Gather ’round, children – it’s story time! Here are 6 of my most memorable travel stories that happened (mostly) off-camera.
Content warning: poop, puke, alcohol use
My first trip to Asia as an adult, I elected not to get any vaccines. Not wise.
It may be hard to believe, but I was not always the seasoned traveller that I am today. Things as simple as knowing how to sleep over the course of a 20+ hour flight were not skills that I had developed. By the time we had arrived at our first destination in Jakarta, Indonesia, I was tired, stressed, and feeling all the effects of culture shock. I also have a pretty fickle digestive system, so when you combine all these factors, the likelyhood of getting sick while travelling is pretty high.
I was very careful not to consume any tap water or ice cubes, but this level of paranoia – coupled with the fact that I definitely brushed my teeth with tap water – only exacerbated my problems and I found myself ill with diarrhea, cramps, and dehydration by the time we got to Bali, Indonesia, and most of the trip after that.
Of course, we had travelled so far and while I would have preferred to stay locked away in my hotel room, I didn’t want to disappoint my family. So, I pulled myself together thinking that I could make it through an hour of sightseeing. And I did! But once that hour was up, I needed to go – immediately.
After a frantic search, I finally found a restroom (or WC as it’s known in most of Indonesia) but of course, that familiar porcelain bowl was nowhere to be found and had been replaced… with a hole in the ground.
Now, this is no judgement against squatting toilets. Now that I know better, it’s totally fine. But keep in mind that at the time, I had no clue how to use a squatting toilet let alone what it even looked like.
With no other options, I held a position that can only be described as “sitting in an invisible chair,” praying that I wouldn’t fall into my own poop. Glam.
Once I did what I needed to do, I realized that there was no toilet paper to be found – but luckily, I had thought to bring a pack of wet wipes with me and I have never travelled without them since.
Moral of the story: Always get your traveller’s diarrhea vaccines. For Canadians, I recommend DUKORAL which works against e.coli and cholera. Just make sure to take note of how many days in advance you need to take the vaccine, and when you should renew. And pack those wet wipes. Always.
Speaking of wet wipes…
I was on my Contiki Thailand trip and we took a catamaran (a type of boat) between islands in Thailand. As we boarded, the staff handed us black garbage bags, and I knew that couldn’t be a good sign.
It was a pretty windy day and we were told to expect some turbulence on the catamaran, but within minutes of sitting down in the enclosed area at the bottom, I could tell that this was not going to be a fun ride. We started moving, and people start puking, and I knew that I had to get out of there – if I stood outside in the fresh air, there was no way I was going to get sick. And it worked! Shawna, Jenni, Casie and I congregated on the main deck and although the catamaran was rocking and we were getting splashed by waves, I was thankful to be rid of the nausea that had affected the rest of our group and passengers.
Of course, not everyone got the memo and within a few minutes, a girl came busting through the doors and puked over the edge of the catamaran. We laughed and ran to the upper deck but once we got there, I realized that some of her puke had splashed back on me. Disgusting. Luckily, I had those wet wipes.
Moral of the story: Opt for fresh air to combat sea sickness. And make sure you pack those wet wipes!
The Tightest Black Jeans
We had just wrapped our tour stop in Cologne, Germany, and had to get to our next destination. We checked out of our Airbnb, packed up our suitcases, and took the metro to the Koln Hbf central station. We definitely looked like tourists – and I have no problem with tourists as a concept, but if you want to avoid drawing attention to yourself and becoming the target of harassment or theft, it’s best to blend in.
We headed for the small elevator from the underground to the ground level and three girls follow us into the elevator. One of them tells me to turn around, because the door will open at the back. She’s right – I turn around, and just as the door is opening, one of the girls squeezes by and tries to cut in front of me. I was a bit confused because space was very tight and it’s not like we weren’t all trying to get out.
Well, as this is happening, I feel my wallet start to slide out of my back pocket. I was being pickpocketed! I quickly shove my way forward, and turn around to see the girls run away. They didn’t manage to get my wallet, likely thanks to the fact that I was wearing extremely tight black skinny jeans.
Moral of the story: Keep your wallet and other valuables to your front where you can easily access them. And skinny jeans are both fashionable and functional – who knew?
Can I Charge My Phone?
If I have a super early morning flight, I tend to prefer sleeping at the airport (or at the very least, staying there overnight). It’s also economical – why pay for a hotel room that you’ll have to vacate at 4 or 5am? It’s a pretty common occurrence – so much that there’s an entire website dedicated to it.
So I was at Heathrow Terminal 2, one of the few airports that I’ve been to that has a 24 hour cafe (shoutout to Costa Coffee) and a very nice public lounge with tables and couches. I get some work done there, and charge my phone. 3am rolls around and a pretty jacked guy comes up to me, asking if I would mind charging his phone. I oblige. I plug in his phone and set it down beside me and continue working.
It’s now 4am and I feel like I could take a quick nap. I close up my laptop and stand up to pack up my bags, but in the process, I trip over the phone cable, and the guy’s phone goes flying onto the ground.
I pick it up.
There’s a huge scratch across the front of it.
Now. In my defence, I have no idea if this scratch existed already or if I caused it. Regardless, I start to panic. Where did the guy go? What do I do with this phone? The gates aren’t open yet and I can’t just leave. So I decide to do what comes most naturally to me in that moment: I go to sleep. #stresssleeper
A few minutes into my light slumber, I can feel someone approaching me. It’s the guy.
“Thanks for charging my phone,” he says.
I start sweating. I open my eyes and see him standing in front of me. I’m about to apologize to him, and then, as he’s about to unplug his phone…
The phone drops onto the ground.
He picks it up and sees that it’s scratched.
He plays it off.
“Is your phone ok?” I ask
“Yeah, it’s fine.” He starts to walk away. “Thanks again!”
Moral of the story: When in doubt… sleep.
I Woke Up Like This
It was our last night in Bangkok on the Contiki Thailand tour, and we were at the Sofitel, a 5 star luxury hotel. The group had just had their final dinner, we were all exhausted, and fast-forward a couple hours (and tequila shots) later, I was ready to call it a night.
Well. Sort of.
I woke up naked, in a running bath. I still don’t really know how I got there. But I’m thankful that I’m still alive.
Moral of the story: Tequila and sleep deprivation are not a good mix.
I was nearing the end of a very long and exhausting tour of Europe. Sitting on a cold chair in a pretty grey, barren section of the airport, I dwelled on the negative: I was was tired, I was broke, I missed my family, and I definitely wanted to burn all of my clothes. I just wanted to get on the plane, pass out, and get to where I needed to go.
As I’m about to doze off, two British women in their mid-late 30’s approach me.
“Can we ask you a few questions?” one of them asked.
I wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone, but I also didn’t want to be rude.
Well, several questions (and laughs) later, I was so glad that these women had decided to talk to me. It turns out that they were getting ready to fly for the first time in their lives. They were nervous, excited, and I realized in that moment that I had so much to be grateful for.
Over the past four years, I’ve probably spent as much time in the air as I have on land. If I want to travel, I don’t need to save up for years, and I don’t have a limited window of time in which I can take a trip. I’m physically fit to fly, and I don’t have many responsibilities or commitments that would prevent me from leaving for an extended period of time. I can go anywhere I want to, for however long I want to. And that’s beautiful.
Not everyone gets to travel. So I will never judge someone for being too much of a tourist, or for taking too many photos. Some people go out of their way to be the anti-tourist. And if that’s how they want to travel, that’s fine! But we all have different travel styles, and what’s important is to respect that we’re all conquering our fears, making travel a priority, and getting out there to see the world.
Every time I fly now, I think of those first-time flyers, and I make a point to capture the clouds. Travel is such a special experience and I’ll never again take it for granted.
Moral of the story: Travel is a privilege, and everyone has the right to see the world how they want to.
Well there you have it! Just a few of the many memorable, outrageous, and touching travel stories that have happened (mostly) off-camera – that I could share on the Internet 😉 I’m sure you’ve got some good ones too, so let me know yours in the comments below!
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