Travel fails–those pesky times when everything seems to be going to hell. Your carefully planned ideal trip falls apart and you’re left trying to pick up the pieces. Sometimes it’s totally your fault: not enough research, not enough resources, traveling with the wrong people. Other times it’s just bad luck or bad timing, or just fate throwing you a little something to test your strength and passion for travel. No matter the cause, there’s always a lesson to be learned from a travel fail. And they always, always turn into amusing stories later on!
Tetris was my crack
My first trip abroad happened when I was thirteen. My mom and step-dad loaded our stuff into the car and we drove through Europe. It was a nice tour of Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Germany. It was the absolute best thing to ever happen to me (by that point), and I’ve never forgotten the places I saw or the people I met on the way. Well, mostly!
See, I wasn’t really used to such long drives. I got bored being stuck in the car for hours on end. Who cared about the scenery and the roads and whatever? I had my tetris game with me, and that kept me entertained during the long drives. My step-dad would always tell me to leave that silly game and keep an eye on the road. I didn’t listen and I thoroughly regretted it later on. When I grew up, that is. I also learned that if you keep your eyes locked on a small screen for too long in a moving car, you get sick!
My first visit of Prague Castle – I remember nothing
On that same trip, we made our way to Prague. We arrived there in the evening, found our camping site, and turned in for the night. The next day, I couldn’t eat breakfast. My head was killing me, I felt nauseated, the heat was too much to bear. We made our way to Prague Castle and it was such an effort, I wanted to cry. But I couldn’t do that in public! All I remember of that trip is the many, many stairs going up to the castle. I felt so sick, that immediately after we went to the car and my parents just let me lie there on the back seat for a while. When I finally thought I could manage it, we tried to continue our tour of the city. I made it as far as the first garbage bin where I proceeded to throw up. Yup, in the middle of the day, with tourists everywhere! I would have felt embarrassed, but I was to sick to care.
Half an hour later we made it to the old city center with its lovely Astronomical Clock. Well, that throwing up session was the absolute cure. I felt like a million bucks (especially as the migraine had gone away shortly after). I enjoyed a lovely show with some people doing tricks with huge flags. I also had the best ice cream of my life at one of the many terraces near the clock. My lesson? No matter what ails you, it will pass. And a lovely new city makes it all better.
Did I regret not really registering much of Prague Castle? Not really. The lovely afternoon and evening afterwards overshadowed everything. And I got to see Prague again as an adult and more than made up on my second attempt at visiting the castle.
Rome, Where Everything Breaks
Rome was my first trip on my own, without my parents. Well, not entirely on my own, as I had teachers and University professors watching over me, and another nine kids my age joining me. But I had just turned eighteen, I had my own individual passport, I had to take care of myself and manage my money. Also, I didn’t pay for the trip. The Ministry of Education paid for it as I was part at the country’s team for a Latin contest in Arpino.
Yeah, people, being a nerd sometimes pays off big time :D. So, we made it to Rome, our headquarters for this trip. We stayed at this lovely little hotel that was the most luxurious I’d seen (I’d only been camping before when abroad and Romanian hotels were still behind everything else ten years after the Revolution). And then everything I owned broke. A pair of shoes, my backpack and my spare shoulder bag, a top I loved… Yup, everything. I had spares for the shoes, my camera was still working, and I had some emergency funds.
While I was convinced Rome hated me, I was determined to enjoy everything. I was walking where Caesar had walked long before me! Nothing was going to stop me from enjoying this trip. Not even the five hour (no breaks) international Latin contest in Aprino! I had pizza, I had lasagna for the first time, I drank cappuccinos and even a glass of limoncello (on the house, from a restaurant that had just opened and treated all their guests to this delicious drink), and had a blast.
I did learn the importance of emergency cash, not letting bad stuff bring you down, and that nothing could make me stop enjoying my time spent travelling. I also have no pictures of my own of this trip. I mean.. I have them, in an album. Pre-digital age, people! Yup, I am old 😀
Caught in a Snow Storm in Bulgaria
We were driving back from Istanbul to Bucharest on January 1st. We left late cause I was lazy and did not wake up early enough. We entered Bulgaria and a couple of hours in, the snow storm struck. Did I mention Bulgaria is full of mountains? And that my car is a very light Peugeot 107? Yeah, it was hell. We had to take a detour, we drove through 20 centimeter thick snow in Sofia. Some idiot made a bad maneuver and I ended up on the side of the road to avoid him. I don’t know what lucky stars brought one of those platforms our way at 2 a.m. in the middle of a blizzard, but the driver pulled us out. And ripped us off. He asked for 20 euros for that two-meter pull. We had 15 euros in cash and another 50 euro bill. He took the 50… No change. Alas, we were out of the ditch and continued to drive through a blizzard for another 300 kilometers.
What I learned? That Bulgaria has some great spa hotels (stopped at one on our way back through that awful snow storm), and that my car is really not suited for snowy roads. I have winter tires and all, but still won’t drive through snow in my car. It’s just too small and light for such an endeavor.
The Missing Squirrels of Hyde Park
If you say Hyde Park, you think squirrels. I mean, it’s London, it’s a famous park, a lot of that fame coming from the squirrels… Can you imagine how excited I was about seeing them? Especially since I was visiting with my friend, Alexandra, who’d had numerous encounters with them, to the point where one of them came and pulled her hair. The little fellow must have liked her!
We get to Hyde Park on my one and only afternoon in London during that trip… And there are no squirrels. None, not even a short sighing of a departing tail as it ran away from us. There were plenty of ducks and geese though! The only lesson was that if something is famous for one thing, that’s not a guarantee you will get to enjoy it. Who knows, maybe all the squirrels were on holiday! I still enjoyed the park, even without the little buggers.
Athens and the Lesson I Never Learned
I ended up in Athens on a whim. May 1st is Labor Day in Romania. Long weekend, trips and barbecues, and so on. When I was in high school, all my friends went to the seaside on May 1st. My mom never allowed me to go because there was always some sort of fight, property damage, and scandal. I tried to spend May 1st at the seaside as an adult and as I was trying to find accommodation for me and my friends, I realized it would be cheaper to go to Athens. Gas, hotel, food, and tourist attractions in off-season Athens were about 50% cheaper than spending that long weekend in Constanta.
The fail? I was the only driver of the group. I had to drive for about 800 kilometers, from Bucharest, all the way through Blugaria, and then through Greece. There were also roadworks in Greece. Fun! 20 hours to get there and then about 26 to get back (May 1st events had a not so good impact on Athens traffic as we made our way back home). The lesson should have been to add overnight stops on long drives. Yet I failed to do that repeatedly for a quite a few trips. A 1300 km almost non-stop drive to Oludeniz a year later. Another 20 hours or so spent driving from Germany to Sibiu in Romania. Twice!
I am still working on this! So bear with me 😀
Hope you’ve enjoyed my fail stories. These aren’t the only ones, just the most vivid memories of total fails that I have. What are your travel fails? And what have you learned from them?
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