As we roam around the world each year, we regularly use this blog to show some of our favorite experiences and destinations throughout the journey. We like to stay positive and inspire travel!
Yet, often what you see here and on our Facebook and Instagram feeds, is just the highlight reel.
The reality is that when it comes to travel, things don’t always go to plan. We have travel challenges. We make mistakes. We run into problems. We have bad days.
So each year we take an opportunity to reflect back on these snafus and air our grievances in what has become my favorite post to write annually. You can find the prior 4 years worth of worst moments archived here:
- Worst travel moments 2014
- Worst travel moments 2015
- Worst travel moments 2016
- Worst travel moments 2017
While some of these instances were painful to experience at the time, we hope you can have some laughs at some these misfortunes.
Most of these travel tales are more of a lighthearted collection of funny stories, frustrations, and travel mishaps, rather than anything truly depressing. There were frightening and dicey situations along the way, yet some led to happy endings and many lessons learned.
The year began as we were in the midst of our pursuing our cheap around the world cruise without flights. And many predicaments put those round the world ambitions in jeopardy.
It’s been a very fun year overall, but there was room for plenty of things to go wrong. So come have a laugh with us as we recount these short stories about when our travels became a little sh*tty.
1) Did We Get Slipped Something in Korea?
Where: Busan, South Korea
Why it made the list: Because blacking out is terrifying and this was the worst hangover ever.
The Story: If you follow our weekly #ThirstyThursday posts on our Facebook Page, then you know we’re seasoned drinkers. We like to kick back a few and particular enjoy trying beers around the world. But we can hold our liquor.
Soon after arriving to Busan, South Korea, we decided to have a night out in this beachside metropolis. So, we started the evening with just a few excellent craft beers and dinner at a local South Korean brewpub. We left the microbrewery with a good base in our stomachs and perhaps only the slightest buzz as we walked over to a nearby pub to rock out!
We had actually found a little bar hosting a local Korean band jamming out punk-pop classics from the 90’s and early 2000’s. We simply couldn’t miss this.
We hit the bar and ordered a pitcher of the local swill. That would be South Korea’s Cass beer, which is quite possibly the worst national beer we’ve subjected ourselves to. Still, it’s beer and we’ll gladly drink it.
So drink we did. Meanwhile, the band belted out hits from Green Day to Blink 182, complete with endearing Korean accents throughout. It was great fun and these young Korean guys were awesome!
This was all over the course of several hours. And with our aversion to Cass beer, we weren’t drinking quickly. It’s only a 4% beer too, so it’s nothing that’ll really affect you much.
A Metallica cover band then took the stage. It was about halfway through their set as Enter Sandman dragged on an ear-piercing decibel, we could feel that something wasn’t quite right. And it wasn’t the music.
I turned to Heather and said something like, “I’m feeling really drunk, we need to go.” She let me know the feeling was mutual and that’s about the last thing we each remember. There are blurred recollections of stumbling back to our apartment, which was a fifteen-minute walk away in freezing temperatures.
We apparently made it back safely but awoke the next day feeling absolutely miserable. It was hands down one of the worst hangovers of our lives. The strange thing is that we really didn’t drink that much over the course of what was about five hours. We maybe averaged about one beer per hour, if that, which is really nothing by our standards.
So how the heck did we get so drunk?
We’ll never really know for sure. But we think someone may have slipped something into our pitcher while we were rocking out and had our eyes on the band. If not a drug, perhaps someone thought it would be funny to add soju to our pitcher. It’s a strong tasteless alcohol that’s very popular in Korea and notorious for hangovers. That would certainly explain the after-effects we were feeling.
South Korea is an overwhelming safe country to travel. There are sketchy places in the world we’ve visited that we’d watch any drink like a hawk. But South Korea is so friendly and extremely safe. As such, we may have let our guards down, as we did not keep an eye on our pitcher.
We didn’t think such instances occur in South Korea. But, really, this could happen in any big city anywhere in the world, from New York to London to Sydney. We shouldn’t have let our guard down. We later found a warning about this occurring in Seoul and also on a more recent Reddit thread, which has helped to support our suspicions.
- It was a really fun night before things took a turn.
- Thankfully, we knew it was time to leave and quickly get back safely.
- Being immobilized with the worst hangovers ever presented us with the rare opportunity to stay in bed all day binging Netflix, which is something we otherwise never indulge in.
Lesson Learned: Don’t let your guard down, even in seemingly safe surroundings.
2) Taking a Wrong Turn in the Middle of Nowhere
Where: Wolchulsan National Park, South Korea
Why it made the list: It’s the furthest lost we’ve ever been in a remote location.
The Story: One aspect that amazed us so much about South Korea was the incredible scenery and hiking routes throughout the country. Yet during the mid-winter months of our visit, they’re rarely pursued. But we weren’t going to let a bit of snow halt our trekking ambitions!
So we set off to hike the craggy peaks of Wolchulsan National Park. It’s a somewhat remote and lesser visited national park in South Korea, that took us nearly two hours by bus then a final taxi to reach the trailhead. This already put us in a precarious position, as we were pursuing a one-way hike in which we’d really need to move quickly to complete the 6-hour trek before dark.
Being a National Park, the trails are fairly well marked, even with occasional map placards. We began our trek on what was just a short loop trail which we eventually needed to fork off onto the one-way mountain route.
We got to a fork and there was a sign in Korean with cuddly bear characters extending their hands out as indicating “stop.” Not being able to read the Korean message on this sign, we figured the bears were just letting us know to be careful and not trample the natural beauty of the trail. And so we turned onto the path, walked past the bear sign, and began ascending a mountain.
We climbed for another few hours and were a bit surprised not to see any other trail markers or signs, despite looking like a well-worn trail. We considered turning back, yet if we were to backtrack at that point, we never would never complete our one-way route before dark. We pressed on.
Eventually, we emerged from the forest high onto a mountaintop with an incredible view, a small dwelling, and absolutely no further indication on where to continue.
We were hours away from where we began, nervous about our wayward location, a little scared, and growing tired, all in the middle of nowhere. We realized our big mistake.
We had hiked up the wrong way and our GPS had confirmed as such. We were so far off course that I’m not even sure we were still in the National Park. So we determined that our best action would be to backtrack to the trailhead to embark on a longer trek in the dark to the highway, as there’d be no taxi waiting. We shuddered at the thought.
But it was right when we were about to turn back that we were astonished to see a lone Buddhist monk magically emerge from the dwelling.
Confused, he asked us in extremely broken English, what we were doing here. We explained and he quickly invited us in for some green tea. He then told us that he was here for solitary meditation and that we were the first people he’s seen in over three months!
We felt horrible that we disrupted his multi-month meditation and apologized profusely. Yet in some way, it kinda felt like he welcomed the distraction of our presence. As we sipped hot tea together on the barren floor, he offered to guide us on a “short-cut” back to the main trail so we could complete our hike. We didn’t hesitate to accept. And off we went into the wilderness of these Korean mountains!
There was no longer a trail and this very fit monk had us scaling icy mountain ridges with sheer drop-offs on either side.
It was really becoming quite a dangerous backcountry trek, as our shoes were losing grip on the ice. But the views, wow!
We were keeping an eye on the time, knowing that daylight was fleeting on this treacherous terrain. But the kind monk, being a monk, insisted on us pausing to appreciate the nature that surrounded and even providing us with some brief teachings of Buddhism.
So we stopped looking at our watch.
We were quite the trio up in the mountaintops of uncharted South Korean wilderness. It was just one of those surreal moments where we had to ask ourselves “is this really happening?”
Sometimes I don’t know how we get ourselves into these situations.
After a few hours of trekking, we finally connected back up with the trail and were going to say our farewells to the monk. But then he asked us if it would be okay he joined us for the remainder of the hike. Of course!
Although the monk lives full-time way up here in solitude, he revealed that it had been years since he made this trek from his modest temple. We felt so incredibly humbled and honored for him to lead us out of harms’ way. We let him know this. And he eventually shared with us that our presence of hiking with him brought him great joy. There was something special happening on this mountaintop in Korea, as if this rendezvous was meant to be.
As feared, night soon fell upon us. Yet the moon provided us with enough light to complete the trek down the mountain on safer terrain. Once we got to the end, we hadn’t a clue how we’d get back to the bus station, which was at least another five miles away.
It was then the monk surprised us yet again. He pulled out a flip phone, called someone, and within minutes an SUV arrived to whisk us away. We were then invited to stay the night in a nearby temple. But we had to return to our hotel that night since we were checking out early the next morning.
We were driven to the bus station and the monk made an odd request for us to stay in the car, as he went into the bus station. He then came back to the car with bus tickets he had purchased for us and adamantly refused our money. Instead, he thanked us for the joy we brought him. What a day!
Silver Lining: This happy ending is so full of silver linings. While we’ve listed this tale of getting lost as one of our worst moments of the year, it turned out to be one of the best ever.
- When you see signs in Korea with bears telling you to stop, heed their warning.
- Sometimes things are meant to be. Just go with the flow.
- Have faith in the kindness of strangers.
3) Getting Denied Entry to China
Where: Seoul, South Korea
Why it made the list: Because it was the most painstaking visa process we’ve ever had to go through and deflating to get denied.
The Story: To enter China, we needed a coveted visa. China was not only a country we had been yearning to travel through, but our passage was necessary to complete our around the world trip without flights.
There are visa processing agencies that you can pay to help procure such visas. But you’re still required to submit much of the same paperwork. So for budget travelers like us, we prefer to save our travel funds and attempt to do it ourselves.
We purposely planned to stay in Seoul for over a half month simply to take care of this travel chore, as there was a Chinese embassy here. It was quite a painstaking process to organize while abroad. It even required us to relinquish our passport to the embassy for over a week. As a result, we can’t move about anywhere without that. So we lingered in Seoul to cut our way through all the red tape.
It actually took us four separate trips to the China embassy as we were denied the visa during our first few attempts. It’s important to be excruciatingly detailed in meeting the many requirements. We thought we had it right the first time but we did not.
During countless trips to Kinkos, we ultimately printed a grand total of 154 pages of forms in addition to our detailed itinerary of the monthlong trip we planned throughout the country. Add to that the proof of all our hotel bookings and train reservations and we had enough paperwork to assemble a novel.
Yet to muddy the waters further, we couldn’t provide proof of flying into China or exiting China, since we weren’t taking any flights. We were actually taking a ferry from South Korea to China. But the ferry would not sell us tickets unless we had proof of a China visa. Meanwhile, the China embassy would not issue us a visa without proof of a ferry ticket into China. So which comes first, the chicken or the egg?
We were stuck. After much pleading, the ferry company finally sold us a ticket despite not having a visa. So we were moving forward again.
Then it seemed like they were just looking for petty reasons to deny our entry. For example, on one of the photos Heather submitted, a single strand of hair ever-so-slightly covered her ear. That was reason enough to be denied yet again, sending us back to the photo booth.
That meticulous China itinerary we had planned out and all of our paid reservations were about to be squandered by the fact we couldn’t get into the country. We had allotted extra time in Seoul in the instance this may happen, but even this buffer time was about to run out.
Ultimately our determination paid off. After many photo shots, a ridiculous amount of paperwork, $402 worth of fees, and four trips to the China embassy, we finally got our coveted visa!
Silver Lining: They gave us a visa that’s good for 10 years, so we’re relieved we won’t have to go through this rigmarole again until 2028!
- Don’t give up.
- Be meticulous and determined with difficult visa procurements and ultimately it should prove achievable.
4) Taking the Slow Boat to China
Where: Across the Yellow Sea
Why it made the list: An old run-down ferry in rough seas made for a harrowing crossing.
The Story: We literally took the slow boat to China!
During our round-the-world trip without using flights, our next logical move from South Korea was to China. And since we’re restricted from traveling across the Korean peninsula through North Korea, the only other option was by ferry.
We found a twice-a-week ferry from Incheon, South Korea that crosses the Yellow Sea, all the way to China. It’s a 30-hour trip in total, which turned out to be quite an interesting travel experience!
The ferry was surprisingly large, probably capable of holding well over 500 passengers. Yet there were only about a dozen people on board, making for an eerily quiet voyage. We felt like we had the entire empty ship to ourselves! We nearly did.
With cheap flights offering a much easier and faster way to get from Seoul to Beijing, it seems people rarely use this ferry anymore, and particularly not during the dead of winter. As a result, everything on board was completely worn down and dilapidated.
The game machines and karaoke booths had been ripped out of the wall. The few stores onboard were completely shuttered up and inaccessible. And what used to be an ice-cream shop sat under a layer of dust. It was like a ghost ship.
Thankfully, there is a modest cafeteria open, so it was on this ferry that we got our first taste of Chinese cooking and the ferry food was actually pretty good!
But while the food was on our side, the weather was not. There were rough seas on this frigid January night. At one point we actually passed through a snow storm out in the open ocean. It was unreal watching whiteout conditions flyby out the window. And it was also a little concerning.
There had been no safety briefing upon boarding our ferry. So we took it upon ourselves to do our own muster drill. In doing so, we discovered that most doors to the outside we locked shut. Thankfully, we did find some through passageways to the outside and to the life rafts, should we need them.
To sleep on the ferry, there were communal rooms with mats to lay on. But in a rare move for us budget travelers, we actually splurged on the “Deluxe Cabin.” That sure gave us a cozy room for the night.
Despite the frigid temperatures outside, the heat was on full blast inside our little cabin. Like, scorching hot!
There was no thermostat to adjust the heat. Instead, there was a layer of duct tape that could be applied to the air vent in an attempt to control the heat flow. Or remove the duct tape to let the hot air blast.
We tried to seal the vent, but the duct tape never stuck. Again and again, it came off after about 15 seconds. We were dripping in sweat as we sailed across the frigid ocean. We’d estimate the temp in our room to be near 100° f. Sweltering! So in an attempt to sleep, we propped our cabin door wide open to try letting the excessive hot air escape in the hallway.
Add to the heat issues, all the rocking from the motion of the ocean, a wide open door to the lit hallway, and it made for quite the night. But we make it safely across the Yellow Sea to walk off the ship in China!
Silver Lining: Although a bit concerning, the trip also made for an interesting and memorable travel experience of crossing the Yellow Sea.
Lesson Learned: Even though we love overland and sea travel, sometimes it just makes sense to take the flight.
5) Surviving the Most Dangerous Hike in the World
Where: Mount Huashan, China
Why it made the list: Because it was the most terrifying adventure activity we pursued all year.
The Story: The 2,154-meter high Mount Huashan is one of China’s five sacred mountains. It’s an absolutely stunning day trip to make from the city of Xian, yet it can also be an absolutely harrowing trip to embark on.
At the top of this craggy mountain is a series of skinny planks that line side of a sheer mountain cliff that has been dubbed the most dangerous hike in the world. It takes this harrowing walk along these wooden plans and tiny footholds to get to a sacred shrine.
It’s rumored that over a hundred people have died pursuing this plank walk. We couldn’t find any proof to that claim but looking at those narrow ramshackle wooden planks was evidence enough for us to believe it. It looks like a trek only for the insane. So we were game to give it a go!
This is not some organized adventure tour. There’s literally just a guy on the side of this mountain that you rent a harness. There are no safety briefing or instructions. Yet we got harnessed up, clipped into the safety wire, and proceeded across those rickety nailed-in planks.
We were literally shaking. It’s a loooooong way down! We just wanted to hug that cliffside. My palms are sweaty as I type this simply recounting the sheer terror we felt dangling on the side of this mountain.
Yet we eventually grew a bit more comfortable. Thankfully, we’ve done a bit of canyoning and via ferreta before, so were well versed on the commonsense tactics that would aid in our survival.
For example, we know how important it is to always, always, always have at least one of two carabiners clipped in. Somewhat surprisingly, we witnessed that not everyone on this crazy plank walk had the know-how to do that.
We about had a panic attack when we noticed a Chinese woman had mistakenly unclipped both of her carabiners while standing on the planks taking photos. We made flustered sign language attempts while yelling, trying to inform her about her potentially fatal mistake. She had no clue. We were eventually relieved when a friend helped her to clip back in. Those death rumors were becoming more and more believable.
Rather than attempt to describe our terror, it’s better to just watch this video showing our firsthand account of what it’s like to take the plank walk at Mount Huashan:
- We survived to tell the tale.
- It was an awesome thrill!
Lesson Learned: Use extreme caution when pursuing such dangerous activities.
6) Learning Why China Is Not an Ideal Place to Get Sick
Where: Yichang, China
Why it made the list: Because Chinese pharmacies can be a challenge to navigate.
The Story: Traveling across China during the winter, it was inevitable for one of us to come down with a cold. That happened to Heather as we were taking a local river cruise down the Yangtze River. She had an excruciating sore throat, among other symptoms.
When we disembarked in the city of Yichang, we searched around for a pharmacy to remedy this sore throat. But China practices an entirely different system of medicine that we’re accustomed to. There’s no Robitussin in Yichang!
Adapting to Chinese medicine was just one of the many cultural differences we were acclimating to. China definitely brought us a bit of culture shock, which we always welcome. The smog, the spitting, some cuisine, the glass see-through bathrooms in our hotel rooms, and an intense language barrier all proved to be eye-openers.
That strong language barrier further created challenges for us throughout our China travels. It was nearly an impossible task to decipher where the cold medicine aisle was, let alone pick out an appropriate product.
But we became so very adept at miming. It was fairly easy to communicate to the pharmacist by motioning towards the throat and indicating there was pain and soreness in this area. And the pharmacist knew just the thing that would help, providing us with a bottle of a thick brown goo that looks not too dissimilar from molasses.
Finally, relief was in Heather’s hands. And down the hatch it went!
Back at the hotel, we wondered what this substance is. So we used our translation camera app to convert the Chinese characters of ingredients.
And that’s when we learned that she had been downing a bottle of snake bile!
Silver Lining: Turns out, snake bile is indeed a decent remedy for a sore throat.
Lesson Learned: If traveling to China, come prepared with common western medicine that may not be available throughout the country.
7) We Went to the “Avatar” Mountains but Arrived to the Movie “Frozen”
Where: Zhangjiajie, China
Why it made the list: Because it derailed our travel plans and chilled our bones to the core.
The Story: You may not think of China as a snowy winter destination. We learned the hard way, that is most certainly can be!
We arrived to the famed Avatar Mountains, said to be the inspiration for the animated movie. Instead, it was more like the movie, Frozen.
We had planned for a few days of hiking but got slammed by a massive snow and ice storm. It left us snowed in without transport in this somewhat remote area of China.
The blizzard had closed all the roads out of town. No buses were operating. We couldn’t continue.
So we hunkered down and made the most of things while we were stuck there. After all, everything had been transformed into a beautiful winter wonderland!
Although the roads were closed to vehicles, we could still walk! So we found some crampons to give our shoes traction in the ice and then successfully attempted some snowy treks across the frozen terrain.
Yet our bigger concern was that we had a repositioning cruise to catch out of Hong Kong in just a few days and over 1,000 kilometers away! That was our ticket out of Asia and towards Europe. If unable to reach that, our flightless trip around the world would have to be scrapped.
Our three day stay in the area turned into four days. Then five days. Then six. The bus we had planned to take onward was not operating in these conditions. Each day they said buses may resume the following day, but they did not.
We couldn’t blame the buses for not operating. Just look at these road conditions!
We couldn’t wait anymore. We had to figure out a plan. Finally, we found a train that was operating and could take us to a town a few hours away, even though it wasn’t really in the direction of Hong Kong. But it was forward momentum nonetheless.
After checking into our hotel late at night, we discovered the heat didn’t seem to be working, nor was the hot water. We went back to the reception and found they had left for the night. So we forwent showering and were forced to sleep in our winter jackets.
Obviously, we didn’t sleep well, so we took that opportunity to get up early and walk around the beautiful riverside town of Fenghuang.
From there, we found a taxi to drive us a few hours further to a larger train hub, where we just hopped on any train we could find that got us away from the ice and snow.
A direct route to Hong Kong would have been a 1,100-kilometer journey. The route we ultimately took was about 2,000 kilometers and perhaps the most illogical way ever to reach Hong Kong, taking us far west into China in order to make it east towards the coast. But it worked.
After a few hundred dollars extra on unplanned train ticket expenses and some overnight stops along the way, we made it to Hong Kong just in the nick of time for our cruise!
- The Avatar Mountains were still beautiful under the icy conditions.
- They’ve become a popular attraction which can attract crowds, but we had these mountains nearly all to ourselves with the winter weather.
- We successfully made it to Hong Kong in time. And got to see lots of Chinese countryside along the way that we hadn’t planned on.
- When bad weather hits, make the most of a unique situation.
- Get creative to continue on with travel plans.
8) Hackers Striking Our Site at the Worst Possible Time
Where: Throughout SE Asia
Why it made the list: It’s soul-crushing to lose both travel memories and income.
The Story: It was the beginning of our month-and-a-half long cruise from Asia to Europe. We were ready to unwind from the past several months of independent travel across Asia and enjoy smooth sailing to Europe, all while discovering so many new and intriguing ports along the way.
Our first port was Ha Long in Vietnam. We were sitting in a café, sipping coffee and overlooking the scenic bay when I noticed that our website had been viciously and maliciously hacked. And we discovered this just minutes before we had to be back on the ship.
We thought everything may be gone for good. Over four years’ worth of blogs were potentially erased in an instant.
This was particularly problematic for us because this blog is partly how we make a living while traveling. The free travel guides we’ve written on this site are supported by advertising and affiliate partnerships that generate some income to not only keep the servers humming but also helps to keep us traveling. If our site is down, we’re not getting paid. This is a huge problem.
A sight that no blogger ever wants to see:
We became physically ill knowing that we likely couldn’t resolve the issue before cruising away through the picturesque bay. If we were on land, we’d have the connectivity to try as best as possible to recover the site. But during a six-week long cruise, we lacked phone and steady wifi abilities.
So in Ha Long, Vietnam, we began making phone calls to our web host to see what could be done as we boarded the ship. This went nowhere and pretty soon we were back out at sea without signal as our site remained down. Our time was up to troubleshoot and get the site back online.
We tried to enjoy our afternoon of scenic cruising through this beautiful bay, but deep down we were crushed by the evil doings of this hacker attack.
We scrapped our plans in the next few stops in Vietnam in favor of working out the issue. This wasn’t easy when docking in such industrial ports likes Chan May that is usually only visited by cargo ships.
There was literally nothing around and the nearest town, Cau Hau, was over 30 kilometers away. It took some effort to reach, but we finally made it to a café in this village that’s rarely ever visited by travelers, let alone cruisers.
Chickens clucked at our feet and many trains roared past the café, as we patiently remained on hold with cybersecurity experts on the other side of the globe. The nice lady at this bare-bones café served us bon bo soup and enough iced coffee to keep me going for days, as she graciously allowed us to linger.
It took nearly the entire day but we finally were able to get the site restored. …or so we thought.
It remained up for about a week, but a subsequent attack knocked us offline yet again. It was soul crushing.
So during an overnight port call in Thailand, we actually booked a hotel instead of staying on the ship. That allowed us to use the hotel as a temporary office to put an end to all this mayhem and secure the website once and for all.
Instead of enjoying Thailand’s beautiful beaches, we spent two days on land taking care of business. It took some effort and many added security expenses, but we eventually restored the site and transformed it into Fort Knox.
We were relieved to be sailing towards Europe knowing that our work here was finally securely protected from the evil jerks who attempted to take down our little space on the web.
Silver Lining: This was a kick we needed to get site security measures in place that we should have done long ago.
Lesson Learned: Investing in a website security platform and a secured encrypted site are essential measures to keep hackers away.
9) The French Rail Strike That Left Us Without a Ride
Where: Lyon, France
Why it made the list: It was one of the most frustrating snafus of the year.
The Story: We arrived to Lyon, France, just as ongoing rail strikes were snarling travel plans throughout the country. We had been following the situation closely, so had made alternate arrangements to drive a one-way rental car across the country, since there were many days in which France’s trains would not be operating.
Our final repositioning cruise of our round the world trip was departing from Southampton, England in a less than a week. So this left us with very little room for error in order to catch the ship. Knowing about the trains strike, we determined that a rental car would be a safe bet.
We were excited to pick up our rental car and begin driving through the Alps. So we arrived at the Europcar agency with all of our luggage and our confirmed reservation in hand, ready to go!
The Europcar agent then informed us that our confirmed reservation was canceled, and they would not have another car available for a month. Wait, what!? They can just do that?
It turns out that many other travelers had the same idea as us to rent a car to avoid the rail strikes. This caused a scarcity of rental car availability throughout the entire country. As a result, car agencies were grossly overbooking customers and then simply canceling confirmed reservations, without any notice whatsoever and no offers to help the resulting stranded travelers. We were livid at this practice and at Europcar.
How can a car agency confirm a reservation, then not hold the car? We had secured a good deal on a rental car for about €125 for the week and it was confirmed. So we called Europcar’s customer service explaining our situation and asking how they could remedy their mistake of overbooking. So the representative found a car way across town at the airport. Fine, we’ll take it!
And then she let us know the price would be €1,500. What?! No apologies, no other solutions offered. Either pay go to the airport and pay an extra €1,375 above the amount of the confirmed reservation, or remain stuck in Lyon.
We were ready to give up on the rental car entirely and find a last-minute bus anywhere out of town and towards England.
Instead, we booked an extra night in Lyon to scramble all over town, checking dozens of rental car counters, in person. A few places indeed had cars available and they were charging budget-busting prices for them, well in excess of €1,000. These price-gouging offers were a no-go for us. Our patience was running thin in France.
Eventually, we took to the web, which was offering much more attractive rates than at the very same counters we were visiting. So I made nearly 10 different confirmed reservations, all with major international car rental companies (Hertz, Thrifty, etc.), with rates around €200. We again roamed all over Lyon with our many different confirmations to see if anyone would honor them. Denied, denied, denied. It was like some sort of sick joke.
It took a lot of time and effort but finally… jackpot! One of the agencies actually had a car and was going to honor our confirmed reservation. We were almost in disbelief. She said the car was being cleaned and would be delivered an hour or so late.
Fine. But I’d believe it when the contract was signed and the keys were in my hand. An hour rolled by, nothing. Two hours later, still no car. After three hours, a car actually showed up. To our amazement, we were on the road heading into the Alps!
- At least Lyon was a very enjoyable city to be stuck in, despite the uncooperative car rental agents.
- We later filed a complaint and received compensation from one of the agencies who didn’t honor our confirmed reservation. (Europcar, the main offender, did not.)
- We got the car and were able to salvage some of our plans, albeit at a much faster pace than desired.
- Driving around the Alps was such an awesome experience that helped wipe away all the prior hassle and stress.
- Don’t use Europcar.
- When a one-way rental is a critical form of transportation, make multiple reservations to fall back on. Better yet, make a paid reservation to ensure a rental car will actually be reserved.
10) Learning What Inundación Means in Spanish
Where: Tulum and Guadalajara, Mexico
Why it made the list: Because “inundación” means flooding and we experienced it twice!
The Story: After a harsh winter in Asia that was filled with ice and snow, we were so happy to hit Mexico’s Mayan Riviera for some fun in the sun.
Our first stop was Tulum, Mexico, and we arrived just in time for back-to-back tropical waves. These storms brought so much torrential rainfall that water even flooded our hotel room. That was a first!
The flood started slowly, yet within minutes our entire floor was completely covered by rising rainwater that flowed like a river from our back patio to the front door. Crazy!
Heather quickly grabbed our luggage and electronics from off the floor as I raced downstairs to the front reception in order to report the flooding. Except, the Spanish word for “flooding” wasn’t a word in my vocabulary. I fumbled in broken Spanish that I hadn’t used in a year, basically informing him that it was raining. Yeah, that we know.
I finally was able to communicate that there was water in our room. He replied, “inundacion?” Yes, that’s now a Spanish word I’ll never forget. We raced to the room together to see what could be done and he then helped us into a dry non-flooded room.
Our first week back in the Yucatan remained waterlogged. We were temporarily stuck in Tulum town for a while, as the roadways were covered with several feet of collecting water, flooding and stalling any cars that attempted to pass.
The governor even called for a state of emergency; as a number of families had to evacuate their flooded homes and cruise ships diverted from Riviera Maya ports all that week. The waterlogged roadways eventually subsided enough, so we decided to alter our beach plans and instead drove over to the western (drier) side of the Yucatan.
Not even two weeks later, we arrived to an entirely different region of Mexico. Yet we were similarly greeted in Guadalajara by more flooding! We were enjoying a few cervezas in a cantina when it started to rain for just a half hour or so. Next thing we knew the street had transformed into a river and it was starting to come into the cantina. Aye aye aye!
Here’s how that played out:
- All was not lost during our time on Mexico’s Caribbean Coast, as we salvaged our days by checking out ruins during breaks in the rain, while retreating underground into covered cenotes when the deluge persisted.
- The cantina flood remains a memorable and funny travel experience.
- Make the most of a rainy situation.
- Flooding is better when tequila is involved.
11) It Finally Happened: Food Poisoning
Where: Yucatan, Mexico
Why it made the list: Because it was awful and the first time in 5 years of travel it’s impacted us.
The Story: For years we’ve taken great pride in eating our way across the globe and never encountering much ill-effects. There’s been a few instances traveling internationally in which our stomachs weren’t quite right. But we have never come down with a full-on case of food poisoning that knocked us down for the count. Until this year.
It took five years, but it finally happened.
We were eating our way across the Yucatan, devouring ceviche and tacos. It was a hot summer day in Merida, when we went to a café for a delicious lunch of enchiladas chased with a big cool pitcher of agua de jamaica (hibiscus tea).
We’re not convinced that was the offending meal, as food poisoning can rear itself from something eaten even days prior. Yet that was the last solid meal we would have consumed for days. And it wouldn’t be the last time we’d see those dark purple colors.
We went to visit the Dzibilchaltun ruins outside of town. And that’s when it hit us. We began touring the ancient Mayan site and something didn’t feel quite right.
Perhaps it was heat. Maybe we stuffed ourselves on too many enchiladas. Was this some sort of delayed hangover from the few beers we had the night before? Food poisoning didn’t even cross our minds.
Heather blew first. She sometimes gets motion sick in cars and my driving was a little erratic that day, so we chucked it up to that, cutting our ruin visit short.
We were staying the night at a hotel on the coast in Progreso, so we quickly began driving there while pulling over on the side of the road a few times. Then it started to hit me too.
Upon arriving to the hotel, we couldn’t even check-in due to the non-stop violent vomiting that was plaguing us in the parking lot. It was bad. Really bad. Never had we ever experienced anything like this before. Besides the constant hurling, our energy was so zapped that we could barely even walk.
We finally mustered up the strength to hold back our puke and make it to the reception. That’s when we learned that we had a nice ocean view room on the fifth floor. No elevator.
It was a cruel joke to the agony we were experiencing. All we wanted to do was get out of the heat and lay down in a bed in the cool air-conditioned room. So after a few more vomits by the car, we made the ascent to our room.
It was sweltering and the AC did not work. We argued with each other on who was well enough to go back down the five flights of stairs to the reception to report the issue. Neither of us was willing to budge. It wasn’t long before things were starting to come out of both ends and the bathroom was looking like something out of a horror film.
We fought over the toilet and alternated between the shower and garbage cans. I’ll spare you the details and just assure you that it was awful. Someone finally came to repair our air condition and we were so embarrassed by the odors that had consumed the room.
The worst of it was over in about 20 hours. Yet it took nearly three days before we could eat anything again.
- We’re lucky having lasted five years eating across Asia, Africa, and the Americas and this being our only bad instance of food poisoning.
- We did begin eating again, and despite this very unfortunate circumstance Mexican cuisine remains among our favorites.
Lesson Learned: We’re not invincible.
Cheers to a Less Eventful 2019!
Our fifth year of travel has been quite a wild ride that had its share of misfortunes but was also such a blast! We’re now putting these mishaps behind us and looking forward to the sixth year of travel ahead! We’re roaming around Ecuador at the moment and it’s only been a great start to the year so far.
So cheers to the new year with fewer travel hiccups in 2019!
And happy 2019 to you wherever in the world you may be roaming!