“But that’s the wonderful thing about foreign travel, suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you have only the most basic sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross the street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.” – Bill Bryan
Bad travel experiences, we’ve all had them. You may not believe me but being a full-time traveller does have its down-sides. It’s not all amazing sunsets, exotic beaches, sampling exotic & yummy food and lie-ins every day. There are tough times. It gets very tiring (despite all those lie-ins), you are highly likely to get food poisoning at least once from all that exotic and yummy food and sometimes those exotic beaches hide scary marine creatures like nurse sharks and stingrays. But you know what, for me a full year of travelling even with those minor hardships is 10 times better than a year of working 9-5 in a dingy little office.
So here’s the ugly truth about travelling – a list of 9 not-so-nice things that happened to us while on the road. Again, in no particular order our bad travel experiences-
1. When our Halong Bay trip fell through
We booked an overnight cruise on one of the junk boats that famously cruise through the magnificent Halong Bay. We spent days deciding on the best boat for us, we walked to probably every travel shop in Hanoi and asked lots of questions and when we finally decided on ‘the one’ we started to get really really excited. It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime things that you base your whole South East Asia trip around. So, we set off that morning full of excitement and wonder. But alas a massive storm was about to hit the bay. In the end we only got to spend 3 hours on the boat. A massive disappointment.
2. The bus journey from hell (from Hue – Hanoi, Vietnam)
17 hours in total (5 hours longer than we expected) with an overflowing toilet and lots of noisy locals. Freezing cold aircon. Blaring pop music. Pretty much hell for 17 hours, okay maybe 16.5 (I think I managed to fall asleep for 30 minutes).
3. The time I got food poisoning in El Cuco, El Salvador
I don’t know how I got it – probably undercooked chicken like everyone else. But we were staying at a really remote Turtle Sanctuary/ Hostel and there were no Pharmacies nearby so I just had to ride out the constant vomiting in a sweltering room with no aircon. Read more about our time in El Salvador here
4. The time we couldn’t find an operating ATM on Livingston Island, Guatemala
And so had only $7 to our name for a full day and night. We were certainly hungry leaving on the boat the next morning.
5. That time we spent the night in a murder scene type hotel room in Guatemala City
It smelled like urine and had an unbelievably creepy vibe. I’m pretty sure it was filled with drug lords and hookers. Amusing if we were in another part of the world but not so funny when staying in one of the worlds most dangerous cities. Thankfully we were literally there for 10 hours before we had to catch a long bus the next morning.
6. When we had bed bugs in Dalat, Vietnam
Imagine happily lying on your hotel bed after a long day of sightseeing when you suddenly start feeling really itchy. Then imagine, lifting off the bed sheets and the mattress protector to find lots of teeny-tiny bed bugs. I may have let out a scream or two or three. Thankfully the hotel allowed us to change rooms asap. I’m itchy now just thinking about it.
7. The nightmare boat ride from Gili Air to mainland Bali
We both managed to catch a 24 hour vomiting bug on the island. Plus it was really stormy that morning, which made our already weak stomachs even worse. It took two hours longer than we were told. And it was jam-packed, I think I was squashed into a two-seater with three other people.
8. The time my debit card would not work anywhere in San Salvador
No money, big problem. Plus all the banks were closed for annual holidays. Thankfully the American owner of our hostel was very understanding about us not paying our bill on time. In fact we couldn’t pay our bill until three days later.
9. The time I got hit by a moped in Hanoi
If you’ve ever visited South East Asia and in particular the Vietnamese city of Hanoi you will know that crossing the road there is a death wish in itself. Needless to say it was only a matter of time before I got hit. It was only a little clip on the back of my legs. But it was still pretty scary and painful and I pouted for the rest of the night, Paul was sick to death of me.
Looking back at this list now I realise how incredibly lucky we were in comparison to some of the other travel horror stories we’ve heard along the way. And to be honest I think my travel stories would have been a lot worse were it not for my very sensible other half or ‘street smart’ as he likes to call himself. My advice to avoid any dangerous encounters is simple – don’t be stupid. I know a lot of my friends and family were worried about us travelling through El Salvador, but as long as you use common sense and don’t go looking for trouble, then trouble won’t find you.
So, my question to you is are you willing to risk your stable 9-5 job for a year on the road, are you willing to risk months away from family and loved ones, are you willing to risk putting yourself in many situations outside of your comfort zone? And then guys there’s the most dangerous risk of all the risk of not spending your life doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.
Hope you enjoyed reading (and hopefully laughing) about our bad travel experiences. I’d love to hear your bad travel experiences in the comments below.
Pssst, you can read more about our funny travel stories here