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As always, you have to take the good with the bad — especially so with travel! As many good moments as you have when you travel, there are plenty of awful moments that sneak their way in.
It’s always a good reminder that travel is not an automatic pass to happiness. I’ve seen a lot of people who fall apart when their trips don’t go as planned. The most important thing is knowing that a disaster, major or minor, will strike at some point — and you need to be prepared to bounce back from it.
This post is usually a list of funny things that are a bit ridiculous in retrospect. There were certainly a lot of those moments this year!
But in 2022 we have one serious thing to put on the list, and it’s coming first.
The War in Ukraine
It began with days of dread leading up to the invasion. The news story from the US in late December that Russia might be planning an invasion of Ukraine. In February, Biden warning every US citizen to leave Ukraine immediately, that we only had days. It felt like everything was happening in slow motion.
Then the awful morning, waking up to the news that Russia had invaded. Bombs landing in Kyiv. Women and children jumping on trains to get out of the country. Whole neighborhoods building molotov cocktails.
I adore Ukraine. The grandeur of the cities, the delicious food, the fashion the women wear, the coffee trucks. It hurt my heart, and still hurts it, to see a country I love going through so much pain.
Prague already has a significant Ukrainian population, and we’ve received many refugees here. Charlie and I joined in local efforts to support these refugees, as well as helping our own friends who left Ukraine.
It was heartwarming to arrive at the donation center and see dozens of Czechs running around organizing supplies for the new arrivals. It felt like the whole city was pitching in.
Another time, we arrived at a hostel for a trivia night and the common area was full of Ukrainian moms with their kids. The hostel, like many in Prague, donated rooms to refugees.
And honestly, I did not expect Ukraine to be able to hold their own against Russia. I’ve never been happier to be wrong. Their courage is inspiring, and I know Ukrainians will fight bravely for their country as long as it takes.
My fervent wish is for peace and freedom in Ukraine, as soon as possible. And when the war ends and Ukrainians are eager for tourism again, Charlie and I will return to the country we love. Slava Ukraini.
Now, let’s move on to the lighter awful moments of the year.
The Poopsplosion of Calabria
Calabria is one of the least developed parts of Italy, especially so on the Ionian side. We decided to spend a few nights at an agriturismo in a rural area before heading to Tropea on the well-developed Tyrrhenian coast.
It was a pretty good agri stay — nice people, good food, a simple place overall. And we enjoyed our stay…until the last morning.
I noticed that after flushing the toilet, the shower drain would fill with water from below. Okay, kind of weird, but all right.
Then a few flushes later, water wasn’t the only thing that came out of the shower drain. IT WAS POOP. Pushing and squishing through the drain holes and filling the bottom of the shower with a soupy brown mess. I nearly threw up.
I’m not revealing the agriturismo. Plumbing issues happen! But man, was that gross.
Getting COVID in Martha’s Vineyard
After 2.5 years, I finally got COVID. Long story short: Charlie had gotten COVID, but got over it very quickly and was testing negative for days before my sister’s wedding. I isolated from him once he had it, tested twice daily leading up to the wedding, including a PCR the day before, and all my tests were negative. Then, three days after the wedding, my faint positive line appeared.
I am beyond grateful I didn’t get COVID before the wedding. But getting it in Martha’s Vineyard was a pain, especially since I had wanted to explore the island in depth.
I ended up spending a day ensconced in the hotel, then the next day, we had a late afternoon ferry. Between check-out and the ferry, we drove around the island and got to visit several outdoor destinations where we were the only people around. Even popular Moshup Beach was deserted except for us. That’s the Vineyard in late September for you!
After the Vineyard, we checked into a hotel in Woburn for a few days, then I went back to my dad’s and hid myself in my room until I recovered.
The Flat Tire Saga of Sardinia
Here’s a tip — if you’re going to get a flat tire in Italy, don’t let it happen in Sardinia. And don’t let it happen in a rural area. And definitely, definitely don’t let it happen on a Sunday.
What if I told you that ALL THREE happened to us?! Fun times.
We were about to leave Alghero and visit to Bosa before driving into the interior for the night. Just as we left our accommodation, we got a flat tire.
Oh well. At least we were close to our agriturismo. The agri owner called a shop for us, and they came out and offered to patch the tire for us until we could find a better shop.
How long did it take them to patch the tire and come back? FIVE HOURS. Charlie and I worked throughout that time. Our agriturismo doesn’t usually serve lunch but kindly made us a nice carbonara, and at one point the owner picked up the phone to yell at the mechanics — why the hell did THEY go for a leisurely lunch?
They finally delivered the car with the patched tire. Charlie and I set off again, realizing we didn’t have time for Bosa, heading straight for that night’s accommodation.
15 minutes later, on the highway, the tire blew again.
Oh my God, we were FURIOUS. We contacted our agriturismo and THEY were furious. Around half an hour later, the same mechanics showed up and offered to take us to Sassari for the night, where we could get a new tire in the morning.
The great irony is that we chose a hotel on a whim — Album Boutique Rooms in Sassari — which was one of the best places we stayed all year. So gorgeous and modern. We went out for pizza and gelato, spent the night in that cozy apartment, and picked up our new tire the next day, which lasted all the way back to Prague.
Iceland Road Trip Falling Apart
I was so excited for my solo road trip around Iceland. I had been invited on a short campaign featuring the Sky Lagoon and Flyover Iceland in May, and decided to take advantage and book a solo road trip afterward.
I was so excited for my Ring Road journey. Then I got to the car rental place and realized, with horror, that I had accidentally booked a manual transmission. I don’t know how to drive stick. I’ve never driven stick in my life.
I tried to find another car, to no avail. There’s a huge rental car shortage post-COVID, and literally every automatic car in the country was booked out.
I tried options where I could rent a car tomorrow. Nothing. Could I do this trip without a car? Absolutely not.
Could I teach myself to drive stick? Maybe. But I was solo on this road trip, and driving in rural areas — it didn’t seem worth the risk.
And in a move that is characteristically not me, I decided to throw in the towel and go home. Just not worth all the hassle.
But you know what? It worked out. As soon as I got home, my friend Amanda texted me, “If you want to go later in the summer, I’ll go with you!” And not only did we go — the Fagradalsfjall volcano began erupting just before our visit, and we got to witness the eruption close up! And we made sure to rent an automatic car.
This year I promise I will learn to drive stick!!
A Dental Emergency in Mexico
Nothing like waking up in the middle of the night and feeling searing pain along your gum. I freaked out, thinking it was the worst and I would need some kind of dental surgery. I was in Mexico City and had never had a dental emergency while traveling abroad before.
And finding an emergency dentist was surprisingly tough. Even in La Condesa/Roma Norte, one of the best neighborhoods in Mexico City, it was a matter of calling dentist after dentist, explaining the problem in broken Spanish, and finding out that oh, actually nobody was working that day.
When I finally got an appointment, the dentist was nearly an hour late, stuck in traffic! But he was wonderful, and though we struggled to communicate, using the Google Translate voice-to-text option made our conversation infinitely easier.
Turns out it was a gum infection. Nothing serious. The only issue was that it took forever for me to realize that hydrogen peroxide in Mexico is actually called agua oxigenada, not peróxido de hidrógeno! That took a lot of drugstore visits before I figured it out.
British Airways Flight Drama
2022 has been a year for awful luggage experiences, thanks in part to post-COVID staffing shortages, especially at London Heathrow and Amsterdam Schiphol. So many of my travel friends lost their luggage for several days at either of those airports.
For us, it was Heathrow in February, coming back from Mexico and the US. Unfortunately our flight in coincided with severe rain storms in London. Long story short — we checked our bags in in the morning, went to see Charlie’s family, came back for our flight in the evening, found out the flight was canceled, and still couldn’t pick up our luggage.
Our bags were lost in the shuffle for five days, with no updates from BA until the final day.
The worst part? We weren’t able to get travel insurance to cover our new flight, because we booked one on our own instead of taking what British Airways chose to give us. (We did this because our friend was expecting to give birth soon and we were on deck to take care of their older daughter, so we figured we should get back as quickly as possible.)
At least we got our food, hotel, and most of our Uber to Gatwick covered between travel insurance and BA.
My tip? Get AirTags and put one in your luggage. No, this will not deliver you your bag faster — but it gave us so much relief to know exactly where our bags were. (“Still in Terminal 4.” “Still in Terminal 4.” “OMG it’s finally at the gate!!!”)
Fogged Out in Dettifoss
Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe, not just in Iceland, and Amanda and I were so excited to see it. There are two routes to get there from the Ring Road near Lake Myvatn — you can either take the western route (a nicely paved road which is very, very busy) or the eastern route (an unpaved road to a quieter spot with a much better view). We chose to go east.
It had been raining since the day before, so we headed out on that gravel road. I was driving this portion and had to go slowly so as not to get gravel everywhere or damage the car. The drive took about 45 minutes and got progressively foggier as we went.
Well…we got to the parking lot. And began our walk down several stone staircases and a path along the cliff’s edge.
It was so foggy, we could see the faintest beginning of Dettifoss — and that’s it. A complete bust of a visit! And not only that, this was actually an area with three waterfalls — Dettifoss, Selfoss, and Hafragilsfoss — so we ended up missing all three.
And bonus — it was time for a 45-minute drive back to the Ring Road!
The Most Expensive Coffee of My Life
Finally, there was Portofino. Lovely Portofino. Wealthy, yacht-filled Portofino. The Portofino that Beyonce goes to on holiday. We decided to drop by the famous town briefly, so we grabbed the bus from Santa Margherita Ligure (arguably the least glamorous way to arrive).
I window-shopped the designer boutiques, swooning over the silk scarves and leather handbags. (Charlie: “Why would someone want a bag that says Celine on it?…This place needs an Apple Store.”)
“Why don’t we at least grab a coffee?” I suggested. “These cafes are cute.” Of course, they’d be expensive — but an overpriced coffee is a lot more affordable than an overpriced lunch.
We grabbed a seat and our eyes immediately went to the affogato — a scoop of vanilla gelato topped with a shot of espresso. It’s on the menu at most Italian bars. While an espresso usually costs around 1 euro if you stand at the bar, and a cappuccino, 1.20 euros, you might pay 3 or 4 euros for an affogato.
I figured we’d pay double that in Portofino. Then our server brought us large, American-style ice cream dishes — THREE scoops of vanilla gelato topped with espresso. And as tasty as it was, I braced myself for the bill.
I went to the bar to get the bill. Guess how much it was? THIRTY EUROS for two affogati!!!!! I’m never making that mistake again!!!
What were your worst travel moments of 2022?