Worst Travel Moments - Europe
Traveling is great. But things can (and often do) go wrong. Here's a round-up of some of my worst/weirdest travel moments from my trip across Europe when I was 23.
Why 17-Bed Dorms Should Only be a Last-Ditch Choice - Stockholm, Sweden
Disclaimer: this one isn't the worst, so much as one of the weirdest. Picture this - it was 3 AM. Well past lights out. The large attic room of the hostel was lined with single beds a la an old-timey orphanage. After accidentally staying up too late in the hostel's lobby catching up on emails, I had tip-toed upstairs and was trying my best to go to sleep. I was a wee bit distressed that I couldn't find my earplugs, even though this was the biggest dorm room we'd encountered so far in Europe. Just as I was adjusting to the sounds of someone snoring quietly at the room's other end, I heard it. Crinkle crinkle, crunch crunch, smack smack, slurp, crinkle crinkle. The unmistakable sound of someone eating a bag potato chips with their mouths open AND LOUDLY LICKING THEIR FINGERS!?!? What the heck?!? It was virtually pitch black in that room. Also, did I mention that it was 3 in the morning? Why on earth would you sit up in bed and have a very intense snack session at that hour? Their smacking and slurping and crunching was done with a near-admirable gusto and enthusiasm. Honestly this is one of my weirdest travel moments merely because it was infuriating and perplexing. Infuriatingly perplexing. Just as I started rehearsing a rude insult in my mind to whisper at them, they stopped eating. Complete silence ensued. I imagine that the nasty, loud chip muncher probably fell right back asleep while I stayed up another fifteen minutes or so pondering their strange late-night eating habits. P.s. Emmett was sound asleep during this whole debacle.
Losing Emmett & Losing Euros - Berlin, Germany
On our 2014 Euro-trip, Emmett and I spent three days in Berlin. The last day we were there, we finished up a free alternative tour of the city and explored Kreuzberg before we realized that we had to rush back to the hostel. We'd stowed our packs in timed storage lockers that charged you an extra ten euros if you were later than the allotted time period. Not wanting to spend when we didn't have to, we figured we could jump on the U-bahn (subway) and make it to our hostel with a few minutes to spare. We already had valid U-bahn passes and quickly caught a train to a connecting station. Things were looking good: we only had one more train to catch, and if we got there on time, we'd make it to the hostel. We ran across the platform as the doors opened on the train we wanted. Emmett went one direction, I went the other. He got on the train, and I got pushed back by the crowd as the doors closed. I'd thought he was right behind me but soon realized I was wrong as his wide-eyed face pressed up against the passing window of the train as it pulled out of the station. But you see, despite the fact that it was 2014, we were a bit old-fashioned and neither of us had phones with us. So, time for quick thinking... We were both ultimately going to the hostel anyway, so I just ran up the street to catch a tram heading that way instead of waiting for the next train. Things didn't work out so well on Emmett's end. You see, I had both of our transit passes on me. The no-nonsense Berlin ticket police just so happened to be on Emmett's train and sure enough, they caught him ticket-less. They fined him 40 euros and escorted him to a vending machine, watching while he purchased a brand new pass. Making the whole point of our rush completely moot. The lesson in this experience was: don't rush just to save ten euros. And don't assume someone is with you - check first.
Stomach Flu - Prague, Czech Republic
On the 1st of November in 2014, it was a perfect sunny Autumn day in Prague. When we woke up, Emmett and I went to a vegan restaurant two doors down from our hostel. The restaurant offered vegan versions of typical Czech cuisine, and we were eager to try it. It was really great. That is, until I began to become nauseous. I hastily paid the check and bolted down the steep stairs to the ground floor, out onto the street and into the bathroom off the kitchen in our hostel. I spent the next twenty minutes sweating and sitting on the toilet while vomiting into a trashcan. Finally I felt I had enough strength to go up the stairs to our room. I spent the rest of that perfect sunny day laying in bed in between trips to the toilet. I'm not sure where I caught the flu germs, but I was sure glad to be rid of them.
Busted Camera - Prague, Czech Republic
Luckily the germs seemed to have cleared up after 24 hours, and we were treated to a few more lovely days in Prague. On our first day out and about, we went on a day-long free tour of the old city and took hundreds of pictures. Returning to our hostel that evening, I turned on our chromebook to begin uploading the day's pictures to the cloud. Only there were no pictures to be found on the SD card. Nothing! Not a one. I tried putting it back in and taking more. The picture would "save" but even on the camera's on-screen gallery, there were no images to be seen. Ok, no problem. I had other SD cards on hand. But the same thing happened every time. Not only that but it seemed like the camera was actually erasing any other images previously saved onto the SD cards. Previously full or half-full cards were coming up blank. Luckily, all of those images had already been backed up. But I had to face the facts: all of a sudden, my beloved Pentax DSLR was useless. It was just deadweight in my backpack that I couldn't get to work again. Since we didn't have phones and that had been our only camera, we decided that we'd have to pay up and buy a new, cheaper point and shoot. Ultimately, we bought a Canon that very next day with good zoom capabilities from a tech shop at the Prague Mall. We wanted to use it on our afternoon tour of the Prague castle, but it hadn't had enough time to charge and died after three shots. The next day, our last in Prague, we raced around the city, trying to take pictures of everything we'd seen on our tours and then some; so all was not lost. First world problems, am I right?
Bed Bugs - Prague, Czech Republic / Bratislava, Slovakia
Oh yes, Prague again. A beautiful place but a place tinged with just a bit of stress and anxiety. Just a day after getting the stomach flu, I noticed a few bug bites on my arms. About the size of mosquito bites, I instantly shrugged them off - blaming the unseasonably warm Autumn weather and the open windows in our dorm as the reasons I might get mosquito bites in November. But two days later, on racing-around-Prague-with-the-new-camera day, the bites were still there. And worse, they were itchier and swollen. And a few more seemed to have cropped up on my back, legs, chest, and neck. Uh-oh. A friend we made in our dorm, Charlie, said that he thought they might be bed bug bites. I said "no way!" And he said "Yeah, mate. I've never had them but I heard they're usually grouped together like that," pointing to the red cluster of bumps on my arm. I refused to think about it, honestly. I just though "at least we are leaving this place tomorrow and we can leave whatever might be biting me behind." Little did I know how wrong I was.
Two days after that, in Bratislava, it was becoming unbearable. More and more itchy bites appeared and the oldest ones were becoming impossible not to scratch. I walked into an apothecary in Staré Mesto, the old town, and merely showed one of my bite-covered arms to the non-English-speaking staff members. They gave me an anti-histamine cream but it did exactly zero to help the itching. So, back at our dorm room that night, I finally googled something I had not wanted to admit. I typed in "I think I have bed bugs." As far as I could tell, I did in fact have bites that were from bed bugs. Not only that, but they were getting worse and spreading because I'd brought them with me from Prague to Bratislava on my clothes. I honestly had known so little about bed bugs that I was floored. What to do? I emailed our Prague hostel to notify them that I'd caught them there, and then admitted what I'd done to the staff at our current hostel. They graciously washed all of our clothes, pesticide-bombed our room with our luggage in it, sent us to another hostel for free while our room aired out, and bought me a mentholated anti-itch cream from the apothek. Phew. Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of our saga because I am in fact quite allergic to bed bugs and thus, the super itchy bites stayed that way for three more weeks. Long after I'd run out of the mentholated cream and been unable to find more. Anyway... this actually has not been the only time I've encountered bed bugs. For more on how to deal with bed bugs, check out this comprehensive guide I made.
This post is actually the second in a series of posts about worst travel moments. You can read the first, about my time in Central America, by clicking right here.