Looking back on my travel tales from this last year (2017), I’ve had some of the most amazing experiences. However, there are always two sides to every story and travel isn’t always beautiful photographs and smooth sailing (just wait until you read about sailing Croatia). Things are bound to go wrong and get a bit messy, scary or hairy. The reality of embarking on travel is that you’re going to be challenged, whether it’s figuring out a way to communicate with locals who don’t speak your language, processing what you’re confronted with in a third-world country, or getting your head around new currencies and figuring out how to manage the tonnes of coinage you manage to collect. These challenges are what makes travelling such an enriching experience and if it were an easy ride, we wouldn’t have any funny and embarrassing or inspiring travel tales to tell when we return home.
When I lost my camera’s lens cap and blistered my feet while running through donkey poo to catch a boat in Santorini
I’d say that most people who’ve been to Santorini would reminisce about how beautiful it is there- and they wouldn’t be wrong. But when I think about Santorini I remember the time I lost my lens cap while hanging onto a donkey for dear life, before deciding donkey-back riding down steep stairs was a horrifyingly terrible idea and I could probably run faster; then getting off the donkey and actually running as fast as I could down the stairs barefooted (because I kept slipping in my shoes) through donkey poop, which despite covering almost every inch of the 587 stairs did not save my feet from the ground’s scorching wrath. Why did all of this even occur, you ask? Because I was running late to catch a boat tour to see a volcano, bathe in hot springs and watch a magical Santorini sunset.I’d got lost finding the stairs that led to the docks and, in a fluster, I got conned by a man who said donkeys were the fastest and only way down (at the time I could see no-one else walking on the stairs). In the end, I burnt my feet so badly on the stairs that I had massive, painful blisters covering the ball and heel of both feet, which meant I couldn’t leave the boat to see the volcano! I did, however, get to watch a pretty magical sunset, which was a beautiful ending to what had been a challenging and painful tour otherwise. That’ll teach me about paying for unethical tourist activities.
My card was compromised online
Pretty self-explanatory, but I used my card for numerous payments online for hostels, hotels, tours, trains and planes, and on one of these sites my card details were compromised and money began disappearing from my account. Luckily, my bank was onto this pretty quickly and the money was returned to my account. However, my card was cancelled and fortunately, I had a backup travel money card!
When the toilets in the bottom-level cabins on our sail Croatia boat became blocked and then overflowed during some wild weather
I’m going to spare you the details on this one. Don’t get me wrong my sail trip around Croatia was amazing and so much fun BUT we quickly learnt how unglamorous and icky boat life can be.
Got followed by two men and a day later harrassed in Berlin
How I wish I’d had a better experience during my time in Berlin, especially after so much hype about the city from friends who’d been previously. Unfortunately, I ran into some issues in Berlin that made me fearful for my safety and as consequence left me with memories that overwhelmed what good experiences I had there.
I went out sightseeing with another girl from my hostel one evening so we could see the infamous Brandenburg Gate lit up and proceeded to Alexanderplatz. We’d only been in Alexanderplatz for about five minutes before I noticed two men eyeing us off, which I quickly mentioned to the girl I was with. We walked away and the men followed us for the next few minutes. After we’d walked to and fro’, we realised that it seemed as though it wasn’t a coincidence that they were walking in the same direction and we decided to head for an area where there was a bigger crowd. The next crowd we came across was right outside a KFC franchise. We walked right up to the door and the large group of people were situated between us and the men who were still following us. They continued past the franchise – watching us as they walked by. Both of us were a little shaken and waited there for a good five to ten minutes before continuing straight to the train station and back to the safety of the hostel.
The next morning, I headed out for some solo exploring. I was wearing a black dress – semi-fitted, which sat below my knees and sat high on my neck- and a denim jacket (not that I should even need to mention this). I’d just stepped outside the hostel when a man who was sitting on a chair by the door mumbled something to me that I didn’t hear. I questioned, “Sorry, I didn’t hear you?” The man, probably in his 30’s, repeated: “You need to eat more.” In shock, I replied “okay…” and continued walking.
I walked about 10 minutes to the closest bus station feeling self-conscious most of the way there after hearing the man’s comment. When I reached the bus stop, I noticed two younger men eyeballing me from the convenience store, from which I would usually have bought my bus ticket but instead I decided to buy one on the bus to avoid the men. I tried my best to ignore their stares and positioned myself out of sight behind a wall. Then both of the men – one by one – walked right by me and looked me up and down as they passed by and stopped about a metre from where I was standing, where they proceeded to stare at me while exchanging looks. I remember feeling incredibly intimidated and unfortunately, all the negative attention in Berlin overshadowed my ability to feel comfortable and enjoy the destination for all that it has to offer.
Being fined for losing a road toll ticket in Croatia
A group of us rented a car in Split, Croatia to head to the beautiful Plitvice Lakes National Park. Among many other misfortunes (which we laugh about now) on our road trip that day, one, in particular, stands out. We were on our way back to Split at the end of the day, our nominated driver was handed a toll ticket upon entering a toll road. When we arrived at the next toll booth to exit the toll road, where we had to hand over the ticket to show the toll worker at which point of the road we’d entered (AKA how much our toll fee would cost), we could not find the ticket ANYWHERE. It was gone. And, then so was the €250 they fined us with…
Unknowingly racking up a $300 phone bill during the first few hours of being in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Throughout the rest of Europe, Vodaphone – my mobile phone provider – was charging me a fee of $5 a day when I was activating my Australian phone (this allows me to use all of my allowances for the one $5 fee within a 24-hour period). Of course, I was only doing this when my UK sim wasn’t working or I ran out of credit. I was on the bus to Bosnia and Herzegovina from Split, Croatia and I activated my Australian phone so that I could find directions from the bus station in Mostar to my hotel. What I didn’t realise (or even think to check) was that Bosnia is NOT one of the countries which is included in the $5 a day roaming plan. So that $5 fee quickly escalated to $300 slap in the face when I returned home to find my phone bill.
Trying to find our Airbnb in Split, Croatia and having someone yell from their balcony to beware of violent gangs
After a long day of misfortunes on our road trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park, there were four of us sharing an Airbnb for the night. We all got in a taxi, which dropped us in the middle of the road amongst tall apartment buildings and a random brick wall in the middle with a large Confederate flag mural. After seeing that image, the four of us were all pretty keen on finding the house numbered “20” and getting out of the streets as quickly as possible. We were all looking upon a glowing iPhone screen trying to figure out which direction Google maps wanted us to go when a loud voice warned us from one of the balconies above “to be careful as there is a lot of gangs in the area”. We headed to closest building and pressed the bell for number 20, which unfortunately was the wrong house. We did happen to find some luck behind that door as a wonderful and kind older lady greeted us and was generous enough to give us almost 40 minutes of her time that night to help us find our Airbnb. I don’t know if we’d have ever found it without her!
When I got stuck in a hostel shower
I have the worst luck with doors, so it was just a matter of time before I was faced with a door dilemma in Europe. I’d just arrived in Berlin and used a shower stall that was an enclosed room with a wooden door. There was no ventilation, which meant the small room quickly steamed up. I’d showered, got dressed and picked up my stuff before unlocking the door and turning the handle to exit the stall. I could turn the handle but the door seemed to be jammed! I immediately panicked because I thought that the heat and steam from the shower had expanded the wooden door. I had been stuck in there for about 10 minutes trying to pull the door open and it would not budge… so I pulled out my phone (which I was lucky enough to have tucked into of my toiletries bag) and called reception to report that I was stuck in their bathroom. The guy at reception said he was on his way to help me out, and just before he reached the bathroom I pushed the door a certain way and it opened! I guess there was a bit of a knack to the door and the heat from my shower did not, in fact, expand the wooden material. However, it did cause that particular bathroom to be closed for maintenance for the next three days…
When I left the hotel my first day in Paris wearing denim shorts
I walked out of my hotel in Paris, France soooo excited to explore the city… in my denim jean shorts. About 5 minutes into my walk down the street toward the metro, I was noticing that several people had stared at me as they walked by and a man in a car tooted his horn at me. I had been out in Paris the night before when I’d just arrived wearing my black jeans and similar shirt and had no issues.
I quickly Google’d “wearing denim shorts in Paris” and one of the first things to pop-up was something along the lines of “the only time shorts should be worn in Paris is on the fashion show runway”. Another suggested that some “Parisian’s feel that if wear shorts you might as well be naked”. On another site, I read said shorts are a dead giveaway to who are the tourists in Paris. Oops. Needless to say, I quickly ducked back to the hotel to change. I continued to use Google for daily outfit advice each time I arrived at a new destination.
Losing my passport in Budapest airport
I’m not going to lie, towards the end of my four-month stint in Europe I was becoming pretty sloppy. On this particular occasion of sloppiness at Budapest Airport, instead of putting my passport safely in my bag after check-in I decided to carry it around in my hand along with a 3,900 HUF food voucher I was given by the airport staff. I’d been sitting down, eating the food I’d bought with my voucher for about half an hour before I went to retrieve my passport and head to my gate. That’s when I realised my passport was not in my bag, or on the table, floor or seats around me. After a silent meltdown and several texts to my mum (who was back home in Australia) saying “I’ve lost my passport”, I eventually found it on the floor by the cashier counter where I’d spent my voucher.