The Worst Travel Mistakes I’ve Made. Ever.
Last week, some hours before Central Italy was struck by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake that killed almost 300 people and injured many more, I was struck by a sinking feeling in my stomach. It was not a premonition of the swaying I would feel in the Rome hotel room we were staying in on the night of that disaster, but a knowing that I had made, perhaps, the worst mistake of my travel life. Ever.
When you travel, there are bound to be problems, mishaps and catastrophes. Missed or delayed flights, thefts, getting lost, awful accommodation, food poisoning – these are all things that any world wanderer has to deal with at one time or another.
In the end though, all of these travel mishaps amount to battle stories to be shared with other travel warriors you might meet along the way. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they’re welcomed, but they are certainly expected and maybe even enjoyed a little bit (after the fact). After all, these “bad” experiences link travellers as much as the shared experience of visiting different places do.
I count myself incredibly lucky. Despite traveling pretty constantly for the last 10 years, and visiting 57 different countries, I’ve never been robbed, gotten seriously sick or missed a flight. Mind you, there have been plenty of close calls – a mad dash through Barcelona’s airport to catch a flight to Venice, stomach troubles in Cusco right before our 4 day trek to Machu Picchu, and money stolen out of our room in Thailand, which was luckily reimbursed by the hotel owner.
Really, when does that ever happen? Like I said. Close calls.
But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the travel mistakes that seem so beyond the realm of possibility, it’s a wonder that we continue traveling at all. And boy, have I made some big ones.
In order, from bad, to worse, to can’t believe this actually happened – our worst travel mistakes. Ever.
BAD: Misreading the departure time of our long-distance bus from Cafayate to Iguazu Falls.
I got so comfortable in the sunny, little town of Cafayate, Argentina that I kinda forgot days are divided into AM and PM. Despite knowing that the bus ride from Cafayate to Iguazu was a dizzying 24 hours, I still managed to decide that our bus could depart Cafayate and arrive in Iguazu Falls on the same day.
Yup. Big mistake. One that cost us a day in Iguazu Falls, double the already, very expensive bus fare, and a stolen iTouch. 🙁
WORSE: Landing in Malaysia for the first time on a national holiday, and realizing that I’ve somehow left all our bank cards behind, and we have no cash.
So when you travel, you usually need some money. Something I know, but seemed to forget right before our 3 week trip through Malaysia and Borneo. Because when we landed in Kuala Lumpur for the first time, and went to withdraw some money from the ATM at the airport, we couldn’t.
I’d somehow left all our bank cards behind in Seoul.
We spent our first Friday night in Kuala Lumpur hiding in our hotel room, trying to think of a way out of our mess. Banks were closed because of the holiday, and we only had a little cash with us. By some sort of grace, we found a single credit card hiding in the bottom of our bag. Now all we had to do was find a bank open somewhere in the city. And we did. In Little India. Thank the travel gods!
Sure, we might’ve had a lot of cash advance fees to pay on that trip, but at least we were able to eat! 🙂
CAN’T BELIEVE THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED: Sending our passports back to Korea from Italy, and realizing it 3 days before a flight to Greece.
I blame this one on mommy brain, and the fact that I’ve scarcely gotten more than 3 or 4 hours of sleep in a row for months. But that doesn’t make me feel any better about it. When my sister-in-law, Bora came to Rome, we figured it’d be a great idea to give her one of our suitcases to take back to Korea for us. Something about a baby and having lots of luggage.
What seemed like a stroke of genius, turned into our worst travel mistake ever, when I realized 3 days before our flight to Naxos, that I’d inadvertently sent our passports back to Korea in the luggage.
Frantic messages to Bora in Seoul to search for our passports proved my fears true. Our only option? To hope and pray that DHL would get them to us on time for our flight.
Only it got worse.
She could only find 2 passports. Agri’s passport was just…missing. Not in Korea. Not in Rome. And not in our rental car. Frantic visits to the Canadian Embassy in Rome, phone calls to our friend Louis in Seoul to find Agri’s citizenship card, and miraculously, a temporary passport was completed in just 1 day.
And then we found Agri’s “lost” passport stuck to a wallet in our backpack in Rome.
On the morning of our flight, Agri amazingly had 2 passports, and Naia and I had none. And when did they actually arrive? At almost the exact time we were supposed to take off for our flight to Greece. 🙁
C’mon. Make me feel better. Tell us all about your worst travel mistakes in the comments below.