Since we haven’t been doing much traveling lately, I’ve been watching old videos/scrolling through photos from past travels, re-living some of my most favorite adventures from around the world. After listening to my favorite travel vloggers (Stephen &Jess Perry-Valentine from Flying the Nest) on one of their latest podcast episodes, sharing their craziest travel stories, I thought I would share mine, too. So, here is my Top 5.
Isn’t it funny how when we are living our worst stories we want to fast forward, but then years later, it’s those very stories that we want to rewind to when telling our most memorable travel tales?
5. When the GPS Dies in the U.K.
I’ve told this story on the blog before and it’s probably my most well known travel story amongst my friends. But, it’s a good one. Back in 2017, when I was living on my just barely making it by post-college salary, I budgeted every last penny to make my dream trip to England a reality. This meant that there were some things my friend Sam and I opted out of, like international cell service. On Day 6 of our trip, we rented a car to drive to the beautiful countryside of Cornwall, which is about four hours outside of London. This required that we travel by bus to the Heathrow Airport where we would pick up our rental car. Once arriving at the airport, we could not find the rental car place to save our lives. Since we didn’t have cell service, I had to run across the airport until I found an old pay phone. We finally made it to the rental car place, paid an extra $12 a day for a car GPS and packed our bags into the tiny European car. We thought that learning to drive on the left side of the road would be the most interesting part of our adventure, but we were wrong. After getting stuck in a roundabout that we didn’t know how to get out of, we finally made it on to the highway. We had plans of stopping off in Bath and visiting a few places that would have any Jane Austen fan excited. But after thirty minutes of being on the road, our GPS just straight up died. And, our plans went completely out the window. After scrambling through my backpack, I pulled out a real map and began to navigate us towards Cornwall, ladies and gents. The only reason I had packed the map was to take artsy photos with it, but in the end, it was our saving grace. In the end, we did make it to Cornwall and explored places that our AirBnB host recommended, instead. Sometimes, our plans go out the window and we end up on an even better path. There’s a life lesson in that.
4. Fake Americans in Morocco
A few years ago, a family from my church and I got to visit the beautiful country of Morocco. Marrakech, Morocco, is filled with so many different sights, smells, and people. Walking through the dusty and crowded streets, it is really easy to get lost. In fact, at one point, we did. After traveling in circles for quite some time, we finally knocked on the door of an inn, and the kind owners sat us down in their lobby, and brought out a map to help us get back to our hotel. On that particular day, before we got lost, we met a couple from America, who had been traveling through Morocco for the past few weeks. They took us to the street vendors, where we tried our first cup of freshly squeezed orange juice from the market carts (so good) and then toured the markets with us. There were so many different shoppes. From spices to clothes to rugs to pottery, Marrakech had it all. After taking a peek in one of the furniture stores, the owner showed us a few of his prized pieces. We thanked him for showing us and then walked out. It’s what happened next that we didn’t expect. Chasing us out the door, the owner and a few of his employees started yelling at us, “Fake Americans! Fake Americans!” Because we didn’t buy anything, we became known in the streets as fake Americans. There’s a first for everything.
3. Google Translate Saved our Pockets in Italy
One year, my step-sister Morgan and I traveled to Italy during Thanksgiving week. After having spent a few days in Rome, we decided to venture on down to the Amalfi Coast. We had booked a couple nights in Positano, a beautiful coastal city in Southern Italy that sits atop the cliffs. Quite picturesque. The journey getting there was more of an adventure than we had bargained for. What should have been a few hours turned into a full day’s journey. After taking a train from Rome to Naples, we boarded another sketchy train from Naples to another city down south. We had read to be careful of pick pockets, but just because you read about something, it doesn’t make you immune to it. The train was quite full, so we had to stand for most of the journey. And, then, out of nowhere, this Italian man comes up to us. Using Google Translate, he let us know that the guy standing next to us had just tried to pick pocket my step-sis. He didn’t speak any English at all and we were able to have a full on conversation through Google Translate, thanking him for letting us know. He stood by our side until the pick pocket and his friends left the train. We thanked him, alighted the train once we arrived at our stop, and waited for the bus to take us on towards Positano. While waiting, we walked around the town and were approached by a few other Italian men who were trying to figure out if we had boyfriends. I forgot what we said, but we got them off our tails. We finally got on a bus, got dropped off at the top of a cliff in Positano, and walked down the cliff towards our hotel. Seven hours later, we called our parents to let them know about our adventure. We learned that sometimes it’s not safe to be cheap. Needless to say, we booked a shuttle when we headed back to Rome. The sketchy adventure was worth it, though. As John Steinbeck once said, “Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.”
2. Arctic Freeze? Bring it on, UTAH!
This is one of those stories that I wish I was making up. But, I am not. At the end of last summer, a couple of my friends and I went on an epic national parks road trip. We started off in Arizona for a few days. Making our way to the Grand Canyon, we arrived in the middle of a heat advisory warning (100+ degrees in the shade). While hiking the trails, park rangers made sure we were staying hydrated and soaking our clothes in water at each water station. After surviving our day in the sun, we were shocked to receive a message the next day from our AirBnB host, warning us about an arctic freeze that was expected to come in from Canada that night. The problem was that our AirBnB was a tipi. Yes, you read that right. A legit Tipi, right outside Bryce Canyon National Park. When we arrived at our campsite, it not only had already reached the low 40s, but the winds had made the chill even more unbearable. We were tired, cold and hungry, yet due to the winds, we were unable to start a fire for warmth and most importantly, food. After finally getting a fire going on the grill, but having to keep our food covered the whole time due to the winds, we were finally able to enjoy some burnt chili and cornbread. We had cooked the cornbread in a cast iron, but had burnt the entire base of it. The optimist in me told the girls it can’t be that bad. After scraping off what was edible, I mixed it with some honey and invented “cornbread crumble” to sprinkle over our chili. Spoil alert: it wasn’t that great. It tasted like ash. By the time we finished dinner, we were doing everything just to stay warm. We put our cots together and wore every layer we had brought with us on this trip, which wasn’t enough. Since the Tipi was on a platform, the cold air still came in from the floor, which meant when we woke up to 26 degrees the next morning, every bone in our body felt it. We will never view a tipi the same way ever again.
1. No restrooms in the Andes
After I graduated from college, my dad and step-mom gifted me with a trip to hike Machu Picchu in the Andes Mountains of Peru. To this day, it is still my favorite adventure. The Andes Mountains is one of only two places that has made me tear up. The other being Bryce Canyon National Park, which we hiked after our dreadful night in the Tipi. When we arrived in Peru, we arrived in the small town of Cusco, at a starting elevation of 11,152 ft. You have to arrive in Peru a couple days before you start hiking, to try and avoid altitude sickness on the trails. I, unfortunately, was the only one who got hit real bad with it. On our first night in Cusco, in the middle of the night, I woke up feeling as though my head was about to explode. I got a bad case of altitude sickness and after a day’s rest, no food, and taking all the medication I could, I recovered enough to ease my way into our four day trek. I was only thankful that I didn’t get sick during the actual trek. But, that is not today’s story. Instead, today’s story takes place on Day 4 of our trek, just hours before we were to arrive at Machu Picchu. That morning, our wake up time had been at 3AM. Our porters would come to our tent doors and wake us up with a Buenos Dias and a steaming cup of Coca tea (to help with the altitude) every morning. After a few hours of hiking, I had the sudden urge to go to the bathroom. Now, I’ve no problem with going to the bathroom outside. I’ve done it plenty of times and had done it quite a few times already during this trek (one time of which I had to navigate my way by flashlight to go to the bathroom in a field in the middle of the night. good times.) The only problem was that at this point in the trek, we were hiking on the edge of a cliff and there was absolutely nowhere to go. But, I had to go real bad. I was desperate. This was an emergency. I didn’t know what else to do. So, I waited for my opportunity. As soon as the trail took a bend, I waited for my entire trek group to get far enough to where no one would see me and just went ahead and did my business on the cliff. There was another trek group behind us and I was praying they were far enough behind me. Thankfully, I finished just in time, before the other group caught up. My heart had never beat so fast. What a relief. I was able to enjoy the final couple hours of our trek and gaze at Machu Picchu with an even greater appreciation.
Well, today’s adventure has come to an end! Those are just a few of my craziest traveling experiences. I have plenty others, like the time my friend Caymbria and I got lost in Ireland at nightfall and showed up to the wrong AirBnB, or the time I fell into a ditch in Ireland while chasing sheep or the time Steph, Zach, Nick and I got caught in a summer rainstorm in Barcelona and had to walk three miles in the pouring rain with no umbrellas, jackets, nothing.
There is nothing quite like traveling. I’m so very grateful for all the adventures I’ve been blessed to go on and look forward to all the wonderful memories ahead.