I had such a good reaction from my “Worst Travel Moments of 2016” post (where I reminded my friends, family and readers that I am the queen of travel fails!) that I thought I would do a quick recap of my worst travel fails of 2017.
When I discussed writing this post with my friends Ian and Allison over dinner last night, I wondered aloud if I would have any travel disasters to write about. Ian quickly quipped, “You’re not even a backpacker any more. You don’t even travel with a backpack! Of course you don’t have any crazy stories – it’s all luxury!” While he is half right in that I’ve changed my travel style, he was definitely wrong about me having no travel stories or fails. I am, after all, the queen of travel disasters!
Here are some of my worst travel moments of 2017 – those horrible moments or experiences that I can (almost) laugh at now but was most definitely crying about at the time.
Refused boarding on my first flight of the year
What a way to start the year! Rewind back to January 7th 2017. I had my bags packed and was excited about my 3 month adventure to Mexico, my first new country of 2017 and hopefully the gateway to my travels in Central America. I successfully flew from Cork to London and dashed across Heathrow Airport to transfer to my Virgin Atlantic flight to Cancun. I was already checked in, had my boarding card, and was ready to get the hell out of Europe.
Just as I queued up to board, the head air steward was like “How long is your holiday in Cancun?” (I was essentially the only person on the flight NOT going on a package holiday to Cancun.) I replied that I would be travelling in Mexico for a few months then going overland across Central America. She looked confused and then suspicious, and demanded to see my return ticket. “I don’t have one. I just told you, I will be exiting Mexico overland.” To cut a long story short, chaos ensued where she took out her radio and started telling ground staff to take my bag off the plane. I freaked out then and kept explaining that I am a travel blogger, I travel for a living, I always fly places on one way flights etc etc. I even had to explain to her that anyone could stay for 3 months as she kept stating tourists can only stay in Mexico for a maximum of 30 days. I even took out my laptop and showed her my blog, and made her look at all my passport stamps!!
Eventually she said I needed to book a flight out of Mexico or I would not be allowed to board the plane. And that is the story of how I randomly decided to travel to Cuba a month later – it was the cheapest flight I could find out of Cancun!
Got robbed on my birthday in Mexico
Less than 2 weeks into my Mexican adventure, I encountered what was probably my biggest travel fail of 2017. I got robbed on my birthday en route from Tulum back to Cancun. My entire bank account was emptied (apparently whoever stole my wallet went to 5 gas stations and somehow, without my pin, managed to purchase over 5,000 Euro worth of petrol. Honestly arriving at a hotel to discover your most important possessions are missing is the worst feeling in the world, and a mini panic attack turned into a never-ending flow of tears.
Luckily I was with fellow travel blogger Emily Luxton who was able to help me out and get me to the police station to file a report (she speaks excellent Spanish) and my extremely generous American cousin John, who had friends staying at a nearby hotel, gifted me money to keep me afloat. Definitely the worst birthday of all time.
Broke my front tooth on a bagel in Cozumel
It was as if my 2016 travel fails decided to come back and bite me in the ass. You might all remember my Koh Tao horror story and how I broke my front tooth. Well, turns out, eating a bacon bagel in Cozumel was just the recipe to break that poor tooth again – an action that meant I barely smiled in a single photo from March 2017 until getting my tooth properly fixed by a dentist in Ireland in July 2017.
Why wait so long? There’s nothing I am more scared of in the world than the dentist. Blame it on one very creepy dentist from my youth who still gives me the shivers!
I left my iPhone behind in Cuba
The day we were due to leave Cuba was a day of celebration. While it was one of the most fascinating places I’ve ever been, travelling to Cuba is not without its many, many challenges. As if enough things had not already gone wrong on what was supposed to be the “trip of dreams”, I somehow managed to leave my iPhone plugged in as we grabbed our bags, dashed out of our Casa and headed to the airport.
It was only about half way back to Havana, already past the point of no return (if we didn’t want to miss our flight!) that I found myself frantically searching for my beloved iPhone. An iPhone that was happily sitting on the kitchen table of our Casa in Vinales, probably with a full battery by now. EPIC FAIL.
Broke my beloved drone
2017 was the year of video for me, mainly thanks to the power of aerial photography and how my drone videos were able to showcase some of the lesser known spots in Mexico from a whole new perspective. So when my drone decided to stop working in what seemed like one of the only places in the world where I could not for the life of me find a repair shop, it was pretty devastating.
The worst part of all was DJI told me I HAD to send it back to Ireland to be fixed, as that’s where I bought it (makes no sense as a world traveller!) and that it would take up to 8 weeks to be fixed.
No drone for TWO MONTHS?! I decided to keep it with me and try get it fixed in Belize, or Aruba or Miami. What happened in reality is I never had enough days in one place to get it fixed, so ended up travelling overland across the USA for 2 months with an oversized, heavy and non functioning piece of crap drone. Hell.
Hitchhiking failures across the US
Turns out hitchhiking in the US isn’t quite as common as hitchhiking in Europe or Africa, but as I could not afford to rent a car by myself I wasn’t left with too many options.
Getting stranded on a highway was a common theme for the first two weeks of my trip. I could write an entire post about the characters who picked me up along the way.
From the old man who had lost his wife and I’m pretty sure was drunk and drinking from a sippy cup, to the man who had the same name as my Dad and said he would treat me like his daughter (nice but also sort of creepy) to the Jamaican family on holiday in Florida (there was no room in the car but they fitted me in any way) and finally the crazy Trump supporter who lives out of his van, who picked me up outside a motel on a highway, brought me to Denney’s for breakfast, gave me a surf lesson at a beach en route, asked if I wanted “a sleepover in his caravan” and then dropped me off of a US highway as he suddenly wasn’t going the same direction as me.
Even when I found a Greyhound bus going the right direction, they too seem to drop me off on the highway – resulting in one $80 Uber ride to a shitty $80 motel. Oh America, you are not good for solo travellers on a budget!!
Stayed in a haunted hostel in Savannah, Georgia
Oh Savannah – you were by far one of the most beautiful and interesting places I visited in the US, but your accommodation options for budget travellers are SEVERELY lacking. Airbnb and Hostelworld failed me, so I literally roamed the streets of Savannah praying that I might find somewhere to stay. Sounds mad, right? But my bank balance was seriously on the decline, I had another whole month of travels in the US ahead of me, and no way was I paying $200 a night to stay in an Airbnb.
I eventually came across a sort of Fawlty Towers Hotel type building, that I now know must be one of the most haunted buildings in Savannah and with an owner who could win a title for the world’s creepiest manager. I wrote all about it here, but in a nut shell: the owner locks you out of the hotel everyday from 12pm until 5pm. No one is allowed in the building during those times. What the owner, who lives downstairs, does to your bags (or underwear!) during these times no one will ever know. You can only book in person or by phone (no website, no online bookings) and the “hotel” has wall to wall framed photographs of the owners black cats. Nothing else. No family pics, no happy kids. Just framed photos of black cats, looking all creepy, as always. There were weird noises, there were no other guests and I was seriously freaked out for the 2 nights I stayed there.
Swam in someone else’s vomit in Belize
Should have known when I signed up to a Snorkelling Trip that included unlimited punch that someone would end up feeding the fish! In reality I think the person in question just has one too many Belikin Beers the night before, and a little too much sun exposure during the morning. We were at our second snorkelling stop of the day, surrounded by up 20 nurse sharks and endless shoals of tropical fish when the drama started. The poor soul got dizzy after a few minutes of swimming around in circles chasing sharks, pops his head above the surface and proceeds to projectile vomit in one of the most beautiful coral reefs in the world. The rest of the group obviously all freak out, everyone trying to get as far away from this fast spreading vomit as possible. Lovely stuff.
Stayed in a craic den hostel in Budapest
Oh Budapest, you are one drop dead gorgeous city but your party hostels leave A LOT to be desired. When the person that checks you in jokes that “staff here don’t get paid, so if you leave any food around we will eat it” and then proceeds to pick up what looks like a stale loaf of bread and start munching on it, you have to question the sort of establishment you’ve booked.
When the same guy then brings you into a rat-infested, graffiti covered, foul-smelling room nicknamed “The Anal Room” that looks like it belongs in either a horror movie or a craic den, that’s when you should run for your life.
When you’re woken by trance music blaring across the hostel building at 4 in the morning, only to find your foot is bleeding because there is ACTUAL broken glass inside your bed, that’s when you well and truly know you have checked into THE WORST HOSTEL IN THE WORLD.
Other travel fail highlights of 2017
- Taking a 23 hour Greyhound bus from Georgia to New York city. A bus that stopped at every city in every state along the way and made all passengers disembark, take their bags off the bus, wait 30 minutes then keep getting back on same bus. Combined with endless grumpy bus drivers giving out over the loud-speaker every 5 minutes at people for eating, or talking or listening to music. HELL ON EARTH.
- Waking up at 3am to drive 3 hours on scooters across Bali in an attempt to photograph Mount Agung (the active volcano hitting news headlines around the world), only to be greeted with the thickest cloud and fog cover of the year. Forgetting your wallet, Ian getting a flat tire followed by a puncture and losing each other on the way home – me with no money and no internet. Freezing cold, tired and starving. Worst day ever.
- Living in Bali during monsoon season – the rain never stops, you will get soaked every day and sometimes you will get stranded in your own villa. Add to this forever running out of gas in the most remote locations and you have yourself one miserable time. Hello floods, hello damp clothes, hello frizzy hair, hello hell.