Travel is rewarding, growth-inducing, filled with adventures and excitement.
Except that sometimes…
2018 was my first year of full-time travel. As amazing as it was to turn one of my passions into a year-long adventure, there were definitely cringe-worthy, and adrenaline-inducing moments along the way.
Travel is not all unicorns and rainbows, but it's these moments that can make the best memories and stories. Without further ado, let's dig into my worst travel moments of 2018, shall we?
Got Burned by a Hefty $185 Luggage Fee
I'll be the first to admit that as a Canadian, I'm spoiled with the amount of luggage I can take on a flight. We only have a few local airlines, and they aren't very strict about weighing every little thing you take on board. This is likely because they get you on the overall flight cost! Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose.
Apparently, Australian airlines are the opposite. Flights can be much cheaper, but you have to pay for checked-in luggage.
Three days into my year-long trip and still recovering from an aggressive cold AND jetlag, I was flying from Hobart to Auckland on a low-cost airline. Turns out that I was 8 kgs OVER the limit when they weighted every single one of my bags, including my camera gear bag.
I paid $70 AUS at the time of booking to check-in one luggage of 18 kg, but I didn't realize my carry-on limit was (a strict) 7 kg. Since my camera gear and laptop weigh that on their own, I had to check-in a second bag for my remaining 8 kg worth of stuff. That set me back a colossal $185 AUS – a $60 AUS penalty plus an extra $15 AUS per kg. Brutal.
To add insult to injury, the rude and condescending airline clerk took turns between laughing at me and suggesting I throw all my stuff away instead of paying the exorbitant fee. However, with 40 minutes to make it through security for my flight, this wasn't the right time to “lighten the load.”
This was my first of 5 Australian flights over 65 days, so I upgraded my luggage for the rest of the flights online. It wasn't cheap, but it was better than the excessive airport rate. Ugh.
I Got Stuck on Kangaroo Island Overnight
Oh, this was a fun night.
I was staying in Adelaide for a couple of nights so I can see Kangaroo Island for a day. The full-day tours were all sold out (hello, poor planning!) and the one available cost more than $250 AUS!
My best option was a self-tour: a 1.5 hour Adelaide shuttle to Cape Jervis ($12 AUS return) + a 1-hour ferry to Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island ($52 AUS return) + plus a car rental for the day ($85 AUS). On the way back, it'd be a ferry and shuttle back to Adelaide center and my hotel.
This was actually a glorious day. I got to see so much on the island and even caught the sunset over the Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch. My original plan was to get on the 9 pm ferry back to Cape Jervis in time for the last shuttle back to Adelaide.
However, I lost service for half the day despite my local data card (turns out, this happens a lot in Australia). I lost my Google Maps directions and ended up taking the long route back.
It's worth noting that it's called Kangaroo Island for the fact that over 1,000+ kangaroos roam the island. Australians tell it like it is.
It just so happens that kangaroos cross the road during sunset in search of food, sometimes with fatal results. There are so many dead on the side of the road, I was terrified of hitting one and totaling the car, harming both the kangaroo and myself!
The Hotel Gave Away Our Room
I usually travel solo, but one of my Australian friends joined me for a two-week road trip from Cairns to Gold Coast (yay!). We decided to stay in Airlie Beach for two nights to see the breathtaking Whitsundays Island. It's known as the best beach in the world due to its white sand and various shades of blue.
It's not fun showing up somewhere and finding out you have no place to sleep. It was Sunday night in a small town — every hotel was either closed or full.
After trying to intimidate and confuse us by yelling at us for half an hour, he offered to “help” us find new accommodation. He basically sent us to Mantra Club Croc resort he “spoke” to, but they had no idea who we were when we got there. Shocker. However, the staff at Mantra were incredibly nice and took us in, so, crisis averted. And this place was definitely an upgrade over our first one.
We had to fight to get our refund from the original hotel. He agreed to “waive” the cancelation penalty for us despite being the one to give our [paid] room to someone else. And the award for the shadiest hotel owner goes to……
My Month-Old iPhone 8 Plus Went for a Dip
This one ties in with the story above… The day after the hotel drama, we were enjoying some self-care by the resort pool and taking some golden hour pictures.
During that photoshoot, the selfie stick broke and my brand new iPhone 8 Plus slipped out of my friend's hand right in the pool. I dove in after it but despite it being “waterproof,” no amount of rice in the world could revive it. Trust me, I tried.
This not only cost me hundreds of dollars to replace, but it also taught me some serious life skills. I traveled for the next three weeks without a phone (ie. Google Maps, alarm clock, Uber or the Canon Camera app that lets me take solo photos). The struggle was real.
The silver lining was that my insurance policy with World Nomads covered all my electronics. World Nomads reimbursed me for the replacement costs, and the process was so smooth. I never leave home without insurance anymore!
Got Stuck on the Other Side of the San Francisco Bridge At Night
Did you know that it's illegal to cross the San Francisco bridge by foot after 9 pm?
Yeah, me neither….
I found this out after being close to the other side of the bridge. I didn't plan on walking the whole way but caught a killer sunset and a blood moon towering towered behind the city. A photographer's dream!
A group of us were taking photos as if our lives depended on it
This was our second warning. He instructed us to get off the bridge immediately or risk a $10,000 fine and jail time.
WHAAAAT???? Gulp. I hadn't even received the first warning!
In a panic, we all rushed to the closest side — which was not the San Francisco side. I definitely wasn't ready for a fine and jail time! It also wasn't the right time to call his bluff.
This actually wouldn't have been a big deal if I had a phone. This happened after the incident above, so all I had was a paper map. It didn't help much.
It was already past 10 pm, and I didn't have a way to call a cab or an Uber. We were also right before an underpass so taxis couldn't stop or turn back towards the city.
I thought of every solution possible. I even asked a couple taking an Uber to the city if I could chip in for the ride back to the city. They knew my phone situation, but they weren't comfortable taking a stranger in their Uber. Then, they literally got into another stranger's car – sometimes people are funny like that.
Alone and out of options, I saw flashing lights in the distance and realized they must belong to a cop or tow truck.
I was right! After learning my situation, the cop drove me to the nearest bus stop on the other side of the bridge. This was my first (and hopefully last) time in the back seat of a cop car.
It turns out, people get stuck on the other side of the bridge more than you would expect.
Alas, all ended well, and I got back to my hostel around midnight, exhausted!
Consequently, this all happened on the longest Monday of my life, which lasted for a grand total of 38 hours,
I started that morning in Sydney with a 9 am flight. 14-hours and an international date line later, I got to San Francisco at 10 am. I checked into my hostel, went for lunch and roamed a little around the city before catching the sunset from the bridge. I was a walking zombie and was hoping for an early night and got anything but!
Had a Super Cold. Twice.
This wasn't as adventurous as the others, but it was inconvenient as hell and really sidetracked my travels. Twice.
My first cold was as I was leaving Toronto for my 65-day trip around Australia and New Zealand. I had a hell of a cold that only got worse after a 5-hour flight, a 10-hour layover in Los Angeles and a 16-hour flight to Sydney.
Once I got to Australia, jet lag joined the party — lucky me! It took me about a week to recover.
My second cold hit me while I was in Romania in the dead of summer. Go figure.
After a week-long cottage-hopping trip with my family, I returned to Bucharest for a few days. The plan was to visit Bulgaria, Kosovo, and Serbia but I got so sick, I had to cancel. I ended up staying in Bucharest for an extra couple of weeks to get back on my feet.
Stuff happens, usually at the most inconvenient times!
My Friend Canceled Our Trip and I Got Stuck Footing the Bill
Every once in a while I am reminded why I love to travel solo. I knew I wanted to see Western Australia during my time Down Under and a friend of mine offered to join me and split the cost in two.
Thrilled to break up a two-month-long solo trip, I canceled all my accommodations and we booked Airbnbs that would be better suited for us. I also canceled my tour from Perth to Monkey Mia and back, and we rented a car. With six months to go, everything was good to go. There aren't as many accommodation options in Western Australia, so booking so far in advance was essential.
A couple of days before my flight to Australia, my friend canceled. I already had all my flights to and from Perth booked and confirmed the hotels and car rental. Everything else during that period sold out. I couldn't make any changes to the itinerary without losing even more money.
I didn't want to let this incident dampen my trip, so I decided to do it solo, as I originally intended. My biggest obstacle was driving on the left side of the road and being comfortable enough to do it for 1,500+ km. I ended up renting a car a couple of times while in New Zealand the month prior so I can practice. By the time I got to Perth, I was a pro!
It ended up being one of the best weeks of the trip, despite all the drama beforehand.
It was definitely a budget-buster though. Sigh.
Tornado Weather in Darwin
I was in Darwin for one night after my trip to Perth, staying at a resort near the airport.
I cabbed into town to spend the evening exploring Darwin before my flight to Cairns in the morning. While I was the cab, the sky turned yellow, purple, pink, blue and red — all at the same time. I have never seen anything like it before. It looked apocalyptic.
I sneaked in a few awesome pictures (I'm a photo opportunist after all) before the torrential downpour rained on my parade (pun intended).
Almost Got Stuck in a Flash Flood Zone During a Storm
Australia had a lot of adventures in store for me.
During the road trip from Cairns to Gold Coast, my friend and I got caught in a terrible storm. It was night, visibility was really poor, and there was a lot of traffic. To top it off, Australian roads typically have one lane going each way. I was also driving on the left side, something I had only learned to do a month prior.
The road was also very hilly, and every once in a while we would get to the bottom of a hill and see “Danger: Flash Flood” signs. Comforting.
To say it was incredibly scary, would be a severe understatement.
It was quite possibly the longest 3 hours of my life. I was so grateful and relieved when we made it safely to our hotel in Rainbow Beach! Unfortunately, I think I hit a possum during the crazy drive. RIP, buddy. He definitely had a worse night than I did.
My Drone Exploded in the Air
Okay, this was more of an unfortunate event rather than a mishap.
I added it to the list because watching $600 explode in the air and fall to pieces at your feet is heartbreaking.
The DJI Spark (aka “Baby Spark”) still works, miraculously, but it's seen better days.
I'll never know what happened, but I suspect there was a malfunction with the battery. I don't have a picture to add because, well, it exploded before I could record anything…
I Left My Luggage in Frankfurt
Halfway through the summer, I came back to Toronto for a few weeks, and then went back to Romania.
I got to the airport for my flight, I checked my luggage, went through security, and headed to my gate. Before boarding, I found out I got bumped to another flight due to overbooking.
To catch my other flight, I had to leave the gate, pick up my luggage, re-check in with another airline, and go through security again. I swear I spent the day going in and out of Pearson security gates. I wouldn't have made it all happen without the help of my AMEX Platinum and NEXUS cards.
Everything went relatively smoothly. The issue was that on my original flight, I didn't have to get my luggage until the final destination. However, the new flight reset all that. I didn't ask if this was still the case and no one told me it wouldn't be.
During my two hour layover in Frankfurt, I just passed the time. I had no reason to think that I had to leave the secure area, go through customs, pick up my bag, and re-check in before my next flight. This isn't standard.
I didn't find out about my mistake until I got to Timisoara, Romania, and my bag was waiting for me on the carousels of Frankfurt. How fun! It came on another flight a few days later, and thankfully the airport made arrangements to deliver it to me.
I did get a free flight voucher for being bumped off the flight. All in all, this was worth the effort for me despite how inconvenient it was. I love free flights.
I Got Scammed On My 10-Hour Layover in Cairo, Egypt
The gist is that I was traveling with my drone all summer and I read that they're illegal to bring into Egypt. I had booked my flight on points, from Athens to Toronto, with a 10-hour layover in Cairo. I knew private layover tours were being offered from the airport to see the pyramids.
I wasn't sure if the airline would keep my bags (and packed drone) during my layover. If I had to pick up my bags and re-check in, I wouldn't be able to enter the country, I'd have to pay a fine or I'd lose my drone.
And due to this uncertainty, I didn't buy a tour in advance. Big mistake.
I got an entry visa on my arrival in Cairo, which was simpler than I thought. I spoke to a government official and got sold the tour I got online, for about the same price.
It turns out, it wasn't the same tour at all, and I only “paid” for the driver and the guide. Something he conveniently didn't tell me.
I found this out while I was in a small room at the back of a perfume shop with my guide and the shop owner, being presented with four tour options of seeing the pyramids, all with increasingly higher prices. I only had an hour before sunset time, and I didn't want to be out at night by myself (something I avoid in all countries), so I chose the cheapest and fastest tour.
What could've been an incredible bucket list experience of seeing the pyramids at sunset, ended up being one of the most underwhelming experiences of my life.
I basically saw three small pyramids in the distance. I couldn't even see the Spinx, we were that far away! I also got severe chaffing from sitting on a camel for so long. TMI, I know.
This whole adventure cost me about $200 more than it would've had I pre-booked online.
Ironically, I didn't care about the money. I'm happy to contribute to the local economy when I travel. What annoyed me was that I wasn't told the price in advance. I felt taken advantage of and blackmailed into paying for something I thought I had already paid for. I don't like surprises along the way with more and more costs! It's stressful and untrustworthy.
I chalked it up to cultural differences and a hell of a good lesson.
Woke Up to a Flat Tire in Slovenia
My third and final road trip of the year was a 10-day road trip through Slovenia and Croatia, from Zagreb, through Slovenia, and onto Dubrovnik.
We rented a car from Zagreb airport, and our first stop was Maribor, Slovenia. It took us four hours to get there, including the border crossing and had a lovely first night in Maribor.
The next morning, we were checking out of our hotel to explore Maribor before heading to Ljubliana, and we discovered our rental car had a flat tire.
It was also a terrible time to find out we didn't have any tools in the car to actually change that tire ourselves.
Luckily, I was able to find some locals that helped us out despite not knowing English. This is one of the reasons I love traveling. Every trip restores my hope in humanity through the incredible and kind people I meet along the way.
When we finally got a hold of the rental company, they said we had to return to Zagreb to exchange the car. Our 1-hour drive to Ljubljana turned into an 8-hour detour. We had to cross the border back to Zagreb, get a new car, then cross the border to Slovenia once again and head to Ljubljana.
All this, while hoping that border patrol wouldn't question why we crossed the border three times in 24 hours. (Thankfully, they never asked us — this might be more usual than we thought!)
Despite the bumpy start, the rest of the trip went off without a hitch. Phew.
Got Sick From Dehydration – TWICE
I admit I'm not someone that drinks my recommended 2 L of water daily while traveling. I try to drink as much water as I can, but alas, I find it hard to do when I'm out and about. If you're someone that keeps up their water intake while traveling and you have tips, leave them in the comments for me because I definitely need some.
This past summer was a particularly hot one in Europe, with temperatures sometimes reaching 40+ degrees.
The first time I got really sick was in Zadar. I was exploring the beautiful old town in the afternoon. I didn't feel sick until the next morning when I could barely get out of bed, let alone hold anything down. To say I puked my guts out all day would be putting it mildly. I was out for the count for hours.
To make matters worse, we were road tripping to Trogir. My stomach settled in the afternoon when we were able to get electrolyte water, which helped keep dinner down and got me feeling better.
The second time this happened was a bit more surprising. I was in Athens before my Egypt flight I spoke about above. I got into the city late afternoon, and by the time I made it to the center for dinner, it was 8 pm. The sun was still shining, but it didn't occur to me to seek refuge in the shade this late into the evening. It turns out I underestimated the Athens summer sun.
I woke up to a repeat episode of Zadar, except this time, I was all alone. I couldn't even get myself to the store to get a bottle of water.
It was a tough day, as I barely dragged myself out of my hotel room at 5 pm to get electrolyte water and dinner. Thankfully, that did the trick, but it was an intense day.
Since then, I travel with electrolyte packs that I mix in my water every day! It was a harsh lesson to learn – twice – but now I don't leave home without them, and they've saved my ass since then!
It's been an eventful year! I had more than enough experiences that were amazing and a few that stand out as ‘mishaps.' Most of my trips have at least one. I find they add to the overall trip — not in the moment when you feel your life sucks, but after when you have a story to tell.
Have you had a travel mishap? Tell me in the comments, would love to hear your stories and how you dealt with things not going your way while traveling.