My Epic Travel Fails (and Lessons Learnt) – PART 1

After spending hours going through my journals for some writing inspiration, one thing I noticed is how I’ve not really talked much about my travel fails on the blog (of which there are plenty, I can tell you!)

This is mainly because when I first started this blog, it was simply a way for me to document everything and keep my family informed. I was under strict instructions from dad not to publish anything that might alarm them or give my mum a heart attack.

So much to my dismay, I refrained, even though I knew some of them would make much more amusing stories.

The point is…travelling isn’t always the romanticised adventure it’s often portrayed to be. Sometimes it does throw you a curve ball and things don’t always go to plan. Sometimes you can find yourself in a predicament and not the foggiest idea how you ended up there or how to get out of it.

So now I’m back home, safe and in one piece, it feels like a fitting time to talk about it. And that’s why I have decided to introduce a new series on the blog…

Welcome to PART 1 of my epically shite (and comical)  travel fails of all time. There are those that I can look back on now and laugh. There are others that I think are just downright dumb. But even through the worst travel mishaps (whether avoidable or completely unavoidable) there are always lessons to be learnt.

The close encounter with an angry elephant 

My Epic Travel Fails (and lessons learnt)

Not said angry elephant. For demonstrative purposes only.

During a loooong and exhausting jungle trek up the hills of Chang Mai, we had come across an obstacle in our tracks. An obstacle which meant we had to cross a river, over a log to get to the other side. Only on the other side there was an elephant and its calf. Our guide told us if we were quiet and didn’t take any photos, the elephants wouldn’t notice us. So what did my friend do? Take photos. What did the elephant do? Charge at us just as I had made my way across. What did I do? Scream like a little girl which angered the elephant even more. Thankfully I got out of the situation unscathed, but I think it’s fair to say my life definitely flashed before my eyes.

Lessons learnt…NEVER piss off an elephant in close proximityDisown friends who want you killed. ALWAYS listen to your guide.

The Cambodian journey from hell 

My Epic Travel Fails (and lessons learnt)

Tuk-tuks. Gotta love em…even if they do sometimes get you lost.

They told me it would probably take around six hours (give or take) to get a bus from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. By “give or take” what they actually meant was the journey would take double that. The roads were terribly bumpy and the driver seemed to think he was on a racetrack. I was in fear for my life for a loooong 12 hours. To make matters worse, I spent a good chunk of my journey being semi-harassed by a weird passenger and witnessed an accident involving a dog and a motorcyclist.

Feeling dishevelled and half the woman I was before embarking on that journey, I eventually got to Siem Reap at stupid-o-clock. The next challenge was finding a tuk-tuk driver that knew where my hostel was, which seemed to take an eternity. After a worrying amount of time driving around dark alleyways (where my brain of course went into complete overdrive…is he going to kill me???) he dropped me off at an entirely different hostel. Turns out he didn’t have a clue at all, but lucky for me the hostel did and gave him some instructions. Of course he expected more money and too tired to argue I agreed…only to discover when I arrived at the correct hostel they didn’t have my booking. F**ksticks. Just as I was about to lose all faith in humanity…they kindly found me a room in another hostel nearby.

Lessons learnt…Sometimes things don’t go to plan. Sometimes you will have your boundaries pushed to the max. But somehow they work out in the end.

The many bank blunders in Thailand

I don’t know what it is about me and the ATMs of Thailand…but we have a very turbulent relationship. There was the time I didn’t tell the bank I was travelling to Thailand and they blocked my cards. The time I DID tell my bank I was travelling to Thailand and they STILL blocked my cards. Oh and the time I thought a cash machine had swallowed my card, so cancelled it, borrowed money off a friend, then discovered several days later that it was in my purse the entire time (I was extremely sleep-deprived ok!?!)

Not forgetting my most recent trip to Bangkok where the machine swallowed one card, rejected all my other cards, and I was almost left stranded with no way of paying for my accommodation, transport, or the visa I needed for my flight to Vietnam the next day.

After a few hours of nothing but tears and tantrums, I realised I had one remaining card that I had forgotten the pin number for. After a call to my parents at an ungodly hour in England, they somehow magically found my bank details after rummaging through all my belongings in the attic for an hour. Life savers! (sorry mum/dad…may have skirted over those minor details when I spoke to you!)

Lessons learnt…I hate ATMs in ThailandAlways carry more than one card. Calls home to your bank are VERY expensive. Sometimes making a note of your pin number IS a good idea.

The Kanchanaburi ant invasion

My Epic Travel Fails (and lessons learnt)

Moments after…with ants in our pants. Disclaimer…some ants may have been hurt in the making of this story.

After a lovely day exploring Kanchanaburi, my friend and I returned to our homely tree-house in the jungle for a cheeky night-cap. When the munchies kicked in, we found an open bag of chocolate buttons, which we’d obviously made a start on earlier that day but had forgotten about.

But when I put my hand in, an army of hundreds (I MEAN HUNDREDS) of huge ants scurried out all over our bed and invaded the entire room. We must have spent the next couple of hours frantically attacking them with our flip flops, before giving up and passing out on a bed full of ants and some nasty bites to show for it the next day. There is video evidence of us looking like crazed lunatics while doing this, but I’d be on my friend’s hit list if it ever went public.

Lessons learnt…NEVER leave unopened snacks where unwelcome creatures are likely to sneak in.

The backpacker that stole half of my clothes  

You’d think when staying in hostel dorms, there would be this unspoken rule that travellers respect one another’s belongings. And for the most part this is the case. However, you could be the unlucky one who ends up with a complete knob-head who thinks it is OK to steal your clothes from right under your nose.

I’d been staying in a room with another girl for almost a week and started to notice quite a lot of my clothes were going missing. At first I put it down to my usual scattyness, but then one night I noticed her wearing a skirt that looked identical to one I had tailored in Hoi An. It couldn’t just be a weird coincidence that it was the exact same material and the same style. After a few beers I was feeling brave enough to confront her, which then resulted in me getting a full-on slap around the face. Needless to say, we didn’t keep in touch.

Lessons learnt…Some backpackers are filthy scroungers. And stupid enough to wear the clothes they stole from you while you’re still there. 

Now it’s over to you! What mishaps have you encountered on your travels? What did you learn? Do you have any words of wisdom to pass on? Let me know below! And don’t forget to check in again for Part 2! 

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My Epic Travel Fails (And Lessons Learnt)

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  • Reply
    John Bickel
    January 21, 2016 at 2:50 am

    Since we travel on family vacations and not backpacking our problems tend to be a bit more mundane, communications problems, eating something strange, or getting lost. One glitch that stands out was nearly losing our son on the Shanghai subway, when he was 3 or 4. At the last minute we changed plans about which train to take, figuring out a different shorter route, and he got on the train we had been waiting on without us. In a fraction of a second my wife jumped through the door as it closed after him or else it would’ve been a worst-case scenario, him taking a train alone.

    • Reply
      January 21, 2016 at 8:53 am

      That must have been terrifying! Thank god for your wife’s quick reaction!

  • Reply
    January 21, 2016 at 6:31 am

    The tale about trying to find your hostel on a tuk tuk does sound stressful and frightening especially for a female solo traveller.

  • Reply
    Michelle Graham
    January 21, 2016 at 10:04 am

    Haha! Can totally relate to most of those, especially pissing off an elephant….
    My now husband and I were in South India in a national park. We went for a walk from the guest house without a guide and came across an elephant on a river bank. They work the elephants in that area and this one chains on his legs. The elephants mahout was on the other side of the river waving his arms above his head, in a don’t go near the elephant kind of way, but we took it as, can you lead the elephant back to the river?!?!?
    So my husband pulled up a handful of grass and fed him,trying to lead him like a goat to the river, all went hunky dory! So I decide to have a go and do the same…..The elephant takes one look at me and swings his trunk in the air and bats me in the guts and down the bank! I was proper thrown in the air, sunnies and camera went flying in the opposite direction. Somehow I managed to get up, very wobbly and very scared and get past the elephant. Hubbie had to then scramble down and retrieve my sunnies and camera!
    So scarey, but looking back you are like, oh my god how green can you be? Needless to say I have a healthy fear of elephants now ????

    • Reply
      January 21, 2016 at 10:16 pm

      blimey! that is terrifying! so glad you were ok!

  • Reply
    The Barefoot Backpacker
    January 21, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    … I need to make a post like this!

    It’s true that most travel bloggers post about where they’ve been, and the interesting (and fun) things that happen to them; possibly reluctant to post about the bad because there seems to be some kind of ‘unwritten rule’ to ensure that travel is seen positively and without hassle. People would be put off travelling to countries if they hear about bad things that have happened there – this being a policy that’s semi-promoted by media and home government travel advice who warn against travel if someone has the audacity to sneeze, or if two people were killed in a violent assault four years previously.

    That said, most of my ‘fails’ have been self-inflicted, either through carelessness, bloodymindedness, or just inherent stupidity, rather than malevolence on the part of other people. These include:
    * breaking a bone in my foot and not noticing for a week.
    * walking 22km down a steep hill – some 14km more than I thought – based upon researching vague and incorrect information.
    * almost getting stuck in no-man’s land between border posts in Africa with no luggage nor shoes.
    * having a gun pointed at me by a UN soldier in Hebron (Palestine).
    * technically catching the wrong bus in Uzbekistan and having a 7 hour journey take more like 20 hours.
    * having my ankles swell up as a result of a legion of mosquito bites because I’m too bloody-minded to pack insect repellent spray.
    * getting sick in Mexico City because I didn’t respect the altitude and ran around like a headless chicken as I normally do.
    * nearly getting heatstroke in Cambodia for the same reason.
    * completely missing the border between Ghana & Burkina Faso, and accidentally illegally entering the latter by a good 6km.

    Probably more besides … 🙂

    • Reply
      January 21, 2016 at 2:36 pm

      I think you have several posts to talk about there! But yeah you’re right – the majority of the time it is down to own stupidity or ignorance. It’s all a learning curve though!

  • Reply
    January 21, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    So funny! Nice of you not to stress your parents while you were away! Pinned and Stumbled this:)

    • Reply
      January 21, 2016 at 10:15 pm

      thanks lovey! i know, i’m a thoughtful daughter…even if they don’t think so most of the time!

  • Reply
    Shana Gorian
    January 21, 2016 at 6:02 pm

    Great post! Fun to hear about the crazy real-life blunders and chaos. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply
      January 21, 2016 at 10:14 pm

      thanks shana! it’s not always plain sailing!

  • Reply
    Rob Taylor
    January 21, 2016 at 7:49 pm

    Ants. Ugh. And elephants aren’t to be trifled with, FYI.

  • Reply
    January 21, 2016 at 9:53 pm

    Haha! you’ve definitely had some crazy fails! Getting charged at by an elephant sounds like the scariest one, although I certainly don’t envy you the long drive! I’m amazed another girl stole loads of your clothes and then wore them in front of you! Want a b*tch! I had some clothes stolen out of my backpack on a chicken bus…it was really annoying but I suspect probably done my guys who thought it was funny to have somegirls clothes….they were all dirty and smelly, so can’t have been that nice for them!

  • Reply
    January 22, 2016 at 12:09 am

    I took the night bus from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (and back) and it was one of the best travel things I ever did! Totally recommend it to anyone looking to travel between the cities.

    • Reply
      January 22, 2016 at 7:50 am

      Yeah I shoulda done that! To be honest I think the bus took longer because there were so many roadworks and he had to take a diversion. It was quite scenic though! Just terrifying! And long! Haha. It’s all part of the package though!

  • Reply
    Justine Beavis
    January 22, 2016 at 5:30 am

    Love your travel fails! The best part of them is the story you get to tell afterwards (well that’s how I’ve got myself through some of those moments – think of the story!)

    I have so many fails I made a ‘negative bucket list’ on my blog, but there is more to come!

    • Reply
      January 22, 2016 at 7:51 am

      Thanks for sharing Justine, I’ll take a look!

  • Reply
    January 22, 2016 at 3:18 pm

    I can’t believe she wore the skirt in front of you haha! Utterly classless.

  • Reply
    January 23, 2016 at 1:59 am

    Take it from the positive side: you are SO fashionable other people want to wear your clothes! :p
    Great post, made me laugh 🙂

  • Reply
    January 23, 2016 at 9:24 am

    A slap on your face after stealing your clothes? Some people are so insane 😡

  • Reply
    anna parker
    January 23, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    the less glamorous side of travel is always worth writing about – thank you for sharing!

  • Reply
    Andrew Weatherby
    January 23, 2016 at 9:53 pm

    Hahaha this made me laugh for a long time! It must be funny for you looking back on it. The backpacker who stole your skirt etc

    Love this

    • Reply
      January 23, 2016 at 9:58 pm

      It is kinda funny now! At the time I was not impressed!

  • Reply
    January 24, 2016 at 7:18 am

    This is reminding me to lock my backpack on my trip in Egypt next month! Glad it all turned out okay!

    • Reply
      January 24, 2016 at 8:48 am

      I was unlucky I think. Plus I left my clothes out all over the place so it was kinda my own fault.

  • Reply
    August 26, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    It’s a great idea to write also about the not-so-awesome bits that happen when you are travelling, after all often they make the funniest stories – some of the stuff I have been through is not so funny though, even when looking back (such as being kidnapped in Peru)… I might just steal your idea and flaunt it right in front of your face (sound familiar..?) ha ha ha 🙂

  • Reply
    Finding Beyond
    December 1, 2016 at 3:54 am

    I cannot believe someone stole your clothes and then wore them in front of you! You cannot make that up! I feel for you with the bank cards. Ive cancelled my card at least three times thinking I’ve lost it and then found it later!

    This are the stories you always remember from travelling aswell. They are funny and make you realise things never go to plan or are as easy as you think they are going to be.

  • Reply
    Jessie Voigts
    April 19, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    Ack! Those ants! What a crazy list…

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