning the entire time. It was not a fun trip!

  6. Katrinka says:

    The Marathon. Except for an afternoon around Haymarket this summer, I’ve been away from Boston completely before and since then, but it was the worst, worst, worst thing even from abroad. Just reading your description here makes me very emotional.

    You can’t compare food poisoning to a bombing, of course. You managed to include both of these very different low points gracefully. Great writing, Kate.

  7. Laura says:

    Well you certainly had your share of bodily functions gone awry in 2013, haha! Definitely some rough spots, but I appreciate how you put it into perspective by sharing your experiences with the Boston Marathon bombing. Happy New Year to you and Mario!

  8. Renuka says:

    Quite an enjoyable read, Kate! I was wondering where did the farting part go… ha ha… My worst travel moment was when I had a severe migraine in the desert of Rajasthan. It was so bad that I couldn’t even eat, just collapsed…ahh..don’t want to recall it!

  9. Oh man.. I can relate to at least half of these. Hopefully the motion sickness in Tuscany didn’t last too long.

  10. This post just made me think back, but I have had a really good (lucky?) year travel wise – and I have been on the road for most of the year!

    Last year I had it all… missed trains, inconvenient illness, food poisoning, general misfortune, but this year, nothing! Well, apart from problems to do with passengers on my tours, but company internet policy etc etc. 😉 Though 99% of the people I had on my tours were amazing too.

    I got mildly ripped off in Vietnam, but we are talking a matter of $30, not $300, the bus I was on broke down in Portugal, but the bus company had us on another in no time…I can’t think of anything else on the spot. Yes, this year has been quite a breeze!

    We all know travelling comes with its misadventures too, so I’m sure year will have some surprises in store for me 🙂

  11. Thanks for sharing. Sometimes people only share the happy pictures of traveling and not all the issues!

  12. Frank says:

    Great post Kate! Funny enough, it’s always the bad experiences that make the best stories. Gee, a lot of people seem to have stuff happen to them in Korea!
    All the best in 2014!
    Frank (bbqboy)

  13. Susan says:

    Ohhh this post brought back memories of my boyfriend and I in Kas, Turkey in September. We thought the kebab tasted funny, then the next 4 days we’re just a mess of us taking turns in the bathroom.

    Another story, it may not be the worst but it was definitely a headache..we were driving through a mountainous road in Montenegro with our rental heading to Zabljak and every so often we had to drive through a tunnel. We noticed the signs warning drivers of falling rock, but it’s not something that you can exactly control. As we were driving out of a tunnel, a rock the size of a pineapple fell onto the roof of a car just missing the back windshield and puncturing the roof.

    The next two days were pouring rain so we had to figure out how to seal it up so their wouldn’t be any water damage and found that electric tape and a plastic bag did the trick. AHH! such a mess!

  14. Alise says:

    I had to laugh at this! I always appreciate the honesty that you share in your blog; you demonstrate to your readers that traveling isn’t always rainbows and butterflies- that sometimes, well, puking and farting occurs…

  15. I love how three of the bad things tie in with my beloved Korea, hahaha! Oh spicy octopus….I know what Korean spice is like, and that sounds like hell. Good thing I despise octopus. I think I’d have been seriously losing my shit if I were you in Bologna….then again, me being me, I’d have been at the airport about 5 hours in advance anyway. Cambodia sounds like it has serious problems right now, and as for the farting….well, I’m not one to talk really.

  16. Deasy Noel says:

    wow, great list! My worst moment happened on our first day in New York. It didn’t actually happen to me, but to my boyfriend. Right after we checked into our hotel after a rough flight from LA, he broke his glasses by rolling on it on the bed. We ended up spending the rest of the day scouring the city for an optometrist that takes his insurance and sure enough there were none. We were only there for four days :\

  17. Katie says:

    Great post! In the midst of all the celebratory end-of-year, it’s nice to be reminded that we’re all just human, and that even someone leading as exciting and adventurous a life as yours has their down-moments.

    All the best for 2014!

    http://www.secondhandhedgehog.com

  18. Yelib Noszka says:

    Wow, well at least you had far more good experiences versus bad ones 😉
    For me, it has to be the week spent in Krakow Poland. First morning there…..I ate four questionable hard boiled? eggs… Thirty minutes later, sudden sharp pains in the stomach. Then I was having cold chills and sweating. This went on for the next 36hours. All the rest of the week I couldn’t be more than 20minutes from the toilet.. A few days into this, I found out that yoghurt and chamomile tea are the best possible thing. So this was my diet the whole week! Anything else, and I’d be all torn up again. Then finally back to Holland, and was back to normal.
    Lesson to take from this; EAT YOGHURT IF YOU GET FOOD POISONING…makes all the difference! 😀

  19. Monica says:

    The scene: Five grown women and their luggage crammed in the Irish version of an SUV…which is basically a hatchback. We have been driving excitedly for six hours to arrive in Dingle, one of the loveliest and charming towns in all of Ireland.

    We’re almost there, we thought. Hooray! We were exhausted, cramped, and sleepy. My poor friend Steph had bronchitis, and was actually wedged in the backseat with her legs crossed over her suitcase.

    Suddenly the GPS turned us into the ferry parking lot. Because we’d forgotten to turn off the ferry option on the GPS and OF COURSE we wanted to get on a ferry at 10pm. Except there was no ferry to Dingle until the next morning.

    So we had to backtrack and take an entirely different route, adding another FOUR hours wedged into the sardine can of a car. We ended up arriving at 2am. I have never missed Google maps so much in my entire life.

  20. Ally says:

    Ahh I can’t believe you had to pay $200 for your own phone. Im lucky that my phone is (while a smart phone) so old its worth nothing to me, but I can imagine that you must need yours for your blogging and work.

    I didn’t travel too much last year so my past year has been moderately good, luckily I’ve escaped food poisening and being ripped off too much.

    Happy new year!

  21. This is awesome. I wanted to include some not so awesome events in my year end post I’m doing, but I was asked not to (as they deeply involve another person whose not as open as I ).

    But this is definitely a hilarious and unique spin on the year end round up thing! LOVE IT!

  22. esme says:

    Great post.

    From reading some travel bloggers posts, you’d think that every hotel and city is wonderful (I suspect sponsorship is a factor here) and the reality is that 90% of the time travel is great and 10% it’s awful.

    Interesting that your Cambodia post was so controversial. I recently posted on Bogota and stated upfront that I didn’t like it (but included a lot of positive information and photos) and was beat-up on Flyertalk for it. I write about how I feel at the time — it’s interesting to me that people will challenge the veracity of someone’s feelings.

    The upside to the travel bad times:

    1) Sense of accomplishment once you’ve solved the problem or survived the situation
    2) They make for some of the most indelible, and actually funny, memories
    3) They are great fodder for writing and reading. The perfect trips are just not as interesting

    • Thanks, Esme. Sponsorship can definitely be the factor, but I think even when you remove the possibility of sponsorship from the equation, many bloggers are nervous to write anything negative about a destination, potential backlash being one of the reasons. You need to have a thick skin if you’re going to be in blogging. People will say things online that they wouldn’t dream of saying to your face.

      • esme says:

        Bingo. It’s amazing how many angry people are out there. Oh well, their comments (Bogota is perfectly safe and I am a coward) just drive traffic to the site.

  23. joanna says:

    I think I love reading people’s worst moments more than their best. Very entertaining 🙂 My worst travel moment was my first night in Madagascar and I arrived where I would be staying for three months. It was dark, rainy and the people weren’t very nice at first. I was walking on the beach and a vicious dog attacked. I ran and ran and managed to lose my shoes in the process. I went straight on the phone to my mum and told her I was coming home. Three months later I cried leaving Mada as I loved it so much.

  24. some of these are pretty funny! glad you can look back and laugh now. I think the worst that happened to me this year was food poisoning in India… and then again on Koh Phi Phi

  25. Lunaguava says:

    I guess what we can take from your lovely post is that drama sells 🙂 Our first (reasonably) popular post detailed how my body nearly went kaputt in Mexico. It’s hard to escape stomach issues and bug bites when traveling, so I usually put those as just part of the deal. Good luck in 2014!

  26. Georgia says:

    Great post, you had a fair few dodgy moments! It’s always good to read about the less glamorous side of travelling, makes a change from those unrealistic pinterest-y style posts I come across so much. Though Cambodia just sounds horrible, I went in 2012 and there were a few nasty moments, but it sounds like it’s gotten much worse which is a real shame, I don’t think I’ll ever be returning either. Someone I know got their hotel broken into and their phone stolen, the Cambodian guy who took it then proceeded to send sexually explicit messages to all of their female Facebook friends.

    • I have heard so many stories from Cambodia recently — far more than I mentioned in the posts. It’s sad. It’s a country where there is no way out, and that drives people to bite the very hand that feeds them in the form of tourism dollars.

  27. I’ve always wondered if life would be better without facebook/twitter, but I guess it’s not as fun as it sounds. Being stuck overnight in China sure sounds horrible. Thanks for this post, traveling just wouldn’t be traveling without its hardships.

    I’m a newborn when it comes to travel blogging (launching today), so I thought I’ll start of by making friends with the travel blogging ninjas like yourself. Even though I’ve been following your posts religiously, I believe this is my first comment.

    Happy new year Kate!

    • Welcome! 🙂 Hope to see you around more. And here’s a tip — by all means get to know the big names, but get to know people within your own blogging generation as well. Help each other out, trade advice, and build up a nice community!

  28. That sounds horrible but adventurous and exciting at the same time 😉
    Great blog, Kate, just started following! All the best in 2014!

  29. TKOG says:

    I love this post! Not totally glamorous but charming and inspiring. You’re awesome, girl; you’ve got warrior heart.

  30. Liz says:

    Christ, what a list! Those are some of my worst fears, I got super seasick on my latest trip over Christmas on a small confined boat, it was so embarrassing. I have motion sickness problems too, such a pain in the ass on the road.

  31. Eric White says:

    Wow some of these sound kind of horrific to experience while traveling. Ha! Getting food poisoning is one of those things that probably WILL happen if you’re abroad long enough. I remember as a child going to the Dominican Republic every year and never getting sick until my like 12th visit. It may take a while, but it’ll probably happen. 🙂

  32. Marie says:

    Great list. I’m still dying to know how you got a $280 flight from Europe to Asia? Was it through a major flight aggregator?

    • I found it on Kayak. These days, though, I prefer Momondo over Kayak. Kayak recently stopped pulling up fares from budget airlines in Southeast Asia and Momondo shows EVERYTHING.

  33. Sihanoukville is pretty notorious these days isn’t it. I got my camera stolen there too, but in a way you can’t really blame the people who live there. Apparently the village that was there before got demolished in order to build the tourist town that is there now. I’m not sure if that’s true, but knowing the Cambodian government/authorities I wouldn’t be surprised. Hope you have a few less disasters in 2014- but hey, they make the stories don’t they?! Happy New Year!

  34. irena says:

    Hi Kate,
    It was nice knowing someone from Boston that went to Bali already 🙂 My husband and I plan to go to Bali this year, i was born in Indonesia, so last time i went to Bali was uuummm….. 15-20 years ago? 😛 so i begin to ask around and reading about what to do at Bali. Our vacation will be short at Bali, So i guess i need your expertise in this. bunch of my friend (indonesian) recommended me to go to Kuta. they speaks highly about Kuta, besides when i checked the hotel rates, they seems pretty decent.
    But then i found this villa called Pat-Mase villa at Jimbaran. What do you think about that villa? Cleanliness is my #1 priority for a hotel/villa before the price. do you think it will be efficient to stay there and visiting kuta, denpasar, kerobokan, and seminyak area?
    We do not like over crowded area as well, that is why i think i’m gonna follow your suggestion to stay away from kuta. any other suggestion what and where should we go and do while we are at Bali? Thanks!

  35. Nina says:

    Ah! OMG. I totally feel you on some of these…. I had a few bad experiences in Cambodia too. I liked it there but it’s also a place that not on the repeat list that’s for sure!

  36. Milly Day says:

    Even these horror moments won’t put me off travelling I don’t think! My recent worst story would be having to camp overnight at a tiny train station in a random Argentinian town- all the trains that day were cancelled, but we couldn’t afford to pay for another night at the campsite, nor could we afford to buy any more food! So we just drank the remains of our nasty box wine, wandered round the small (and rather boring) town we were in, then slept on the cold, hard floor of the station. Waking up with the worst hangover ever, throwing up on the train tracks, then having to spend the entire day in the baking heat because there STILL weren’t any trains and not being able to eat/wash/do anything was fairly unpleasant! When the train finally rocked up, we were told ‘no bikes’ and got kicked straight off; I was so furious that I threw my bottle of water at the conductor! Eventually we made it back to Buenos Aires because we were lucky enough to find a man with a small van, who kindly transported us along with our bikes. Maybe I should write a post about all this actually…

  37. Getting ill on the road is no fun at all, but at least it sounds like you had some great adventures in 2013. Have an equally adventurous 2014!

  38. I must say, reading your thoughts about Cambodia gave me some validation. I despised Cambodia from nearly minute one and found myself so puzzled by the overwhelming praise of the country by other bloggers. In any case, I’m glad you got to enjoy it on two prior visits.
    Fun post to read.

  39. L.F. Lee says:

    “Getting Extorted in Cambodia”

    Totally understand that feeling; am in Cambodia right now, as I type. I visited the country for the first time back in 2005 & it was an awesome experience; didn’t run into any sort of corruption at all back then.

    This trip, I was going through customs in Siem Reap on Jan 31 and I see all these tour group leaders slipping an extra US$1 into their clients’ passports for the customs officers, to “make things go smoother”. :-0 When it’s my turn to go through, the customs officer continuously asks me for a “tip”, which I adamantly refuse to pay. Yes, it’s only $1, but the principle of the matter & the fact that the official was so blatant about it & the fact that the corruption was just so rampant just really pissed the crap out of me. That, & the fact that I was apparently charged US$5 for my 11-month old son’s visa just moments earlier (when apparently all children under 12 shouldn’t be charged a visa fee) left a really bad taste in my mouth…

    Had a “bait-&-switch” moment with a hotel that I’d booked & paid for already online via the Agoda website. I arrived with my reservation number & was told “sorry, we’re full, have to move you to another hotel”… :-0 I went to see what the other hotel looked like, & the quality was much lower–but the price was apparently “the same”. After refusing to move & demanding a refund, was eventually given a room in the hotel that I’d booked at. But again, bad taste in my mouth…

    Have three more days here & am wondering if I’m going to get pressured for another “tip” when I try to pay my airport tax or something. :-0 Needless to say, this trip has *not* been as enjoyable as I would have liked, & really destroyed the beautiful memories of Cambodia that I’d had from back in 2005. 🙁

    P.S. Noticed in your travels that you still haven’t hit Taiwan yet. Highly recommend you do so. I’m an ABT (American-born Taiwanese) who moved back to Taiwan in 1993 & then never went back to the states… 🙂

  40. Amy says:

    One of the worst moments of 2013 for traveling for me would be the severe food poisoning I contracted in Bologna from the sushi train place just down from the Due Torri (2 towers). I know, I know, why eat sushi out of all the beautiful things to eat in Bologna? It goes without saying, I am never eating sushi ever again. EVEN IF THERE’S A FIRE.
    The second worst would be when our 11pm something train from Florence back to Bologna just didn’t show up. In fact, the whole station closed! Even though the train ticket machine said there would be a train at that time- there was nothing! nada. zilch. niente. So my friend and I spent the whole night sitting in the piazza of the Duomo like hobos, trying to desperately ask passersby why this is so or where we could go. No luck. Everyone just ignored us and kept walking. We caught the earliest train back to Bologna the next morning, thanking our lucky stars we were stranded in Florence and no where really dodgy.

  41. In Phnom Penh Craig lost his IPhone in the hotel tuk tuk, I called from the restaurant and by a stroke of luck they checked the tuk tuk and it was there. That would never happen in Glasgow. Lesson learned: lay off the tuk tuk selfies!

  42. This is quite the list. There’s always risks with traveling. The end of my dream trip to Ireland was spoiled when I caught a nasty bug on a tour bus. I spent the last day or two in bed. I was stuck in the airport and I was sick and I could not speak because I lost my voice. It was a crazy end to an amazing trip.

  43. Amber says:

    I find the Bulgarian train interesting because I had some of the worst food poisoning ever in Sofia a few years ago. We had to stay an extra two days because of it. When we finally needed to leave, we were heading to Bucharest, and were scheduled to leave by train. I was not sure my stomach could handle it, and was nervous about the bathrooms. So we bucked up a little more than $300 for a last minute flight on Tarom air to get us there. At the time it seemed like a good decision to just spend the money, even more so after reading this post.

  44. Matt Nazar says:

    So glad you posted this. Travel is fun, but not always glamorous. On my first trip to Europe, I decided to do Paris and Amsterdam with my 19 year old daughter. It was her first trip outside North America. On day two in Paris, I got food poisoning and spent the night in the bathroom throwing up. It was horrible. The only thing I could think of was that my daughter would be tending to me in a Paris hospital on her first big trip. But I made it through the night and never even woke her up. My mid morning the next day, I was ready for some low key Paris people-watching. Thank God it all worked out fine. But it was a reminder that anything can happen and travel can have its downs along with its many ups. And now I get the dubious distinction of being someone that got food poisoning in the foodie Mecca of the world.

  45. Wow! Very funny post! i love travel and had my issues too.. lol

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