Saturday, January 21st, 2017

My Worst Travel Moments of 2015

89

Kate in Siracusa

You can’t have the bad without the good!

Every year (and every month!) I like to write about the bad moments along with the good ones because I think it’s important to show that travel is not a prescription for a happy life. Even if you travel all the time, plenty of bad things happen along with the good.

This is my life. I just happen to spend most of it on the road. If you know anyone with a perfectly smooth live, I’d love to get their secrets!

I’m deeply grateful that 2015 has been a very smooth year. This list is devoid of severe injuries, grave illnesses, dangerous situations, financial setbacks and business difficulties. That’s about as good as you can hope for! This year could have been much worse, and I’m thankful that each day I’m able to rise out of bed, take care of myself, and continue working on a business that allows me to live a very good life.

You’ve read about my best travel moments of 2015 — now get ready for the worst!

Sea Dance Montenegro

Getting Taxi Scammed at Sea Dance

I consider myself a fairly vigilant traveler, and as a result, I’ve very rarely been scammed. But I fell victim to one of my biggest scams to date on the first night of Sea Dance in Budva, Montenegro.

I found myself unusually tired that night and decided to go back early while Jeremy and Ryan stayed at the festival. I hopped into one of the normal-looking taxis waiting in the line outside — and soon realized that in addition to taking me on an indirect route, the meter was charging me FAR more than it should have.

The meter should have been at six euros. The late-night rate should have been at ten euros. Instead, by the time the driver pulled up to our apartment complex, I had a bill of forty euros!

I started arguing with the driver; he said that it was the correct price. “It’s always ten euros!” I cried. I refused to pay four times that rate — yet I was in an isolated situation, in the parking lot of the complex with no bystanders, which could have been dangerous.

I threw him twenty euros and ran toward my apartment.

He initially ran after me, threatening to call the police. I then burst into fake ugly-sobbing (“I have nothing! I have nothing!“) at the top of my lungs. Eventually he stepped back and I ran inside.

Kate in Castanea, Sicily

Feeling Helpless in My Great-Grandfather’s Village

Sicily was a challenge, but the lowest point of the trip came when we were in Castanea delle Furie, my great-grandfather’s village.

That’s when I realized just how different Sicilian dialect was. I would say a sentence and the locals wouldn’t understand me. They would say a sentence and I might pick out one word, tops. Speaking Italian worked in the more popular tourist sites in Sicily like Siracusa and Taormina, but in random rural areas like Castanea, I might as well have been speaking Greek!

We were going around the neighborhood and trying to connect the dots in our ancestry by asking locals for help, something that, as an introvert, I hate doing in the first place, language barrier or not. The locals would keep firing off sentence I couldn’t understand as my mom kept saying, “Translate! Translate!” and I wanted nothing more than to run away and hide.

It was deeply moving to visit Castanea, and I feel grateful that we got to spend the time figuring out where my great-grandfather came from. After seeing how isolated it is, even in 2015, we have a better understanding of why he ran away and sailed to America at the age of 11.

Now, looking back at the events of the summer, I’ve been wondering what made me such a mess in Sicily. I think I placed too high expectations on myself as both a traveler and a guide for my family. I’m an expert traveler in Italy — I go a few times a year, I speak the language, I know how to order a coffee (and what kind of coffee to order at the right time of day) at a bar, I know to validate my train tickets, I know Sunday lunches are sacred, I know what time the passegiatta starts, I can decode a whole Italian menu instantly.

But Sicily was nothing remotely like the rest of Italy, and I wasn’t prepared for that. At all.

El Tunco, El Salvador

Losing Both Our Debit Cards in El Tunco

This is, by far, the dumbest thing I did this year. While in El Tunco, El Salvador, I got money out at one of the ATMs in town, then forgot to take my card afterward. There are two ATMs in that town and they are both the type that don’t spit your card back until the very end of the transaction.

Now, you think this was bad. It gets worse. The exact same thing happened to Leif, and we were about to run our first tour.

YIKES.

Now, we were somewhat prepared for losing our debit cards. Both of us had backup debit cards connected to our Paypal accounts (and having a backup card hidden in your luggage is something that I recommend for all travelers).

The only problem was that we had to pay all of our tour vendors in cash upon arrival, and we were limited in how much money Paypal would let you take out per day. Plus, I had to transfer money to my Paypal account first, which took a few days (Paypal doesn’t let you withdraw more than is in your Paypal account, even if you’ve connected it to another bank account. You CAN use it as a debit card using money your backup bank account, though.)

We got through the tour just fine, which was a relief. We just barely were able to get by from taking out the maximum amount of money each day.

But that is an experience I never want to repeat! I’ve since become extra vigilant about checking for my card after transactions.

berlin-street-gallery

Getting Lost in Berlin in the Middle of the Night

You know what’s awesome? When you take a taxi home at the end of a crazy and it takes you to the completely wrong corner of the city. And you don’t notice until it’s gone.

It was late. I had no data on my phone, so I couldn’t call an Uber. Germany is stingy with public wifi and unlocked networks are more or less impossible to find. Cabs were nowhere to be found. And let me add that Berlin is nine times the size of Paris.

So I walked — in the rain, shrouded in my smoky coat. My phone battery was rapidly dying, but my GPS helped my navigate my way back eventually, destroying my leather flats in the process.

I finally made it home at 8:00 AM, soaked to the bone, and nearly cried with relief when I got inside. On the plus side, I had walked 30,000 steps since midnight.

Barcelona

The Hostel Experience in Barcelona

I’m not a big fan of hostel dorms anymore, but in Barcelona this summer, I figured I could deal with dorm life for just a few days. To make it the best experience possible, I chose what was then the top-rated hostel in Barcelona (Hostel Sant Jordi Gracia) and selected a small four-bed dorm.

And it seemed good at first. I met a young guy from Long Island sleeping on the bunk beneath mine who told me he had visited friends in Massachusetts before, in Pea-BOD-dee. “It’s PEA-b’dee,” I said with a smile. “That’s right!” he replied.

All that charm went out the window at 4:30 AM when his alarm went off.

And wouldn’t stop.

Despite the fact that this kid had a screaming phone next to him, he didn’t so much as move to turn it off. I had to climb down from my top bunk and shake him for a few minutes before he woke up and turned it off.

Miffed, I went back to bed.

Ten minutes later, the same thing happened. The alarm was shrieking; the kid still wouldn’t wake up. I got up to shake him again. AND THEN IT HAPPENED A THIRD TIME. That time, I stayed there until he showed me he shut it off.

The next day, the kid was standing in the hostel lobby and I let him have it in front of everyone there.

“What you did was rude and inconsiderate,” I snapped. “Staying in a dorm means being respectful of your fellow dormmates and not setting alarms every ten minutes!”

“Yeah, but I was inebriated!” he protested. This kid.

“If you’re going to be inebriated, don’t set off a million alarms for the middle of the night! I had to keep getting up from my top bunk to wake you! Did you even remember that?”

After Barcelona, I flew to Santorini and stayed in another dorm — the island was booked solid and it was the only affordable accommodation left. But since then, I haven’t stayed in another dorm since. At 31, I’m fairly certain my dorm days are behind me.

Riding the “Small Ferry” in Lake Nicaragua

Even though it’s been more than four years since my shipwreck, I still get nervous on boat rides. And while I handled the crossing to Ometepe on the “big ferry” just fine, the small ferry back to the mainland was much worse.

It was a flimsy wooden boat similar to my boat that sank off Komodo Island. It was an extremely windy day and the ship careened from side to the point that the sides would dip into the water and the crew would have to bail it out. Passengers were crying and throwing up. I basically froze in place for the whole trip, absolutely terrified.

I know the video doesn’t look too scary, but believe me, this was the very calm ending of the treacherous journey. During most of the trip, I was afraid to move a muscle, much less start filming! And to those of you who say, “It’s just a lake,” head to one of the Great Lakes on a windy day sometime and you’ll see how choppy a big lake can get!

Visiting Ometepe? The big ferry and small ferry trade off crossings all day. Wait for a big ferry; it’s a million times better.

Breakfast at The Larder in Chiang Mai

The November Breakdown

I’m still trying to figure out what led to my breakdown in Chiang Mai in November. It was the culmination of several months (if not years) of intense travel, capped off by a heaping amount of stress and an arrival of anxiety.

Suddenly, I had no idea how be normal anymore.

I felt completely apathetic with my work.

I ate breakfast at the same place every day because I couldn’t bear the thought of figuring out a new restaurant.

I couldn’t get up the nerve to go to the Yi Peng lantern festival or any Loy Krathong celebrations.

I went out for Thai barbecue with a big group of friends and panicked because I couldn’t figure out what to do.

I was on edge with my friends, either staying silent the whole time or on the verge of exploding.

Sometimes I just went back to my accommodation and cried.

How do you get from traveling the world for five years to being a person afraid of everything? And in Chiang Mai, perhaps the most western-friendly city in Asia, of all places? I have no idea.

I am aware that things could have been much worse, and since then, I’ve been starting some new self-care routines so that I can reduce these stresses before they get any worse. I’ve been getting much better since coming home, and probably the best thing I’ve done is start a morning meditation routine, which grounds me throughout the day.

Either way, I know that it’s now time for me to take a big, long break from travel. I’ll still be writing plenty here (there’s so much I haven’t written about yet!), but I think the best thing for me is to stay put in one place where I don’t have to battle through cultural differences for awhile.

Volcano Boarding

Volcano Boarding Gone Bad in Nicaragua

I had been looking forward to volcano boarding in Nicaragua so much. To the best of my knowledge, Cerro Negro in Nicaragua was (and still is) the only place where you can do this activity, and it had been a must on my list for Central America for years.

I signed up through Bigfoot Hostel, climbed the volcano, donned my big orange jumpsuit, and got ready to slide down on my sled.

Only I didn’t slide.

No matter how far back I leaned, I couldn’t get myself to slide. Halfway down, I had to give up and kick my board down the volcano as everyone groaned.

It turns out my board was defective — something I hadn’t realized beforehand, as I was one of the people who had paid a supplementary $5 for the crew to carry my board up the volcano for me. Those who carried their own boards knew what they were getting.

If I go back, I might try it again with a different company — I hear Quetzal Trekkers is much better and they give back to the local community.

It wasn’t the worst thing to happen — but I was disappointed that an activity I had been looking forward to for years had turned out so badly.

Kate in Avola

Getting Locked in a Vestibule With a Giant Cockroach in Sicily

Who knew that it was possible to lock yourself in between the two doors? In our Airbnb rental in Avola, Sicily, you would let yourself into a vestibule with one key and then let yourself into the apartment with the other key.

And it was all good until the inside door slammed closed with the keys still in it. My mom and I were trapped between the doors with no way of getting out. Oh, and have I mentioned that we had just swept a giant cockroach from our apartment into the vestibule?

Thankfully, our host, Giovanni, was nearby and quickly came to our rescue. Even though we primarily communicated in emojis over Whatsapp.

Monkey in Railay

Getting Robbed by a Monkey in Railay

Do not fuck with monkeys. Seriously.

This was my third visit to Railay, Thailand. Monkeys have always had a presence there, but this year was different — I saw far more tourists taunting them or trying to cuddle them. Thai authorities didn’t do anything about it. An antagonized animal is not a happy animal, let me tell you that!

I was carrying a white plastic bag from the store filled with bottled water, a bag of chips, and a three-pack of Oreos. As I walked by the monkey-filled area, one of the larger monkeys slinked over to me, closer and closer.

Eventually, it grabbed the white bag. I shrieked and dropped it. Even though none of my food was open, the monkey knew from the white bag that there were goodies inside. He carried the chips and Oreos to the top of the tree; when I returned an hour later, I found the shredded bags on the ground.

If you’re going to Railay, get in and get out of the monkey area quickly. Or, better yet, don’t even visit and spend all your time in Koh Lanta instead.

Butrint NP, Albania

Public Transportation in Albania

Traveling in Albania during the summer means lots of hot and terrifying bus rides. I remember roasting on a bus from Saranda to Fier, sweat dripping off my face, as the bus tore around corners with absolutely no barriers. One wrong move and we could easily have swerved off a cliff.

The scenery was absolutely beautiful as we carved through the mountains — but I would have appreciated it more if I weren’t white-knuckling the seat in front of me the whole time!

Lanquín

Getting Overcharged at the Guatemala-Belize Border

Something happened when I crossed from El Salvador into Guatemala — for some reason, I was only granted a 13-day stay. Even though I had been in Guatemala a few different times over the last few months, and even though Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua share borders, there’s no reason why I should have only been given 13 days.

The agent didn’t say anything to me, either in Spanish or English, and it wasn’t clearly marked on the passport. There was only a “13” written on the right side, without “dias” or a date.

I was lucky to have Erisa with me for that part of the trip — she was my resident attack dog, whether it was doing all the haggling (something I actually hate doing) or dealing with tough situations like this one as we tried to explain our situation to the border agent.

“How much?” Erisa asked in Spanish.

“60 quetzales.”

“60 quetzales,” Erisa snapped. “60 quetzales is the price of corruption!”

“Okay, okay, okay,” I burst in before things got more heated. “It’s fine. I’ll just pay it.”

It wasn’t much — about the equivalent of ten dollars. I just wish I had known about it in the first place.

So, let that be a lesson to you — when you enter Guatemala, check the number written in the right quadrant of the passport stamp. That tells you how many days you have.

Leon Nicaragua

Bedbugs in León

I fell in love with my guesthouse, Via Via, right away. It was in the heart of the city, a stone’s throw from good bakeries and the central park and cathedral, and it was much nicer than the party hostels lining the street.

The rooms were old-fashioned and beautiful; the mattresses were comfortable. The internet was decent and there were work areas. And most importantly, there was a restaurant, so I didn’t have to worry about going out alone at night. (León was one of few places in Central America where I didn’t feel comfortable alone on the streets at night.) $28 per night for an ensuite room was expensive for Nicaragua, but a fair price to pay for the comfort, I felt.

Until I started waking up covered in itchy blotches. And recognized the telltale marks: several “mosquito bites” evenly spaced in a straight line. Bedbugs had arrived.

I’ve gotten bedbugs before in Montenegro. When it happened, the staff was horrified and proactive and immediately cleaned my room top to bottom. Here? Not so much. The staff pretty much shrugged and said, “Es mosquito.” “No es mosquito!” I replied, showing them the marks.

Believe me, this might sound crazy to you, but I was so not in the mood not to change accommodation that I stayed a few more nights, changing the sheets each day and isolating my laundry until I went to El Tunco. It actually worked. The bugs were much easier to deal with.

Alex and Kate on Meat Cart in Copenhagen

Falling Off a Meat Cart in Copenhagen

Yeah, it’s a funny story in retrospect, but it sure wasn’t at the time! One thing led to another during a crazy night out in the city and I ended up riding on top of a meat cart, then falling off it and slamming my arm and knee on a curb, turning them black and blue.

Oh, man — that was a painful fall. For the next month, I had a weird little bump on my arm where I had hit the curb. You can still feel a little bit of it today. I’m glad it’s healed!

What were your worst travel moments of the year?

Comments

89 Responses to “My Worst Travel Moments of 2015”
  1. Lucy says:

    Oh man I totally relate to the anxiety…..and it is so god you are being kind to yourself and listening to your body, you know? It is crazy how stress affects your entire body, to the point where you can’t even recognise yourself anymore.

    Roll on twentysixteen!

  2. My only bad one was when I thought someone was stalking me through the woods in Sweden. I wrote about it not too long ago, and it was one of those experiences that still gives me the creepy shivers.

    Re. the breakdown: It likely happened because you were already in the mindset of settling down when you left your that trip. Your mind was feeling rooted, but you weren’t letting your body do the same. I’m not an expert, but I’m guessing you’ll be feeling much better in the coming months!

  3. This is a great post as it shows the realistic side of travelling. It’s not all rainbows and butterflies, most of my travels are actually the opposite but in the end it’s all worth it. The breakdown is a sign you should take it a bit more easy on yourself in 2016!

  4. Hillary says:

    Oh man…I dread encountering bedbugs. (Mosquitos are bad enough.) So far in our travels the worst bites I’ve gotten were from a flying ant in Indonesia that somehow got under my shirt while my husband and I were out on scooters, and then decided I was to blame for his predicament–raised welts like you wouldn’t believe!

  5. Caroline says:

    Fun to see both the best and worst moments — I guess that’s life, after all. For some reason, what stood out to me was the bed bugs. I’ve been lucky to avoid them so far but I am kind of terrified. They didn’t end up lingering on your clothes or your backpack when you moved on?

  6. Elizabeth says:

    My worst travel moment of 2015 was getting rejected when boarding a flight to Mexico for a week long road trip because my boyfriend’s passport “wasn’t in good enough condition to be guaranteed entry at the Mexican border”. His passport was 9 years old and he had done a considerable amount of travelling with it but had never had any trouble or even any hint of trouble when travelling before this. It was devastating to go to work on the day that you’re supposed to be setting off on a Mexican road trip, but we didn’t want to use up our vacation days moping around at home.

    In the end, we got him a new passport (getting one sent to Canada from the UK was interesting) and were able to go to Mexico a month later, but lost most of the money we had spent on our first trip between flights and accommodations.

    Anyways, I’ll link the post about our rejection below. Now I tell everyone about our experience, and it is definitely a lesson in keeping your passport in excellent condition!
    http://www.somethingsaturdays.com/the-blog/swift-current-weekend-why-we-arent-in-mexico

  7. Bryan says:

    I loved the story on visiting your great-grandfather’s village in Sicily. I unsuccessfully tried to visit my family’s village in Southern Italy a few years ago and often wonder what that experience would be like. It still remains on my bucket list.

  8. Erin says:

    Kate,

    I had a similar experience to your Sicily one when I was in Naples two years ago. I also know Italy. I’ve lived there and know how it works. So I was guiding two friends who had never been to a non-English speaking country before. My request for the trip was to go to Naples and the minute we got there I knew it was a whole different ball game from the parts of Italy I know well. No one could understand me, I couldn’t understand them, and we were lost all the time. I felt awful. But my friends say they had a good time anyway.

    I hope that you are recovering from November and enjoying the holidays.

    Erin

  9. Amanda says:

    I luckily didn’t have any awful travel experiences this year, but one that still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth was crossing the border into Canada this fall on a trip with the Rocky Mountaineer. I took the train from Seattle to Vancouver, and we went through a special customs/immigration checkpoint at the train station in Vancouver. Meaning the only people going through it were coming off the (very nice) train.

    I was questioned by a young, cocky border agent who asked me questions like, “How can you afford to have this many stamps in your passport?”, “How much did you pay for this trip?” “Do you live with anyone in Ohio?” “What does your boyfriend do for work?”

    NO ONE else was asked this many questions – he totally singled me out because I was a young woman traveling alone. After he heard my boyfriend (whom I live with) works in finance, he let me go. Because CLEARLY a woman could never make enough money on her own to afford to travel so much.

    UGH. It still makes my blood boil. I actually dread going to Canada because I almost always have issues at the border.

    • Jen says:

      I was asked similar questions coming from YVR to Seattle. When I told him I worked at the jail he gave up. People are weird.

    • Woah, Amanda! That’s awful.

      I went to Canada on an overnight bus once and got the whole back row to myself. Made myself very comfortable and was woken up by an immigration officer hahahaha!! I went through immigration to find them sifting through my bag because no one had claimed it, while the rest of the bus looked on because they were waiting for me! Oops!

    • I once got a lot of crap from an agent in Italy. I asked him if he was Richard Simmons.

  10. Michelle says:

    Oh no! Getting scammed/robbed is definitely horrible.

    Our worst travel moment is currently happening. Our RV needed some warranty work done (all new RVs go through this), but it’s been in the shop for 30 days now. UGH!

  11. Silvia says:

    Hi Kate.

    We spell “passeggiata”, not “passegiatta”.

    I am Italian (from the north, currently living in Venice) and I don’t understand the language of old people from South Italy because sometimes
    they speak only dialects (that’s because they couldn’t go to school or they made only for few years) so be kind with yourself, it wasn’t your problem, it’s like a different language from Italian (northern dialects are easier to understand than southern if you speak Italian).

    Ah, last but not least, I am totally horrified by bedbugs, they do seem to love my skin and my blood and that’s a big problem for me since I am a backpacker and we usually look for cheap guesthouses or hotels.

  12. Grainne says:

    I can completely relate to being over dorms. I’m 30 and I stayed in a dorm in Seattle during the summer and vowed to myself that it would be my final one! They are great when you are in your twenties, but in your thirties you really appreciate a good nights sleep and privacy so much more!

    Well done for deciding to take a break from traveling for a while. It can definitely get too much sometimes and just taking a break to recuperate will help you immensely

  13. Grainne says:

    I think my worst travel moment this year was when we arrived to WOOF to realize that the people were pretty messy and there were mice in our bedroom. It was a great week apart from that but I could never really get a good nights sleep there.

  14. Oh wow, some of these seem terrible! I can totally relate on the awful public transportation in Albania! It is definitely the worst public transportation system I have ever experienced. So bad that me and my friend ended up hitch-hiking back to Sarande from Syri Kalter because there was no way of getting back and we were in the middle of the woods! That was a fun blog post to write though haha! I’ve also got locked out of my credit cards on my first trip overseas because I never knew we were supposed to alert them! Oh, the things I’ve learned through traveling over the past several years. We live and we learn. Glad nothing super terrible happened to you! On the bright side, you’re going to have plenty of great stories to tell your kids/grandchildren one day!

  15. What a year!! As a New Yorker, bed bugs are my greatest fear.

  16. PrincessZelda says:

    I was in rural New Zealand on a bus tour. Thanks to an a-hole of a fellow backpacker playing a cruel joke I missed out on some amazing experiences and wasted some money.

    What happened was that I’d lost my watch and was just relying on my phone until I got to a city. Due to a phone glitch, it stopped working suddenly one night and I had to reboot it a few times and had lost track of the exact time. All I know was that it was some point between 1:30-3am, and I was watching a movie post-drinks with a few people I’d met at the hostel. There wasn’t a clock around, so I asked one of them the time. Cue the next morning, when I woke up at “8am”, only for the girl next to my bed, who had been drinking with us that night, to tell me it was actually 9, and that I’d missed my bus. The bus that would take me to on pre-booked trips to the famous Waitomo Caves, and a Maori cultural experience.

    “You didn’t actually take Jake seriously when he gave the time, did you? He’s such a joker!” It hadn’t occured to me that someone would deliberately give me the wrong time, knowing that my phone would be my only alarm and that I had no watch. I also don’t know why she didn’t say anything at the time, but meh.

    Thanks to this joker, I’d not only missed the only bus on my already-paid tour for the next two days from this remote village, but there wasn’t even space until four days later. I didn’t have the time to wait. Luckily, the hostel owner agreed to drive me to a nearby town, and I then spent the day getting multiple buses or waiting for the buses, until I arrived in Rotorua. I was so cranky, and there just wasn’t time to independently go to Waitomo on another day as my schedule was so tight and I had already burned a day just getting to the next stage of my tour so I could get the bus from there.

  17. Rafiqua says:

    Oh my goodness Kate these are some crazy stories! The worst has got to be the bed bugs / walking through Berlin & falling off the meat truck 🙁

  18. Jen says:

    Getting so sick on the 3rd day of 10 in Thailand that I had to come home a day early and go to the hospital. 5 prior trips to Thailand with no problems. This year, super sick.

  19. Rod Martn says:

    Volcano boarding was once allowed at Mt Tarawera in central North Island, New Zealand but sadly is not allowed now.

  20. So sorry that you had all those bad experiences. They make ours pale in comparison. However, I love the fact that you take the time to share the reality you experience. Of course, we all learn from your good experiences, but reading bad experiences like these also make us better travelers.

    Thanks so much and hoping your worst is much less in 2016!!!

  21. This was such an entertaining post! I love it how you are not trying to paint long term traveling as this happy haze and you are also showing us the nitty-gritty. Hoping that 2016 brings you less bad moments, though!

    I plan on visiting Sicily in May, so I read your posts carefully – hoping to avoid the alienating experiences, as I am going to stick to Taormina and Syracuse.

  22. Robin says:

    I would have to say my worst experiences were in South Africa this year. I was assaulted in Cape Town and then suffered (what I believe to be) a racist incident at the hands of the Etihad airways staff. It was a rough year! But I had several great experiences too.

  23. lol this post was so entertaining to read. Everyone always posts about the good things, but you rarely see the bad things about travel. This makes all my negative travel experiences seem like NOTHING! I can totally relate to the bedbug thing though… so brutal. But at least you always have more good travel moments than bad 🙂

  24. ‘Love the post and I’m British so is it bad of me, if I found it hilarious lol! But really, oh dear me! What a year you’ve had. I’m sorry that you got lost in Berlin but it’s fairly safe, just follow the clubbers or go to the nearest 24 hour bar… lol!
    However, getting robbed by a monkey is NOT. A. JOKE.
    I hate them with a passion. My first experience with monkeys full on, was when a huge monkey decided it would be fun to hop on my head and pull my hair outside the Monkey Forest in Bali! Yeah, that wasn’t funny. At all. And last year, a monkey tried to take the pull the shorts off my son and help himself to the shoulder bag of my German husband. Thank goodness, he had left the ipad at home otherwise, it would have been goodbye ipad!

    Worst moments this year, going back to the skiing destination where I once fell off the ski lift and almost broke my legs, getting sick whilst on this years’ skiing holiday so paying all that money and not being able to ski at all!

    Taking a 26 hour bus journey from Estonia to Berlin. As an experiment. With tween son in tow. My husband flew home (clever man).. My son and I made it, but I wouldn’t do that again!

    And having two flight delays whilst going to TBEX in Spain because my pre-paid car had gone without me AND having an even worse 15 hour delay back to Berlin on the return flight! You just couldn’t make it up!

    • Looking back, I’m surprised that I survived the Monkey Forest in Bali intact! I was super careful and kept my distance. If I go back to Bali, I’m definitely not going back there! A one-and-done experience for sure.

  25. Mary B says:

    It’s nice that all of your “worst” moments this year were manageable and turned out okay! ugh, bedbugs though!

    I think my worst moment this year was realizing – the night before my trek – that my hiking guide (who I’d hired on the recommendation of the tourist info center because I didn’t feel safe hiking alone for 3 days) was a creep and was hitting on me. He wanted to get together the night before to “go over the plan” but then just kept asking me questions about boyfriends and I must be too picky and why wasn’t I interested in “fun” relationships (with him, of course). I got back to my guesthouse and it all settled in and I was ready to cancel, but it was 11:30 at night and I was out of cell credit! So I had to wait til he called me the next morning to say he was running late (of course) at which point I told him he’d been a jerk and asked inappropriate questions and I wasn’t going. Luckily I hadn’t given him any money yet. I didn’t have time to hire another guide so the trek was off, but wound up hopping in a jeep to another village just to get out of there… and I loved the new village so much I stayed for 3 nights and met some really lovely people! So a happy ending, at least 🙂

  26. Alison says:

    Wow – what a year! Don’t know if I could have handled being locked in somewhere knowing a cockroach was nearby!

  27. Lotte says:

    I think it’s great you share the good and the bad things about traveling, because it sure isn’t always sunshine, roses and unicorns:-)

    But after reading your Best of 2015 and Worst of 2015 I think the highlights definitely outshine the lowlights!

    Happy 2016 and I hope there will be less incidents and even more highlights (though 21 countries might be hard to top;-)

  28. Elaine says:

    Lots of up and downs … same for me when I was traveling Latin America this year. So many times I wanted to quit and go home … glad I didn’t though!

  29. Chester says:

    Don’t give into bullies and also don’t show weakness. You should have stood up to that taxi driver.

    • Well, I can definitely tell you’re male, Chester!

      In a perfect world, we would be able to stand up to everyone who wronged us. But when you’re a woman and a man is coming after you in a deserted parking lot in the middle of the night, you need to put your safety first.

  30. alicia-joy says:

    Oh wow! Sorry to hear about some of these, Kate. The monkey bandit!!!….I tried not to laugh. They can be quite naughty. Don’t you wish travel could be all lovely moments only? In our dreams, right? It’s just how it is. There’s the good (which is most of the time), and the not so good (thankfully, not as common). Thanks for sharing these and thanks for continuing to be an inspiration!

  31. Loved that you write about the worst moments as well as the good.. Sometimes the “bad” moments happen to be more valuable in retrospect than the most fun days… It’s not easy to travel alone, especially as a woman. People always ask me if i am afraid to travel alone and the truth is I am not..in hindsight. During, there are definitely scary moments… I wrote about one of them when I thought it was the day I get raped and murdered in Mexico…It’s probably one of my “worst” travel moments of Mexico http://bit.ly/1Ig2HH8

  32. Rikka says:

    Almost getting swept away in a fiercely strong current in Bali Indonesia probably tops the bad experiences moment of the year for me!

    Yep, had to hang onto some plate coral for dear life. Thought I was going to die. But lived to tell the tale!

  33. Thanks for sharing! Sorry to hear that these things happened to you. Glad you are safe and sound – looking forward to your New York City adventures!

  34. this is an awesome article though sorry for all those things ahppened. sharing this experience will educate the new comers and be more careful when travelling. glad that you the courage to share with just like your happy moments of the year. looking forward to your next amazing blog post

    have a great day

  35. Craig says:

    Really good insightful post. I think it is important to highlight things like this, travelling is not always a bed of roses so well done for pointing that out. Travel safe 🙂

  36. Thanks for keeping it real as always Kate.
    My worst moment was almost dying in a hostel in Colombia after the poison from the room next to ours being fumigated for bed bugs seeped into ours as we slept. After hours of relentless vomiting and diarrhoea our bodies went numb and we could barely move. The doctor came and put us on five bags of IV and we were bed bound for five days recovering. It was a nightmare, genuinely thought we were going to die.

  37. Debbie says:

    First time commenting on your blog, but I gotta say, getting scammed on a taxi-yep. To me, it happened in Cartagena, Colombia. In retrospect, it was our fault for not checking the exchange rate, so we thought what we were paying to go from the airport to our little bed and breakfast was a reasonable amount. Nope. The guy charged us 6-10x what he should’ve. On our way back from the bed and breakfast to the airport, we actually told our taxi driver all about it, and he was completely appalled that we’d been overcharged by that much!

    I’ve also had an ATM machine eat my debit card while traveling. Yep. Luckily it was in Israel (I lived there when I was little and I speak the language), but unfortunately it happened on a Friday evening (the start of Shabbat), when all the banks close (and all the representatives on the phone, too). I had to wait til SUNDAY (!!!) to recover my card, and it was the only money I was carrying with me at the time (dumb, dumb, dumb). Good thing we had leftovers to eat!

  38. Prachi Sharma says:

    Interesting read that.
    The monkey episode reminded me of my own rendezvous with them, and it was funny and scary at the same time. One loafer whisked away my spectacles without a scratch on my face, and then bartered it for a loaf of bread…LOL! This happened at Vrindavan, India.

    Loved reading your blogs, keep inspiring us!

  39. Danny says:

    Wow, sounds like you’ve had quite your share of bad experiences! I think it’s great, though, that you also shed light on the fact that travel isn’t always wonderful. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love it. But I think some “down-to-earthness” is always a good thing, too.

    For me, my worst travel experience of 2015 was getting an intestinal bug in India, which rendered me unable to eat much for nearly two months, made me lose close to 20 pounds (I’m already skinny to begin with!), and ultimately landed me in the hospital. I suppose you sort of expect these things going into India, but boy was that one experience I don’t need to repeat anytime soon…

    Here’s to hoping your 2016 gets off to a good start!

  40. Britt says:

    I’ve just experienced the dead zone that is Germany internet. I had to cave and buy a sim because of the lack of public wifi- it wasn’t hard for me to get in a similar situation to you in Berlin.

    I really hope that you can get yourself back into that happy travel place by slowing down, and having a break. No one should expect you to travel full time for the rest of your world! Having a base can definitely be a good thing in itself!

  41. I wish with all my heart , many wonderful places for you to meet in 2016 .

  42. ledinhtung says:

    many wonderful places for you to meet in 2016 .
    Thanks so much!

  43. Iain says:

    I liked your last sentence on the hostel saga of maybe the days are behind you on it. My facebook used to be full of friends travelling countries using hostels, meeting people and having a great time. When a hostel is mentioned now, it tends to be to rant!

  44. Sy says:

    Great post, makes me reminisce about my recent adventures. I think i used quetzal trekkers at Cerro Negro who were great – be careful I nearly broke my neck after a crazy wipe out!

    Private rooms are now a perquisite for me also.

    I really enjoy the honesty of your writing style. I think you capture the essence of the moments and keep your reader engaged.

  45. Hannah Crook says:

    While staying at a hostel in Brisbane, me and my friend got horrible bed bugs! We were supposed to stay in the hostel for 2 more nights, but luckily the workers were super nice about it and were willing to refund us for one of the nights, and moved us to a separate room of our next night. I hate the feeling of creepy crawlies while sleeping! It was horrible, but luckily we were able to get rid of them after a couple days! We refused to stay in a hostel again…. until we went with a group to Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays… but the hostels there are very clean and nice!! 🙂

  46. Heck thats long list of worst travel moments. Your debit card experience sounds awful! Anxiety creeps up on us and its source cant always be pinpointed! I experienced it earlier this year but I feel as though I am getting better now.

  47. HI Katie, thanks for sharing all your stories. It helps ti share both good and bad. We did travel a bit this year (not as much as we’d like, but that’s another story, lol) but luckily we didn’t encounter any bedbugs, thank you. That would have been horrible. Probably the worst thing that happened to us was a flight from Newark NJ to Denver, CO. It ended up being a 24 hour nightmare and included a stay in Dallas of all places, Ugh. Will probably be the last time we fly American. They are absolutely horrible. All in all, I can’t complain, though. Had a great travel year!. Here’s to a great 2016!

  48. Sabrina says:

    Thanks for keeping it real! Most of travel bloggers share only great experiences and don’t mention the dark sides. Loved this post!
    But I have to say…your experience in the Barcelona hostel was not that bad compared to what can really happen in a dorm room! I had a few experiences that I don’t even wanna remember 🙂

  49. Minuca says:

    Hi Kate,

    You had so many great experiences. I admit some weren’t so much fun, but being rubbed by a monkey it’s pretty funny.

    I can’t to see what new adventures waits you in 2016.

    Cheers,
    Minuca

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