It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, or traveled anywhere for that matter. I’ve been busy talking about my favorite subject; history, and earning a Master’s degree in Education. School’s out for the summer, and my degree is complete. That means one thing, time to think about travel again. It’s what I love doing in my free time more than anything else.
Everyone makes mistakes right? What about travel mistakes? Looking back over the past nineteen years of travel, I’ve made quite a few. Many of those mistakes are completely avoidable. I still make mistakes when I travel, like a few months ago when I thought it was cool enough for a hike and almost ended up with heat stroke. That’s not a good idea in the Arizona desert two miles from the nearest road.
The Scariest Travel Mistake: Having my Passport Confiscated in Jordan
The is the travel mistake that scared me this most. I still remember the tears. It was my very first trip outside the U.S. It seemed like a good idea at the time to visit all the UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Jordanian desert. After hiring a taxi driver, I somehow managed to convince two friends to go with me. Imagine planning a trip with no internet, and no guides other than a Lonely Planet book. Yeah….
Our first two visits went well. Then we decided to go to Qasr Amra. Qasr Amra is an eighth-centry UNESCO World Heritage site. Looks like fun, until we stopped at a checkpoint and a Jordanian soldier confiscated our passports. The soldier also started yelling at our taxi driver because he had a forbidden cassette player in his taxi. We didn’t have any idea what was going on. The taxi driver tried to reassure us that we would get our passports back once we passed back through the checkpoint. So much for enjoying that castle. We did get to visit the site, but we were all nervous the entire time.
We did get them back. As it turns out, we were only 60 miles from the Iraq border. That’s what happens when you travel without planning (and the internet). Knowing this fact would have saved us a lot of tears and stress.
Lesson Learned: Thoroughly research travel destinations
Missing an Excursion to Delphi Greece
oey and I do not drink at all, but that was not always the case. When I did consume alcohol, it was so infrequent that it didn’t take much for the next day to be miserable. One of my stupidest mistakes was drinking the night before an excursion to Delphi, Greece, the center of the world. Maybe I’ll get to see it one day, maybe not, but I sure wish I had went when I had the chance. It’s too easy to avoid this travel mistake completely, just say no. This is one of my biggest travel regrets. It’s also a mistake that’s easily avoidable.
Lesson Learned: Don’t drink and travel.
Cancun Rush Hour Bus Ride
Does this even need an explanation? It was the most miserable bus ride I’ve ever been on. Imagine it raining, one hundred percent humidity, hotter than the Iraqi desert, more crowded than a metro in Rome. That’s when the real fun started. At the first trickle of rain every window slammed shut. I didn’t know it was possible for carbon dioxide levels to get that high in a bus. I was getting extremely light-headed from the heat, humidity, and buildup of carbon dioxide. Every time Joey leaned over to crack the window, it almost ended up in a fight. Thankfully it didn’t. Next time I’ll research when to avoid local buses. Read all about this stupid mistake and why we hated Cancun.
Lesson Learned: Don’t just hop on any random bus.
Food Poisoning in Virginia
Oh Springfield Hilton, I’ll never forget those three days. Although the Army sent me on an official training mission, I still had time to check out the D.C. sites and museums. It was a great three weeks with my own little room at the Hilton, until I tried the breakfast buffet. Eleven years later, it’s still the sickest I’ve ever been in my entire life. The funny thing is, out of all my travels to twenty countries, I end up deathly sick in Virginia. I almost missed my flight back to Germany, but about a half a box of Imodium extra strength gave me a few hours of peace so I could board my flight. I slept they whole way back to Frankfurt, but was still sick for days after I returned. It took years to be able to eat eggs again, and even today I don’t do potlucks or buffets.
Lesson Learned: Avoid breakfast buffets at all costs.
Bronchitis in China
Rolling my own cheap tobacco cigarettes while smoking in the most polluted city in the world. Enough said. Lesson Learned: Quit Smoking (I did, twelve years ago).
Taking a Ferry to Isla Mujeres during Hurricane Earl
We thought the storm had passed us by. The ferry ride over was nice. Even walking around for a few hours was nice. Then it got dark, really dark. We should have stayed at the restaurant (even though it was outdoors, it still offered some protection). Instead, we started walking the four miles back to the ferry. Big mistake. No, huge mistake. The trip to Isla Mujeres is really the only time I thought I would die during my travels. We’re walking along the road, which is on top of a huge cliff, and the storm hit HARD.
Afters walking and crying at the same time, alternately wondering if I was going to get struck by lightning, or my camera was going to be ruined we finally had some good luck. A couple in a golf cart had pity on us and picked up up. As we were going back to the ferry lightning struck all around us (so close that I could feel my hair standing on end), while at the same time the golf cart kept getting stuck in deep water. We made it back, with the memory of a lifetime.
Lesson Learned: Just because the weather looks clear, doesn’t mean it’s clear.
The Easiest Travel Mistake Not to Repeat: Losing my Luggage in Jordan
For my first trip out of the country I packed a suitcase so big that I could barely wheel it. I’m still embarrassed about the size of that suitcase. My luggage was lost for two weeks. I’m sure the ridiculous size of the suitcase had something to do with it. I hadn’t packed so much as a change of clothes or even a toothbrush in my carry-on. Maybe that’s why that monstrosity of a suitcase was on clearance in the first place. No normal human would use it. This is such an easy travel mistake to avoid. Remember, almost everywhere has everything you’ll ever need. No need to pack it all! These days, it’s carry-on only, even for long trips.
Lesson Learned: Only pack a carry-on.
The Dumbest Travel Mistake: Alcohol Poisoning in Austria
I should have known better than to sample wine from a country vineyard in Austria. A single glass nearly sent me to the hospital. Although I wasn’t the only one that was sick, I was certainly the sickest. I almost ended up cutting my eight-week trip short, but I recovered after about a week. This travel mistake turned me off of alcohol forever. This would have been easily avoidable by saying no, thank you. There’s a fine line between balancing safety and accepting hospitality.
Lesson Learned: Don’t drink and travel (again), and be careful about drinking from a three-hundred year old wine cellar in someone’s backyard.
While you just read about some of my more noteworthy travel mistakes, I’ve done a few other dumb things. Joey got a weird rash from the jungle at Muyil, and I got pneumonia in Germany. While those things aren’t exactly mistakes, they are things that can happen while traveling. Joey’s rash came from using an off-brand insect repellant. My pneumonia probably came from being seated next to someone coughing and sneezing non-stop while being held prisoner in a plane during a three-hour ground-stop at Myrtle Beach. My instincts told me she was very sick, she told me she had “allergies.” I should have listened to my instincts and at least moved, because as soon as I got off the plane the next day, I began my five-day stay at a German hospital. Some other things to keep in mind:
- Don’t change money at an airport, arrive with a little local currency, then use an ATM for more.
- Always verbally confirm a cab fare before getting in.
- Don’t buy anything from roaming vendors on the beach in Mexico. Don’t even talk to them.
- Never wear shorts when hiking or going into the jungle, no matter how hot it is.
- Make sure you have enough water when hiking in the desert.
Would I Change a Thing?
The answer is no way. Travel means experiencing all the world has to offer. It also means accepting that things don’t always work out. Travel has opened my eyes to the world that’s out there and made me a more resilient and understanding person. Although I’ve slowed way down lately, I’ll always have the heart of a traveler. The key to overcoming travel mistakes big and small is to first accept that you’re going to make mistakes, we all do. Next, carry on and continue your trip, even after what seems like a disaster. One day you’ll look back and laugh.