Over my last ten years of travelling, I’ve had a lot of amazing experiences, and shared most of them with you on this blog. While most of them have been positive, it wouldn’t be travelling without a few misadventures along the way. For each individual trip I go on, there will be at least one minor issue along the way that gives me a story to tell. With every five trips I go on, at least one will reliably deliver some sort of unexpected disaster.
These are the kinds of moments that make travel insurance absolutely necessary, and make me shudder with fear if I accidentally forget to renew my annual coverage in time. The mishaps that probably keep my mother awake at night while I’m away, and have parents everywhere worrying for their children (even if we are 27 years old).
Here are some of my most shocking, scary, funny, painful, interesting, and unbelievable travel moments and mishaps from the last ten years of my travelling career.
The time the volcano erupted
It was 6:00pm, and I was supposed to be leaving for the airport at 8:00pm to head to Guatemala, when I received a text asking if I had heard about the volcano eruption. I did a quick search, saw that a volcano had in fact erupted just outside of Guatemala City, and immediately opened the airline website to see if anything was delayed. It was cancelled. I remember thinking, “Thank Goodness I have trip cancellation insurance“, but had no idea what my friends were going to do if they couldn’t cancel with the airline in time. After about an hour of chaotic yelling over the phone, my friends and I decided to get together to discuss it in person, and everyone was instructed to bring their bags just in case. We decided to check the website one last time, only to find that the flight was back on. We ran out the door, raced to the airport, and caught our cancelled/un-cancelled flight to Guatemala City.
The time a guy snowmobiled off a cliff
We had just spent the night doing a little winter camping at a place in the mountains that was only accessible by snowmobile. One of the members of my group hadn’t had much experience driving one, and the route required a few sharp turns and narrow trails along mountain cliffs. One of the narrow spots must have been just a little too slanted, and his sled took the dip and went over the side. Lucky for him, he jumped off just in time and he landed on the snow right on the edge. The sled tumbled down about 50 metres before getting stuck in some trees. It was an absolute disastrous accident, but certainly could have ended much, much more badly.
The time we got a flat tire and stuck in a snow bank
They say if you don’t like the weather in Iceland, just wait five minutes. This is absolutely true. It was April and I was on a road trip around the Ring Road. On the very first day of the trip, on a bright and beautiful warm sunny day, our tire hit a pointy volcanic rock and popped, leaving us with a flat on the side of the road. A couple of days later, we found ourselves driving through a snowy wasteland, when the road suddenly turned into a giant snow bank. We were stuck. It took about an hour to find help, dig the car out, and get back on the road.
The time a snow drift buried my entire vehicle
It was early February and I was supposed to be flying to Victoria, BC in two days. That’s when it started snowing. I woke up the following morning, and not only had it snowed all night, but the wind had drifted a snow bank up over the height of my entire Jeep. I was home alone, and there was no way out. I tried to find someone to come use a plough or a snow blower, but I was on my own. I ended up having to wake up at 6:00am and spent three hours shovelling my way out of the drive, in order to make it to the airport.
The time there were spiders, spiders, spiders
I didn’t know how to label this, because there have been several terrifying spider incidents over my travels. There was the one time that three ginormous monster spiders burst out of the drain when I went to take a shower in the Mayan jungle. There was the time that I climbed into a van when the person in front of me asked “are you afraid of spiders”? I replied “yes”, turned my head, and saw a huge fuzzy tarantula curled up beside my face. My reaction was to scream and flee, and unfortunately I punched that person in the face in the process. Then there was the time that my friends decided it would be funny to lock me into the doorway of a pitch black cave with a Huntsman spider somewhere above my head.
The times I got stung by jellyfish. On the beach.
No, it’s not some intense story of deep sea diving and an encounter with an enormous jellyfish in the open water–but it sure felt like it. The first time it happened was in Australia. I was simply walking along a beach on the east coast when I noticed dozens of little blue blobs spread out across the sand all around me. By the time I realized what they were, one had made its way onto the top of my foot and burned a red spaghetti cluster of redness all over my skin. I yelled in pain, ran, and was surprised to learn later that they were baby Man’O’Wars. The second time was similar, but in Trinidad & Tobago. This time, I thought I’d be safe by staying on the dry sand, but wanted to get a macro shot of the creepy blue bubble. I began taking photos with a small lens attached to my phone, but must have gotten too close. My finger touched the jelly, and that familiar burn came back on my finger. Ouch.
The time I had an asthma attack in Trinidad & Tobago
On my first trip to Trinidad & Tobago, I was up late at night with a few friends, when I started to feel weird. It was hot & humid, and my chest was feeling heavier than usual. By the time I realized what was happening, my friend had already popped me into the car and we were on the way to the hospital. I began to freak out, because I didn’t have any travel medical insurance at the time, and was terrified that I would be paying for a visit out of my pocket. Luckily all I needed was a little time with an oxygen mask, and the visit was short. Phew.
The time Criminals were in the bushes
We had rented a house on the side of a mountain in Guatemala, which required about 180 vertical steps up through the trees. You might think this remote location would separate us from our mischievous neighbours, but over the course of five days, we ended up with people lurking in our bushes three times. The first time, we heard police sirens on the road below, and then our guard dog started barking at the trees. There were three young boys hiding from the cops after being chased out of town. The second time we heard sires again, and a full grown man went running up the hill, directly past our house. The third time, something or someone was lurking around the side of the house in the darkness, creating a lot of noise, but never revealing themselves. It was certainly unnerving.
The time nothing stayed down in Morocco
I still don’t really know what caused it (I didn’t eat anything different than anyone else, so it was probably unclean water), but there was a full 24+ hours in Morocco that felt like they were going to be my last. I woke up vomiting, and spent the rest of the day hugging toilet bowls and hunched over plastic bags on a moving bus. We drove for about 6 hours that day, but it felt more like 60. I’ve had a couple of other sicknesses abroad, but never anything as bad as this. Moral of the story: always drink filtered water.
The time I got attacked by fire ants in the jungle
If you’ve ever been bitten by one fire ant, you won’t want to imagine being bit by several. One bite feels exactly as the name depicts–fire. The initial bite burns, and starts to increase in pain around the area. I was sitting on what I thought was a bare rock at the top of a waterfall in the jungle, when I felt a light tickle on my legs. Looking down, I realized that I was covered in ants. That’s when I felt the first bite and began my graceful ant removal dance.
I’ve had plenty of other travelling misadventures along the way–uninvited snakes, swamp boat break-downs, turbulent flights, treacherous boat rides, encounters with sharks, painful sunburns, power outages, tsunami warnings, typhoon winds and much more. But, it’s the great travel moments that make these experiences worth it, and as long as you are prepared for the worst (travel insurance can help!), things will usually turn out for the best.
What’s the worst thing that’s
happened to you while travelling?