contestsprints + posters

europa touring maps + giveaway

by Grace Bonney

Traveling is one of my favorite things to do. While my budget doesn’t allow for global travel on a regular basis, I like to use my favorite travel blogs and magazines to feel like I’m constantly immersed in new people, places and cultures. New York City is full of different things to try, but nothing comes close to celebrating a place in person and getting to experience things first-hand.

It’s with that same spirit and affection for travel that Jen and Omar from These are Things created their new series of European city maps. Inspired by an old European road-trip guidebook, they decided to apply their modern, graphic style to each city’s historic landmarks. With prints for Athens, Berlin, London, Madrid, Paris and Rome, the full set ($199 for six or $39 each) is a creative way to celebrate beautiful cities you’ve visited or maybe inspire a trip to visit them one day. And if you can watch the video above (with its accompanying Amelie music) and not want to visit Paris, you’re a stronger person than I.

Jen and Omar sweetly offered to share a set with one lucky D*S reader, and I couldn’t resist the kind offer. Not just because I wish I was personally eligible to win, but also because travel has been on my brain non-stop lately. We just finalized the D*S Book Tour cities/dates (info coming soon), and all I can think about is getting on the road and experiencing new places first-hand.

So, if you’d like to be eligible to win, please leave a comment below with your funniest travel experience story. Whether it’s sad/funny or hysterically funny, hopefully we can all enjoy each other’s stories and maybe even inspire each other to travel someplace spectacular. We’ll collect comments through the end of the day on Wednesday, and Jen + Omar will pick a favorite to be announced on Friday. Good luck and happy travels. xo, grace

*PS — Check out Jen and Omar’s sneak peek here.

Suggested For You


  • I was studying aboard in Holland. On a trip to Amsterdam, I was crossing the street, my winter coat hood blocking my peripheral vision. All of a sudden, WOMP! I was hit. By a bike. I didn’t fall, I stood sturdy. However the cyclist and the bike didn’t fair so well. He flew in front of me to the ground. He got up, yelled at me in Dutch, and when I cried “sorry” repeatedly, he HUFFED “AMERICAN!” picked up his bike, handle bars now wonky. and wobbled away. I, well I only had my friends across the street laughing at me and teasing me for the next months on end about watching out for bikes.

  • Traveling is a part of my spirit. As soon as I’ve made it home from a trip I’m planning another. I have traveled all over the world so there are too many experiences and memories to name but there is one thing that stands out in my mind. On a trip to Hawaii we had planned a helicopter tour of Kawaii. It had been raining the whole day and the people who owned the helicopter were not sure they were going to be able to take us up. Just as we got ready to leave it began to clear up. From the air we saw rainbows everywhere along with views of waterfalls and this gorgeous island. It was breathtaking.

  • My aunt, cousin and I were visiting my sister who was just finishing up an apprenticeship in Siena. We arrive in Siena in the car we rented. Miraculously find the parking garage near my sister’s apartment. We speak terribly broken and embarrassing Italian with the attendant. He smiles and says “primo piano”. We say “that sounds wonderful”. We are so excited that we’re parking in a “primo” spot. We’re exclaiming how nice everyone is and highfiving ourselves for communicating well. We tell this to my sister who says “Primo piano means first floor!”. To this day, when we want the best, we say Primo Piano!!

  • My friends and I were in Belgium in a small town, and got off the train looking for the bus stop. I went up to the train ticket person and kindly asked “Where is the bus?” He stared at me blankly and I continued to make hand motions and say “Bus? Bus?” Finally my friend whispered, “Say it in French!” “Ou est le BOOSE?” “OH! LE BUS! OUI LE BUS!” We still laugh about how that subtle pronunciation change made all the difference!

  • I recently went to Provincetown with a friend from the area and ordered an iced Dunkin Donuts coffee and the woman asked me how I wanted it made. Not a DD regular, the only thing that came to mind was “Ground and served in a cup?”

  • While traveling in Egypt, my husband and I asked to see a beautiful Mosque. After removing our shoes and wandering through halls, we came to an Egyptian style bathroom (troughs on the floor). We laughed and said no thank you and asked to see some other tile work. Our volunteer guide took us through various hallways to a door. When we opened it we found a Western toilet in a closet. He smiled so triumphantly, my husband felt he had to tip him and use the toilet!

  • After Hurricane Mitch hit central America, I accompanied my dad on a trip to Honduras to provide much-needed medical care. I was 14, and I had never driven a car in my life, but my dad decided it was time to learn how to drive. I learned to drive a diesel pick up over a deeply rutted road, fording a river on my first drive, while carrying about 10 people in the back of the truck. It was an experience I will NEVER forget!

  • My husband and I went to Madrid for our 1 year anniversary. I speak no Spanish, but we were getting by. In a fancy restaurant I ordered a dish I knew would be chicken. When it came out, it was enough to feed a family of 8. All the waiters and waitresses came out to have a laugh at my expense, and my husband called me “pollo grande” for the rest of the trip.

  • So, I have naturally bright red hair and am six feet tall. Several years ago I went to a remote city in Venezuela to help an out reach dental program. Everything was great except I ended up having to sit in the van most of the time because most of the kids had never seen a person with red hair and were completely freaked out, screaming Bruja Roja! (Red Witch) everywhere I went. Nice.

    • lynzie

      oh no! i had a friend have a similar experience in india that involved her being chased down a road by children…eek.


  • My husband and I decided to take our honeymoon before we got married. My brother was living in Paris, and we thought it would be a great opportunity to see one of the most romantic cities in the world on a reduced budget (thanks to free lodging). There was a record-setting cold snap right after we arrived, and the city was blanketed in a light layer of snow. We hadn’t packed for frigid temperatures, so we had to buy warmer layers, and the city wasn’t prepared for the snow either. Every day that we tried to do something, a different attraction was closed due to the ‘snow.’ On top of that, my brother’s studio apartment (no, not a very romantic honeymoon setting) was FREEZING. We offered to pay his heating bill to no avail, so we slept in our newly purchased winter coats and hats. It was certainly memorable, and wonderful in its own way, but I’m lobbying for a trip to Hawaii for our 10 year anniversary as a re-do – I’m not risking snow again!

  • I ran out of money in Paris and, spur of the moment, headed back to a small town near Granville to hitch a ride home to London with my landlady. Thing is I didn’t have her address or even the name of the town. It was late at night, I hadn’t called, I got in a taxi with a lovely older French man and proceeded to give him directions to where I thought the house was. I was wrong. Finally he pulled over and turned on the light so I could cobble together a sentence from my French-English dictionary. I remembered one thing about the town, “Il est un marche en Mardi!” (Grammar be damned!) He brightened considerably, took me right to the town where the market happened on Tuesday. I was able to point out the house and I was safely returned to my extremely understanding landlady.

  • My son when he was 3 tugged at my lululemon pants so hard while we were standing in line at check in at the Narita Airport, that they fell down revealing my derrière to many, many travellers.

  • I was walking to the Kyoto train station (on my way to the evening Shinkansen back to Toyko) when I was stopped by a police man who said, in English, “I am a police officer. Where are you from? Where are you going?” I became incredibly flustered and replied, meekly, “To Tokyo… I am an American.” He smiled and said, “Welcome to my country. I hope you liked Kyoto. I enjoyed practicing my English with you.”

  • I don’t even know which story to share. My experience was during a summer studying art and art history abroad in Florence, Italy. How amazing it was! A random Italian man took a friend and I for drinks and he was convinced I was the love of his life. Every where I went, he and his friend was there, chasing me down. I also had to hitch hike from Elba to some train station. How scary is that? Our roommates also ended up hitch hiking and thought they’d have to use a tube of mascara as defense. We also ended up having to sleep in the Pisa and Rome train stations due to the Pisa one closing between 4am – 8? Something like that. And the messed up schedule in Rome. Oh, and how could I forget the random Italian guy grabbing my face to kiss me multiple times!

  • Maybe not so funny, but definitely cool: on a trip to Chicago, my boyfriend & I ran into some people from Philadelphia, which is where we’re from. When we all got back, we met up with them again & we’re all still friends!

  • When I went traveling in Europe, my friends and I went to La Tomatina, the World’s Largest Tomato Fight. Long story short, I lost my friends and all my money was in my friend’s bag, we were staying in Valencia and had taken a bus to get to the fight. Not knowing where that bus was, I had to sneak on to a train and then a bus and road around hoping I’d luck upon our hotel (I didn’t know the address or anything). I ended up getting back at like 6 that night and not only looked like a tomato from the hot sun, but smelled like one too! Now, I always know my address when traveling to a new city!

  • When I was 16 years old, I travelled to Prague with a girls’ choir, and my luggage was misplaced at a stopover in Frankfurt. Being a teenager, I had not yet acquired the wisdom that I should always pack necessities in my carry-on bag, so after Day One in Prague, I did not have any more daily wear contacts or my glasses.

    On Day Two without eyesight, I attempted to find my room in the hotel by myself. As I made my way through the large hotel’s hallways, I was convinced I had found my room. I knocked on the door, but there was no answer. So, I let myself in, since the door was open. I entered the room to find two grown, shirtless men sitting on “my” bed together! Not being able to see clearly, I was confused and did not exit immediately, wondering why they were in my room.

    Luckily, a chaperone had followed me down the hall, knowing I couldn’t see, and she got me out of the room without incident.

    At the end of the tours, the choir gave little awards to some of the girls to commemorate certain events. I got the “Getting to Know You” Award.


  • In South Africa, a couple of friends and I were at an inn on a nature reserve and happened to strike up conversation with a huge Rhodesian man, who matter-of-factly informed us that he had a crocodile rehabilitation center and was best friends with the late Steve Irwin. We all laughed, thinking these were the exaggerations of a drunk African trying to entertain some Americans. However, he persisted, and we finally agreed to swing by the next day.

    Surely enough, he had a huge ranch with crocodile enclosures everywhere. He explained that he was rehabilitating them for release back into the wild. He then ushered us in, one at a time, to pet and-in my case lay on top of-a 9 foot Nile crocodile! It was terrifying, but such a unique experience!

    We never did find out if he was telling the truth about being bffs with Steve Irwin…but I wouldn’t put it past him.

  • In 1991, I travelled from my home in Manitoba to Zurich to visit a friend. I was lounging on my friend patio when her neighbour came outside. We got to talking and he asked where I was from. I said Manitoba, sure that he would have no idea where that was. To my surprise, he said “Ah, home of the Winnipeg Jets!”. Turns out he’d lived in Japan for several years and had become a huge fan of NHL hockey!

  • Three years ago, a group of university friends and I went on a summer holiday to Portugal. We were a mixed group and the balance of sexes did not quite even out, so I ended up sharing a room with my friend Ben. Now I had a crush on Ben, but spent the whole week reassuring my friends that nothing was going to happen as we’d been friends for so long. We spent afternoons, just the two of us, looking around castles, but “nothing was going to happen”. We naturally gravitated towards each other to partner up for any activity, but “nothing was going to happen”…

    On Saturday, he will move in with me and these prints would look amazing in our new flat to remind us of the adventures we’ve had so far and the ones still to come.

  • oh these are just lovely!!!!
    when i was 10 years old my parents packed us up in the car and we went driving through Eastern Europe… just months after the Berlin wall had come down. To this day, it is the most memorable trip of my life!

  • As an adult child, traveling with Mom, Dad, and the whole gang is ALWAYS an entertaining experience. The last time we ventured out into the world, we had some elevator trouble. Not being able to get the first elevator to move, we thought we must have been over the weight limit with all of our bags. We split up, some other riders joined us, and then we started going. Aiming for the 11th floor, we were surprised to end up on the 22nd – and then the 4th, and then the 17th – this went on for quite a while, bouncing up and down. Once, our elevator opened on the 12th floor, and Dad and I could just hear my sister’s voice fade behind the closing doors of their elevator: “This makes no sense! What is going on??” What we had not been told is that you needed to swipe your room key to have control of the elevator – we had just been riding them as other guests called them up and down the hotel. Eventually, we did all make it to the 11th. All the excitement, however, led to my brother’s suitcase being left in the hall and disappearing for a good deal of time – but that’s another story!

  • this is my hubs’ travel experience, but he was on his way to visit me, so i figured it counts. in university my then-bf, now-hubs was visiting me in san francisco where i was working. (we lived in the niagara region in canada at the time). it was his first time flying. he got to the gate but ‘the plane was early’ so he thought, cool, i’ll get on. So he got on. someone was in his seat, but the gentleman said he would move b/c he head a friend on the plane anyway and there was an empty seat. so he sat down in his seat. as more people started boarding, hubs kept hearing ‘minneapolis’ over the speaker. he asked the nice lady beside him “is minneapolis anywhere close to san francisco?” ummm… NO. they flagged the flight attendent who tore down the aisle to cockpit. as Hubs walked back through the little tunnel, the plane taxid away. when he got off, the woman at the desk said ‘I thougth we had one extra’. ??? I still laugh at this story all the time.

    – agata.

  • it was when me and my wife went to austin when we we’re dating. And my wife climbed on top of newspaper stands in heels to help me get a wheatpaste! amazing wife

  • I was visiting Paris with a friend. We were tired after a long day, so we sat down on the curb of a park path. I had put my purse down next to me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a hand reaching toward me. I thought I was going to be robbed so I made a grab for my purse.

    But instead of taking the purse, the man rubbed my leg, winked and walked away.

    As I said to my friend “I thought he was going for my stuff…but he just wanted the leg”

  • Love the maps! And I’ve been to 4 out of the 6 cities, so that would be amazing to win… (And it would encourage me to hit up Berlin and Athens. ;))

    Anyway, hmm, funniest story…

    In RETROSPECT, this is pretty funny:

    A good friend did a semester abroad in Spain, so I went to visit her for a week. We went to many cities, including Granada, home of the (rightfully) famous Alhambra. We were only staying one night, at a hostel up on the hill with a view of the Alhambra. When we went to check in, we got a little turned around finding it, and my friend was hot and tired and sat in the shade while I ran around trying to figure out where we were (even though she spoke Spanish and I didn’t, at least not as well). I was kind of annoyed with her for “sitting back and relaxing” while I scrambled, but we eventually found the hostel, checked in, and I got over it. We explored and had a great day. Then it was time to go back to the hostel.

    This time we found it no problem, but guess what? They had oversold. They had 2 less beds than people, and we were the last 2 back. We tried to argue that we had checked in earlier, but everyone else was already asleep. They offered to set us up with blankets ON THEIR ROOF — “Don’t worry, the weather’s great.” Yeah, that’s not what we were worried about. Needless to say, we declined their generous offer. So they made one more: they could call their sister hostel and see if it had room for us. It did, yippee!! So we followed the hostel employee through the winding, narrow white streets of Granada.

    And we followed. And we followed.

    After about half an hour of walking, my friend looked like she was going to faint — it was hot, way past midnight, and like earlier, she wasn’t feeling well. I asked our escort how much longer it was going to be. He said not much. After ANOTHER fifteen minutes, I said if it was this far away we should just take a cab. He said it was only 10 minutes from the original hostel. So I asked why we were still walking. He confessed that he was “a bit drunk” and lost.

    I could have killed him.

    Long story short(ish), we somehow managed to get a cab, which drove us IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION we were walking, and delivered us at the new hostel, where our escort promptly passed out. We took our beds, and the free breakfast the next morning, and then RAN away.

    Two days later, we realized my (22-year-old) friend had the chicken pox. That’s why she’d felt so lousy and been so unhelpful all that time.

    Then we had to find her a free clinic in Córdoba, but that’s a whole other story… :P

  • I was traveling in Uganda with a friend, and we decided to take a bus to get to Mbarara, a town in the countryside. We knew it would be a long ride, but we hadn’t counted on the fact that Ugandans often travel with homegrown livestock to give as wedding gifts — we ended up with several live chickens tied up sitting right under our seats! Every time the bus hit a pothole (which was often), the poor birds would slide into our feet and we’d have to gently push them back. On one particularly bumpy segment, my friend’s journal fell off the seat and landed squarely in a pile of, well, chicken poop. My response? “Knowing your writing, it looks like those chickens make pretty good literature critics!”

  • My husband and I went to Costa Rica for our honeymoon. We stayed at an all-inclusive and mostly stayed at the resort, but the 1 excursion we decided to do was taking ATVs to a zipline through the jungle. The trip there and the zipline was fun and rather uneventful. Downpours started on the way back. We decided to rough out part of it and went puddle-jumping with the ATVs through the mud of the Costa Rican jungle. The rain got so heavy that our tour guide decided we should take refuge in a local bar where we were the only patrons. We got to take in some local flavor (YUM!) and got more than our money’s worth on the excursion. After ATV puddle-jumping back to the starting point, we needed to get hosed off before we could head back to the resort.

  • My parents and I went to Morocco for a few weeks. My mom hit her head on everything. Every time she got out of the van ::wack!!::, low wall in a kasba ::wack!!::, on everything. She was so accident prone that trip that after almost getting run over by a mule (I can still hear the man yelling “ATTENCION!!!”) our guide would not let her out of her sight. We went to see the cataras (old water tunnels) and our guide would not let go of my mother’s arm and would not let her anywhere near the hole that led to the tunnel. My pops and I thought it was hilarious and my mom couldn’t really blame her.

  • Sometime after my arrival in France my boyfriend and i decide to take along a friend and his mom to his parents house for a long weekend. His grandmother lives with them and i have to say his grandma as a hell of a character! .We where sitting down in the garden having some breakfast all together and my friends mom( who’s mexican by the way,they both are) was talking to the dog who was just staring at us in the table to see if he could get a bite, well she talked in spanish of course ,she did not know french when all of the sudden small eyes Alix( thats my boyfriends grandma) said: THE DOG DOESNT TALK SPANISH! as she became really red and here eyes almost falling out of its orbits jajaaj; so yes we laughed our tears out and of course grandma got mad!

  • Unfortunately, we all know Americans don’t get the best rap while traveling abroad. I’ve always thought I’d done a good job of being respectful of culture and patient while traveling, however while on a trip to Paris with my boyfriend a freak hail storm hit and literally golf-sized hail balls were falling. My fiance didn’t take to keen that you could only catch cabs at cab stops and as our umbrella was flipping inside out, he started beating the sidewalk with it while screaming some very choice American words. Oh and we were walking by a very chic cafe where all of the composed Parisians stared at us in horror:(

  • Many years ago, I travelled to Europe with a friend. I believe we were in Venice at the time and we decided to take some pictures. All of the sudden, this husky handsome Italian man picked me up and gave me a kiss on the cheek and told my friend to take a picture! I will never forget that moment.

  • on my first major trip with my husband (three week long honeymoon) we were on the bus to the paris airport to return home… and when we were getting off the bus at our terminal, i was just stepping down the steps when the bus doors closed and the bus left my husband on the sidewalk and i was on the bus still! i panicked and yelled at the bus driver to stop but of course she “didn’t speak english” but clearly could see i was in distress. luckily, once i was able to get off at the next stop, my husband and i had read each others minds to just walk towards each other. and we found each other… was freaky then, now it’s almost funny three years later.

  • “Ahhh, another day in paradise…” These were the words going through my head as I looked out at the amazing vistas of the Himalayas. I was showering in an “open and shared” shower at the “resort” I booked… Resort of course meaning there was a mattress in my tent.. but I digress. As I was shampooing my hair and thinking of how incredible my trip to Nepal had been, I realized there were eyes from the adjacent mountain looking back at me. My “isn’t this amazing” quickly turned to “so there are men who are pigs everywhere”. I decided to carry on with my shower and not to let this peeping Tom ruin my mood. I did, however, keep an eye on this seedy fellow… and that’s when I noticed that he was a fairly hairy man. Not only was he a bit on the hairy side, but he also had what looked like a tail. Yup – it turns out that my peeping Tom was more of a peeping Macaque. Telling the story over dinner I was told that yes, there is indeed a large male monkey that enjoyed watching women shower! Sure enough, my hairy primate friend was there most mornings enjoying the view as I was doing the same! I’m pretty sure I had the better deal.

  • while in Venice i had the opportunity to stay in a gorgeous yet confusingly laid out hotel. long story short i got lost.. went through one too many doors and ended up locked in a private courtyard that’s only open door was through the kitchen of a mcdonalds. though I got a lot of questionable stares as i walked past the people working in the kitchen – i was glad to be out… until i realized i had traveled about 4 blocks from the hotel entrance during my adventure!

  • After 3 wonderful days in Athens, my friend and i decided to take the subway or train to the airport. All seemed to be going well until the train stopped at a station for quite a long time and it seemed like EVERYONE but us got off. We wondered what was going on BUT we knew we were on the right train. The train started up again and we thought – Whew! WRONG the train went about 200 feet into a tunnel and then stopped and all the lights went off!!!! We were scared! Then there was a very annoyed Greek man on the other side of the window who told us in broken english that we would have to wait there stuck in the train for 20 min and then it would pop back out of the tunnel. Needless to say the minute he left we laughed uncontrollably at our stupidity . . . travelling always comes with adventure and it often is not what you thought it would be :)

  • Not necessarily funny at the time, but riding on the night train from Poland to Czech Republic and the train manager took our passports. That wasn’t the funny part, but rather our hysterical freak out and trying come up with hypothetical options for the situation. Funny now I guess… :)

  • A few years ago, I traveled to Paris with friends for Bastille Day, the French Independence Day, and camped out on the Champs de Mars waiting for the fireworks to begin. When they started, however, we realized our view was largely obstructed by trees. Insistent that we were not going to miss these amazing fireworks timed to music, I grabbed the hands of my friends, and we began making our way to a better spot. When all of a sudden, the theme for Mission: Impossible began playing, we took off on a mad dash, weaving through a sea of spectators standing almost shoulder to shoulder until we hit a wall of people. We had a much better view and felt invincible!

    On the same trip, at the end of a long night, we took a cab home and our driver, when we found out we were American, began talking to us excitedly about Elvis and eventually serenaded us with It’s Now or Never.

  • My best friend and I traveled all over Costa Rica last year. When we were in Monteverde we were up in the mountains at a hotel that was pretty dead at night so we made the most of it by listening to the radio and drinking Cuba Libre’s (all that was playing was old-school 90’s so TLC’s Waterfalls was on). We were dancing on our beds when my friend said very calmly “get off your bed” I get up and right behind me was a huge spider in the sheets!!! Both of us are terrified of spiders (I mean TERRIFIED!!!) so we get up and scream and yell and pretty much cry. Neither of us wants to attempt to kill it and risk it burring deeper in my sheets so we call front desk and there’s no answer. My friend tries the end of our room hallway (the hotel rooms were like cabins all over the mountain and I had to stay back and watch the spider in case it moved) and there was no one there. She wandered up and down the hallway wanting to knock on doors but it was about 3am so she didn’t. So she runs to the front desk – which is at the bottom of this mountain that you’re supposed to take a shuttle bus to and I stay back with a shoe in one hand and a can of bug repellent in the other just watching the spider. After about 20 minutes someone walks by the door and I yell “HELP” and he comes in, speaks no English and at the same time my friend comes running in with a guy from front desk (who also speaks no English). We point to the bed asking for help and they look at each other and just start laughing at us. Thankfully they killed it for us but they laughed the whole time while we huddled in a corner – honestly one of the funniest situations I’ve ever been in and I can only imagine what it was like for those two guys to see these petrified silly girls freak out over a spider (which in our defense was huge but I’m sure to them it was nothing).

  • While travelling in Switzerland, we missed the last train and got stuck overnight in a small town – nothing was open, no cafes – no hotel to be found, so we hunkered down for the night in one of the heated compartments on the station platform. (October nights in Switzerland are cccooold!)

    A young man joined us in the compartment (or perhaps we joined him? It was the only unlocked and warm place to be found). We were a bit wary at first, but, as we all know it’s a small world! He ended up being from the same town in Brazil as my husband, AND they even shared the same birthday. Needless to say, they chatted through to first light – sharing life stories, as one does with strangers (while I dozed!)

    It always amazes me, the people you meet while travelling!

  • I was 10, was traveling with my parents in Menorca during the festival of San Juan (last week of June), well known for the combination of Mediterranean warmth, youth, local gin production, jumping horses. We were walking in the morning for a place on the previous night had been full of people partying, and almost at noon there were still remnants of the party: people sleeping and there was still a smell of gin that I have not forgotten. A strange girl passing by me, still drunk, approached me and started yelling at me and then ripped the rearview mirror of a parked car, began to look and I slipped as I could. It was the first time I saw with my own eyes someone drunk and I felt a tremendous sense of curiosity and fear of what he had seen. What the heck happened to these people? Because of my age then, and so I hit the scene, is how little I remember from that trip.

  • The Scottish countryside is overrun with sheep, all of whom run away whenever you aproach. Except…one aggresive lamb who bit and butted me, while its mother bleated dismay from a respectful distance. It took more than a few people to chase that little lamb away, but we were all laughing hysterically (maybe not the sheep).

  • I was in Rome for a college spring break, and we were stuck there for an extra 2 days (horrible I know). But b/c we were training across Italy & France, I had packed lightly and didn’t have additional underwear for those 2 extra days, so I washed a few pairs in the sink then hung them to dry on the window shutters. I came back a couple hours later, and one pair was on the awning of the window below ours, and the other was hanging in a lemon tree in a private resident courtyard!

  • I was in Paris for the first time, and was quite keen to start practising my French. I’d bought a pocket dictionary and carried it around with me everywhere, but all day, I was too shy and scared to actually speak the language.

    That night, I had horrible stomach cramps and the ambulance had to be called. I spoke in French for the first time, describing that I had “pins and needles in my arms and legs” – a phrase that I’d learnt earlier from flicking through my dictionary! Turns out I had appendicitis, and had to be operated at the nearest hospital – which was opposite the Notre Dame! What an experience.

  • I’m not what you call a “spur of the moment” kinda girl. I liked to know where I was staying, what I was doing, and when I was going.

    That all changed when I met my now fiance. We’d been dating a few years and he suggested we take a trip together. But the catch was for us to plan as little as possible.
    We made very little plans, packed up and went to Georgia. To my total surprise he proposed to me during that trip. And at that moment we promised ourselves that we would make time and budget to travel the world together. Because neither of us have ever had the opportunity to travel abroad.

    I am proud to say that our honeymoon plans are set and we’re off to Paris and Florence in the fall! I couldn’t be more excited to spend my first abroad trip with the man who’s helped me become the person I am today.

  • Having dinner in Greve, Italy (Tuscany), my husband and I couldn’t help overhearing an American women talking about a beautiful picture she saw on a postcard (by the way, we are American too). I should point out that we are sitting outside on the edge a Tuscan hill with vineyards and olive tress filling our view. So this woman says, “Oh, I saw the most amazing picture on a postcard today, and wish we could go to this place.” Her group inquires…and she says. “Toscana!” Not sure if that’s funny or sad?

  • When I travel, I almost always skip the bra. Between TSA and 14 hour flights, I’d rather just wear something you can’t. After just landing in Scotland to visit some family when I was 16, I was coming downstairs to get breakfast when my Scottish uncle suddenly asks, “Do you have your bra with you?” Thought one: It shows?!?!? Thought two: why in the hell is my uncle asking me this? After about 30 seconds of stunned silence on my part, my uncle finally said, “Do you have your Brolly, your UMBRELLA.” God bless the Scots, and their language of its own.

  • I was riding my bike through a city in Japan when all of a sudden I heard this oinking sound behind me. I thought it was in reference to me and I got so upset and turned around to yell when I saw the man behind me with a baby piggy in his basket and he was ‘talking’ to the pig!! I could do nothing but laugh after that!

  • Not funny ha-ha, but my husband and I met in Australia. We grew up in the Midwest, Detroit and Columbus, but it took traveling half-way around the world to meet. The whole time we were abroad together (almost a year) we constantly discovered moments of coincidence from our past. It was meant to be.

  • I unfortunately haven’t had a chance to travel very much due to a lack of time and money. But, in about two weeks I’ll be in Toronto with my boyfriend…so I know I’ll come back with some great stories and wonderful memories.

  • Back when I was 20 years old, my best friend and I went on vacation to key west. We had to bring fake ID’s with us to get into the bars. There was a place that had a line out the door, so we thought it was probably the spot to go. We basically argued with the guy up front to let us in – (he obviously knew the ID’s were fakes!). He finally agreed and the bar was a Drag Queen bar! There we were, little 20 year old ladies from Virginia Beach in a bar full of Drag Queens. I wish someone would have taken a picture of our faces when we first walked in.

  • This is kind of an embarrassing story, but what the heck…I was backpacking across Europe with my boyfriend. He proposes to me on a gondola in Venice and then, that night, I have the worst stomach issues and spend that night in the bathroom…it wasn’t pretty. We still went through with the wedding though! :)

  • I did a summer abroad in Europe and one night we were taking a train from Amsterdam back to Berlin. We had to switch trains in Liege, Belgium and it was supposed to stop at like 1 a.m. My roommates and I set an alarm for 12:30 and when we woke up, we waited half an hour only to find out our stop had come EARLY and that we were at the last stop, a small town called Maastricht. We had no idea what country we were in and jumped off the train frantically asking the two employees there when the next train to Liege was… the following morning. We walked the streets of Maastricht in the middle of the night to the sounds of drunk Dutch people (we later found out we were in the Netherlands) because they had won a soccer game earlier and everyone was celebrating. We ended up in a dirty hotel where the televisions didn’t work in one room and in the other they had some bad Dutch music program playing. The next morning we made it to Liege and spent about 30 minutes trying to find someone who spoke English until we found a woman who helped us book a ticket back to Berlin. When we arrived at around noon, we found all the other students in our travel abroad group on the platform about to leave for class. We hadn’t showered in over 48 hours and the only thing our classmates did was tell us how bad we looked. Thanks for making us feel welcome, guys. Looking back, it’s kind of memorable and hilarious but I never want to get stuck in a foreign country again!

    Here’s a pic of my roommates as we walked back to the train station and realized what was happening to us was actually pretty funny: http://a1.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/photos-ak-snc1/v264/69/88/18714304/n18714304_34316735_5670.jpg

  • When I was 16, my sister got married in Germany, and my family and I traveled there to be part of their special day. We stayed for 2 weeks, and slept at her apartment, which was beautiful, but used to be an old hospital. One night, I was sleeping in the kitchen and I woke up to see a tall figure going into the attached bathroom, not 5 feet away. He had walked right next to me, as the bathroom was so close to my cot. I thought it was my brother in law, he is the only tall person in our family. I thought nothing of it and went back to sleep. The next morning, I told my sister about it, to which she replied that he was not home that night, had in fact been held up at army training and wasn’t coming home until the next morning….I promptly refused to sleep alone in the kitchen for the rest of our trip!

    Looking back, the story has become a family favorite that we tell to friends and laugh about to this day, but I still get a little creeped out by it! I would love to share these prints with my sister as a gift to remember our time in Germany together!

  • While taking a graduation trip around Europe, we stopped in Sorrento, Italy. We all were jumping off the (sharp!) rocks into the Mediterranean. I left my iPod and camera in my bag up on the high rocks–then didn’t think about them as high tide came in and soaked them. My brand new camera, my brand new iPod–dead. I may have cried. One of my friends played me a song on the rocks of Sorrento to make me feel better. It’s something I’ll never forget!

  • The travel experience that sticks out most in my mind is during my trip to Rome a few years ago. My parents, uncle and I had spent a long morning walking about the city and stopped at one of his favorite restaurants for lunch. I looked over the menu and saw that they had grilled cheese… to which I thought, that would be the perfect lunch right now! Everyone else had ordered pasta or a panini and I was totally psyched on what I thought would be a phenomenal grilled cheese sandwich.

    When the waiter came over with our food, it took me a moment to realize what in the world was on my plate. It didn’t resemble a sandwich at all and I almost sent it back, thinking I had gotten the wrong dish. Then it occurred to me that I had literally ordered grilled cheese… it was fried mozzarella!

    My uncle still makes fun of me to this day, saying that my shocked expression was one he wish he had recorded. Needless to say, I know now that a grilled cheese in Rome is exactly that. :)

  • I was backpacking through Spain with a friend of mine. We were in the south and it was really hot. We found this river and were following it around. Unfortunately it was the dry season so it was super shallow barely coming up to our ankles. Finally we found a ‘deep’ spot we sat in it for about 2 hours with our lunch of sangria, olives, cheese and bread all the while the water coming up to just below our belly buttons!! I must say it was one of my favorite ‘Spanish’ memories.

  • I was travelling in Europe and had just flew into Hungary to meet my bosses. I went to the ATM to get cash for the week that I would spend with them and hopped a cab to their hotel. I was a little foggy on the rate conversion and when the cab told me how much I owed him, I handed him a bunch of cash. He told me he had too much and gave me a bunch back and then ran to his side of the car to with one bill. I took my luggage and went inside. Later I realized he was going to get change and I had given him about a $100 tip! Oops!

  • Wow, so many tales from Venice!
    I have one too!
    On our first anniversary, my boyfriend and I went to Venice, to see the Biennale and to have a weekend far away from our hometown. I was so happy, and yet confused, because he previously lived in Venice (even if just for a couple of months) with his ex-girlfriend; anyways, I was desperately trying not to think about it and to enjoy our train ride.

    After a long, LONG night on the train (sleeping on each other’s shoulders while sitting on the groud!), we arrived in Venice at dawn. The view was breath-taking, with soft lights and some morning mist around us: all of a sudden, I started crying! I was so emotionally unstable, mixing the utter happiness of our first year together with the anxiety due to the “ghost” of the ex-girlfriend!

    Now, almost 5 years later, I reckon how silly I was, but anyways, it has been one of those “butterflies in the stomach” moments I’ll never forget. <3

  • I was in Argentina this fall from September to December. There was a Italian to-go restaurant near my apartment, and I went to pick up a pizza. I was under the impression that the pizza I had ordered (in my broken Spanish) was a cheese pizza with some shrimp on it. WRONG. When I got the box home and opened it, it was covered with all kinds of seafood — mostly large tentacles though. It was NOT what I had in mind for dinner, but I couldn’t stop laughing.

  • When I was younger my family would use our spring breaks to go skiing out in colorado. The year that I was in third grade I had a really awful head cold during the trip and couldnt quite contain all the snot it produced. The snot managed to wash all of the sunscreen off of the immediate area surrounding my nose and mouth and no matter how many times my parents reapplied I came away from the trip with a bright red suburned goatee that eventually blistered and peeled. Sadly I had school photos about a week after the trip to forever remember the burns by. Needless to say the following year I was not present during the colorado trip.

  • Those maps are beautiful – I love These Are Things!

    I guess this story is funny now, but wasn’t at the time. My friend and I decided we wanted to go to New York City together. This was the first trip that I’d ever taken on my own where I had to fly somewhere. Upon arrival, we took a “cab” (it actually ended up being one of those personal driver people who charged about $85 for a single cab ride – yikes!). So after using all of my cash to pay the guy, we checked into our hotel and decided we needed to get some food, but first I needed to get some cash so I went to a bank machine. My bank card wouldn’t work. So we tried another machine… and another. So I did the logical thing and went into a bank and asked them if they could help me. Turned out I wasn’t doing anything wrong, so we went back to our hotel so I could call the help number on the back of my card. It turns out that my card had been “compromised” and my bank canceled it and didn’t bother to phone me – there was no way to re-activate it either and I would have to go into the bank and get a new card (in Canada). My friend wouldn’t have any money until the next day on pay day, but luckily she had shoved a couple bowls of ramen noodles in her luggage thinking that we might be really broke at the end of our trip and may need a cheap meal. But she neglected to pack any spoons. I’m sure we could have gone down to the front desk at the hotel and ask for spoons, but I was upset and we were both cranky from the long plane ride. We were both convinced the start of the trip would set the tone for the rest, but it turned out to be one of the best vacations I’ve ever been on!

  • I was recently working at a hospital in Swaziland, and my friend and I would arrive in the labor & delivery ward every morning and sit on a little bench against the wall waiting for the doctor to arrive so we could round on patients. After 3 weeks of sitting on that bench every morning, a nurse said to us: “ladies, you shouldn’t sit there because the pregnant women sit on that bench and sometimes get liquor on it.” She was obviously referring to amniotic fluid, which we possibly could have been sitting in every morning for the past 3 weeks. We never sat on that bench again!

  • A towering palm tree fell feet in front of us. “I hope that doesn’t mean anything,” my mom whispered. We were in Belize exploring some Mayan ruins when suddenly our luck began to change.

    After getting dirty and sweaty, and dragging 3 young girls (myself included) to all the sites and explanations, we headed back to our dune buggy for the drive back. No such luck. The engine would not start. My dad cursed under his breath and decided with no cell phone and no sign of help- he would hitchhike to a mechanic and come back.

    We stayed by the dune buggy for maybe an hour before my mom was frustrated and decided we, too, would have a traveling adventure. Next thing I knew, we were hopping on the back of a truck filled with squawking chickens and putting down the road to where we found my dad.

    From there we took a local bus hours out of the way to a tipsy fisherman who kindly and terrifyingly agreed to drive us across the dark waterway to the island where we were staying. (Did I mention his boat had no lights?)

    We then got in another random vehicle with an American tourist who drove us to our hotel. After we got out of the car, all of us tired and exhausted from our travel nightmare, my dad realized he left his bag (packed with all our passports and money) in the car.

    My sisters and I laughed and cried as we watched my parents run down the street trying to catch our ride and way back to America with the local neighborhood as an enthusiastic audience.

  • The Great Wall has to be one of my favorites. I remember climbing on it for hours. And I do say climbing not walking because at some parts I was literally on hands and knees and toes trying to navigate my way around the steep steps. It was totally worth it however to get to the top and see the surrounding mountains and the Wall running off in two directions snaking its way around and over them. Beautiful.

  • My husband and I are missionaries, and we go all over the world preaching the gospel on the streets, speaking with people and telling them to Repent and put all their hope and trust in Jesus. Our very first trip we went to Kiev, Ukraine and upon arriving we (and our 2 other team members) thought “WHERE ARE WE”. You land in what looks like a pasture, in the middle of nowhere. The airport is small and jampacked. However, the best part is that when we went to get our rental car they were out of the GPS units until the next day…that would mean that we’d have to brave driving into downtown Kiev with NO GPS, and no clue where to go really. It’s very fast paced in the city there, and you have to be able to read Russian-and FAST. So we didn’t have any other choice and we hit the road. The first thing we realized is that we didn’t study the road signs very much…or at all. And here is all these symbols and things that we’ve never really seen…and my husband asks ME what they mean! After getting lost over and over, and finally recognizing the area our little hotel was in because of a picture we had seen, we FINALLY found where we were staying. The funnier thing is, our hotel had several little locations in the area and without us really knowing they had split our reservations and put the other couple we were with like 15 min away from where we were…and they stuck them in a Taxi and dropped them off at another obscure hotel location. We survived and will always have great Kiev memories:)

  • I was a nanny in Switzerland for a year and there were numerous fumbles and falters. The first was seeing a BP gas station en route from the Zurich airport to my new home in Liestal, and exclaiming, “oh phew, something American!” to which my new bosses responded, “uh, BP stands for British Petrol”.

    The second incident occurred on a ski slope in the Alps. I had never skied before, except a few hours earlier on the kiddie practice hills, and was on a lift to one of the higher points with the family I worked for, who were all skilled skiers. The wind was blustery and snow was falling rapidly, and when we got to the top they told us to ski down immediately…and fast. I could barely hold onto my poles, so one of the instructors grabbed my skis and told me to walk. I proceeded to walk down the side of a mountain, in what had turned into a blizzard, without knowing where I was going (or where the cliffs were!). A huge snow mobile approached from out of nowhere, and I opened the door and said, “Bitte, sprechen sie Deutsch?” and the guy said, “I’m American, get in!” When I got to the lodge mid-way down the mountain, the people were waiting for me and cheered, “The American! She lives!”

  • As I was arriving in Mexico City in the last flight of the day for a two-week tour-de-force of the Mexican capital, the immigration officer at Benito Juárez International Airport kindly informed me that I would be unable to set foot in Mexican soil. (How’s that for an opening sentence!?)

    I am Brazilian, and I thought Brazilians were loved all around the world. However, even a seasoned traveller as myself sometimes runs into a couple of reality checks. It turns out México requires a tourist visa from Brazilians. Not knowing this, I was stupidly unprepared without a visa.

    I was quickly escorted to a dimly lit, 20’x20′ holding cell with concrete slabs for seating. This was not before having to overcome the overinflated sense authority from the night guard. My passport was taken from me, as well as my luggage. All I had was my hat, my crumpled blazer, and strong feeling of inadequacy.

    The morning came, and I was sent back to Miami on the first flight. Arriving in Miami, and with the help of great friends, I was able to get a tourist visa and return on the same day to México.

    This time, no problems. I had my luggage, my passport, and a newly acquired travel acumen. My friends were waiting for me on the other side and I proceeded to have one of the best vacations.

    Viva México.

  • I suppose my funniest travel experience was also a coming of age story. When I was 14, my family traveled to austria for a skiing trip one winter. I was fortunate enough that my family let me bring a friend of mine. One evening after skiing all day, my family decided to let my friend and I go out to eat by ourselves in the little village we were staying in. We decided to go eat across town from where our parents were supposed to be. We ended up meeting some guys from Ireland and were flirting with them as we were walking home. We had stopped outside of a different restaurant as we were talking. All of a sudden I heard tapping on the window and then out of nowhere, my dad stormed out and demanded to know what these guys were up to. It was embarrassing then, but now, it just cracks me up.

  • My husband Andrew(boyfriend at the time) and I were shooting a documentary in Lundazi, Zambia, and the last couple of days we were there we decided to go on a safari. We were with a group of students and had one other crew member with us. We were about half way through our safari when we took a snack break. Unbeknown-st to me, Andrew had collaborated with the jeep driver and was planning on proposing to me during the break! We got out of the jeep and our other crew member was shooting footage of the scenery (so I thought). I announced, “I gotta pee,” and ran off behind a huge tree to take care of business. When I returned, Andrew grabbed my hand and was trying to talk to me. I thought it was kind of awkward so I invited everyone to take a group photo. They all declined and so I asked again. Finally Andrew grabbed my hand, turned me around and proceeded to propose. I was oblivious until he got down on one knee! It was hilarious and wonderful all at the same time! And we have the entire thing on tape.

  • My funny travel story: A few years back my parents, brother, and I took a trip out west for some downhill skiing. We spent the first day on the mountain battling terrible whiteout conditions, and decided it best to forgo that for “safe” snowmobiling down off the mountain.
    Ironically, this “safe” 4-hour afternoon tour turned into a 23 hour, 97-mile overnight adventure. The whiteout on the mountain morphed into a statewide blizzard, covering the trails and confusing our 55-year-old guide. We rode until all but one sled ran out of gas, and then walked another 22 miles throughout the night following half-buried road signs in hopes of stumbling upon a town. We finally stopped at a low-lying area to build a small fire. Of course, the only supplies our guide had were space blankets, Capri-Sun packs, and one walkie-talkie with no signal. The temperatures dropped to 7° F, and we spent the rest of the early morning gathering tree limbs to keep the fire’s warmth going.
    Finally, around 11 a.m., two riders appeared over the ridge and came to our rescue. They were one of four Search & Rescue ground teams and two helicopters out all night tracking us. They ran through some questions and the standard medical checks for frostbite and dehydration – stomping on our feet, cracking our knuckles, and feeding us Snickers and water. Once all of the teams arrived, we were asked more questions including where we were from; Minnesota. To our surprise, every one of the Search & Rescue members erupted with laughter, threw us on the back of their sleds, and flew back to the lodge at speeds in excess of 109mph! Apparently hailing from Minnesota dubbed us all perfectly capable to survive an adventure such as ours!

  • last summer i spent a month studying photography in Greece. one of our assignments was to shoot portraits of a partner in our group, and so some friends and i went out to shoot one morning when we were in this lovely port town, nafplion. it must have been a sight to see four girls with huge cameras acting super goofy taking pictures of each other! i was shooting one of my friends who was balancing on a window when these two (pretty cute) dudes leaped into the picture with her. i snapped it, we talked to them for a little while, and then went about our day.

    later that afternoon, we were wandering around some back streets when we heard some people shouting at us. it was the same guys from earlier that morning. they were in an alley painting tables and asked if we wanted to help, handed my two friends their paintbrushes and ran off. for a second i was afraid we were getting Tom Sawyer’d, but they came back with a liter of wine and we all hung out in the alley and drank it and painted tables.

    at the end of the day, we realized it was getting late and we hadn’t had any dinner. we started wandering by the restaurants by the water and finally plopped down at a random table because we were so hungry. this waiter came out shouting at us in excitement. we couldn’t understand what he was saying, but we recognized him and realized we had randomly sat down at the same tables we had painted earlier that afternoon. he kept coming to hang out at our table, since he seemed quite taken with one of my friends. we all ordered food, but he ended up giving us appetizers, custards, more wine, a couple after-dinner shots of Metaxa and some tequila sours, and taught us several choice Greek phrases. we ended up staying from 8 to midnight, when the restaurant closed, and he brought out a gigantic chocolate cake, and then we all went out dancing. it was a super fun and super coincidental day, which i think makes it pretty dang memorable! :)

  • We’ve been spending part of the last few summers in Oxford, England, where my husband takes American college students to study abroad. In the summers, Oxford is full of people from Europe and the United States on similar programs. It’s a really great little city full of Gothic architecture, and just the right size to walk everywhere. My daughter, who was about 7 the first time we visited, has a lot of energy. As we walked back to our college one afternoon, she started a series of cartwheels down the sidewalk. A group of Spanish students was walking in the same direction on the other side of the street, and they started to watch her. Enjoying the attention she continued, and the Spanish students began to yell “ole” every time she completed a cartwheel. We continued this way for quite a few blocks until we reached our destination, with the “oles” getting more enthusiastic each time. We parted company with cheers and “ciaos”– a truly multicultural experience!

  • my husb and i travelled from newark international on christmas day to delhi. when getting off the plane, after almost 24 hours of travel, the girl in the seat in front of me turned around and barfed all over me. it was sevian kheer–one of the few foods on my “hate it won’t even try it” list. i had to go through customs smelling like barf. it was hours to the village where we were headed and i couldn’t change clothes until we got there. har-har.

  • I have many funny (to me, at least) travel stories, but here’s one that is short enough for a blog comment. Picture, if you will, one of those free-standing self-cleaning toilets on a street in Germany. My ‘other brother’ wondered how the self cleaning worked, so he slipped in through the door as my brother was coming out. Now imagine banging, clanking, and screaming from inside the toilet, as my brother frantically inserted deutschmarks trying to get the toilet to open up again. (Which, of course, it wouldn’t, because it was in cleaning mode!) It turns out that the entire floor of the toilet dropped down and got sprayed with soapy water. My ‘other brother’ survived by bracing his arms and legs on the walls of the unit. He probably needed a shower that day anyway.

  • We decided to take our first short flight with both children. The plan was that I would hold the 2 month old and my husband would hold the 20 month old. We boarded the plan and everything was great until the stewardess said that we could not sit together. Evidently, there are only 3 airbags (not 4) per 2 seats. My 20 month old was not happy because he wanted to sit with me. Since I breastfeed the baby, he had to stay with Daddy. It wound up not being so bad because they both eventually went to sleep. Traveling with children is always a challenge.

  • a couple of days ago we went to Chicago. A group of people passed by with signs yelling “free free Palestine, free free Middle East, free free Tunisia”. As they went away my 3 year old son continued the yelling with his own cause: “Free free four five, free free four five!!”
    (We are actually from Chile, so he doesn’t speak much English)

  • When teaching English in Japan, I took the day off to visit the Penis Festival at Tagata Jinja.

    Yes, you read right. Penis festival.

    The local shrine in this tiny village in Aichi prefecture is dedicated to a fertility goddess, and they make her happy by presenting her with penises every March 15th. So you have giant penises being paraded down the streets, and altar girls holding out smaller wooden penises to the crowds to rub for good luck. The shrine itself has everything from the fenceposts, to the bells, to the altar, shaped like a penis.

    It is a real family event, so you see lots of little kids with their grannies, eating penis shaped lollies, penis shaped sausages and penis shaped chocolate dipped bananas (I truly am not making this up). Weirdest experience of my life, hands down.

  • I was volunteering in the Peace Corps in Thailand and I often had opportunities to travel throughout the country during school holidays and such. One holiday a bunch of the volunteers traveled down south to Kho Phi Phi. While we were there one of the volunteer’s friend was visiting and he decided to get a bamboo tattoo there. So we take him to the tattoo artists shop and tell the artist exactly what he wanted. A pink bunny with the word wisdom written in Thai across the top (strange i know). the artist understood and one of us stayed with him to make sure nothing we wrong while the rest of us went to eat. a couple of hours later we returned to see how it was all going. the bunny was actually pretty cool looking but when we saw the thai we were a bit confused. we tried to sound it out the phonetic letters “ww-eee-ss-cl-a-mm” WEESCLAM? so we asked him “what is wisclam?” and his response in thai was, “that’s what he asked me to write in thai, ‘wisclam’.”

    we all made a pact that we would never tell the friend what his tattoo said, we did however convince him that if he ever ran into a thai person who asked him what wisclam was to just say that it means wisdom in a southern dialect. (I believe he still has no idea to this day)

  • I was in Rome over my 21st birthday and my friends suprised my by taking a bottle of champagne and some gelato down to the trevi fountain to celebrate. I decided that it would be good luck for me to wade through the fountain instead of just throwing a coin in. I almost got arrested and I still can see the confusion on those polezi faces when we were trying to tell them in broken Italian that it was my birthday and to please not arrest her. :)

  • Traveling to Peru, our flight was diverted from Lima due to weather..all the way back to Bogota. Unfortunatley, we had fallen asleep during the flight and assumed we were in Lima! The hilarity that ensued as we were waiting in line at customs – due partly to our lack of sleep, our excitement, and our poor-to-mediocre spanish skills was epic! Imagine a midnight bus ride through Bogota to a hotel with armed guards that had been hosting a punk rock concert/costume party, followed by a 4 hour stay in a hotel room with ‘mysterious’ staining throughout, as we tried to use the phone and communicate with the people we were meeting in Lima about the change in plans.

  • When I was a junior in high school a group of friends and I planned a trip to a remote island in the Gulf of Mexico.
    Little did we know how remote this island was.
    When we got there we were the only people on the island. The first night we saw a shark in the water off the beach, so swimming was out of the picture the first day. Then night set in. It being early spring the bugs were HORRIBLE. By the end of the trip we were all eaten alive by sand flees and some of us were sleeping in the bathrooms instead of the cabins because that is the only place we could escape the BUGS and get some sleep.
    Then a giant storm hit and blew our belongings across the island and we lost all of our bug spray.

    So here we where on this island for a week suffering and cold and wet and sleeping in the bathrooms. So, one day we decided to leave the island and go get lunch on another island. The boat ferry that we were on had several cans of bug spray on it and on our way back to our island, I gave the boat ferry a large tip in the tip can and some of that bug spray went back with is to “BUG ISLAND”. After encounters with alligators, bugs, wild pigs, and some crazy sea life, it was time to leave. When we finally left the island and got back to our giant 15 passenger van, we counted our millions of bug bites (one girl had 1,500 on one leg) and where on our merry way. Then van started to shake and the van ran out of gas. We all where laughing so hard, and then we walked to the gas station got some gas (the locals thought we where creatures from the black lagoon with all our swollen bug bites) and FINALLY we where on our way back to OHIO!

    – Now this crazy trip is something we laugh about every time we all get together.

  • I went to England with my parents in 8th grade and instead of taking in all of the delights in London we traveled to the peak district and during our time there we visited Dove Dale, which is where the “As you wish” scene from the Princess Bride movie was filmed. Before my parents could stop me I had hurled myself down the hill rolling and bumping down to the very bottom…I’m pretty sure that they had removed the rocks from the side of the mountain for that particular scene, because I limped for sometime afterwards. But it was totally worth it.

  • On of my favorite traveling stories is of a trip I took to London when I was in grad school in Ireland. The first night out all the boys (of course) wanted to go paint the town red while the ladies wanted to catch up on there beauty sleep. I ended up going out to a club with two of the undergrads males that were doing their study abroad at my school. I’m not sure who picked the place we went to but we ended up in a very popular lesbian bar. So on my right I have E. trying to pick up all these hot chicks that must being making out in public for his amusment and on the left I have B. who is completely convinced that this tall beautiful woman (she was wearing a mens suit but you could totally see a red bra under the white shirt) was the hottest Urkle look alike he’d ever seen. I spent all night trying to convince E. that he wasn’t going to being picking up any women at this particular spot and try to explain to B. that Urkle was a lesbian woman not a gay man. I was a singular experience.

  • A local friend I met while traveling in Lisbon Portugal invited me to dinner with his friends. His english wasn’t perfect and I was often given very minimal details, so I assumed it was a small get together at his house. When I showed up in my cotton sundress I was ushered into a formal (tuxes and black dresses) birthday party for the head news anchor in Lisbon. Not only did I stick out as the only non-celebrity, my portuguese wasn’t the best and my garb was definitely understated. The next day, I was the topic of everyone’s discussion….even people who hadn’t been at the party but heard about my misadventures from the 8:00 news that morning.

  • hard to pick one crazy story, but…for new years a few years ago i was suffering from a bad spout of jet lag, but tried to continue having the time of my life on a beautiful outdoor celebration, eating dinner and listening to live music right on the shore of the island of Boracay. with my feet in the sand, and the tide gently rushing under our table, i was easily put to sleep at 11:45pm, and instead of waking me up, everyone took pictures as i drooled all over my soon to be husband’s shoulder. it wasn’t until the first firework went off at midnight did i wake up and see what everyone was up to.

  • On an over night train trip in Vietnam traveling from Hanoi to Halong Bay I had to go to the bathroom, in the middle of the night. Visiting a bathroom in Vietnam is not the most pleasant experience (Not all bathrooms, but most), so put I it off as long as I could. On a positive note, there was no line @ 2:00am, The bathroom consisted of a small sink and a hole in the floor for you to squat over. Lets just say, I was in position, relieving myself, when the train jerked, and I lost balance. One of my legs went through the hole and I became stuck, not to mention I had peed on myself. I couldn’t budge, so I started yelling. Again, let me remind you that it was 2:00 am on a very loud train. I think I was there for 2.5 hrs until someone heard me. Long story short, the three people that smashed in the bathroom to help me finally succeeded with some kind of smelly salve. It was awful and hilarious at the same time.

  • My boyfriend invited me on a cruise with his family-something that was an annual trip for them, but a totally new experience for me. Not wanting to go the “traditional tour” route, I suggested that we forge our own trail when the ship docked in Mexico. Ever confident in my internal compass, we walked for hours, eventually coming up on a secluded beach. It was breath-taking, and so peaceful…until my boyfriend pointed out the HUGE iguanas stalking around. Apparently they are common in this area, and are quite protective of their beach-front properties! We decided to turn back, only to realize that we were MUCH farther from the ship than we originally thought. My boyfriend played gallant, however, and we eventually arrived back at the ship-tired, sweaty, and happy to have a little distance from our scaly acquaintances! It was definitley one of the most memorial travel experiences of my life :)

  • I’m a redhead. In the late 60’s I lived in Vienna for 2 months in what turned out to be a bad part of town. the hookers there dye their hair red as a way of advertising. I was very popular! eeek!

  • My husband and I rented an apartment in Florence for our honeymoon. We could see the duomo from our balcony – Amazing! The sweet little Italian man who was our landlord for two weeks was very excited for the honeymooners telling us “you come as two, you leave as three.”

  • I traveled alone to Amsterdam and Belgium in my early 20s. My first night in a hostel, someone stole my cushy soft towel that I brought from home and left a chamois hand towel in it’s place. Sigh.

  • i love, love, love these are things! their world map is hanging above my bed and i like to think the bright colors and lovely details are enough to keep the spirit of travel alive—even when i don’t leave my apartment.

    i was in berlin with a few friends about five years ago, and it didn’t take long for us to make our first international rookie mistake with a group of people who appeared to be street performers and spectators. as we gathered around and listened (to a language we didn’t understand), for some reason, my friend decided to get in on the game. he handed over 40 euros to place a bet. clearly, the odds were stacked against him. the crowd quickly dispersed and the whole group of people was gone in the blink of an eye. we both looked around confused, and then burst into laughter. did we get hustled? yes. but did we learn a valuable lesson? of course. you never know what to expect in a new city.

  • When I was 19, I went to Las Vegas with my mom and my friend, and my mom wanted to take us to a typical Vegas show. I can’t remember the name of the one I ended up picking but I made sure to order tickets online to the “all ages” earlier show, as I was going with my mom and all. When we got there to pick up the tickets, it turns out that not only did the all ages show not actually exist, we had been seated in the front, directly up against the stage, with topless girls dancing so close to us that at one point I thought one of them was going to lose her balance and fall onto our table. Awkward.

  • Without meaning to, my friends and I who were studying abroad and visiting friends in Romania became the center of a small disagreement on a city bus. None of us knew the language, but could tell from context clues that the officers speaking to us were upset that we hadn’t validated the tickets we’d just bought for the bus. A few passengers started speaking out on our behalf, no telling what they said, but the officers kept insisting we’d have to go down to the station (the one word I understood). In the end our advocates won out for us and we narrowly made it to our train out of town. About a half hour into the ride we had a good laugh about it; until then we’d been all nerves. Lesson learned, always validate your Romanian bus ticket.

  • My friend and I took an elephant safari on a trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand. Everything was going great, we were plodding happily along, until we heard trumpeting noises ahead and all of a sudden, the elephants started crashing into the woods. We were atop the elephants in these dinky chairs, and we weren’t strapped onto them, so in a matter of seconds, my friend and I were clinging on for dear life, literally. At first my thought balloons went along the lines of, “Oh no, the bananas!” (which we had brought for our elephant), to “Oh no, my Havaianas are falling!” to “F*CK I’M FALLLIIIIIING!” So yes, I did fall, and I seriously thought I was going to die with elephant hooves imprinted onto my head, but by some miracle, I survived unharmed save for a few scratches. My friend managed to hang on till the elephant had calmed down and stopped running. She also has a video of the whole ordeal taken on her Flip camera, which she miraculously also managed to hang onto, and as a result, we have a blurry and frenetic video to memorialize that elephant safari gone wrong. I think the video was even chosen to be screened for an episode of “When Vacations Attack” but I don’t know exactly when they showed it or if they actually did. Here’s a link to the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSYR-SQdn-I

    Granted the ordeal was NOT funny at all when it happened but everytime I tell people that story now, I just laugh at the absurdity of it. My friends now always tease me that these things can only happen to me.

    (If you’re wondering, my Havaianas did survive the fall, though we had to reattach the thong with a rubber elastic. The bananas, alas, were not so lucky)

  • My best friend and I took a two month trip over to Europe and on our last stop together, in Prague, she got pickpocketed while we were getting on the tram to our hostel. Without hesitation, for whatever insane reason, we jumped off the tram and chased after this little Czech teenager! My best friend eventually ditched her backpack and took off full speed after him, until she had him cornered and started screaming at him about stealing her “weak-ass American money.” He was so freaked out he just yelped and threw it back at her. Craziest thing that has ever happened to me, here or abroad.

  • My husband and I went to San Francisco for a babymoon. I was 7 months pregnant. When we go to other cities, we like to walk around and look at architecture and just immerse ourselves in neighborhoods. So he planned our itinerary. Little did we know that when we got to the Mission District, the sidewalks were so steep that they became stairs! It was a rough afternoon for me being so far along, but it was great fun!

  • This is a story that’s only funny now, a few years later.

    Having fallen in love with a man in the Navy and being unemployed, he suggested I visit him when his submarine pulled into port in Italy. A lover of travel, I took him up on the suggestion. I flew into Rome, knowing he’d be a few days late. After a short flight to Sardinia (where we were to meet), I woke up everyday hoping he’d show up, with not a peep heard from him. I read every book I brought (it rained every single day), watched the only American language channel (CNN), and felt the boredom build. Needless to say, he never showed, pulling into port a mere three days after I flew back home after being stuck on a mission. He was still out to sea for several months, so the funniness of the situation really didn’t stick.

    Now, we look back on it and laugh. He bought a bottle of wine there that we’re saving for our happiest day (our wedding), reminded of the hilarity and sadness of one of our worst moments. Life’s an adventure – traveling just reminds you of that!

  • I guess this can be filed under sad/funny … traveling on a 10-day overland trip through Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia, a friend and I got horribly sick — we’re pretty sure it was dysentery. we were stuck on a bus with 20 other students and our bathroom stops involved pulling over on the side of the road, students scattering to find cover in the brush. we spent the full day on the road, crossing borders and didn’t get to our camp until dinnertime.. our first real bathrooms of the day!

  • I was traveling in Buenos Aires during a bad economic climate (bottle of wine was equivalent to US 25 cents). Needless to say, class tensions were high.

    My friend and I were sipping mojitos at a bar before the regular crowd shuffled in, and a shady guy off the street came in, flashed a pistol, and slapped the bar with his hand saying, “Dame la plata!” (Give me the cash!).

    The only thing going through my mind at this moment was, “Ok. I am going to die. If this is the case, I am finishing this mojito.” I calmly downed it and faced forward.

    Fortunately my friend was a very savvy international traveler and always stashes a 20 dollar bill (Argentine – then about $5 US) in an easy-access pocket of his cargo pants, handed it to the guy, and he walked out of the bar! Kind of freaky what your almost-last-thoughts are! ;)

  • It wasn’t too funny then, but my boyfriend and I went to Milwaukee for a few days and got 2 flat tires within a couple hours. We didn’t get to do anything that day and had to walk a bunch!

  • My first european tour included a 3 week stay in Paris. To save on money my friend and I rented an apartment. It was touted to have a full bathroom, a full kitchen, and a washer/dryer. In other words, economic perfection.
    As we met the landlord – Christophe – and went inside, he began to talk about a few repairs that were in process.
    The convenience of not having to go to the laundramat was negated due to the fact that the washer/dryer was not working properly at this time. No big deal, there are alternatives.
    The kichen was great, but he made us promise not to put more than 1 quart of water down the sink at a time otherwise the drain wouldn’t work. Ok, we can work with that.
    We were a little disappointed but we were still in a garden view apartment in Paris – what a life.
    On the second day I was woken by my friend that the toilet seemed to be acting wierd. It would not flush. We called the landlord, he promised to get someone out there by Thursday (it was currently Saturday).
    Being pretty resourceful and mechanically inclined I figured I could fix it without issue. I tried everything from a coat hanger pipe snaking, to a boiling water ‘loosening’ regimin, to a emptying and drying out of the system – all to no avail.
    In this apartment, water was our enemy.
    So, we became european. Washing our clothes in the bathroom sink and hanging them to dry in the window became part of our daily routine.
    But the toilet proved to be tricky, going to the bathroom in the middle of the night required us to get over some inhabitions …. the shower was our friend. There was a routine of derobing, nature calling, cleaning up, and resuming sleep that was quite time consuming and comical.
    The really bad part was that some bodily functions required better planning…and what was around the corner? A McDonalds and a Starbucks – both establishments we had stricly avoided – but we became THOSE tourists. Frequenting them daily out of emergency.

  • While in Bled, Slovenije, I was roped into climbing a nearby mountain with one of my hostel mates. It took the whole day, but we made it to the summit, only to get lost on our way back down the mountain. We stopped for a break and to try to figure out what to do, when we saw a figure approaching us in the distance. We grabbed our stuff and went over to meet the mysterious figure who turned out to be a large Slovenijen man in heavy eye makeup, gaudy earrings and a form fitting skirt. We tried to explain that we had gotten lost and wanted to get back to Begunje. He understood that much and motioned that we should follow him. He was so at home in the rugged mountainous terrain, bouncing all over the place and stopping every now and then to point at something at declare something in Slovenski. At one point it began to rain and he removed his shirt and put it in a small plastic bag that he had. He motioned for my companion to remove his shirt, too. He preferred to keep it on and it seemed to insult our guide. We continued on our way until we got to a clearing where he stopped, turned to me and made an hourglass shaped motion with his hands and then declared in broken English, “Sex Every Day!” I said, “Man I wish.” Then he turned back to my companion and made a face to suggest that I was not having this daily activity with him, as he wouldn’t take his shirt off. Having reached the base of the mountain, we went on our way and our guide disappeared as quickly as he had appeared earlier back into the woods.

  • On a recent trip to Israel, me and my friend rented a car so we could drive up the Isreal/Jordan border. On the way we took pictures of the country side and of a few things we stopped to look at. We had been in the country for about 3 hours when we got pulled over by the Israeli Army and accused of being spies. They took our cameras, searched our luggage and car and took our passports. After 20 min on the side of the road in 90 degree weather, they called in reinforcements. As two mid 20s American girls, we couldn’t believe me seemed liked spies, but I guess taking so many photos near the border seeemed like spy activity. After about an hour and a half, and a few intimidating speaches, we were given our passports back and told not to take any more photos.

  • I lived in the Dominican Republic for a few months last year working as a volunteer. During a long weekend, I took a trip around the country with some friends to visit some hard to reach beaches and beautiful spots. Along the way, I developed a bad migraine just in time to take a 2 hour ferry ride across the bay. A migraine + a tendency towards sea sickness led to a pretty miserable ferry ride. As I was leaning over the rail, the Dominicans on the boat kept talking about the “Sick American” and were very worried that I was going to fall off the boat. Finally, they decided that leaning across the railing was too dangerous, so they took turns holding my shirt/legs as I leaned over to keep me safe. I looked (and felt) like a disaster when we finally reached land, but at least I didn’t fall off the ferry!

  • My story is not from a foreign locale, but it is kind of funny. On a return roadtrip from Central California back to Oregon, my friend and I stayed with her brother in Chico for one night. A notorious ‘college party’ town, we went to the bars that night. I didn’t drink much, 3 bottles of beer in as many hours. I was not even near tipsy. Walking back to the place we were staying, we started to cross the street in a line. The brother’s friend, the brother and then my friend crossed the street. As I stepped off of the curb, my toe caught onto the rounded edge. In that moment, a person is usually able to adjust her feet quickly to keep from falling. In that instant, I somehow knew I wouldn’t be able to do that. So, for some reason, I called out, “I’m going down!” This gave my group and passers-by an opportunity to watch me fall forward and flop like a fish. Who does that?

  • when i was 17, i went on one of those chaperoned senior trips to italy. you know, the kind where teachers are there, but getting drunk right along side the students??? anyway, we were in venice, which i had been to before, so i was familiar with the copious amounts of dirty pigeons in piazza san marcos. i loved those birds, though. i paid the small fee to buy the bird seed and began feeding them, only to be crapped on, right on my forehead. it doesn’t end there.
    i had nothing to clean my head. i had to find a bathroom, but that isn’t so easy as locating the nearest starbucks or gas station and taking a pit stop. oh no. you have to PAY to use those tourist laden restrooms. well, i had an emergency and the stingy, old Italian woman was not keen on allowing me to clean bird crap off my head. needless to say, i got the poop off my head, and the lady got stiffed.
    we ran out of the bathroom hysterically laughing and i still think fondly on those blessed little avian creatures.

  • For me, it was the time we traveled together as a family (me, my brother & parents) to London for a friend’s wedding. My mom, brother and I were all coming to the airport from downtown, and my dad was going to meet us there. We waited for him at the ticket counter, and didn’t see him anywhere. Finally, we checked in and headed to our gate. No sign of him until10 minutes before final boarding, when we saw him trudging down the concourse with a half-packed bag. As he’d been late, he got upgraded and had the attendants bringing him drinks and food….while we were wishing we’d brought more water as the curry dinner was very spicy! One of the few times showing up late had a postitive result!

  • I love travelling! In fact, I’m definitely due for another trip. I’ve travelled to really random parts of the world thus far.
    One time when we were in Turkey with my mom and aunts, a woman was selling fake designer perfume on the side of the road. My mom made the dumb mistake of asking her how much it was even though she wasn’t planning on buying any. We said no, but pretty soon this woman was following us and yelling the price and then 10 other people also selling perfume surrounded us. In a tizzy, we all began to run down this very crowded street with all these people holding up perfume bottles running to catch up with us. We finally ended up losing them a few blocks away. It was quite frightening at the time, but is pretty hilarious to look at now.

  • Family vacations as a little kid invariably yielded hilarious tales. But one in particular is my favorite. We were driving back home from a long road trip and made a wrong turn somewhere. My mom decided to turn around at the next exit, which happened to be Detroit Metro Airport. On our way out of the airport, we were stopped at a red light, and my little sister (who was about six at the time) woke up from her nap, jumped out of the car in her little night gown and walked out into the middle of the road! Apparently she thought we had arrived home!

  • In March, I went to Iceland, my first trip abroad ever. It is seriously the most beautiful, ecologically stunning place on earth, and I would go back in a heartbeat. While I was there, I talked my friends into going on a whale watching trip. I was so excited since it was one of my #1 things to do there… and it ended up being my worst nightmare. When we bought our tickets, woman in the booth said there were slight swells but there is free ginger tea for anyone who may feel sea sick. Ginger tea was not going to save anyone on that boat and “slight swells” was the understatement of the year. More than half the passengers were sick multiple times. Multiple. The boat was rocking so much that sometimes when I looked out the window I couldn’t even see the horizon. Needless to say, we all survived with stomachs intact. And we never saw any whales.

  • My family took a trip to Paris a few years ago. We had finally arrived at our apartment in mid-afternoon, and my dad and I were determined to stay up to avoid jet lag, but my mom and sister succumbed to a nap. My dad and I decided to go out walking and exploring to keep ourselves awake. Luckily, our apartment was on Ile St. Louis, so we walked over to Notre Dame. We sat down on one of the stone benches in front of the Cathedral, and looked up. It was so beautiful! All of a sudden, my dad lets out this huge fart, which reverberates against the stone. I look over, and the elderly German tourists sitting to our left subtly got up and walked away. We still talk about the fart that scared the Germans away.

  • Anyone who has backpacked knows the perils of squeezing all of your belongings for weeks of travel into a 45L space. In order to save some of said space, I opted for an all-in-one soap/shampoo. I put it in a plastic bag, inside of a cosmetic case.

    As I hopped off of my flight from Brisbane to Melbourne, I threw my backpack on and started walking to the train. I started feeling a drip…drip…drip drip drip drip down my hair and neck. I kept walking, thinking it was just water that was spilling. I took my pack off to buy a train ticket and soon realized that I had the entire contents of my Dr. Bronner’s soap and shampoo spilled in backpack, as well as all over my hair, neck and shirt. Meltdown was close but at least I smelled minty-fresh as I sat on the floor of the airport trying to clean up the soapy mess I had made.

    I have no doubt that some tourists slipped on the soap puddle I left behind.

  • I think this goes in the category of funny/sad: I came down with food poisoning the morning I was leaving Florence. I was sick in the airport, and sick some more on the short flight to Paris. By the time we got to Paris I was so dehydrated and exhausted that they took me to the infirmary at Charles de Gaulle, in an ambulance! I was put in a room by myself with nothing but my passport, ticket, and a big digital clock on the wall. I went a little stir crazy, and I was convinced I wasn’t ever making it out of there.
    After two IVs they deemed me healthy enough and I booked it back to the gate, arriving just as my flight to Boston was boarding!

  • One time me and my family were drving to florida. We decied to drive straight through from Southern Ontario right down. I must have been ten at the time. Anyway, for the last 6 hours of driving he had hit a tornado. It was at the point where we couldnt even pull over in fear we might get hit so all we could do is drive as slowly as possible and try not to hit anyone. So my little brother, at the age of eight had to pee and because we couldn’t pull over he deiced to take my empty mcdonalds cup and climbed under his blanked to pee into the cup. Now, i was asleep when this all happened. So when the storm finally stopped we pulled into a small beach parking lot at get some food. I took out all the cups out of the car and was about to throw them out when i thought there was some more coke left in my cup. I downed the whole cup and swallowed it when i realized it tasted HORRIBLE! I ran over to my mum telling her of the mysterious tasting coke.. she asked me what cup i had drank it out of and she then told me i had drunk my little brothers pee.

  • A friend and I were traveling by local train in Japan a few years ago. It was late at night and we thought we understood the rail system enough to get the last train thru to the next city. The local train stopped in a small trainyard and everyone got off. Knowing this wasn’t our stop, my friend and I just sat there waiting for the train to continue. After 10 minutes the conductor came thru and in halting English told us this train was parked for the night, we must hurry to catch another train to finish our trip. We laughed later about sitting on the train and everyone else probably wondering what we were waiting for!

  • When I was 13 years old my Mom took me to England. It was right then and there that I told her I would eventually live there. As a thirteen-year-old I’m not sure how seriously she took me, but I stood by my statement through my teens and once I graduated from college I was off. One month after graduating I was living in Manchester. It was the best 5 years of my life, and there is no greater city in the world. The experience reminds me every day that anything is possible.

  • Well, I don’t have any exciting travel stories…because I have yet to travel to world. Though I have always known that one day I would get the chance. This past Christmas my boyfriend surprised me with flights to London, Paris, and Italy. We actually leave in 9 days from today, and I anticipate it will be the trip of a lifetime and after it, I will have countless travel stories to share. These beautiful maps would be a perfect way to commemorate this exciting adventure I am about to go on!

    Katelin xoxo

  • This is more on the sad/funny side, but I’m from Seattle and when I visited Chicago last fall I kept getting lost because the water was always on the wrong side.

  • In college, I took a road trip from Milledgeville, Ga., to Chicago, Ill., with a roommate – in December. We stopped over in Carbondale, where he gave all my trip money to drug dealers, and I had to go retrieve it. Imagine that scene playing out. We stopped over in Bloomington-Normal, where he decided he wasn’t going any further. So I went to Chicago with a friend of his, and slept in his mom’s basement for a night before returning to Bloomington to pick him up. I found he had absconded with my gas money and left a note that he wasn’t going to return with me. I had $5 to get back to Georgia. I scrounged for spare change, bringing it to $7.15. I filled up my Ford Escort and decided I would drive as far as I could. I got to Paduka, Ky., and finally came across a BP station, to which my parents had loaned me their gas card for emergencies. I bought gas, Sunchips, gas station sandwiches and a 2-liter of Mountain Dew and booked it towards Georgia. I called from Nashville to let them know I’d be home in four hours. But 45 minutes outside of town, my crank shaft snapped. I spent two nights in a motel before they could come and rescue me. AND gluttons for punishment that they are, they bought a used Nissan off the mechanic who had tried to fix the Ford. Really, I’m not sure why on earth they put up with me. I never saw or heard from that roommate again. But the Sentra lasted me for another 6 years.

  • I was on a high school band trip to the Netherlands in the early 1990s. As our tour bus loaded with overtired teens and musical instruments merged onto a four-lane highway, we all spotted what we thought was a mirage: a runaway carriage, pulled by two horses, traveling at high speed along the shoulder ahead of the bus. There was no driver. A motorist pulled over and failed in an attempt to grab the reins, so our amiable (and slightly crazy) bus driver Marcel let him on our bus. What happened next was easily the highlight of the trip for a group of unseasoned travelers from Wisconsin: Marcel pulled the bus even with the runaway carriage, and the motorist, standing in the open doorway of the bus jumped onto the driver’s seat of the carriage, grabbed the reins and stopped the horses. The bus broke into cheers and applause. When the excitement died down, Marcel revealed the detail I will never forget: there was a pair of shoes on the floor of the carriage, as if the driver had been yanked right out of them!

  • Back before cell phones, my boyfriend (now husband) and I were traveling in Europe. I flew in a few days earlier and met up with my brother and we hung out in Paris. My boyfriend came to town and was to meet us at the Notre Dame. It was getting very late and we were getting worried, as was he — on the other side of the church! We had spent a couple of hours so close to each other, but unable to communicate. At least we can laugh about it now!

  • In college I studied abroad in France. I’m sure anyone else who studied abroad can relate to the beating my liver and waistline took abroad. Well, I had managed to maintain a respectable image while abroad for the most part, but nearing the end of my trip, I, uh, overindulged a little too much. After a scarring bus ride (they were bad enough sober), I was sitting on a bench, late at night, in the center of town with my significantly more sober friends. They were kind enough to sit with me while I, *cough*, got it together. Just when I thought I could leave my humiliation on the sidewalk, these two French girls wandered over. Luck have it, they were doing a sociological study on public drunkenness. After some discussion, they helped my friends “help” me back to one of their apartments where the rest of them continued the party and I slept mine off. French: 1 Americans: 0

  • A few years ago I was visiting a small village outside of Shanghai on a work trip. After our meeting over lunch, my Chinese colleagues graciously took us on an afternoon tour of a beautiful ancient garden. Only problem – it was 99 degrees that day with 100% humidity. Hard to even act like you are enjoying it in that weather! On top of it all, lunch had not bode well for my stomach, and with a lack of western toilets in an ancient Chinese garden, I was up you-know-what’s creek. My coworker still teases me about that day. It’s amazing how much you can bond over silly bathroom humor!

  • I was in Jaipur recently and experiencing the “Indian detox diet” (if you know what I mean) and decided that my symptoms were abating and I could handle a small, bland breakfast. There was a rooftop restaurant at the hotel across the street from where we were staying, so I made my way over and ordered tea and toast. Shortly after the toast arrived, I was suddenly aware that I needed to lay down and food wasn’t the best idea after all. Toast in hand (?), I slowly started to make my way down the stairs. About halfway down, I knew I wouldn’t make it back to my own hotel so I sat down on the stairway landing to try and pull it together. I suddenly needed to vomit and looked down the hallway and (miraculous!) there was an open doorway to a small bathroom. I ran down the hall, toast still in hand, and threw up into the sink without turning on the light. When I was finally finished, I turned on the light to see that I was in someone’s private bathroom! I had thrown up all over their toothbrushes, makeup, toiletries, towels and floor. And my now soggy toast.

  • A few summers ago a girl friend and I had an Italian adventure. We had been walking Rome all day and went for a late (even by European standards) dinner to place near our hotel. It was empty but the chef and owner insisted we stay. With our bad Italian and their so-so English, we tried deciphering the menu. The owner insisted I start the meal with fish. Here I am expecting a nice fillet of Salmon or something and he sets down a bowl of red liquid with tentacles sticking out every which way. (I should mention I’m a Jew and didn’t grow up eating Octopus.) I was incredibly freaked out and as the cute old Italian man walked away, my friend and I tried to figure out what to do with the tentacle soup. Suddenly I felt like I was on The Amazing Race or something.

    My friend was cracking up telling me to try to mush it up. Tentacles don’t mush much. I tried some broth to make it look like I ate it downing wine after each spoonful. The man came back beaming, “How’s the soup?” “Mmm,” I smile.

    A few minutes later he’s back at the table, “No finish soup!” I try smiling saying I’m trying to save my appetite for the main course. “I leave soup for you.” He would not take the soup away through out the entire meal and I was stuck staring at tentacle soup.

  • I was in charge of a group of students headed to Prague. We had a layover at Heathrow and wanted to grab a bite before our next leg of the trip. Assuming we had plenty of time the rest of the group sent us on our way to get some snacks while they stayed with the bags. We could only find one place to grab food and it was all the way at the other end and on a second level. We are waiting for our food when one of the kids looks at his plane ticket and says what time in 22:35 . I quickly look at him, look around and try to find a clock — a lady near me has a watch on, I proceed to grab her wrist look at the time and yell at my kids “run!” We were late and I was going to be stuck in London with 5 students and no money. We are sprinting through the airport and the door is just about to close when they see us coming — oh Thank God. First trip as a leader and I almost missed the flight.

    Also, I really love those prints!

  • In college, a friend and I took a quick trip through Europe before beginning semesters studying in the UK. In Rome, we tried to see as much as humanly possible, and often referenced our guidebooks in the evenings, exclaiming, “Oh, THAT’s what that was!” On our last day there, we kept seeing signs with arrows leading to the “Senso Unico” — and while we hadn’t heard of it, we figured that it had to be a popular attraction because it was so well-advertised. (Not to mention that we weren’t particularly well-prepared.) We followed sign after sign, winding through the streets and getting nowhere, before it dawned on us that “Senso Unico” meant “One Way”!

  • hahaha when i was about 7, i won a trip to disneyworld for my family and my best friend’s family. it was my first time there, and i was soooo excited. i was one of the winners of this contest in conjunction with a new winnie the pooh movie, and the big event was hosted by kathie lee gifford (this was mid-90s, the days of regis & kathie lee). one day all the kids who were there from the contest had to do this game that was a scavenger hunt (in the hedge maze in Fake England at Epcot) for ingredients to make a honey cake for pooh. it was like 115 degrees and so humid that people were buying $5 bottles of water to dump over their heads, and my friend and i were miserable and wanted to go ride space mountain so we found armloads of ingredients as fast as possible and brought them to kathie lee. she proceeded to yell at us, telling us there were only enough items for everyone to find one apiece, that we were ruining the game for everybody, and then she made us go put everything back in the hedge maze. and that was the day kathie lee gifford yelled at me in the “happiest place on earth.”

  • Eating bread and wine next to the Seine, super cheesy (no pun intended) and so fun, the perfect 20-year old’s memory of Paris.

  • My most memorable trip was when my husband and I took his sister to see the ocean for the first time. She was 15. My husband and I were so excited for her and anxious to see her reaction. We were very disappointed when she proceeded to act like it was nothing. She complained the entire time about how the salt water burned her legs, the jelly fish freaked her out and how boring it was. She was even “wishing” she could meet a boy. My sister-in-law is now 22 and married. Ironically she remembers it as the best trip ever. My husband and I learned what teenage angst truly was! If you take a teen to see something spectacular don’t expect much! :)

  • While studying abroad in Florence, my roommates and I decided to make Thanksgiving feel a little more homey by cooking a big dinner for all of our friends in our tiny kitchen. In the midst of the preparations, the kitchen’s smoke detector started malfunctioning, going off incessantly.
    We called the housing director who sent a repair man. The man arrived, totally confused as to why these girls were having some sort of massive holiday celebration on a random Thursday afternoon. He proceed to climb a ladder to begin his work, perched precariously over the counter covered in the food (you can probably see where this is going). As we all looked on patiently from the living room, he began to lose his footing. As he fell, he tried desperately to grab on to anything he could to slow his descent. The first thing he found was the top of the kitchen cabinets, which he proceeded to rip of its hinges and take to the ground with him. Next to go was the bowl of prepped green beans, which fell and coated the entire kitchen floor. He landed, to add insult to injury, straddling the ladder rung in a way that could not have been comfortable. Everything kind of stopped for a minute, as none of us could really take in what happened. We sort of communicated in his terrible English and our terrible Italian that he was ok, he finished fixing the smoke detector (with us now holding the ladder steady) and headed out. It was amazingly terrible, especially when we were reminded of if months later when charges for the broken cabinet appeared on our housing bills…..worth it.

  • Hmmm… I can’t think of a funny story, but I did experience a miracle while in Rome. That was pretty cool.

    I was able to attend 2000’s World Youth Day in Rome with some of my youth group. The opening day, when Pope John Paul II was going to hold the opening ceremony in St. Peter’s Square, was brutally hot. So hot that the priest that was traveling with us wouldn’t allow us to wait with the crowds lining up hours before it started. We were really bummed because there were millions (actually, I don’t know the number. it FELT like millions for sure) of people waiting to get in, so we figured we’d never make it in. But about an hour before the event, our priest started leading us to the square. I still have no idea how it happened (I don’t think he knew what he was doing), but he took us down some back streets that weren’t blocked off until we stood in front of the medal detectors. It was so loud, and when I turned around, as far as I could see there were crowds of people waving flags and banners, singing and chanting. Somehow we’d ended up in front of all of those people! It was exhilarating and horrifying all at once. (I honestly thought we might get trampled when the let down the barricades.) We ended up being among the first 20 or so people that entered the square.

    I’m not quite as religious anymore, and sometimes I struggle with Catholicism, but I will always think of that day as a real miracle. It was incredible.

  • the year was 2005. half of the it was the year 2005. the architecture program at our university was studying in florence for the spring semester. myself and three other friends decided to use spring break as a chance to hit up london, scotland, ireland and paris. after numerous mishaps involving missed trains, therefore missed planes, sleeping in airports, my friend amanda pretending to be pregnant to jump the line for a taxi in milan so we wouldn’t miss yet ANOTHER flight and some really bad pick-up lines aimed at my friend christen from a waiter in stanstead airport we made it to paris.
    we made a beeline for the eiffel tower. we were up on the top deck and wanted a picture of us all together, so we looked around for some friendly like people who might know english (our french was borderline at best). luckily for us, americans usually stick out like a sore thumb. I flagged down four guys, and they turned out to be american college students in paris for the week singing at versailles. they took the picture for us and we all started chatting. they asked what school we went to and we told them. a light of recognition showed up on their faces, and we asked if they had heard of it (it’s a pretty small school). they said yup! not because they had a friend who went there or anything, but because they had seen a piece on bill o’rielly about how out chapter of college republicans had their charter revoked for offering a whites-only scholarship.
    “ohhhhhhhhhh…..”. was about all we could muster.
    but we went on to hang out with them for the evening and almost get run over in the traffic circle round the arc de triomphe, so it turned out all right!
    we still laugh whenever it come up.

  • During the Summer of 2008 I went on an art tour with 15 other college students in London. My best friend came on the trip with me, and we spent all of our time together. Within the first few days, one of my fellow classmates asked me if my best friend and I would ever start dating. I assured her that would never happen. A week and a half later, we were a couple. Six months after that, we were engaged. May 15th of 2010, we were married. Thanks London!

  • More than a decade ago, a friend and I backpacked around Britain upon graduating college. One of our stops was Tintern Abbey, and we had been staying in a larger town nearby with plans to take the bus to the small village where the abbey is. We didn’t have enough cash on us for round-trip tickets, so we got one round-trip and the other one-way, with plans to withdraw at the ATM and purchase the “back ticket” for one of us in the abbey’s village. Needless to say, we weren’t planning for village amenities. There was no ATM. No open bank. Noone to cash a traveler’s check. Until we found a shop that would refund us cash off our debit cards, we wandered the streets, dejected and convinced we would have to get jobs washing dishes in Tintern and live there till we could take the bus back . . . Never thinking that all we needed to do was use the return ticket and send just one of us back to the next town for the ATM there. Fortunately, we did not have to settle down in Tintern. But we later tapped our heads and wondered just what amount of good those college educations had done us.

  • While studying abroad at Oxford, friends and I felt that we could not pass up the opportunity to spend St. Patties Day in Dublin. Naturally, most of our limited funds were sunk into getting there–bus to train to ferry to bus. And, being poor college kids, we sought to save a buck where possible (including sneaking 6 into a very small hotel room). After the day of festivities, we decided that instead of paying for another night at the hotel, that we could spend the night at the ferry station to catch our 6am ferry.
    So, around 11pm we started the walk from downtown to the station because buses had stop running. What had seemed like a very short trip by bus ended up being a mile or two…in the middle of the night….on St. Patties Day. When the station came into view, we ran with delight, remembering the large interior with sprawling benches that we imagined ourselves curling up on for what little sleep we could get.
    We had not, however, anticipated that the ferry station was closed and that only a small waiting room with about 10 chairs, mostly occupied by heavily tattooed individuals cradling flasks, remained open. Somewhere in the midst of our gallivanting, I had picked up a slight cold. After our long walk in the midnight chill, I was blowing my nose constantly. My most prominent memory from that long night in the small room with questionable companions was using the hand dryer in the bathroom to dry my single tissue so that I could tend to my runny nose. Oh to be young again!

  • Two years ago I was on a study abroad trip to Dublin. I met my boyfriend on that trip and as it turns out back in Florida we only lived less than a mile apart from each other. It took travelling over three thousand miles to meet. That is just one of the many reasons that travelling is so important to me.

  • On a trip to Puerta Vallarta as a teenager with my dad, we learned that the one American movie playing in town for the past month was “Harry and the Hendersons.” The hotel staff was convinced that my dad was John Lithgow and called him “Senor Pie Grande” (Mr. Big Foot) for the entire trip. They even asked for his autograph when we were checking out, refusing to believe he was just a humble doctor from El Cerrito. He signed it “Senor Pie Grande” of course!

  • My boyfriend and I were on a cruise thru the Mexican Riviera. We were stopped in Puerto Vallarta one day and had a few drinks on the beach. He decided to get a bottle of tequila before heading back on board to sneak on the ship and it went downhill from there… he tried to hide it in a water bottle but we got caught, so he asked for it back so we could at least enjoy some of it before they threw it out.
    More attempts at sneaking it in involved throwing it over the fence and searching for it once we got passed customs (our scavenger hunt caught the eye of the security guards…) and my favorite, hiding it in a plastic bag tied into his shorts. I almost had a heart attack because the guards were already very suspicious of us. I tried to act casual by trying to look really interested in the parrots in a nearby cage so the guards would leave us alone. Somehow he got the bag to stay in his pants and we got through the gangplank/security (despite the alcohol now leaking in his pants and down his leg) and he has since promised to never put me through that again.

  • Last year I lived abroad in Japan with my boyfriend. Before I left I took an elementary Japanese class so I would be prepared for the little things, like ordering from a menu. When I arrived I insisted we find a restaurant so that I could try out my new Japanese vocabulary. Our meal was perfect and I made it through without stumbling to terribly until the waitress came over to our table and asked how everything was. I replied with what I thought was the word for delicious. The waitress, however, looked horrified. I had apparently told her the meal was regrettable. I felt terrible, luckily we all laughed about it, and I learned what a huge difference one “o” sound makes.

  • A family friend often brags about how she has strange connections all over the world. When she found out I was working on cruise ships she told me friends she had made in Chile had a son who worked as a doctor on cruise ships. She told me to ask around about him and see if I could connect with him. I thought she was clueless about how small the chances were so I never bothered to ask any questions, even when I met a doctor from Chile. The Chilean doctor hosted a Christmas party when his parents came aboard for the holidays. His mum and I started talking and she asked where I was from. I said “Vancouver Island” and she immediately shouted out, in the form of a question, the name of my parents’ well-traveled friend!

  • My friend and I got stuck in a concrete bench in the middle of the market square in Athens during a memorable downpour. The water rose to knee height, but it was amazing to see how the locals quickly put up wood barriers in their doors to prevent the sudden flood from pouring inside their homes!

    The rats running like mad around the corners weren´t so charming to look at, but we still had a laugh

  • We were staying at a little inn on the Isle of Skye in Scotland when I accidentally stepped on my travel alarm.

    Since the rooms didn’t contain an alarm clock or a phone, I became concerned that I would be late for our breakfast meeting time.

    I went to the front desk where I asked if it would be possible to borrow an alarm clock. The man behind the desk graciously explained that they didn’t have a clock to lend me. He then went on to say, “Miss, if you tell me what time you want to be woken, I’ll send our bell boy and he’ll knock you up.”

    I turned to the elderly gentleman standing next to me and said “talk about going home with a souvenir…”. I then had to explain why he exploded into laughter to the man behind the front desk.

    So I was ‘knocked up’ in Scotland and made it to breakfast on time.

  • I was studying abroad in Florence for a summer and had arranged to live with 9 girls in 3 apartments. A few of them met some guys hanging out, and I suspect drinking, on the steps of a church and ended up dating them while we were there. I found this kind of strange, but they ended up being very friendly, gelato-buying guys, so I didn’t complain. They weren’t native Italians so they found it difficult to understand my poorly-accented Italian, but they did begin referring to my 4’10” self affectionately as Picolina (essentially, “little girl”). On a feast day, one of my classes met at our Professor’s place for dinner and wine. We were running late for seeing the fireworks over the river so we were running as a group and we happened to pass across the front of a church. A guy who was just hanging out there started yelling excitedly at me in Italian (Ciao, Picolina! etc.) and grabbing my arm. One of my classmates looked frightened and grabbed me away, saying “just ignore him and run!” I had to explain that I knew him and everyone looked at me like I was crazy because he just appeared to be some vagrant who hangs out on the steps of a church. Which he was.

  • Definitely the drunken woman on the cruise ship who accused another passenger, “You’re a thief! You’re a thief and a liar!” at the classy onboard art auction. Apparently, this passenger stole her “free, consolation-prize artwork” which everyone got anyway.

  • In college, 3 of my closest friends and I traveled Europe. We’re all from California, so our standard traveling attire was sandals and t-shirts. Needless to say, we stuck out like sore thumbs. Our first stop was London, but the airport we landed at was far from the London city center. As we were hurriedly boarded the train, I accidentally kicked my friend’s sandal off her foot. Her shoe flew off in front of her and fell down into the gap between the platform and the train. It was gone forever! She had to travel the whole way from the outskirts of London to downtown with one sandal on. We definitely received our fair share of quizzical looks.

  • My family was living in a small suburb of Milan, Italy for a summer while my dad taught at the local university. My younger sister, my mom, and I were walking down the main cobblestone drag when my sister declared she needed a tampon. My mom, mortified told her to lower her voice and that we would take care of her “needs” at the local grocery. My sister, plainly and on cue replied, “Mom… no one speaks English here, no one understands the word tampon. Watch.” She then yells “TAMPON” extremely loudly. My mom is now in what I think a permanent state of shock. I, however, could do nothing except burst out in laughter at my sister’s boldness. And she was right, no one spoke English in our town, and no cared about her personal needs.

  • Last spring break a bunch of friends and I went on a quick trip around Europe after going to school in England. We decided to add a bit of fun(I don’t know who’s idea of fun this was) and also to keep a positive attitude by playing this game. If you were caught saying the words mine and hate – or other things to do with complaining – you had to drop and do ten push-ups – no matter where you were! You wouldn’t believe the amount of times you could find us doing push ups through out Europe.

    While we were in Paris one of my friends had her birthday and we were having a picnic supper under the Eiffel tower and(not being a very nice friends) I tricked her into saying some of the taboo words – twice! so in the middle of the park she had to do twenty push ups. She ended up getting me back several times though; I believe a few times on the train.
    It might have been a humiliating thing to do at the time but it did somehow turn some of those times where you might want to complain to memories you back at and laugh your pants off!

  • A couple of years ago, I took an amazing trip to Japan with my (then) boyfriend and two of our best friends. When we got to Nara, I literally gasped that this was the most amazing place I’d seen on the trip. In the middle of my oohs and ahhs, my boyfriend taps me on the shoulder and says “Hey, check it out…”

    He had an engagement ring in his hand. Not expecting that AT ALL and rushed with all this emotion, my reaction was “What the &%$#?” so I ran away crying, leaving the poor guy confused and dumbfounded.

    I eventually came to my senses as it sunk in and I did say yes :) Not so funny at the moment, but sure is ridiculous when we look back at it now!

  • One summer I did two short study abroad trips back to back in England and Ireland. The England trip was with my home university, so we stayed in a hotel. I had to leave the hotel really early to get my flight to Ireland so I hired a car service to take me to the airport.
    As I’m standing in the lobby, the doorman asks me if I need any help. I cheerily say ” Oh, no thank you! I’m just waiting for my ride!”. He immediately turned, started to giggle and ran to the front desk where everyone then pointed and laughed. I thought it was the weirdest thing.

    As I was describing my departure to my sweet, motherly English teacher when I got back to the U.S., she turned red and reluctantly explained that ” a ride” in England has a, er, different connotation.

  • My very first night of a whirlwind weekend in Paris (which was also my birthday!) I was wandering the city with a friend, lost in wonder staring up at the building and watching people go by–until I felt something wet hit me in the face. I had been spit on by a homeless man, who apparently mistook my reverie as me rudely ignoring his request for money! After freaking out for a moment then, at the behest of my friend, rubbing hand sanitizer pretty much all over myself, we apologized to the man (who was still yelling at us to give him money!) and continued on our way. We did, thankfully, end up having a wonderful weekend!

  • In 2000 ,my very first out of country travel experience was to a resort in Mexico. The vacation was a fantastic first sip to my longing for travel and exotic places. I was by no means a seasoned traveler, so I borrowed some luggage from my parents (who also traveled very infrequently). Going through customs in Mexico on our way home, my bag was searched where they found some old fireworks. I had no idea they were in the suitcase as it wasn’t mine and who knows the last time the bag was even used. The bag searchers were very suspicious and spoke little English. Fortunately after some explanation and the safe disposal of the old fireworks, they let me proceed with my belongings for the trip home.

  • Flipped an entire Belle Helene crepe into my lap due to a tiny cafe table in Paris. Good manners means a napkin in your lap, so I just flipped it right back onto the plate, not a spot on my pants!

  • I visited England, Scotland and Wales with my high school back in the day and when we were in London and walking around the streets, a pigeon shat on my head. The poop rolled down my hair and face and I had to go wash off in the bathroom of a McDonald’s.

    The end.

  • My husband and I spent our summer honeymoon in Telluride, CO. When we weren’t enjoying the beautiful town, we were in the mountains hiking, which provided ridiculously beautiful scenery.

    One day we decided to conquer an entire mountain, and were rewarded by the most thrilling and haunting scene. It was near sunset when we reached the top, and past an abandoned mining camp we found a lake that was eerily silent and incredibly still. It was like all the sound and motion had been sucked out of the world, leaving us just staring at the smooth water. It was a truly unforgettable moment.

    Here is a link to a photo I took of it, my husband being the bright spot of red. And a huge thank you for the chance of winning those gorgeous posters!


  • When I was 17 I traveled to Florence Italy with my parents. One afternoon I was wandering on my own and was approached by a kindly looking middle aged man who appeared to be about my fathers age. He was only about 5ft 7in and dressed in a well cut suit. I smiled and said “Hello”, he smiled and said “Hello”. He had a very nice face and a good smile. In a halting mix of Italian (which I don’t speak) French (which I almost speak) and hand gestures he asked if I was a student, if I was traveling alone, and where I was from. I answered yes I was a student, I was traveling with my parents, and I lived in Seattle. Then he gestured to himself and then to me and then to the corner cafe saying something like “Cafe? Si? Cafe?” And I’m thinking okay, not a good plan to have coffee with the random old Italian man when my parents don’t know where I am. So I politely shook my head “no”. He then gestured at me again saying “Ah, bella, bella.” At this point I was getting really uncomfortable but was too polite to just leave so I did the uncomfortable shake my head half smile/grimace thing and tried to back away. At which point the kindly old Italian gentleman in the expensive suit tried to grab my face and kiss me…. in the middle of the day in the middle of the street as the Italian police man who I was making eyes at for help laughed his head off. I turned RAN as fast as I could back to where we were staying. And let me tell you I was quite happy to stay with my parents close by for the rest of the trip.

  • a friend and i were traveling in south korea, and although we both enjoy sampling local cuisine, we both were also experiencing frequent GI issues. this was made more difficult as the washrooms we needed really varied: some were quite modern while others were holes in the ground.

    after eating lunch at a restaurant, i went off to find the washroom and was quite pleased to find that it was very modern and clean. in fact, the toilet was extremely modern looking. i stood up and tried to figure out how to make it flush. there were two buttons on the top: a smaller and a larger one. i assumed that this was similar to the toilets at home that permit you to choose a small or large amount of water.

    i pushed the smaller button. immediately, a shower of water flew out of the toilet, hitting me in the face with surprising force. i left the washroom dripping and more cautious for the rest of the trip. and puzzled about the need for a bidet in a restaurant.

  • I had just finished a backpacking trip through the highlands of Scotland. I had flown to London, and was walking to the train. Oh, it was New Year’s Eve. I was crossing the street (I WAS looking the right way.) when a crazy driver slammed into a car that then slammed into me. I spent the next ten days at the Royal London Hospital.
    The first night the surgeon informed me I need surgery the next morning. I explained to him that I was nervous about having this done in a foreign country. He replied, “YOU are the foreigner!” This only became funny much, much later!

  • In Buenos Aires, I convinced my Argentine boyfriend and his father to go to a sketchy neighborhood because a restaurant there purportedly had an amazing snail dish. The place was so wonderfully old school. Preserved meats hanging from twine from the ceiling. A wall full of Argentine wines. A grumpy old man behind the counter. Our waiter Ramón refused for a long time to let this green horned gringa order something he was sure I wouldn’t like. I insisted in my mediocre Spanish that I loved escargot. Finally, with an assuring look from my boyfriend’s father, I had a giant dish escargot dish set before me. Ramón checked in dubiously every few minutes to see how I was doing. Having finished it heroically, Ramón gave me an escargot fork he fashioned himself out of wire. I felt like I had proven myself.

  • Last summer my husband and I went to Italy. Rome was our last stop. We decided to eat at some restaurant that Rick Steves (travel book) suggested. After finishing out meal/dessert–we asked for our check. The waiter comes over to us and asks us okay please tell me what you had because I don’t remember and I didn’t write it down. Ha.

  • A friend and I were backpacking through Europe, and we took an overnight ferry from Greece to Italy. We were in a huge room not unlike an airplane cabin with rows of seats. Since the room was mostly empty, my friend and I each took a row for ourselves to sleep on. I woke up at one point during the night and saw one of the ferry employees. Watching me sleep. He saw that I was awake and ran off. Needless to say, I couldn’t go back to sleep.

  • I traveled to Europe in college with some good friends and we were determined to see as much of France and Italy as possible, which meant we only spent a day or two in each location. On our few days in Florence, there was a strike and all of the museums were closed, much to our dismay. So, instead we were forced to spend the day exploring and shopping (yay!). Our exploring became a little too ambitious and we became very lost in the winding streets. We were not too worried, however, because each turn showed us another cute shop or hidden treasure. While leaving one such shop, I glanced down the street only to see my high school prom date walking toward me. “Michael!?!” I shouted, showing no decorum whatsoever, as surprise had overcome me. It was indeed him. He was studying abroad in Spain and he had traveled with some friends to Italy on a break. This was their one day (one day!) in Florence and the closed museums had also forced them to exploring. I was aghast because the odds of us running into each other were minuscule, yet here we were. Our two groups had many mutual friends and so we converged and spent a lovely afternoon together, culminating with dancing to accordion music in the streets. It was a deliciously Italian day.

  • My wife and I went to the Portuguese Azore islands for our honeymoon. It was in February, and my prior research suggested that, to our disappointment, there were no festivals happening while we were there. We arrived in Ponta Delgada and picked up our tiny rental (maybe a Peugeot) and proceeded to drive to our hotel, which was impossible to find. After conversing with a guy at a gas station in my sad, broken Portuguese, we followed him to the location of our hotel. When arriving I offered the guys 2 Euros as a tip, but he apparently thought I was crazy and drove away very quickly while I’m waving the bills in my hand.

    We stayed the night at the hotel and the next morning walked around the area of the city around the hotel and noticed that nothing was open and few people were out. We asked the hotel where everyone was, and they said there was a festival where children dress up in costume and pelt people with water balloons. Apparently a water festival of some sort. So, we got in the car and proceeded to the village 30 minutes away where the house we were using was located. Again, when we arrived in the town, no one was to be seen.

    We start driving slowly through the winding streets looking for the street that our house was located on, which is extremely difficult since it’s painted on small tile on the sides of the buildings at intersections. Finally we see our sign and turn onto the street.

    At the opposite end of the street we see a horde of children (7-10 yrs. old) walking our direction. When they see our car they start to run towards us, and it’s at this point that my new bride and I start to get nervous. As they get closer, we start to notice that the boys are dressed as prostitutes and the girls as pimps. Other children were dressed as pregnant women, rubbing their pillow-stuffed shirts and there was some other little boy that was endlessly blowing a plastic horn.

    When they get to the car, I notice that our car has not manual door locks and the kids slowly pull the doors open to our car.

    Luckily there were no water balloons involved, but instead little boys dressed as prostitutes puffing on fake cigarettes start to pile into the driver seat with me. Finally an adult comes out of a house and says something in Portuguese with the word “Americanos” in it and the children all leave the vehicle and continue on their way down the street shouting what I can only imagine as phrases appropriate to the characters they were dressed as.

    It made for great pictures.

  • About the third week into an unbelievable time studying abroad in Florence, Italy the experience was slightly dampened. While my roommate and I were experiencing an Italian-Chinese lunch (we had to see how it compared to American Chinese food! hehe) a downpour started. We took our time with our delicious meal hoping it would stop but as it was not letting up we made a run for it back to our ancient but charming apartment. After trudging soaked and out of breath up the three flights of stairs and struggling to open the decrepit lock (like always) we entered to the din of water dropping on water. This was a new sound. We walked towards the invading noise to find 4 inches of water in our kitchen! A hole around a pipe that led to the courtyard was pulling in buckets of rain! In our crazed, being in a foreign country not knowing what to do-surprise we used our measly two bath towels to try to sop it up. That was to no avail so we rushed down the stairs in an attempt to get a mop or some sort of help from our college five minutes away. As we opened the door we saw that not only was our 3rd floor kitchen flooded but so were the streets! We must have been a sight splashing through the dirty calve high water with our pants rolled up swinging buckets and a mop laughing hysterically. Luckily the rain stopped, the water receded and we had our kitchen cleaned up before our other roommates got home. This was one of my favorite adventures in Florence haha.

  • My friend and I stumbled upon last minute tickets to a symphony in Vienna. The usher brought us into the beautiful room in the front and ushered us all the way to the back……through impecibly dressed Austrians….while we were in our jeans and backpacks!! The concert was amazing though…..totally worth the embarassment!

  • Once I was staying with some Rapa Nui people I met on Easter Island. I had been with them for quite a while and we had grown very comfortable with one another. During their yearly festival, Tapati Rapa Nui, we had all enjoyed getting in on the fun. On the last day Chu, the woman who was just a bit older then me told me everyone had to be in the parade. “Not me,” I said, “I’m American.”
    “Not anymore,” she said. Their friend Tito, and artist, came over with different colors of mud, black, red and white, that he’d dug from a near by volcano. The next thing I know I’m painted head to toe with black mud and white designs, wearing a feather loin cloth and a coconut paper bikini top standing on a float waving to tourists. The best part was when a photographer for National Geographic asked if he could take my picture. I think he was surprised when I said with a shrug, “if you want to,” in my American voice.

  • The funniest of late has been while living in Colombia. I was taking my very small dog, Devereaux out on a walk. A woman stopped her car in the middle of the street and jumped out and ran towards me with her cell phone in hand. She quickly showed me a picture of her own dog and ignored the piling up of cars behind her. She proposed a “matrimonio” between her dog and mine saying that the resulting puppies would be “divina.” I tried to dissuade her in my bad Spanish that her dog wouldn’t probably like Dev because she had been fixed. She obviously didn’t understand me because she said if the ear traits of my dog were passed on they could just be cut and fixed. Instead of trying to relay the fact that my dog had been fixed I told her that my dog was insulted and could never be with another dog with such shallow owners.
    I dare say she didn’t understand what I was saying, but she knew doggie marriage was off the table.

  • funniest travel experience…hmmm…
    I guess it would have to be the time that I didn’t have anyone’s cell phone # and I trekked all the way around Jerusalem to find everyone. Lo and behold they were at the first place I started looking

  • While touring the Loire Valley in a rented Ford Focus, my husband insisted on driving down a really small dirt road which ended at a muddy field in which we got totally stuck. It was Sunday morning but we had seen some farmers about a mile back. I used the magic phrase-in bad French- “I’m sorry to disturb you but we have a problem.” The French love to solve problems. We tractored back to the car and they put a rope through one front window and out the other and pulled us out of the mud. Don’t tell the rental company.

  • My husband and I went to Ireland for our honeymoon. About half way through the trip we found ourselves in a quaint, harbor-side town of Kinsale. One night we ventured out to the Tap Tavern, the oldest bar in Kinsale. We walked in to find no one behind the counter, just a couple locals talking at the bar. Just then a woman, perhaps 75 years old, stands up and asks, “What’ll you be having?” We were shocked! She was the bartender and had lived above and worked at the bar her entire life. We sat down with our perfectly poured Guinnesses and laughed it up with the locals. One older gentleman, after hearing my husband is part Scottish, joked that the Irish were the ones who got them wearing skirts. Needless to say, it was incredible, quintessentially Irish evening, one that will stay with me always.

  • I was living in Madrid, Spain when a group of friends and I went to see the scary movie El Orfanato. We got out of the theater around midnight and decided to go for some tapas and drinks. One of my room mates was still talking about the movie and how scared she was when this guy walks towards us in the middle of the street. She screamed super loud and the guy got so scared that he jumped to the other sidewalk. We still laugh about it!

  • I was staying in a villa in Tuscany with my parents, my German aunt, my brother and his wife, and my sister. The road up to the villa was really curvy, a lot of switchbacks going up a hill, for a solid 5K or so. We were all in a van, moaning about how my dad was taking the curves to fast, when my aunt burst out, “Vice (my dad’s name – Vince in Spanish), if you don’t slow down I’m going to poke!” The rest of us were all, “….poke? What?”
    Turns out she meant puke. So in my family now, you poke when you’re feeling ill.

  • The scene: Perugia, Italy
    The Time: Brunch
    Who: Me, my boyfriend, and a bunch of drinking Italians playing instruments and singing.
    What: They saw us, then grabbed us and danced with us. Oh, and they made us sing along. In public.

    I will never know the words to Stand By Me better than these Italians.

  • My boyfriend and I went to Lao a few years ago backpacking and we had been using the Lonley Planet guide to see where we would like to go.

    The book states that there is this nice man made island that’s a little out of the way to get to but its really beautiful and on this “Santipop” island there is a cheap place to stay and a restaurant… so we though, why not?

    So we got on a bus and arrive in this little village where we then had to ride in the back of a truck to the edge of this lake (in the rain I might add) we followed some locals rushing and sliding down the side of a hill to make it onto this little boat. When we got on we both just look at eachother and start laughing cause it was such an adventure. Rain and sea water were drenching us head to toe.

    After a few minutes, the boat stopped on the side of a smaaaaall island and told us it was Santipop. There literally was no pathway to walk so we had to climb through bushes and trees where we were greeted by this strange cross-eyed lady that luckily spoke english. The island was no larger than a regular sized house! She showed us where we would stay and when we opened the door….. EEK! literally every species of insect and spider could have been found in that hut. All over the walls they were… and right in the middle was a bed :( I was trying not to be all princessy so I told myself we could handle just a night. the lady told us that on the other side of the island there was good swimming.. we walked over and we just had that moment where we looked at each other and was like “yeah, lets leave!” lol

    So we grabbed our stuff and since there was no boat off we stood at the side of the island to try to hail someone driving by but no luck. Finally the ladies mom came back and didn’t want to take us but we finally convinced her with $10USD. lol.

    When we got back to shore we hailed another truck to take us back to the village. We asked around for somewhere to stay and there was like motel on the outskirts so we walked over and they had a large group staying that night so they were all full. IT was so sad cause it was getting late like 7pm and it was raining.. so we walked back to the village sitting at the bus stop not knowing what to do..

    When some of the people that were staying at the motel that we talked to walked out of a van. they asked if we had anywhere to stay yet and we said no. So this very very very nice Thai lady gave us the keys to her room and said that she would bunk with her friend…

    She saved us from having to stay up all night in shifts till the next bus out of that village.

    Its nice to know that even in foreign countries… you can find some really nice people to help you out.

  • In a souk market in Morocco, we were walking in circles and LOST. We ventured down one very NARROW alleyway and a donkey was trotting towards us. My friends were lucky and able to dodge the donkey in the recessed doorways. I however got bull dozed by the donkey. Hurt like heck, but I was ok. Man, those souk markets are like a maze, and you’ll never know what you’ll encounter when you make a turn in those alleyways.

  • This could be funny, or just sad, but I was living in Ecuador during the summer of 07 and our neighborhood was lined with open sewers. These sewers smelled nasty, looked nasty, and were filled with all sorts of garbage, slime, waste, and frequently, dead animals. An Ecuadorian man on a bike decided to start catcalling my friend and me (he was saying some pretty inappropriate things!), but his catcalling distracted him so much that he rode straight into the sewer. We couldn’t help but laugh. All the neighbors came out of their homes to point and laugh, as well. The man – who emerged covered in BLACK SLIME – had a pretty good sense of humor about it since he let us take all the pictures we wanted. I think he might have learned his lesson about catcalling women in the streets. Hopefully he has a little more respect these days.

  • My grandma lives in chicago. About once or twice a year my mom and I try to get up there to visit. One year (I was about 12 or 13) we decided to go to Billy Goat’s Tavern (CHEESEBURGER!) for lunch. As soon as we walk in, the main guy taking our orders starts “flirting” with me. Being in the beginning of my teen years, I immediately turn bright red and can’t answer the guy with a straight face. As we order and get our drinks he keeps yelling my name in is thick accent across the restaurant, “YENNIIIIFUR!!”

    We find our table, sit down, and what do i immediately do? Spill my drink. ALL OVER. “Oh Yennifur! No, no, no! You ho.kay.? Let me wipe you hoff!”

    Of course now, I’m mortified. I refill my drink and sit down in the corner. I can’t even look at the guy! He’s waving at me and winking, while my family is laughing hysterically. Before we leave he comes to clean off our table and my mom decides to egg this on. She asks if she can take a picture of him and me. And then he grabs me and makes me sit on his lap. MORTIFIED. Funny now, but so embarrassing! Gotta love Chi-Town.

  • I had just finished a year-long study abroad program in Barcelona (best year of my life, hands down) and my brother had just graduated from high school. He came to Europe to do a backpacking trip with me. Our first stop was Nice, which was lovely. We stayed in a little apartment run by a hostel. It was nice, but had bed bugs. This grossed me out, but I figured once we got somewhere with a laundry mat we could get rid of them.

    Our next stop, covered in bites, was Cinque Terre. It was incredibly beautiful, but I was very itchy. I went to a pharmacy and tried to explain, in span-talian what I needed. He gave me cream and I went back to the hostel and rubbed it all over. Then I looked at the package. It said “Crema Anale e Vulvare.” Yep, it was butt cream. My brother about died laughing. Awesome.

  • My husband, 3-year-old and I had just arrived in Madrid. While washing my hands in the bathroom, I heard a very loud THUD followed my my toddler’s screams. My husband had pulled down a hide-a-bed on the wall and a metal ladder had fallen out of it. Part of the ladder hit her on the back and she bit through half her lip. We were panicked. Did she need stitches? How do we get medical care in Madrid? How do you even say ‘stitches’ in Spanish? What are we going to eat? We’re starving with this bleeding kid with a puffy lip and there’s no ice in Europe! We managed to clean her up, find an ice cream shop and fed her ice cream in a taxi to the hospital. The nurses knew they had some scared tourists on their hands because they got us in immediately despite a full waiting room. Our ER doctor walked in and he was gorgeous. I tried to act cool while covering my blood-stained shirt. He looked at our daughter and said, “Ahhhhh, princessa….” in a deep voice. She melted. No stitches were necessary, but we’ll never forget our first night in Madrid!

  • When my beloved boyfriend came to visit me in Argentina, I was overjoyed. This boy has barely left the midwest, and he traveled halfway across the world for a week vacation. He took a solo adventure to buy ice cream for a dinner party we were attending, and as the time passed I realized he was about an hour overdue on a quick errand… he didn’t speak Spanish and we didn’t have cell phones, so I started getting worried! About 3o minutes later the poor guy returned with a GIANT container of gelato and no money at all! He had gotten into a translation conundrum with an angry little shopkeeper and it seems my brave boyfriend was so confused and overwhelmed he got bamboozled – the name of the shop was “Furchii’s” – and we always use that word for an awkward or sticky situation that is beyond confusing. We laugh about it all the time – Furchiis!!

  • My family and I were visiting the Prado in Madrid, when all of the sudden, my little brother decided it would be fun to take off all of his clothes and sprint through the Goya exhibit.

    Having to chase a naked boy through mazes of priceless artwork and down marble staircases is a memory, I, along with many shocked Japanese tourists–who took our pictures, will never forget.

  • I was in Rome with two girlfriends and we were walking around outside the Coliseum where there are buff young men in gladiator costumes ready to have pictures taken with tourists. One particularly flirty gladiator kept sneaking in a proposition with his sales pitch – “Have picture taken” (loudly for the crowd) then under his breath to me *we have sex*. TAKE YOUR PICTURE! *sex sex sex*. When I joked about him and his unique pick-up style with my friends afterwards they had no idea what I was talking about. I may have looked more kindly on his offer if I’d known it was just for me!

  • While on the way to our honeymoon destination in St. Lucia, we missed our first connecting flight in San Francisco by 10 minutes, however the airline told us if we ran to the other end of the airport, they could get us on to a different flight to still get us to our destination the same day. It was midnight and there were only janitors left and all the lights were dimmed. We got to the terminal, huffing and puffing with our bags and they wouldn’t let us on. I stood there crying for about a half hour while my husband tried to convince the folks at the counter to let us on. They told us they couldn’t help. We spent the next two hours waiting for the other airline to set us up with “overnight” accommodations (ended up being for 4 hours) and to get us another plane out the next day. Then we had to stay at our OTHER connecting airport overnight (we had to pay for this one). It took us 2 1/2 days to get from Seattle to St. Lucia and it was supposed to take 1.

  • One of the best parts about traveling for me is the time spent learning about a place and culture from the local people. During a trip to Europe I met up with a friend who was studying in Madrid. We had the most incredible weekend eating tapas and seeing the city and visiting Toledo with her Spanish friends. Over one meal we got into a conversation about us Americans and our lack of a good education in geography. Suddenly my new Spanish friends were quizzing me on the location of cities in Spain, and around Europe, then current conflicts in West Africa and Central Asia! In the end everyone decided that as long as I didn’t go back home and tell people I had visited “Paris, France,” I would pass their test (country name is implied).

    These lovely posters would remind me of my wonderful friends in Spain who wouldn’t need the city name on the print to know what location it represented.

  • When I was in high school, I went on a 3 week tour of Europe with my youth orchestra. Our last stop was a tiny tiny village in France just across the border from Switzerland, and I was staying with a few others in a family run chalet on a small mountain. On the very last day of our trip, we decided to bike down to the lake in the valley for a swim, but the bikes we were given were road bikes and the terrain was quite steep and rough (and no helmets!). As luck would have it, as we made our way down I accelerated and hit a huge rock, causing me to tumble off my bike. One of my friends came over and started laughing because I looked ridiculous–I however did not think it was very funny, since I had no skin on my hands or knees and had broken my ankle.

    I was eventually taken to a rural doctor who had an xray machine that looked like it was about 80 years old and poured iodine all over. He also spoke no English (and I speak no French, and no translator). I left with medications I couldn’t read and no crtuches, and had to hop on to the bus for a 6 hour bus ride back to Paris.

    The airport workers didn’t seem to have time for my injuries and wouldn’t give me a wheelchair–after hopping all the way through the HUGe airport, I boarded the flight for 9 hours back home, broken ankle and all.

    What a trip!

  • Oh so pretty!
    Picking only one travel story is so hard…but if I have to:
    I wanted to go to Paris, FOREVER. I saved my pennies and finally made the trip as part of a European tour that lasted weeks (dreamy). PAris was the last stop and the one I had anticipated the most. When I got off the train from Switzerland in Paris, the first thing I see/hear is, “Hey, American girl, lift up your skit for me.” A homeless man made his simple request, which I politely declined. Not exactly the welcome I was expecting, but hilarious nonetheless. The trip was amazing, despite the unusual beginning!

  • While in Europe for a wedding, I went out for drinks with some friends studying abroad in Paris. I took full advantage of the fact that they knew how to fluently order beers until it was time to head back to my hotel. Upon entering the Metro station, I found that my ticket had been demagnetized by my phone and I couldn’t get through the turnstile. In my drunken, broken, high school French-English mash up I tried to explain to the (extremely good looking!) Frenchman at the counter that I needed a new ticket. After about 5 full minutes of my slurred nonsense he smiled and, in clear English, said, “I know what you are saying, I am just pulling your leg.” Gorgeous guy with a cute accent AND a sense of humor? Why, oh why didn’t I get his number!?!

  • When I was nine, I was lucky enough to go to Ireland with my family and see the land that was my father’s home throughout parts of his childhood. The entire trip was spent in a hazy euphoria of greenery and magic for me… A proverbial drug which I will blame for the following story. We went to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, which, as it sounds, was a teensy rope bridge. More importantly, it is suspended over the sea off a cliffside and attached on the other end to the equally as teensy Carrick Island (imagine a wee cliff island that just rose right out of the ocean). Now, the tour guide had warned us to move about the island with caution, as the grasses were tall and the winds were strong, and who’s to say where the edge is? Of course, in my nine-year-old mindset of indestructibility, I started to get a little overzealous whilst exploring the island. I suddenly broke away from my family and ran ahead, enjoying the cool ocean winds against my face. Here’s the thing: I knew I wasn’t too close to the edge, but my family was some distance behind me, so they didn’t know. I wasn’t exactly heeding my parents’ warnings to slow down. Here’s the other thing: I suddenly came upon a big, old ditch in the middle of my path. And here’s the other, other thing: Kids will be kids… Right? What I mean to say is, kids don’t always think of the consequences that follow actions. So, I jumped. Into the ditch, throwing my hands up and releasing a fake, “falling” scream that faded away as I crouched low, out of sight. You’ve never heard a voice of terror until you’ve heard your mother and father shout your name after thinking you’ve fallen off of a cliff into the ocean. And you’ve never seen horror until you abashedly gaze up at their pale faces from the bottom of a ditch, suddenly feeling really rotten for what was supposed to be really funny. But if it hadn’t been for my “adventurous” spirit, that’s one less story my family would have to laugh about years later. …Right?

  • In high school, I went on a mission trip with my church to Mexico, where to a huge crowd of tiny Latinos I gave a 15-minute Sunday school lesson—in my best espanol—on how sin makes God sad. Of course, it may have been more effective had I not unwittingly blanket-substituted “pescado” (dead fish) for “pecado” (sin). ;-)

  • On a choir trip to Germany, one of our stays were with a local church family. Well, our group consisted of 4 college aged girls… we had one college aged guy come pick us up, not knowing that we were staying at his parent’s house verses his place. Not only that but the other 3 girls beat me to the van so I sat up in front by myself with this young guy. Very funny looking back.

  • OK, picture this:

    You’ve just graduated from college, your younger brother has just graduated from high school and your parents are taking the two of you to Alaska.

    After a week of incredible highs (yes, the peak of Denali looks amazing from a helicopter) and lows (no, it never gets dark. Ever.), it was time for the biggest challenge yet: Polar Bar clubbing. In the Arctic Ocean.

    Yep, at the top of the world in Barrow, Alaska, lucky idiots can strip to their suits/skivvies and run into the Arctic Ocean.

    I wasn’t alone: my brother refused to be shown up by a GIRL (and we were well past childhood), and my father insisted on getting in on the fun.

    I was both grateful for the support and sad not to be the center of attention, but at least I had a nice bikini.

    We changed, shivering in the 42-degree weather, pacing as we readied ourselves to sprint down the beach. We hit the water in waves: my brother first, my father second, me third.

    We stay in for 10 seconds, as per rules.

    Out comes my brother, macho yelling to the skies.

    Out comes my father, grinning gleefully.

    Out comes me … realizing my bikini top is not in place.

  • When I was in high school, my mother was constantly going on business trips to Europe, and the summer before my senior year she decided to take me to a meeting in Italy. At one point, we were riding a fairly packed train; periodically we would pass through a tunnel and things would go dark. I noticed that my mom was getting a little twitchy, but when I asked her if she was alright, she just nodded. It wasn’t until we got off the train that she asked ME if I was alright! Apparently, every time the train had gone dark, someone had been pinching her bum! I couldn’t believe that such a thing would happen to my Mom.

  • I was traveling with a friend from London to Paris, and we had just arrived on the train. After a tough time getting our Metro cards, we lugged our bags to the right platform . As I get on behind her, the doors slam shut on my suitcase, which is mostly out of the train! They doors barely just opened to get on! I start struggling and pulling, as two French gentleman pull on both sides of the door to help.

    As it finally breaks free, one of the men sit back down and the girl with him looks at him, rolls her eyes, then looks at me. That’s when I notice a whole train of people looking at me like I’m the most ridiculous thing ever. Great, I didn’t even get a chance to be a decent American traveler!

    In that moment, I felt like maybe Paris would be unfriendly and cold, like some people say. Just as the lonely feeling was setting in, I hear, “Nice purse”. I turn right around to be face to face with a girl my age, same purse. We look down, laugh, and both say “Target?!” at the same time.

    Paris (and the people there) turned out to be just great. But sometimes it’s nice to see a familiar face.

  • My friends and I were in Bermuda and took the bus out to a pub for some drinks one evening. We stayed out a little later than planned and missed our bus home. Fortunately, we knew there was one last bus headed back toward our house. The only catch? It was on the other side of the island, and to get there, we had to make our way down a path through a forest. In total darkness. Yes, poor planning on our part. When we finally made it down the hill, we found ourselves waiting for the bus with a total stranger we were convinced was a drug dealer. Oh, and when we finally saw the bus coming, we waved and screamed at it, but the bus driver flew on by without stopping. We finally managed to hail a cab and got home safely, but man, that was a crazy night!

  • Last fall we went to France, the apt that we had originally got did not materialize so the service got us another apt. This one had white leather couches and was not rented to families only adults. WE had 2 little kids :) So owner is showing us around the apt when we land, adn my little guy is exhausted and starts banging on the wall. Look of horror on the owners face. Enough said. My husband and I just laughed our heads of after he left.

  • I think my best travel story is when I was studying abroad in Strasbourg. I had flown to Spain to visit a college friend studying there and had to take the train to Paris to get to my flight.

    On my way back to Strasbourg, I read the train timing wrong and thought there was a train leaving around 1 a.m., but it was actually midnight. I took a taxi from the airport and asked him to get to the train station as fast as possible to make the 1 a.m. train. Of course we got there and the station was completely empty, obviously I had missed my train.

    I ended up going to a little cafe/bar across from the station where the bartender (a sweet, slightly older gentleman) took me in, giving me tea at first (I had a cold), then popping open champagne later on and getting me behind the bar to help him serve the guests.

    The next train didn’t leave until about 5 in the morning, but the bartender kept the cafe open for me, fed me and carried my bags to the train station in the morning.

    So, a frustrating experience at first turned into a great memory I will never forget about my very first night spent in Paris!

  • since i’m entering a contest of young traveling video reporter, my biggest trips are to come and i would like to travel with one of your map, to had a little sparkle to my videos :)

  • My now husband and I were staying in a shared room hostel while in London. We had just gone to bed when our roommates (neither had ever met before that day) came home…drunk and horny. They then preceded to get frisky in the bed directly next to ours! We laughed, asked them to keep it down and then when they didn’t decided we were not going to be outdone. Makes me giggle with embarrassment every time I think of that story.

  • A girlfriend and I headed into the Turkish bazaar on one of the last days of our trip to hunt for a delicious spicy, chewy honey candy that we had tasted at one of our hotels. We didn’t know the name of the candy, but we knew the name of the spice mixture that was the main flavoring.

    We found jars of the spice mixture in a stall and started into the bartering process. We had tried to explain about the candy, but slowly we realized that the vendor had another interpretation of events. He had decided that two American college girls must be interested in the spice mix as an aphrodisiac, not as an ingredient for cooking.

    So, the sales pitch took an odd turn. As we decided to back out of the sale, the vendor began shouting to everyone in that street that it was such a good product that it would produce “seven loves in one night.” Or seven lovers. Not sure.

    My friend went back and got some.

    I would still love to have a recipe for that candy!

  • Several years ago, I traveled to Nanchang, China with my parents to adopt my little sister. At the time, I had bleach-blonde hair. Apparently, the only blonde girl that the Chinese has been exposed to in this region was Britney Spears- I was followed around everywhere I went by teenage girls, trying to take photos with me and even asking for autographs!

  • Now unfortunately, I’ve never had the privilege of traveling aboard, even though I’m madly obsessed. HOWEVER… last May I had a fantastic trip with some of my best girls from school. We decided to “road-trip” it down to Destin (from St. Louis, MO) for our college graduation trip. Now imagine 3 girls, all with a lack of direction, and a navigation (lovingly named Penelope) that well… doesn’t know how to navigate, and you’re bound for an adventure (or two, or three…). Now it got interesting in “middle-of-nowhere” Alabama. After getting off the highway, re-routed back on, etc. I decided that it was time for a late night candy bar (as we still had an hour to our half way spot). I of course dragged another girl in the “Token” with me because there was no way I was going in alone. While I was standing in line, I noticed this man (very short to my 5’7″ height, with a bald spot, and greasy hair to his shoulders) checking out in front of me with a very thick “Alabamer” accent and attempting to figure out his change. This little man proceeds to turn around, look me up and down (*mortified) and say oh my goodness. The next few things he said were complete babble, and me, trying to be nice continued to say “I’m sorry, I don’t understand you.” Thankfully, after checking out and getting away from this babbling Alabamer, my friend finally led me to what he was saying in his very thick accent “Can I buy you girls a Snickers bar?’ Hahah, now it may not be funny to all but the three of us always get a major chuckle anytime we talk about it (probably a combo of being in the car for 9 hours and it being pretty darn late). :)

  • i got lost straight off the tube on my first trip to england. i didn’t have enough cash to afford a cab, so i decided to walk to my best friend’s flat. big mistake. i walked 45 minutes in the wrong direction turned around and walked the other hour and 15 minutes to her flat. in my exhausted and kind of delirious state i could not find her address. i broke down crying to some poor british stranger! eventually some kind soul offered to help me and i found my way. moral of the story. always get a cab.

  • My best friend/college roommate and I decided to celebrate graduating by taking an “epic” three week backpacking tour of Europe. Excited about graduation and our upcoming trip, we decided to make margaritas and plan our vacation. And being the thoughtful, plan-ahead girls that we are, we decided to buy our Eurorail passes online – a 5 country pass – and all our tickets as well. We figured it would make our lives easier once we got there.

    About three margaritas in, we noticed that for just a few extra dollars that you could upgrade your train tickets to “first class” seats. So, obviously, we upgraded – it seemed like the logical thing to do.

    Turns out, not really, since our Eurail pass was a “second class” pass – which we realized on our first train from Paris to Zurich, when the ticket steward came around and informed us “that will be 40 euros.” Sorry, come again?? Apparently, you can buy first class tickets with a second class pass, but it will cost you huge.

    Between the two legs of our first ride we dropped 80 euros – which was really, really not in our backpacking budget. And since we bought our tickets online, we weren’t even able to exchange them at the station. So we ended up having to buy new tickets at every stop – 5 countries and 8 cities worth of new tickets.

    That said, the trip was amazing, and our big mistake turned out to be a blessing in disguise when we reached Italy during a rail strike (the only trains were leaving at night and there were hardly any available seats). But our new rule of thumb – plan vacations THEN drink margaritas.

  • A trip to borneo in 2008….

    Made me realise that the beauty of nature will not last forever. The wooden tables that we buy ,the material items that we purchase from day to day….are limited and that there isnt an endless supply.

    Borneo is so beautiful..full to the
    brim with wildlife and culture but then there is miles of endless palm oil plantations….there is orangutuns, pigmy elephants ,monkeys, endangered birds…..and then there is a forest that is getting smaller year by year so that these plantations can be built…

    but i will remember the pigmy elephants swimming across the river with thier trunks in the air..holding each others tails to make sure they keep thier babies safe.. ..crossing to enough part of the forest so that they avoid the destruction that is inevitable.

    i will tell my baby boy this story and i just one day hope he might get chance to see it with his own eyes..

  • To be or to have, that is the question. I was in an internet cafe in Paris and came up to the attendant to tell him I had finished and to settle my bill. “Je suis finis!” I announced, to which he replied in perfect English (and perfect French snark) “You say “J’ai finis”, “Je suis finis” means you are dying.” Utter embarrassment.

  • My husband is from India and we get to go visit his family there and tour around a bit every couple of years. The last time we were there, one of my husband’s aunties, noticing that I had lost a little weight since the first trip, asked me in a forceful tone, “What happened to you? You used to be so charming.”

  • After an overnight flight, a friend and I arrived in Spain pretty exhausted. We tried to stay up as long as we could, and then took an afternoon siesta. We woke up and it was still very light out. Neither of us had watches (dumb!) but the nearest clock in our hostel said 9. We assumed (due to how light out it was) that it was 9 am and we had slept for 17 hours. Turns out, after some panicked running around asking strangers what day it was, that it was actually 9 pm the same day we had fallen asleep. We went out and bought a cheap watch after that!

  • My husband and I honeymooned in New York City in 1993. Our second full day there, we decided to start our day at the South Street Seaport. Not too long after we arrived – about 10 or 10:30 in the morning – we got very hungry. The North Star pub was open, but not yet serving food. We decided to sit at the bar and wait for the kitchen to open. Since we were taking up space, we decided to drink.
    Let me just say that our bartender was so nice and made me so happy that when it was time to pay our bill (around 40.00 for everything) I decided to “round it up” to 100.00 even. I was thanked profusely for the tip!

  • In 1998 my mother turned 40 and I was to turn 16. She had never been to Europe and my stepfather refused to go with her, so she decided to take me for my 16th birthday.

    We arrived in Rome on August 10th, the day before my birthday and rather than get any sleep we went sightseeing. By time we called it a day we were drained, jet-lagged and more than a little dehydrated. The following day was my actual birthday and the day we set aside for the Vatican. Mind you, Rome in August is HOT and (at least at the time) as a woman entering a church you needed to be appropriately dressed; meaning toes covered, knees covered, shoulders covered. The Vatican is huuuuuge and the tour is way long. It takes a couple of hours to even get to the Sistine Chapel, suffice to say by time we reached that point of the tour I was literally about to pass out from heat exhaustion. There are benches around the room and I took a seat. I passed out. I’m still not sure how long I was out, but it took about 2 1/2 hours to find my mom all-in-all. If it wasn’t for my Spanish and her French who knows how long it would have taken to find each other, it seemed like nobody spoke English in the Vatican.

    So ya, I lost my mom on my 16th birthday in the Sistine Chapel.

    The whole time I was looking for her I couldn’t decide which would be worse, her screaming at me or her crying. It was totally the crying.

    Lesson learned: Memorize where your hotel is in a foreign country/city. You never know when you could lose your travel companions. After grabbing a birthday lunch, my mom asked me if I knew how to get back to the hotel, and I did.

  • I was traveling with my sister in Southern Italy a few years ago. We were walking to dinner, through a large public square when a a young local guy walking the opposite way looked at us in the eye and exclaimed in his thick accent “JENNIFER LOPEZ! MADONNA! MAMMA MIA!”

    Considering neither of us bare remote resemblance to these pop stars, we still wonder which one of us was the Material Girl, and which was Jenny from the Block…I guess we’ll never know.

  • Last winter I travelled to Moscow with my husband and 6 month old daughter. Moscow is notorious for bitterly cold winters and equally cold natives. The weather lived up to our expectations but I discovered that traveling in Moscow with a baby is like being a rockstar! As I had my little cutie in a baby carrier, I never stood on a subway, never waited in a queue, and was regularly serenaded by elderly Russian men. Were they drunk? Perhaps, but it was charming and I felt we saw the true heart of Muscovites.

  • My funniest vacation story was 2 summers ago when my husband and I went to Bushnell, Illinois for Cornerstone Festival with our friend. We got there a day early so we had to sit in our car for an entire day in the line and we decided it would be an awesome idea to ride our bikes to town to waste some time. Well, we borrowed bikes from our other three friends who were there (who were all boys) and decided to go. It didn’t seem like town was very far but we’d only driven there once in the car. It turns out it was about 7 miles round trip. Doesn’t seem too bad but it was about 95 degrees that day and you are talking about 2 girls who are 5’2″ and 5’5″ riding big boy bicycles. I could barely touch the ground with my tippy toes. Not to mention the three of us are not athletic at all. So, this was quite the workout for us. Our little trip to town ended up taking almost 5 hours! It was crazy! Looking back now it’s hilarious because we were so excited and then it totally kicked out butts!

  • Shortly after my husband and I got married, we were on a layover in Rome, Italy. As we were waiting in line for security, we noticed a lot of commotion at the front of the line. There was a woman who seemed to be very distraught, trying to communicate with the staff, but she was speaking Spanish. They couldn’t find any staff members who could understand her, so they finally called out in desperation, “Does anyone here speak Spanish?” To my surprise, my husband raises his hand and shouts proudly, “I do!” Now, we had only been married about 6 months, but I was pretty sure I’d know if he spoke another language, and I was pretty sure he did not. I was so surprised and confused, though, I didn’t say anything and just watched curiously as he went up to the front of the line. The woman turned to him, speaking so quickly and exhaustedly, I’d imagine even someone who COULD speak Spanish would have a hard time understanding. She was obviously very upset and almost crying explaining the situation. My husband just looked more and more overwhelmed and nervous as she went on. At the end of her speech, she and 3-4 airport staff all turned to my husband for the traslation. All he could muster was “Pequeño…” and then walked away. He came back to me in the line an just said, “I don’t know why I did that. “

  • my husband and i went to germany and france last september as a “last hurrah before baby” trip. on our germnay-to-france train ride, we were people-watching before boarding the train and came across a gal we affectionately nicknamed “france pants” (her leggings were just a tad too bare to be worn as pants…).
    turns out “france pants” sat in our little quad area (where the 4 seats face each other), was squatting (she had no ticket/reservation for that seat and would conveniently leave any time the ticket steward was coming by), proceeded to hack and cough for the entire train ride (6+ hours), along with stealing other people’s seats when she could and mending her own jacket (she had needle, thread and everything!).
    it could have been absolutely horrid, but she was such a character the entire time.
    when i look back on that train ride, all i remember is “france pants” and smile.

  • In elementary school I went on a train trip with some family members without my parents to Chicago. Multiple embarrassing things happened, including pulling the table cloth off the table along with the china as I slid out of my seat at dinner, and worst of all, getting my shoe torn off by the escalator. I should have known better than to try making farting noises with my rubber soled shoes as the steps flattened out. Ugh…I cringe to this day!

  • I love when other tourists mistake me for a local when I travel. My boyfriend and i were in Prague and we were trying to get up onto a hill so we could take some photos of the bridges like the ones being sold (plus he had a painting he loved from that vantage point).

    We meandered in what we thought was the right direction, up, up and up the hills. Upon reaching the top of a bunch of stairs and being quite confident we were heading in the right direction, another couple walking down the street in the opposite direction stopped in front of us and said, “do you speak english? do you know how to get to ____?” We just kinda looked at each other and smiled and said.. “Uhhhh no, I mean yes, but we’re not from here”.

  • I was traveling in Ireland with my girlfriends. We were driving along the beautiful west coast on a rural road. Our group decided to get out and walk to the cliff sides to watch the waves. It was a windy, fall day and we could see a storm coming in. Needless to say the contrast with the blue waves and the sunny ski was amazing. Soon enough we decide it’s probably best to get back to our car. We were hopping through the mud and muck and it started hailing on us! It caught me mid-stride- hopping to avoid a wet/muddy spot on the field and I completely wiped out! I sat in a goopy mud puddle with hail coming down on me. As the icing on the cake, as I sat there laughing, a full rainbow came out over the shoreline we were on. It made the whole experience (and the following afternoon in wet clothes) more acceptable.

  • We’ve been to Norway with some friends and stayed in a house in the middle of nowhere. The owner told us, that there would be a moose grazing on the meadow infront of the house in the evenings. We watched out of the windows every night to see it. But it was always too dark.
    One day we made a trip with the boat on the lake nearby. When we just came out of the water again, something rustled in the bushes ahead. The moose! Right infront of us!! Everyone of my friends took great photos. – But I was so scared that I was about to jump back into the lake. On my pictures you can see bushes only…

  • I could hear the constant wind bang against the rolled-up windows of our borrowed, dust-covered Renault Clio, bullying us from one side of the road to the other. Snaking along on a road barely wide enough for Clio, I was in central Sicily and with no real travel plan. I had been driving for hours when I came upon a restaurant that was quintessentially Italian. “Perfecto” I said to my American copilot. There was a mess of cars parked outside, cacophonous music, and yelling in brisk Italian. “Welcome to Sicily,” I said to my friend, who had just arrived to visit me at the end of semester in Umbria and the beginning of a road trip through countless countries.

    We were greeted by a waiter who’s confused face made me feel slightly awkward. My Italian, lacking the confidence with which I had honed a respectable accent, was barely audible over the cacophony but I managed to ask him if they could accommodate two. “Certo”, he cheerfully responded. We followed him into a large room filled with people seated at tables arranged in a neat U. He walked us over to a table that was at the dip of the “U” and extended his hand toward it with a smile, and walked away after we took our seats. There were at least 30 people staring at us, gossiping in brisk Italian. A beaming woman with burgundy hair draped carefully over the collar of a rustic off-white dress flashed me a shy smile while holding the hand of a proud looking man. We were in the middle of a Sicilian wedding. After eating a somewhat awkward but delicious meal, the father of the bride walked over to our table, presented us with 2 slices of Italian cream cake and stated in broken English “Thank you for being here.”

  • We rented a car in Normandy while on our honeymoon. I’d tried to memorize all the road signs for French roadways before getting there. However, after hitting the interstate to get to our B&B, I found myself facing big scary red signs with giant “X”s on them. The way the road was curved, I could see the traffic coming straight at us — I thought we might be going the wrong way and started to freak out!

    My husband/copilot? ASLEEP in the front seat. My exclamations woke him up, we looked up what they meant in a cheat-sheet I’d made myself and calmed down.

    They simply meant “no parking” and we were indeed on the correct side of the interstate. Whew!

  • My mom grew up in France and very generously took me to visit for the first time just weeks after I graduated high school. On our second day in Paris, we were walking across a strange grate in the sidewalk across the street from the Notre Dame when said grate made itself known to be a subway vent and began blowing straight up my very full skirt–just as a gentleman was walking towards us. Mom and I were both giggling and frantically trying to reign in my skirt and get off the vent as quickly as possible, but apparently the man didn’t mind what he’d already seen because he grinned, stopped right in front of us, planted his feet, and said what can be loosely translated as, “Keep it comin!”

    I don’t walk across subway vents anymore.

  • lol. these are quality. One of my funniest travelling stories was on our year-out world trip backpacker honeymoon, I was ultra organised, hubby had ONE job to do…. photocopy all of the important documents (big mistake on my ‘control-freak’ part). We hadn’t even landed in our first port of call (delhi) and I realised that three of my air tickets were missing… HUGE PANIC thousands of feet up in the air…. to cut a long story short, Hubby had left my last three tickets on the photoopier at work….. had to get them shipped out to us in Kathmandu, so all was well… but then there is another story of him leaving a bag on a fast-departing bus in Thailand…. I feel I should leave it at that, bag photos and camera safely retrieved, we are still married and have told the stories many a time!!!

  • A couple years ago I was in Italy with some friends and we were wandering around Rome shopping. We caught a taxi and asked him to take us to the Spanish Steps where we were meeting up with other friends. He just laughed to himself and drove us literally around the corner. We had been right next to them without realizing where we were! Typical tourists!

  • When I was studying abroad for a ‘coffee and its consequences’ program in Costa Rica, I was so lucky to be placed with an amazing host family. My favorite being my 7 year old little brother Daniel. Imagine a 7 year old Central American version of Drew Carey. A little chubby, flat top, square peg glasses and a big personality. When I introduced myself to him as ‘Whitney’ he became very confused, as they do not have this name is most other areas of the world. I said ‘like Whitney Houston’ and he responded with ‘como…poo? como (like) poo!? como Whinnie Poo?!’ I sighed and said, ‘sure, es la misma (it’s the same). He and his friends called me poo poo for the rest of my trip, ‘ Winnie poo poo, can we listen to Billy’s Jeans on your eee-pod?’

  • My younger sisters and I were traveling around Europe before my youngest sis went off to the Air Force Academy. When we arrived in Paris, I was SO excited, it was supposed to be the highlight of my trip. Well, apparently the hostel had lost our reservation, but were kind enough to put us up in the laundry room (which incidentally had literally a 12-ft high pile of dirty sheets in the corner) with a bunk bed and a mattress for the floor. Needless to say, we refused to use the mattress on the floor so my youngest sis and I shared the bottom bunk while my other sis took the top. I was in tears–this supposed to be PARIS and we were in the laundry room…my sisters thought my tears were hilarious and took at least a dozen photos of me crying in this room. It was awful, though! Well, we made the most of it and had a great time in Paris and continued on our trip throughout Europe. It was only 2 weeks after we returned home that my sister with whom I shared the bottom bunk and I were diagnosed with MITES!!! Of course, my other sister was unscathed–which again, she found too funny! Regardless, apparently Paris really is a movable feast! ha!

  • In Paris, I saw this man across the street; our eyes met, and a look of sheer joy spread across his face. He rushed over to me, and said (in French) “I know you! You’re a celebrity!” I responded in my terrible French that I wasn’t famous, but was just another American tourist. But he insisted he’d seen me “in a film” but couldn’t remember “my” name. “You’re not Lucy Liu,” he said, and I concurred. Finally he said, “Wait a moment. I’ll get my wife. She’ll know who you are!” And I just thought to myself, “but I already know who I am.” His wife came over, scrutinized me, and then declared that I was in fact, not a celebrity. “Dommage,” the man said.

  • I was working an internship in Paris summer 2008 when my family came to visit me. My goal for the summer was get to where I could have conversations with Parisians without them catching on to my “visitor status” (i.e. my American accent).

    Needless to say, toting your American family around with a Rick Steves guide book is about as camouflaged as a clown in the snow. My mom is a fabulous trip planner and had found a Segway tour of Paris. I was mortified by the idea of it. The tour started in the 15 arrondissemont and followed the Seine all the way to the Louvre and back. Watching my family learn the Segways was funny enough–getting your balance right is not an easy task! Our guide was extremely patient as we all stepped on our machines and rocked our hips back and forth trying to gain balance.

    Eventually we got the hang of it enough to venture into Paris. I crack up every time I remember the looks of the Parisian pedestrians as my family scooted by on our Segways. My sister also speaks some French and we had a blast as we “excusez-moi-ed” and “Salut -ed” our way through the busy sidewalks. The story culminates in the Jardin des Tuileries in front of the Louvre where we stopped for a photo-op. Of course, my family asked the guide to please take a video. We lined up 50 yards away from the guide and all started rolling towards her on our Segways (complete with helmets, of course) but we hadn’t planned on what to do when we got to her. Just a few yards from where she was, my dad yelled, “TURN!” and we all veered off in different directions. The guide continued to video the whole thing while we were haphazardly winding our Segways through each other in the middle of the crowded courtyard—so much for discreet!

    Since that day I’ve never been as concerned with looking like a native of the cities I visit. I love to travel and I’m a tourist; it’s more fun to embrace it.

  • Eating is one of those joys of traveling. New places, new foods, new spices, delicious juices running down you mouth from a fruit you can’t even pronounce. So many of our experiences traveling are enriched by breaking bread with others.
    I always travel with expectant taste buds, waiting to see what is the next adventure for my mouth. My trip to Cambodia was no different. I was visiting friends who had been living there for several months. We had been traveling by van for many hours, bumping down the gravel roads watching the rural countryside drift lazily by. There were no cities, no towns, just a few scattered houses. As dinner approached, our stomachs were growling, encouraging us to find anything along this path that might fill those every deafening voids. Finally we saw a family who hosted a food stand beside their house. As we pulled in, a variety of pots filled with unknown delights lay before our eyes. Being the stranger to the country, I allowed my friends to choose our meal. They choose what they thought to be rice and beans- something mild that could settle in during the remainder of our bumpy ride. As the family (mother, grandmother and children) served our plates only then did we realize…it was actually sauteed bugs and larvae, not beans and rice. Surrounded by expectant Cambodian faces waiting to see my reaction, all I could do was ensure that all the wings, legs and other bug like parts were on my spoon, chew and smile.

  • While in heading to the toilet in Paris with a French friend, we found 2 stalls empty, one with toilet paper and one without. I let her go ahead and waited. As I was standing there a woman came in. She looked at me, then at the empty stall, and back at me again inquisitively. Excited to try out my newly polished French-skills I proceeded to tell her that there was no toilet paper (in French). She looked a bit confused, paused a moment, and went in anyway. You usually want to keep some tissues in your bag while travelling in Europe so I didn’t think MUCH of it. As we left I was bragging to my friend about my masterful French sentence composition and she asked me what I had said. As I told her she burst out laughing, “You said ‘the door is not made of toilet paper!'” she mocked.

    UGH. I guess I’m not as French-saavy as I’d hoped. But at least I got a good story out of it.

  • When I was 13 I visited Paris with my family for the first time. We were at the Eiffel Tower, and I was too scared to go to the top, so I stayed at the bottom with my mom. I was sitting underneath, reading my book (the Diary of Anne Frank), when a pigeon flew over my head and happened to relieve itself directly over me. I had bird poop dripping through my hair and stuck all the way into the spine of my book. I immediately burst into tears and started screaming and running around while my mom frantically cleaned me off. Of course my older siblings tortured me mercilessly when they came back down (still do, in fact!). Who knew the bottom of the Eiffel Tower would prove more perilous than the top?

  • At the end of a semester in London in April 2000, I was traveling on an ANCIENT train from Florence to Budapest. When we passed through Slovenia, a Slovenian border patrol officer with a huge gun on his hip stepped into my car, of which I was the sole occupant, to look at my passport. He amusedly pronounced my first and middle names out loud, while slowly looking me over, and then ridiculed my Let’s Go: Europe! before smashing a dark, thick “Slovenia” stamp smack in the middle of the passport page, and otherwise, freaking the crap out of me, because it was also the middle of the night, and weird men had been passing by my car and peering in all night, leaving me to wonder whether I was the ONLY WOMAN on the entire train, and thus completely stare-worthy. In the morning, not understanding the stops, instead of switching trains in Zagreb, I stayed on the train, which was headed to Belgrade. A sweet-looking conductor came into my car, and we gestured to each other that I wanted to go to Budapest, and that I was not, indeed, headed in that direction (this was accomplished when I ingeniously pulled out my map and pointed to my destination.) At the next train stop, a rural location with no new travelers, he motioned for me to get out of the train, and pointed to the train I should be on. Hauling my enormous, HEAVY backpack, I ran and jumped over the tracks, and stepped up into the new train, which appearted to be a commuter line, peopled with tired-looking passengers perhaps on their way to work. The conductor of this train came by, but didn’t ask me for a ticket. I sat on the train, worrying about getting to Budapest on time, incredibly angry at myself for being stupid, and confused about why I hadn’t been asked to buy a ticket for this train. As if to mock the seriousness of my feelings, the conductor, who’d been walking up and down the aisle and listening to a radio, turned up the music and proceeded to dance in the sunlight streaming through the train windows, and sing along with, I s*** you not: “Achey Breaky Heart.”

    I arrived in Zagreb, discovered via ATM that I had no money in my bank account, placed a tearful call to my parents from the train station, planted myself on a bench in the square in front of the train station, proceeded to burst into tears, and summoned the compassion of a fellow traveler – a Dutch woman, who reminded me that it was Easter Sunday, so finding a room for the night might be difficult. Then she asked whether I had American cash, and I did, so she said “Well, you can just buy your ticket with that.” And I was like “Oh!” Immediately dried my tears, bought my new ticket and then ate lunch with the Dutch woman at a sidewalk cafe, and drank my first first cup of coffee, EVER. Then I attended Easter mass at the Cathedral on the hill. Hilarity upon hilarity, afterward, I decided to explore Zagreb while I waited for the train, then GOT LOST, then felt extremely dehydrated and finally stumbled into a bar gasping for water (proffered by the bartender even though he didn’t know English, he could tell I needed water), then WAS STILL LOST, then MISSED MY TRAIN, and had to wait a couple more hours for another train. Finally on this later train, I discovered that I couldn’t go any farther than Siófok, Hungary. At the station, I hid my EXTREMELY HEAVY pack under a bush while I walked down the street to find a place to stay. The first place I came to was an elegant little resort (as Siófok is a tourist town on Lake Balaton). Normally I would NEVER have purchased an expensive room, but I figured after the last 48 hours, I deserved it. I retrieved my pack from the bush, returned to my cool, clean sheets in my private room, and fell asleep watching MTV Europe. In the morning I GORGED on the free breakfast buffet – croissants, meats, cheeses, and fruits, and even stashed some extras in my purse for the trip. Finally, at 10 AM, I was back on the train to Budapest, and this time I actually ended the journey there.

  • My family’s first visit to Europe was a stressful one. My mom, dad, brother, and myself were all geared up with guide books, hand sanitizer, fresh underware and bandaids, ready to take on London, Paris, and beyond.

    My mom, as most moms are, is a mom, and was very interested in ushering us around, making sure we all go from one place to the next safely and efficiently, never really relaxing into the moment of our trip.

    My favorite flash of the entire experience was waiting for the Tube in the London Underground during a particularly sweaty and busy part of the day. The train pulls in, people start pushing off, and my mom does her best to “fit in with the locals” by shoving her way onto the Tube. My dad somehow managed to follow her closely, but my brother and I got stumped. My mom was so frantic about making it onto that specific train that she and my dad got in, the doors closed, and my brother and myself watched the train pull away, all the while staring, mouths gaping, while my parents were ushered away.

    We eventually figured out how to get the next Tube and met them on the other side, but we STILL make fun of my mom for being so headstrong and stubborn, trying to do the right thing, but forgetting her kids in the shuffle.

  • When I was five, my family and I were at Stone Mountain, GA, for the laser and fireworks show. My mother had told me to stay on the blanket when the show was over. Naturally, I didn’t listen and I darted off into the masses. My parents had the troopers looking for me and were crying, thinking they had lost me. I was returned by a nice little old man to safety. :]

    Unfortunately, nothing overseas for me yet, but someday!

  • My fiance and I went to Tokyo for a visit 2 years ago, and he LOVES sushi, so the first thing we did after we landed was to find a sushi restaurant. Unfortunately the good sushi restaurant that our hotel concierge recommended was already closed by the time we got there, so we just went for a walk in Shinjuku and went in the first decent looking restaurant and he had his fix of sushi. The next day, he started puking his guts out (I was fine because I didn’t have any) and was really really sick for the next 4 days. So I fed him gaterade from the hotel vending machine for the 4 days, and as soon as he was feeling better, he said to me, “let’s go get some sushi!” boys… they never learn, do they??

  • I’m an architecture student from Ireland. One of the privileges that comes with studying architecture are the many study trips. In my second year we went to Berlin for 5 days…I loved it! It was January and the snow was falling. We saw buildings and experienced places that have continued to influence me. During the week a day trip was planned to Wolfsburg. I was first up that morning in our cramped dormitory of 8 girls. I thought it would be a great idea to gently wake the others up by drawing the curtains but instead woke them with a yelp as I put my back out! I sometimes get back spasms and they are so painful but none of the girls sympathized with me as I had abruptly woken them! The day trip to Wolfsburg was out of the question- I could hardly move! My best friend who I love to bits continued to diagnose that it was just a bit wind! I was so embarrassed especially when I learnt she told this to all the class and my tutors as an explanation for my absence…”Rebekah can’t come today, she’s got wind!” I kind of laughed it off and explained when they returned it wasn’t wind but people just looked at me like they didn’t believe me. Anyway, another friend stayed behind and as I the day went on I became a bit more mobile and we headed into the snowy streets of Berlin, having the most amazing day! A strong friendship was started that day. We had so much fun taking photos of each other and exploring the city. It was a trip of a lifetime! Both friends went on to work in Berlin. I’m still in Ireland but aspire to return to the city I love.

  • I have been pooped on (yes, birds flying by and pooping during flight) in the following cities, ON THE SAME TRIP! Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Salzburg, Madrid. I’ve never been pooped on at home, but send me to Europe and I’m quite the target.

  • Almost lost my husband in Casa Mila in Barcelona. Waited hours for him by the exit, until closing time. No sign of him. Workers called every floor, supervisors were involved. It turns out that the very jetlagged husband had fallen asleep in a dark, comfortable corner.

  • I studied in Italy for a semester, and shared a flat there with 7 other girls. We all vowed that if we lost touch, we would reunite at the Trevi Fountain in ten years: October 3, 2006, at high noon.

    Ten years later, I’d lost touch with all but one of those girls. She and I returned to Italy for a ten-year reunion trip. We didn’t expect anyone else to show up at the Trevi, but there was always the hope that maybe…

    We arrived at the fountain a little early, to find a HUGE crowd. It seemed impossible we’d be able to find anyone, even if the others were there. But we did! Two of the other girls–sisters–had made the pilgrimage along with their mom, their husbands and kids, and a family friend. Hugging and screaming and tears ensued, and of course we threw coins in the fountain (to ensure our return to Rome). Over a celebratory lunch, we toasted: “Here’s to believing in dreams…and to keeping commitments.” To this day, it’s one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had.

  • How wonderful that these Europa maps inspired all of these wonderful journeys to be written for all of us to read. I think that I need to buy the set so that they will do the same for my friends and family when viewed in our home. Great work J & O !

  • I spent a semester in France during college, making a sad attempt to learn French. I traveled between Northwest France and Paris, studying grammar and eating wonderful food. Many times throughout the summer I would eat my fill of yummy French food and assure the host or waiter that I was full. It was not until the end of the summer that someone informed me that was I was saying — which literally was “I am full” — actually meant, “I am pregnant.” I have no idea how many people I informed of a fake pregnancy that summer!!

  • I went to Egypt in 2006 on a study-abroad 2 week trip. While in the fair trade store in Luxor, I fell in love with a hand made tea set. It’s green with blue trimming and has the signature in Arabic of the potter on the bottom and it’s amazing! It also has 6 settings and weighs a ton! Despite being completely unsure of how I was going to get this home I bought it. They didn’t really have much to wrap it with so a sheet of newspaper per item was all the padding it got before being placed in a big paper bag that I wasn’t sure would last back to the hotel. Never the less, I carried that bag from the bottom back to the hotel and when it was time to return to America, I hand carried the bag in my arms the whole way including while running through Charles de Gaulle airport (the most awful and confusing airport ever!) to reach a connecting flight. It was made especially challenging since I could barely see over the top of the bag. My fellow classmates thought I was insane. I made it home and had already steeled myself against at least 1 piece having been broken during the trip. Miraculously there wasn’t even a scratch and it’s now the pride of my kitchen!

  • I visited Europe for the first time this summer with a study abroad group from my university. We lived with families in Rome and had to be able to get around the city on our own to meet up for our classes. As anyone who has been to Rome knows, the traffic there is scary. One of the first things I noticed was that even though there were only three lanes marked out on the street, somehow traffic was always four cars abreast. Also, crosswalks are simply suggestions, neither cars nor pedestrians really believe crosswalks mean anything.

    So within the first few days we are there, our Roman history class is supposed to meet at the Coliseum. My friend and I were trying to cross the street right there at the Coliseum, which of course meant traffic was extra heavy. My friend, and apparently everyone else waiting, noticed a break in the traffic and decided to go for it. I tried to stop her but ended up following her and saying “You’re going to get us killed!” The Italian man walking near us heard and replied: “You must be stronger than the cars!” We couldn’t help but laugh, though it is advice I will always remember.

  • I was touring Italy with 2 friends from university and we checked into our hostel in Rome. After the admin procedures, the hostel’s owner proceeded to explain in rapid Italian (help! I only speak English), how to work the iron, the vacuum cleaner, the bathroom switch, the fire alarm system, the kettle, the keyhole, etc. She even physically turned my face back towards her when I looked over helplessly (read: cluelessly) at my friends wondering why she wasn’t putting them through this drill. To cut a long story short, we stayed the duration booked and were getting ready to move to another hostel in another area of Rome. We checked out with fingers crossed that the next owner would be less intimidating. We strolled, we arrived, we knocked, we waited – the door opens, 4 shocked faces, frantic fumbling to check the address, 3 resigned people, 1 happy hostel owner, another oh-so-familiar long lecture on how to work the iron. You can’t help but love Italy.

  • Before a trip to portugal, I decided to head back to university for a course so I could speak the language of the people. I also prepared by hanging out in all of the “old gentleman Portuguese cafes” that I could to listen to folks speaking. I did make friends, and offered on my trip to deliver flowers to a few gentlemen’s mothers and grandmothers while I was there. I drove from the bottom of Portugal to the top and managed to find 3 of these lovely ladies; though the folks who make maps and those who make road signs are apparently not on speaking terms. It was easily the happiest thing I have ever done and though you must work around a rigorous daily siesta and grave-visit schedule, it is doable and I encourage everyone to make good friends at a local cafe before traveling and maybe pick up a few language tips.

  • One of my favorite family trips was a road trip we took the summer I turned 13. My sister and I traveled with our grandparents from Memphis, TN to Island Falls, ME in a van. It took us over a week to get up there because we kept stopping so my Nana could pee and we also wanted to see every obscure attraction on the way (world’s largest bottle of maple syrup anyone?).

    So finally we get to Maine and my parents and little brother who couldn’t make the road trip fly in to meet us. We went hiking quite a bit on that trip and being a kid, I started collecting “cool” rocks from the trails we’d go on.
    Well one night after we’d been hiking, we went back to the cheap motel with red velvet carpeting that we were staying at and I put my two “cool” rocks on the bedside table and we all went to dinner.

    Upon our return, I noticed that there were now 3 little rocks accompanying my two bigger rocks. I said, “what’s this? Where’d these rocks come from?” and my ex marine, proud and no-nonsense grandfather said, “must have multiplied- it’s this sleazy motel”. And while it may be a “you had to be there moment”, it’s one of my favorite travel memories because it was one of those funny growing up moments when you realize your grandpa’s totally awesome and not just a grandpa ( had another one of those moments a few years ago when I found out he was a spy – no joke ) and he’s part of the reason I still love to travel today.

  • I had just arrived in Munich via train and had specific instructions on how to get to my hostel: take the this line three stops, take a left out of the exit, and walk two blocks. So, my now husband and I get on the appropriate line and go one stop. So far so good. At the second stop, everyone but us gets off of the not too crowded train. As one man is exiting, he looks back at the two Americans with hiking backpacks, snickers, and gets off the train. At this point, we’re a little worried that we should be getting off as well, but the train starts moving and we decide that we are right and will be able to exit at the correct next stop. However, the train stops suddenly in what looks like a field. Panicking, we start to wonder how we will get off the train and how far we have gone from the last station. Luckily, a burly German train driver comes passing through our car. He seems very surprised to see us there, but we manage to communicate and figure out that the train will be turning around and going back in the correct destination soon. Relieved, we make a resolution that from then on, when we see everyone else exiting a train, we will always always always disembark with them.

  • this is the first trip I remember, ever. I grew up traveling arround the coutry, Brazil, with my parents and brothers. We should be going to the mountains in the country for my cousin’s birthday, but we had to go to another state because my parents had a meeting there, in a farm. My grandfather was with us, and he took me and my sister to go get blackberries in the trees. It rained that week and the trees were wet. So he began to shake the trees so the walter would fall on us. I can’t remember laughing that much in that age I was 7 and my sisiter was 5, my brothers and i can’t remember much from our childhood. Mom was really mad when she saw us all soaked, but we didn’t care, because we couldn’t stop laughing and asking grandfather to shake the trees. We used to go to that farm every year, my sisiter and I, hoping that it had rained and the trees were wet.

  • I live in Alabama, and a few years ago, my family decided to go to Portland, Oregon for vacation and to visit some friends. We drove all the way there in a huge diesel van (yes, a van – my dad is petrified of flying).

    The trip there was great – mainly because we were excited about the two weeks we had off of work and school. We had an awesome time in Oregon and then started the long – loooong – drive home.

    It took several days, and on the last leg of the trip, my dad decided to drive all night to try and get home so we could all crash in our beds for the entire next day. At about 3 AM, we were about four hours from home, and everyone but my dad was fast asleep. Suddenly, out of nowhere, on a pitch-black back road deep in Alabama, the van came to a dead stop. We had hit something BIG.

    My sister and I both fell off of the seats we’d been sleeping on, the air bags deployed up front, and chaos ensued. My mom kept shouting “WHAT HAPPENED?!” and Dad just sat there, stunned. “I don’t know!” he finally said.

    Dad pried open the driver’s door and got out to see what other vehicle we had hit. I heard him say “The whole front of the van is squashed!” Then, he let out a shout. “You’re not going to believe this,” he shouted back to us, “but I think we hit a BULL!”

    Yep. A bull. A 1,500 pound bull that had escaped from its holding pen, to be more precise.

    The bull was laying sprawled out in front of our dead-batteried van, and none of us had a cell phone signal. Dad was just about to start out in search of the nearest house and phone, when a semi truck pulled in behind us.

    The driver jumped down out of his cab and yelled “Oh my Lord, you hit that bull, didn’t you?”

    He and his partner told my dad that truck drivers had been on the radios all night warning other truckers about a bull loose on this stretch of road.

    Amazingly, these kind and generous men, who were transporting seafood to Florida, packed my entire (miraculously uninjured) family into their cab and drove us three hours out of their way to our front door.

    My dad called the next morning and arranged for a tow truck to cart the defunct van to a repair shop.

    Needless to say, we haven’t driven to Oregon since.

    But the funniest part? Just as we were about to leave with our new truck driving friends – that bull sat up, shook its head, and trotted off. Without a limp.

  • I agree that the video makes Paris seem like a must right now. I tried to convince my husband to go this summer…instead of Rhode Island. According to him there is a price difference. Who knew! :)

    At the early age of 16 I had a chance to go and visit my exchange sister in Paris all on my own. I, of course, thought myself very old and yet secretly hoped the person sitting next to me for the 8 hour flight wasn’t scary.
    I sat down next to what seemed to be one of the biggest men I’d ever seen. He, however, turned out to be nice…and then really nice…and then I realized…too nice! I happened to look quite old for my age and after a while I realized he was hitting on me. He told me to make sure to watch him the next night in Paris on Pay Per View Boxing as he was taking on the #1 boxer in France. After a while I smiled and slipped in that I had never gotten a chance to watch boxing…and was 16 years old.
    Not surprisingly, the conversation quieted quickly! I was grateful, however, for a good story to tell my friend while waiting for my luggage.

  • I went on a backpacking Europe trip a couple summers ago with my now husband. I have many great memories from that trip (we got engaged on the top of the Eiffel Tower) but these two really stand out:

    The first few days of our trip we visited Venice. Our hotel was fairly inexpensive and was located a train stop away from the island of Venice. Once we figured out how to buy a ticket we thought we were set.

    The day before we left Venice, we got on the train to go back to our hotel. Once we pulled into the station the train slowed but did not fully stop. When it came to a rest the doors didn’t open. “That’s odd” we thought and then saw a button to manually open the doors. Relieved, my husband stepped off the train. I was trailing right behind but just as I was about to exit, the doors closed. Frantic, I slammed the button as many times as I could but the train was already moving. My husband was running after the train thrashing him arms back and forth for the train to stop. Unfortunately for me, we decided to take an express train. I ran up to the ticket collector and asked were the next stop was “Padova” he said. “Well crap! Where is that?” I thought. I had no cell phone to call my husband and tell him to wait for me at the station and I had no way of knowing if he would follow me or wait.

    I ended up taking the train to Padova and pushing my way off to catch the next train back towards Venice. As I arrived in the station my husband ran to me exclaiming it was impossible for me to be back so fast. “I am happy to see you too.” Apparently I took a train that was supposed to arrive in Padova 5 minutes before I got there. Luckily it was running late and I got back faster than possible. Also fortunate was the fact that I got off in Padova. If I hadn’t, it was a non-stop the rest of the way to Milan, about 9 hours away.

    We ended our travels in London. After a long day of delayed trains leaving Paris, we finally arrived in London. To get to our hotel we had to take the underground.

    As we stumbled onto the car with our big bags a man asked us if we were traveling. The answer was obvious of course. After we said yes he struck up a friendly conversation and asked where we were staying. We told him. His smiling face immediately turned fearful and after he swallowed he said “Well, you are Americans! Crime happens all the time over there! You are used to it….just watch your back.”
    We smiled politely but were thinking “What does he mean ‘watch your back’? How bad can this place possibly be?? Are we going to get stabbed immediately when we exit the car? And what does being American have to do with it? Just because I watch Law and Order doesn’t mean I live in a crime infested environment!”

    After we got to our hotel unscathed we vowed to be more careful with our future destinations.

  • So I had just arrived in Japan and was wandering around a teeny village. I was invited in for dinner by a lady who had been watching me intently.

    The paper chains and haiku lanterns on the street were in celebration for a local festival of which I was now a part. There were already 11 family members making onigiri and various other dishes.

    Once dinner was over the men cleared outside to smoke and I was asked to stand up. Having little to no Japanese I obliged, assuming it was a height comparison. No, no. I was then stripped and dressed by the lady and her daughter in a beautiful kimono.

    We went to watch the parade and eat ice cream as we perched on a railing. Excellent day, after a slightly shocking start.

    My most interesting girls night in a longtime!

  • Sharp descent in bright sunlight through the clouds. A birth-like experience where on the otherside is at first the smell of tar, but then….plumeria, freesia, and the sight of waving sugarcane? Honeymooning in Maui was the trip of a lifetime; only magically made more so as it was won by donating to NPR; (it does happen so DO it!!!). The first trip me and all mine took to a place neither of us had been before but both had wanted to. Stayed on Ka’anapali beach with a balcony, all the better to watch waves and rainstorms. Then off to discover a botanical garden, trip into an organic goat dairy (CHEESE!) and shop art on Main Street. To top off the trip we zipped up to Haleakeala Crater (Hubs’ straight drive skills came in handy) and we felt on top of the world Titanic-style (possibly because of the lightheadedness?). After a little Maui polo and snorkelling (held a blood orange octopus who squirted water in my face but didn’t want to let go,…ahhhhh love at first sight) we ended our trip wishing we could never leave and hoping we can go back. We felt like Lewis and Clark, partners on an adventure with no knowledge of what’s going to happen but just glad to be there…together.

  • Ok, I already wrote, but this just came to me. It’s not my personal story, but it happened on the same trip.

    I was in Paris with a friend, but my mom and her friend had decided to come, too. They’d never been overseas or traveled without husbands (gasp!), but they decided to jump at the opportunity.So we were sort of seperate and together, meeting up occasionally. We had arrived in Paris the day before them.

    Our hotel overbooked them and only had a small one bedroom for two people. It was also fashion week and the clerk told them it would be impossible to find a hotel. Tired, flustered, almost in tears and not knowing what to do with the unhelpful staff, they managed to get a room across the street at anther hotel and went out for the day. My mom’s a strong woman, but i think it’s just one of those moments were things get ot you too much.

    Now my friend and I show up later and go to the new hotel. Ours is a trash heap, and there’s is the quintessential Parisian hotel! The lobby is adorable! (We decide this is ok, as they might not ever make it back and they’d had a rough start.)

    We get to their room, and they answer the door in robes, holding cigarettes, swearing they’re “sans coulottes”, and laughing hysterically. The room is so cute with iron beds and shuttered windows that overlook the street…and that’s when I notice my mom’s jeans hanging over the rail.

    “What happened to your jeans?”

    Hysterical laughter. Like 2 girls in high school (which is where they met).

    Turns out that after their hotel setback, my mom’s friend completely broke down crying (again, just one of those moments). They shook it off and head for the Tullieries Gardens. Walking around the statues, the friend suddenly makes a dirty joke about one of the male sculptures and they both lose it, this time in laughter. Can’t stop, not at all, they just keep laughing. And my mom…PEES her pants. Wets her pants. In Paris. And they both just keep on laughing, park it on a bench, and try to dry off.

    The best part is two high school friends, off to see the world, having a setback, and laughing it all off. Not just a giggle, hysterical laughter. Girls my age probably would have been mortified, but when you’ve been through babies, cancer, etc. who the hell cares? This IS pretty funny, you know?

  • In 8th grade, my school went on a trip to Washington, D.C. for a couple days (we were living in Cleveland, OH at the time). Back in the 90’s schools weren’t as strict as they are these days, so as long as we went with a buddy, we could roam the city by ourselves on our last day of the trip, and meet back up at one of the museums to go home around 3pm. My best friend and I checked out all the sites, and by 2:30 met back up where I was sure we were supposed to be, but no one was there. We walked all over the museum, but by 3:30, my best friend was getting scared and thought maybe we had the wrong place. Since it was pouring rain outside right then, I told her everyone was either late or we had the wrong time, and I was going to stay there until the buses showed up. Around 4pm, one of the teachers came to the museum looking for us. Turns out, we had been at the wrong place the whole time, and if they hadn’t found us when they did, our principal would have called the police to put out an alert all over the city. They thought we had been kidnapped. We walked back in the pouring rain to where the buses actually were, and got on the bus with a ton of angry kids shouting “THANKS FOR SHOWING UP FINALLY!” We had made everyone late by almost 2 hours. Oops. I never did tell my parents about that one.

  • The Most Comical Day Trip: When in Italy my partner wanted to go to the Alfa Romeo museum, which is actually inside the Fiat manufacturing plant. So we caught a train, then a bus to the end of the line (“It’ll be right here, honey,”), then walked another five kilometres to the factory. Only to be told the museum is closed for two hours for lunch. I flopped on the ground in despair, and the security guy took pity on my partner and told him we could eat in the staff canteen, that they accepted cash. The canteen was full of HUNDREDS of guys in dirty overalls, moving in synchronism, and paying with tokens. Even people with “visitor” stickers had been issued with canteen tokens. When we tried to pay cash every single canteen lady dropped what she was doing to crowd round the single register and try and work out how to charge us for lunch. We got dirty looks from HUNDREDS of factory workers. Following lunch, we make a quick trip to the bathroom before the museum re-opens. Only my toilet door got stuck. I was locked in. And it wasn’t a cubicle – it was a completely closed in floor-to-ceiling tiled, no-window death-cell. I started freaking out and banging on the door. My partner heard, and tentatively entered to ladies to find out what was wrong. I explained. Then a woman walked into the bathroom. My partner points at the toilet door and says “Help! My girlfriend is stuck in the toilet!” and she replies in broken English “This is the ladies’ toilet. Men are not allowed in here.” “No! You don’t understand! You have to help my girlfriend!” Blank stare “This is the ladies’ toilet. Men are not allowed in here.” This went on for a while. Eventually he gestured wildly enough that she touched the toilet doorknob, and with whatever awesome superpower she had, the door opened! Of course, she thought she’d just opened the door on me inadvertently, and started apologising and trying to close it again, while I was shrieking and trying to pull it open! As I darted out the toilet and ran down the hall, we heard her wail “I do not understand!”

    And to top it off, after we wandered around the stupid car museum for an hour, we found out that the next bus back to Milan went past the factory 15 minutes after our Milan-to-Venice train left the station.

    My partner went to the Ferrari museum alone.

  • The summer after my junior year in high school I traveled to Germany where I spent three weeks with an exchange family. There was a mom, dad, daughter (who was my age) and son (who was one year younger than me). My most humiliating moment was when I was in the restroom of course. I wasn’t quite used to the whole “when-you-turn-on-the-light-in-the-bathroom-a-light-turns-on-outside-of-it-to-let-you-know-it-is-occupied” thing. Instead I assumed, like most of us would, that a closed bathroom door means it is occupied. And certainly if someone was questioning the occupancy of the bathroom he or she would politely knock.


    So I had just showered and was redressing in a fugly cami I had since the seventh grade and some granny panties which were probably about the same age when I hear the handle start to turn.
    Of course someone would walk in on me when I forgot to lock the door and forgot to turn on the light outside. And of course that someone would be the cute younger teenage brother. And OF COURSE I would have to sit at the breakfast table directly across from him not ten minutes after that and pretend like nothing happened.

    Lesson learned. If you’re traveling abroad, get smokin’ hot undies before you go so if you should be walked-in on in the bathroom by the cute younger brother, you can forever be known to him as that hot american foreign exchange student instead of that american girl with the fugly granny panties.

  • My cousin and I were sharing a hotel room in London. She tried to take a shower, but the hot water tap got stuck…on full blast. After several minutes of desperately trying to turn the water off, our room began to fill with steam…setting the smoke alarm off. We opened the windows in an attempt to clear out some of the steam, but it didn’t help much.
    The front desk attendant had to come up to the room and use a broom handle to deactivate the alarm, then turn the water off for us. She, and the other guests, thought we were nuts.

  • My husband and I were going to be in London for New Year’s Eve, and we were really looking forward to it. Unfortunately we both got the worst flu sicknesses of our lives, and ending up spending New Year’s Eve in bed, drinking soup, and watching the festivities on tv. A very memorable evening, but not in a good way!

  • I clicked on comments just to read the stories and was not disappointed!
    My funniest travel experience was sitting next to a very happy drunk fellow on a plane from Detroit to Berlin. The airline served these rolls with our meals that were delicious inside but incredibly hard on the outside, and this fellow next to me proceeded to instruct my friend and I in the art of eating the roll, or so we assumed. We spoke no German whatsoever, but I’d heard enough to know it was very, very slurred.
    Apparently, you chomp down very hard, tear your head to the side, chew, and repeat. At least, that’s what he did.
    His random outbursts of laughter may have kept us awake on the overnight flight and caused us serious jet lag, but we will forever be indebted to this happy drunken fellow for teaching us how to eat a roll.

  • Hyderabad, India. 1991.

    I am with my three children and two friends waiting to get inside a popular temple on a festival day. The crowd is so vast, pressing in on us from all sides, we could have lifted our feet and simply been carried along by the tide.

    I have the little one in my arms, my seven year old is with my friend just behind me but my four year old is so small I can barely see the top of her head.

    Suddenly I hear her voice rising through the crowd: “I’m on a highway to hell…”

    AC/DC in a holy Hindu temple. That’s when we decided to get out of line and head home.

  • We were on a recent trip to Rome where we met up with my sister. We had hired a car and were driving to the Almlfi Coast. It was 40 degress so instead of walking around the famous Roman sites we decided to drive. It was fantastic, no traffic with all these tourists we couldn’t believe our luck. We drove right up to the front of some of the worlds most famous landmarks, even lying on the ground infront of St Peter’s. After we got home two months laster the fine arrived from the Italian Governement, inside the city is a restricted area $200 EUR!!!

  • This is a lovely giveaway :).

    My favorite travel story is actually not about me, but my friend Jenna. The summers after my 8th grade through Junior year of high school I went on missions trips with my church. One of those trips was to an Indian reservation. During this particular trip, a lot of people in my church’s group got sick but one girl was having trouble in other areas. The trip was a week long and four days into our stay she announced to our group that she hadn’t been able to poop since we had arrived. The next day or so every time we saw her we would ask for a poop update but she had no luck. Her poop issues ended in a trip to the emergency room, which really isn’t funny at all but the whole story is so ridiculous that it’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think of funny travel stories.

  • This American fell in love with a Dutch and moved to a town outside of Amsterdam, in the Netherlands.Fast forward lots of snow on the roads ,riding bike to pub to celebrate my chilly 26 th birthday, I’ve already had few before hopping on the bike. I Decide to impress my guy with showing him that I can now signal without holding onto the handle bars for dear life. Well lets just say that was a epic fail! Not only did I go flying over the handle bars and onto the pavement into street. I lay there for about 10 minutes seriously ,mostly because im sober now and really embarrassed . My guy begged me to get up out the street but I laid there telling him to tell the cars to go around,which made it worse,with people thinkng i’d fainted. There was no happy ending to the story. I came out terribly bruised and crushed my favorite ring. Though I still think foundly of Holland and bikes

  • When I was 20 and studying abroad in Oxford, U.K., three friends and I decided to spend our last week backpacking through Ireland. One night, at a hostel in Dublin, we shared a room with two bunk beds with a cute guy, also from the States. The three of us argued over who got to share the bunk bed with him, and I won! After going out for dinner and drinks, we came back to our room to get some sleep. And the cute American dude proceeded to fart the stinkiest beer farts all night long! Sigh.

  • It was the first trip my boyfriend (now the Husby) and I saved up and planned for. We were going on a two week road trip in New Zealand, and I was super excited that we get to explore the islands and stay in apartments rather than boring hotels. I am a breakfast person and so I woke up bright and early one morning on the trip to make pancakes for him, but I failed to realize that it was not a non stick pan and I had no butter!! The pancake batter burned up and all that smoke set of the fire alarm. All that noise and instead of bed in breakfast we spent a long time deactivating the alarm. What a start to that day and the trip! Now he makes the pancakes on Sundays instead! :)

  • This didn’t happen anywhere glamorous, just in southwest VA-

    I go to school in Philadelphia, and grew up in southeast TN, and drive back and forth a few times a year. Last year, at Christmas, I was worried about the snow in the forecast, but weather.com said it would be “some snow, I-81 could be “slick”” I have a volvo station wagon, so I wasn’t the least bit worried-

    About an hour out of Roanoke, it started snowing pretty heavy and traffic slowed going through the mountains- but it was still light out, so I figured I could keep going-

    But it kept snowing, and kept snowing – Meanwhile, it took me about an hour to go 20 miles, and it was getting darker-

    My mom called me and asked me if I’d talked to my cousin Elizabeth, who was driving home the same way as me- as it turned out, we were only 2 miles apart on the freeway- I was alone in my huge car, she was with her husband, brother-in-law, and their friend- three full-grown men.

    So we pulled off the interstate and she got in my car to keep me company- meanwhile, it was completely dark, ice was freezing to my windshield, and traffic was MUCH slower.

    Everyone was optimistic that we could make it though. Until Elizabeth and I pulled off at what I thought was an ‘exit’ to get ice from my wipers- it was actually I-77, taking us WEST instead of SOUTH. It took us almost an hour to get turned around- and we were often the only moving car we saw- all the other cars were in embankments. I was fishtailing all over the place, and you couldn’t tell where one lane began and another ended.

    Meanwhile, back on the RIGHT highway, the other car had moved less than one mile in the hour it took us to get turned around- they called us to tell us to GET OFF and GET A HOTEL.

    It took us another 30 minute to fish-tail up an exit ramp and to the first thing we saw – a comfort inn. Once inside, we found out that they were all filled up- them and every other hotel in Wythe County, VA. Other hotels were locking their front doors so people couldn’t even ask for shelter.

    The woman at the front desk told us we could lay down by the indoor pool if we wanted, and it seemed like our only other option was to get in the car and get back into stand-still traffic.

    So I picked some dirty clothes from my car and we made “beds” on the plastic lounge chairs. Just as we closed our eyes, however, we found out we had roommates (poolmates?)- some people were driving from GA to CT with 70 dogs to take to a pound up there- and the puppies were too young to stay in the trailer all night. So now it was us and 20 or so squealing dogs in a fully-lit indoor pool all night. They squealed, in rising and falling crescendos, pretty much all night. I asked the woman at the desk if we could sleep in the dog-less (and dark) weight room, but she said guests might want to exercise (in the middle of the apocalypse?!). Apparently them swimming next to people sleeping with coats and dirty towels and yipping puppies wouldn’t be asking guests to sacrifice much, but sleeping in the weight room was out of the question.

    Somehow, we eventually fell into a twilight sleep for about eight hours.

    The next morning, we discovered that the other car hadn’t even moved out of site of the hotel – but the service road had been completely cleared. We were able to pass stand-still traffic, and my cousin’s husband’s car- in about 45 minutes. By the Tennessee border, there was no more snow. The drive home is usually around 12 hours, but with all the snow and the overnight stay, it took me 24 hours to get home for that christmas!

  • I was with a group doing a four-day hike on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Most of us were carrying small packs to hold certain, uh, necessities in between meal breaks and overnight stops – water, snacks, toilet paper. During one lunch stop on our first day, we were close to someone’s farm. So close that chickens and other animals were wandering into our picnic spot. We were just wondering if we should move when a 200-something-pound pig came straight over to one of the backpacks and started rooting around inside. We were all frozen and laughing nervously, trying to decide the best course of action when the pig extricated itself from the pack and ran off… with a roll of toilet paper in its mouth. Guess it got tired of the jokes about rolling around in its own filth :)

  • On a trip to Morocco, and after a scoarching walk on the beach during which I was toasted alive and coated in windblown sand, I visited some traditional baths or hammam. I booked in and with all the signs being in arabic, I was thrown into confusion. I eventually found my way, creeping stark naked along the corridor, to a dark room from which I heard the sound of water and deduced this is where I should be for the treatment I booked – some sort of scrub down and massage. I parked myself on one of the seats in the steamy, semi dark room and waited, and waited …. and waited. Eventually, feeling nervous that I’d got the whole thing completely wrong, and wracking my brain for the bit in the guidebook I’d read, I decided to cut my losses, go for a quick swim in that big pool I could see and get outta there. I climbed into the pool, which was quite strangely raised above the ground and just as I was thinking that it was a bit like swimming in a tank, the door opened and the a flood of hammam workers came into the room. The look of shock on their faces was something else. I discovered that I’d been swimming in the cistern that fed the whole building. I was indeed in completely the wrong place and was fished out and shamed faced, totally naked led to the right room. I’ve never been back to a spa.

  • My friend and I were in Greece, and wanted to take the ferry from Chania (Crete) to the Peleponese. There is only one boat a week, on Thursdays. Sure enough it showed up, everybody got off, and then nothing happened. Apparently it didn’t leave until 5pm.

    Because of the later departure, the ferry arrived in Monemvasia at 1am, and we were the only passengers getting of. Everything in town was closed. We were planning on going to the campground 3miles out of town, but all the taxis had gone home. Locals with scooters offered rides, but we had big backpacks. It was high tide, so the beach was no good either. We ended up trying the doors of all the hotels in the town, and found one that was open and we slept on the chairs in the lobby. Needless to say, when the owner started shouting at us in Greek in the morning, we fled.

  • I was in Beijing on a study abroad trip, and we were scheduled to go see the Great Wall of China the next day. Unfortunately, my friends took me out for “a few drinks” and hookah the night before. Needless to say, we came in a 4 am, and in desperate need for the Chinese equivalent of Tylenol the next morning.

    I woke up, and dragged myself downstairs to the breakfast table to be joined by none other than our chaperone (school sponsored, of course) for all of breakfast. All I could manage to stomach while making polite conversation was a banana and a Coke.

    On the very back seat of a tour bus (duh, roughest spot on a bus) an hour later, cue me in my new knockoff WHITE polo, not feeling the banana and coke so much anymore. I start feeling nauseous, start looking around for some sort of container, and come up with nothing but my purse. Which contains mine and my three friends’ passports. Oops. The banana and coke did not make a good combination when it made its reappearance. On my shirt. In my purse. And on the poor girl in front of me.

    Thankfully, I was wearing a jacket, and managed to strip off new polo (goodbye new shirt) and don only my jacket. I got to the great wall, bought a hideously ugly yellow “I Climbed the Great Wall” shirt, and proceeded to have that and a very hungover look on my face for the rest of the day, and in the rest of the pictures that will last a lifetime.

    Needless to say, no more hookah for this girl.

  • As an 11 year old this story was sad, as a 33 year old, I laugh every time I tell it.

    My family went of a two week tour through the American Southwest when I was 11. Somewhere in the middle of the flat dry desert we stopped for gas; this also meant we all got out to use the restroom. I was the last to go, after my mom and two older sisters. When I came out and walked around to the front, the car was gone. I looked to see if my dad had just pulled away from the pump, I went into the garage to ask if anyone had seen the cream Volvo…no, they left me! Being 11, in the middle of the desert, no one to call (this is pre-cell phone mind you) I sat down on the curb and bawled.

    It was only moments before they returned. I remember being so angry I wouldn’t talk to my dad for hours. Apparently my sisters got in the car, my dad asked “everyone in?” and one of them responded “yes” not paying attention to whether I was there. They got almost to the freeway on ramp before someone noticed I wasn’t there.

    I did get to use the restroom first at any and every stop we made thereafter.

  • A few of my closest friends made me a makeshift “birthday cake” out of some graham cracker bears, m&m’s, and licorice strings while in New Orleans helping out with the Katrina relief. It was the most rewarding birthdays I’ve ever had and my friends made it unexpectedly fun! Needless to say, there was so much laughter and giggling that night.

  • the first and only time i have been hospitalized was while i was staying in a hostel in paris… (bet a lot of horror stories involve time spent in hostels)

    a pull out storage unit lid fell on my head and made me bleed so much that my friends thought i should go to the hospital. we had initially planned on going to monet’s garden the following day, but when we returned from the hospital in the wee hours of the morning, my friends turned to me and said, “it’ll be ok… we can still go… we’ll just have get you a fabulous scarf to cover your welt.” i then had a bad dream about my how my pictures from the day would be ruined due to the damn scarf.

    when the morning came, i looked pretty normal, so there was no scarf needed (crisis averted).

    I STILL LOVE PARIS… even though it may not love me back.

  • My boyfriend and I were attending a Catskills wedding, so he booked us a room at the swanky b&b for the whole weekend to make it a fun, romantic getaway. You can imagine our surprise upon returning from dinner the first night and finding a CHIPMUNK on our bed. He scurried out pretty quickly… but came back during the night, flopping around in our luggage and shoes! We eventually had to stuff a towel in the crack under the door, kept in place by a dresser drawer with the luggage in it.
    Night #2 was in our upgrade, the honeymoon suite!

  • It was the first time I had traveled to visit my relatives in Egypt, and everything (apart from my family) was astoundingly different and foreign to me– the streets of Cairo were buzzing and chaotic–devoid of any traffic lights or stop signs to govern the free-for-all. One afternoon in Cairo, I left my aunt’s house with a friend to explore the neighborhood. After wandering a bit too far off, we got exceedingly lost and decided to try to get home by taking a cab… Unfortunately, I didn’t actually know my aunt’s address, so I had to describe the street and surrounding corner stores to the cab driver in broken Arabic to give him an idea of our destination… after driving around in the chaos for over an hour, the apartment buildings started to look familiar, and I could tell we were in the right area. The only problem was that I couldnt tell WHICH building in a row of identical, beige flats was my aunt’s. As I craned my neck out of the cab window to look for signs, I suddenly noticed a familiar pair of pants waiving on a clothesline between to buildings: they were a distinct pair of jeans that I was wearing earlier that morning that my aunt took the liberty of washing and hanging to dry. “THOSE ARE MY PANTS!” I shouted, pointing at the jeans that waived in the wind like a little welcome flag. We thanked the driver, hopped out of the cab, and promised NEVER to leave home without a return address again.

  • When I met my husband, I was going to college in London, while he lived in the US. The very first time he came to visit me, we jumped on the Eurostar to Paris, where we spent four days browsing art galleries, eating baguettes, and shopping for books.

    On our last day there, hours before our return to London, we decided to head to the Eiffel tower. Realizing that we didn’t have enough time to take the elevator to the top, we settled on taking a picture on the ground beneath the tower. My boyfriend propped the camera against his wallet on the ground, declaring with great enthusiasm that the bench I was sitting on was entirely in the frame, with the Eiffel tower in the background. He clicked the self-timer button, ran back toward me, and instead of putting his arm around me, he clocked me in the eye so hard that my contact lens popped right out of my eye. While the area around my eye was throbbing with pain, we couldn’t stop laughing when we realized that the camera had snapped not one, but three photos of the event: the elbow in my eye, the contact falling out, and us searching for it on the ground.

  • My happiest travel souvenir was for my 30th birthday, my fiancé told me to pack a small suitcase with a couple of hot stuff (if only I knew before where we were going I would have put some more hot stuff, it was litterally freezing outside !) and to take 2 days off in my job.
    I arrived in the airport, I thought we were leaving for Amsterdam. I was really, really happy as I love this town, but it happend that when we arrived there we took another plane to… Berlin !
    He didn’t tell me anything, I didn’t see the plane tickets, the airport staff were kind enough to keep the destination secret and I can assure you that it was my best surprise ever !

  • What about Romania?
    We have iconic buildings too, good food, nice people, beautiful landscape, member of EU, aprt of Europe……..

  • The first time I came to this country (the US of A) I was surprised to see that no matter where we were, we were always close to the Xing School. Although I saw plenty of Asian people, I didn’t think that it was possible that there were so many Asian schools all over the place. I finally asked someone, who fell off his chair in laughter. Of course, what I was seeing was the School CROSSing signs on the street…

  • I was living in a student community in the Swiss alps and on one of our days off, two other girls and I drove the only car into the city of Montreux. They were going to tour the Chateau de Chillon, but I had seen it already and decided to walk into town to experience the amazing Marche de Noel (Christmas market). Upon arriving at the Chateau, however, I realized I had forgotten my wallet so I borrowed 20 francs from Anna and made my way into town and we all agreed to meet at the Freddy Mercury statue in the center of town at 5pm. With that 20 francs, I did a tiny bit of shopping, bought a new pack of cigarettes (I’m not a smoker, but the occasional Lucky Strike was a staple of my romantic ideal of an art major touring Europe for the first time), and had come coffee and a snack in a cafe. At 5pm, I stood waiting in the shadow of Freddy, but the girls weren’t there. I waited, and waited. It began to snow, and all I was wearing was a wool sweater and scarf as it had been shockingly warm earlier. A nice couple selling roasted chestnuts let me wait under their umbrella. I smoked the last of my old pack of cigarettes. By 7:00 (yep, took me that long), I realized something had gone wrong and they weren’t coming–but having spent all but a couple francs, I didn’t even have enough money to get a train back home! Also, no cell phone or even the number for the place I was staying since I’d forgotten my wallet. I panicked a little, then went back to the newsstand where I had purchased the new pack of Lucky Strikes, still untouched. Half in French, half in English, I negotiated actually returning the pack, thinking that if that didn’t work I’d have to try to sell it to some passerby at the train station! I now had enough for a ticket back to Aigle, the town at the bottom of the mountain from where I was staying. I got there too late to catch the last bus up the mountain, so my only alternative was to hitch hike (not as scary as it sounds, it was a safe are and we did this in groups rather often to avoid the expensive buses). But it was dark and still snowing. I headed to a corner I knew got some good traffic and managed to get a ride with someone going about halfway to where I needed to get, a nice old man who only spoke French. He dropped me off and I had to hitch a different ride the rest of the way. Fortunately a nice woman who spoke English and had a pretty dog in the back of her Landrover took me the rest of the way to Huemoz where I was staying. I walked into the student house where everyone was eating crepes and nutella, and no one was apparently very worried about me. The two girls who were supposed to meet me came running up, apologizing profusely, saying they got nervous about driving up the mountain in the snow and thought I had said something about catching a train if I ran into some of the boys who were in town. I was cold, wet, and annoyed, but the warm crepes and knowing I now had a pretty good story to tell helped soothe all of that!

  • I study arabic so usually I spend the mounth of july in Tunisia attending a summer school. The weekends are the best part because me and my friends use this free time to travel up and down the country. Once, during one of these mini trips I was on a train from Sousse to Tunis. I was sitting near a woman with her two daughters. The oldest one began to stare at me so I tried to start a conversation with her in Arabic: “what’s your name?” I simply said. She didn’understand me…”Oh my! Am I that bad??” I thought. Her father tried to help me speaking to me in French, translating her daughter ,but…I don’t speak French so we started this really funny conversation: the kid (her name was Siriin, 6 years old) spoke in tunisian dialect to her father, he translated into French to my friend and my friend translated to me into Italian…Complicated?yes, but really nice. Siriin asked me if I wanted to be her friend, the most sweet thing someone ever asked me. She wanted to know if I knew some Arabian song..which I did actually! So we started to sing on that crowded train (If you knew how much I am shy you could imagine the deep red colour my face assumed)…When we arrived in Tunis we separated, but lately that evening SIriin and her father called me to invite me and my friend to their uncle’s wedding in august. I was about to go back to Italy so I had to refuse. I was so sad hearing her calling my name and telling me “please come! Don’t leave!” I’m actually sad right now writing about that moment. I wonder how is she now, I hope well because even though she probably doesn’t remember me she is one of the best memories I have.

  • Driving along the country roads down south of New Zealand, Christchurch, my friend P and I were happy as larks enjoying the view of the countryside. The little birds seem to like having us around too, flying and playing in the slipstream our car made trundling down the roads. Everything was peachy till we noticed one little birdie flying particularly low. It disappeared below our line of sight and we heard, and felt a little “thunk”.

    P and I both shrieked in horror, and P (the driver) freaked out about killing the poor innocent country bird. We would get over it, however, after it happened another 2 times throughout the rest of our trip. Ah, country birds, what can I say? =P

    (p/s LOVE the new prints by J&O!)

  • So although I’ve been a D*S reader for some time, I’ve never been motivated to contribute, until I saw those MAPS! Love them!

    Here’s my story:
    Right after college I went traveling around Europe with a female high school friend and had countless great adventures in many cities and small towns. Toward the end of our European trip, we were flat broke and my friend reminded me that a college friend of hers (John) was living in southern France and we could stay with him for free. Although I had met John once before, I was unimpressed by him, since the one time we met he was sporting a bright green mohawk standing over a foot off his head. However, to a broke traveler, a free place to stay is a free place to stay. He picked us up at the train station in a vintage red Mini with his roommate Pablo, which started things off right. We ended up staying with him for a week and had an absolute blast.

    After that trip, I didn’t stay in contact with John, although I thought about him often. We met again at a party 4 years later outside of DC and took it as a sign that we were meant to be together (despite the fact that his current girlfriend was at the party as well – it’s hard to challenge fate, I say).

    Now 10 years and 2 kids later, we just moved to France for 2 years and couldn’t be happier about it. Although John no longer sports the green mohawk, we’re planning to take our kids to all of the cities pictured and more (just returned from a weekend in Bruges – would love a map of that town!). Santé!

  • In early ’96, I was in Jamaica having a bit of a pre-wedding honeymoon with my then-fiancé (now ex), while we were waiting for his visa to come through so he could come to the US and we could get married. We spent a week or so together, and then a friend of mine planned to pop down for a long weekend and hang out with us. He worked for an airline, so he could fly for free, lucky him!

    Seyba’s father is from Mali, in West Africa, while his mother is African-American, and his appearance is very striking. He just looks very African, you know? He is very tall (6’4″) and was very thin (about 140lbs, he’s since gained a good bit), beautiful dark skin, and a big white toothy smile. I affectionately called him Skinny Man.

    So my ex and I went to the airport in Montego Bay to meet Seyba. The airport didn’t have an inside waiting area, so we were hanging around for a long time outside the doors where passengers come out. There was a bunch of taxi drivers just waiting for passengers, too, but we didn’t pay much attention to them, ’cause we were busy paying attention to each other.

    At one point, my ex went back to the car to grab something, and it was just then that the doors opened and a bunch of passengers came out. Seyba was immediately noticeable, and I waved and called out to him, “Skinny Man!” Immediately, without a second’s hesitation, as if they’d been rehearsing it, the ENTIRE group of 25 or so taxi drivers chorused loudly, “SKINNY MON!” Seyba and I screamed with laughter, and hugged each other while all the drivers laughed, too. Then my ex came back, and he’d missed the whole thing!

    Seyba was sure I’d put all the drivers up to it, but I hadn’t! Anyway, those taxi drivers gave Seyba a welcome to Jamaica he’ll never forget!

  • LOVE the prints and would love to own them! :)

    My husband and I spent two days in Paris before settling into a sweet little medieval French village for a week. (Cagnes sur Mer) Everything in Paris is very old and very small but nothing smaller than the elevator in our swanky hotel. It was the size of a coffin stood on end. Problem? Yes, we are both claustrophobic! We gave it a try when we first got there and jammed in ourselves and our bags and that stuffed the elevator from back to front. It was so excruciatingly slow and our hearts raced with noses pressed against the door – we knew we’d be taking the six flights of stairs for the duration of our stay. On the day we left, hubby ran down to the lobby and I stayed up top to send our bags down alone via the teeny elevator. We stayed in contact via our Blackberrys. “OK, here they come!” He texted back a few minutes later, “where are they?” And then I heard the elevator come to a creaking stop and the hurried and anxious voices of other hotels guests on another floor. The elevator door had opened and they were greeted with two unaccompanied suitcases and no room for them to board!! There was some excited chatter in French, the doors creaked closed, and finally our bags reached my husband below. I scooted down the stairs and off we went, sad to leave Paris but glad to be far away from that confining little elevator!

  • At 18 I took off to europe for a backpacking trip of a lifetime! And it was.

    In Amsterdam in the red light district I was walking down the street with a male friend, Pete, I had met weeks before. Pete was approached by a tall stocky dark skinned man, who in broken english, asked how much I was. He was pointing at me, but I didn’t realise what he was saying. Pete laughed and told him to back off, thinking this gentleman was mucking around. The man then offered Pete a substantial amount of cash if he could take me (approx $45 000 dollars). Then the man grabbed me and started pulling me down the street. It was very scary, and Pete ended up threatening the man, and thankfully he backed off before Pete thumped him one.

    Was worrying at the time but is now a good story to tell!

  • 7 years ago my brother came back from Vegas with a cute sock monkey souvenir. I didn’t have the heart to leave him on a shelf to be forgotten so I decided he would travel the world for me since I was a college student and couldn’t afford to travel. A close friend of mine was on his way to Japan and few weeks later and after lots of begging I convinced myself very manly friend to take my sock money with him and bring back a picture of “Pablo ” in Japan. He reluctantly did. Three weeks later my friend returned with hundreds of pictures of Pablo enjoying himself in Japan. My friend also brought back several interesting stories of how he met many people because of Pablo. After that trip my friend encouraged me to send Pablo on more travel adventures and meet people of the world. I took his advice and Pablo has now been to over 50 countries and has made many international friends. We

  • When I was in high school, my dad got it into his head that the family was going to tour Europe in a motorhome. 5 weeks, 6 countries, lots of castles. We went to a small German grocery store in Frankfurt and loaded up on supplies, North American style. The locals were amazed at our haul. After carting everything back to our motorhome and hitting the road we learned a very important lesson about locking cabinet doors. My dad had hit the breaks hard and everything flew out of the cupboards, down the length of the motor home and sent us scrambling to retrieve packages, jars, and containers of salt, mustard, yogurt, etc.

  • I’ve been reading the stories, and you really have your work cut out for you!! My story is funny sad…I love to travel, and my then boyfriend and I traveled to Paris one spring. It was really cold, and I wore a bright blue anorak, not quite “city wear” and I stuck out like a bright blue american wherever we went..but that’s beside the point…. the sad funny part is that at the Louvre my, as I said “then” boyfriend would not wait with me to see the Mona Lisa, obviously to him cliche and beneath him, then dragged (no, he didn’t drag me, I embellish) me through the galleries of HUGE paintings which tend to nauseate me with all the flesh tones and scary allegorical subjects…all that drama…..I ended up sitting and crying in a little room of ancient artifacts….a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary looking on in sadness. Our relationship didn’t last for long after this trip…..

  • When I was studying abroad at Cambridge, I decided it was the right time to get my nose pierced. So I did it and had a tiny stud in my right nostril. I went to Paris the next weekend for a little getaway and lost that stud right down the sink drain while groggily washing my face one morning. I stuck an earring in my nose for the rest of the weekend which looked completely ridiculous. I got a new nosering back in Cambridge and proceeded to lose it again after a few too many drinks one night (and maybe a few sloppy kisses with a handsome man from Cyprus…). I decided the nose piercing was not meant to be after that, much to my mom’s delight, but will always have the pictures of myself in Paris with an earring in my nose to make me laugh!

  • I studied abroad in Florence, Italy my Junior year of college. My mom and I are really close so we were both crushed when we found out she had to have heart surgery a month after my program ended, so she most likely wouldn’t be able to make it out for a visit over the 6 month period I would be gone. Before I left she kept asking me that If i went to Venice to please please take a ton of pictures because that had always been the one thing she had really wanted to see in Italy. Needless to say when our program had planned a group trip to Venice the first thing I did after stepping off the train was to call her on my wonky little euro cell phone. For about an hour I walked around crying trying to describe every detail of what the city looked/smelled/felt like to her since she couldn’t be there. About a month later we found out her surgery had been postponed and she flew right out to see me. We then of course spent a long weekend in Venice so she could see it for herself :-) Though we bickered as usual as I carried her bags through the maze of streets that somehow make up Venice, I’ll never forget how happy I was to just be there with her!

  • A few years ago, my boyfriend and I spent a year in Prague teaching English. We decided to use some of our time off to visit some other towns in the Czech Republic.

    I found a little Bed & Breakfast places online and reserved it. It was in a place called Dobra Voda. Then I checked the map, found the town, and figured out all the bus schedules. We arranged for someone from the B&B to pick us up when we arrived in the town.

    We changed buses a couple of times but the trip took a lot longer than we expected. The bus finally dropped us off in some itty-bitty town with one street, a few tiny cottages, and a church, and then drove off. Nobody was there to pick us up — actually, there seemed to be nobody in this little town at all.

    Looking back, it was probably a village where city-dwellers took summer vacations. But this was April — and still cold — and the place was very empty.

    We used the pay phone to call the guy who was supposed to come pick us up, and discovered that “Dobra Voda” was also a section of the town back where we had changed buses, like an hour ago. But this was the village Dobra Voda. And the driver refused to come get us, because it was too far away and he said he was already “little drunk.”

    And there were no more buses scheduled until the next morning.

    For lack of a better plan, we just struck off into the woods, lit a fire, and stayed up all night long. We had no blankets or food or anything, so we just stayed up all night long talking, huddled together to keep warm.

    The next morning, we found our way back to the bus stop, freezing, totally exhausted, miserable, and ready to get out of that stinking village.

    But I think we’re both glad we got to share that experience. We figured if we could handle that, we could handle anything. And now we’re married;)

  • A gal pal and I were traveling India on a tight budget and had to take an overnight bus out of Goa. You need to have a sense of humor when traveling in India coz you never know what to expect:
    (i) the bus pick up was scheduled at 8pm but only arrived at 1030pm. Mind you, there were no conductors or even some form of bus station to inform us of the delay
    (ii) our 2 tickets were meant for 2 beds but turned out we had to share an upper bunk that could only fit us both snugly w/o any moving space (My feet were hanging outside of the window for the 10 hour ride – thankfully I still had them intact at the end of the journey).
    (iii) the ticket said the bus would be air conditioned – but it was broken when we boarded

    Despite the discomfort and humidity, the fatigue of traveling was too much and we slept through all of that; only to be rudely awakened when we got thrown off our backs and hit our heads on the ceiling of the bus when the bus went over a ginormous pothole and fast speeds.

    Don’t think we would have gotten very far in India if we’ve left our sense of humor at home.

  • In college, I went on an art history study abroad, traveling from Greece to England over the course of two months. Fabulous trip!! One of my favorite places was Paris – we stayed there the longest, about two weeks. The whole time, we were all uncomfortable when we got off the metro and stepped through the doors to go upstairs. The swinging doors open themselves, when you step on the pressure-sensitive mat below your feet. Every time we stepped, we’d keep our arms up to open the doors, so when they’d open themselves, we’d just look like inexperienced tourists who did’t know what they’re doing. :) Well, by the end of the two weeks, I was finally comfortable and experienced enough to trust that once I stepped down, the doors would automatically open in front of me and I’d hastily walk through the doors like every other beautiful Parisian. BUT – as I walked through one door, I stepped on the mat, but the door didn’t open! I smashed facefirst into the doors because I had no hands out to shield me. Boy was my face red. We couldn’t stop laughing as everyone backed up behind me…definitely a memorable Paris moment! Watch out for those doors…

  • Back in 2006 my family and I went to Hawaii on vacation. We had a snorkling day trip planned but when we got to the beach it was all closed off because then President Bush was there as well. There were about 20 big black suburbans lined up on the beach and no one was allowed in the area. So we had to cancel our snorkling day because of President Bush…not cool. To make it better on the way home we flew into LA and then were going to fly back to Sacramento the next day. At our hotel in LA I went downstairs to use the workout room. But that particular side of the hotel was closed to the public because President Bush was having an event in one of the conference rooms…we seriously ran into President Bush and his entourage twice in one vacation! Not sure if this is funny or sad…but pretty random to say the least.

  • After spending a long summer holiday in France with my best friend who is Parisian, we were saying a final goodbye to a friend both of us had grown close to during our stay. Feeling true emotion, I went in for a tight hug while my counterpart went to faire la bise.

    It was a truly awkward and comedic moment and my best friend was laughing hysterically as she saw the whole affair happen as if in slow motion! Now my charming friend jokes whenever we see each other, “Would you prefer to hug or kiss me? I accept both.”

  • I’ve done a bit of travel as an adult (although, sadly, not yet to Europe – saving that for the honeymoon), but my funniest memories are those from good ole family vacations.
    On one trip in particular, we loaded up our ‘91 teal green Ford Escort and left Ohio for Michigan to visit family. My parents sat up front while my sister and I attempted to entertain ourselves in the back with our family pet: a parakeet we named “Chip” because (that’s right) she was yellow like a potato chip.
    It was the middle of the summer and our car wasn’t used to the six-hour drive. Eventually, the engine overheated and smoke started pouring out of the hood. My dad jerked the wheel over to the shoulder, threw the car in park, and yelled “Get out! Get out!” We all scrambled for the exits and were running frantically away from the car when my mom realized we had left Chip. She turned to my dad and started waving her arms and screaming “Get the bird! Denny, GET THE BIRD!” Brave man that my dad is, he ran back to the smoking car and reemerged with the cage and a very unhappy bird inside. And there we stood: a family of four on the side of the road, gawking at our smoking car, my dad holding a bird cage.
    In the end, everything was fine. A passing motorist helped us out and we made it to Michigan safe and sound. Ah, memories.

  • My husband and I (then fiance) were bicycle touring in Fiji. We were looking for a hostel listed in our guide book and had taking a turn off the main road onto a dirt road. We were riding for a while in the 90 plus heat when a truck load of Fijian Indians stopped and asked us where we were going. After explaining they told us our hostel wasn’t open anymore and we could spend the night in their backyard. (we had our tent, etc). We were hesitant but it was getting late and we were exhausted. After pitching our tent among chickens and the family cow, our hosts invited us to an Indian wedding in their village. We were not only dressed in grubby biking attire among all the beautiful colored saris and jewelry, but we were the tallest by a foot. The Fijians could not have been more friendly and accommodating and our worries about never being seen again were for naught!

  • My trip to Singapore was very unsettling. Everywhere I went, people were staring at me. STARING. Right. At. ME! In-my-face staring. After a day of it, I asked the people I was traveling with if they noticed people staring at them. They thought I was imagining it until they started paying attention. People weren’t staring at them, but they were definitely staring at me. “WHAT?!” It was unsettling. I knew I wasn’t breaking any cultural taboos such as pointing at things, or smiling broadly as Yanks are known to. Nope. I was being very respectful. Finally, while we were talking about it at a Food Court at the Singapore Mall, an attendant behind the counter said “Eyes. It is your eyes. Very Blue.” Only then did we all notice that I was the only blue-eyed person in the whole place. Blue-eyed and red hair. Yep! I was noticeable! Once I understood why they were staring at me, I was OK with it and had fun with it. I’d open my eyes wide and bat my eyelashes and smile (not too broadly!). So, it was very interesting when I was traveling in Scotland to completely blend in!

  • It was a 14 hour road trip when we were kids. My sister was about 4 years old and I was 7. We passed what looked like a horse trailer on I-95, but my dad told us it wasn’t a horse, it was a bull. I went back to looking out the window.

    I turned back towards my sister, she was shirtless and standing up. She was waving her shirt in the back window…it was red.

  • So when I was studying abroad in Spain, I got a call in the middle of the night from my friend who had gotten lost while walking my roommate home. The next thing I know, he tells me that my roommate (who was there just a second ago) suddenly had disappeared when he turned around to look for a street sign. Now, this in itself was not funny, but suddenly the door buzzer is going off and my roommate is waiting for me to let her in. The story she told me once she got inside becomes funnier every year as we get together and rehash old memories. My roommate (who I must mention knows very little Spanish) found herself separated from her escort and, obviously scared, looks for a safe haven with a police officer, etc. What she finds instead was a garbage truck driver that offers to drive her home. With her very minimal Spanish vocabulary she manages to tell the driver where to drop her (and yes, she was thinking ahead and for safety reasons asked him to drop her at the nearest public square instead of directly at our apartment). Unfortunately, the poor driver was trying to make conversation to calm her down and mentioned the beaches in the nearest town, San Juan. My friend in her hysteria thought he was saying he was going to take her to San Juan instead, and began to go a little crazy. Finally, after several understandably tense minutes, my roommate recognizes our neighborhood and begins to cry in earnest. When the driver finally dropped my roommate off, she told me that he was looking at her with pity for the “crazy American tourist”. This story is one of our favorite to recite at girl weekends and get-togethers because, really, how many people can say that they have gotten a ride home in Spain from a garbage truck man?

  • I was studying in england for a summer and on the weekends we had free time to go elsewhere. So the 4 other girls I was with and I went to Dublin this particular weekend. There was a silent feud going on and we were 2 against 3. The 2 were always lagging behind, stopping to take pictures of the sidewalk… all in all not efficient travel. Plus we couldn’t agree where to go and what to do with our day. So we split, with the 3 and our maps and plans for the day and the 2 doing God knows what. Long story short, the next day when we were heading back to Cambridge from King’s Cross they went on and bought their own tickets (we always bought tickets together before that so they would be cheaper). I had already bought their tickets and we couldn’t get ahold of them. when we finally did and learned that they were already at the platform, I stomped down there like a crazy person and Yelled at them full force for a good 10 minutes while they just put their hands on their hip and called me mom. Then I stormed to the other end of the platform with 15pound tickets that I couldn’t afford. Phew! Learned who I could travel with that trip! (It took us a week to all make up – but we’re still friends in the end.)

  • I was in Salisbury, England about to embark on what I believed was going to be one of the most prolific experiences of my life, to visit Stonehenge. A group of us were sitting at a table in the local pub and a local gentleman invited himself to sit with us by heaving a chair up to the table. We were discussing the upcoming events and he informed us, in a slur, that it wasn’t a big deal because “they’re just a bunch of *expletive* rocks”. He was tanked and his friend dragged him out of the bar shortly after that. We all had a good laugh about his lovely demeanor.

  • I taught a year in China and traveled with one of my colleagues to 25 cities. On our very last trip together (train-hopping veterans by now), we missed our stop to Guilin, the city of rice terraces. So at 3 in the morning, we had to scramble about to find a train that would take us in the opposite direction. We were so exhausted from the ordeal that we actually ended up going on a guided tour (something we always were too proud to do) of a nearby minority village, where we saw the rice terraces for about 10 mins during lunch before the fog began rolling in, completely obscuring our view for the next hour!

  • After spending a lovely week in Edinburgh, it came time for me to catch a couple flights to get down to Paris to spend a few days with a friend in the city.  Unfortunately, the day I chose to travel was also the day someone decided to call in a bomb threat to an airport in Glasgow.  Needless to say, many flights in the UK were delayed because of this threat, mine included.  

    By the time I was finally able to make it to the London Luton Airport for my connecting flight, all departing flights for Paris were booked.  To make matters worse, I was traveling on a shoestring budget and the only other available flights would’ve set me back over a thousand dollars.  After realizing there was no way I was going to be leaving the UK on a plane, I took a taxi to the Waterloo Train Station hoping I’d be able to hop on the Euro Star and make it to France in time to enjoy a lovely Parisian breakfast the following morning.  What a silly little aspiration that was!

    I arrived at Waterloo only to find that the Euro Star terminal had closed for the night.  And to continue the trend of my travel woes going from bad to worse, I was now in a part of London where I knew lodging options would be slim to none because of my tiny travel budget.  In hopes that there might be a hostel somewhere near by, I asked a couple security guards at the train station what kind of lodging was in the area.  I told them my story about getting stuck in London and they sympathized, but told me the only lodging options ranged from not-cheap-at-all to ridiculously-expensive hotels.  I thanked them for listening to my story and found a bench to rest on while I contemplated how the hell I was going to get through the night.  A little while later, one of the guards came to find me and said that they’d let me stay in the station’s first aid room after Waterloo closed for the night.

    Within a few hours I was bunking-down in a tiny first aid room in Waterloo Station, exhausted from the day’s travel ordeals, but relieved to have a safe place to rest my head for the night.  I hopped on a train for Paris early the next morning and was sharing travel adventure stories over a glass of wine on the banks of the Seine with a good friend that afternoon.

  • I went on a disasterour jungle trek in Malaysia about 6 years ago.
    My friend and I had already proved ourselves to be pretty inept in Indonesian rainforest, but that didn’t put us off. We wanted to spend a night in a Hide in the Malaysian rainforest and spot all kinds of tropical animals.
    To get ready we needed: torches, travel matresses, overnight back packs, bedding, food and batteries. We each had a sarong so went out to hit the ‘hire’ shops. After a day of searching we had the travel matresses, food, and one adult back pack. I pulled the short straw and had to make do with a minnie the mouse pack designed for a very small child. I couldn’t fit everything in & had to carry my food, but we figured we would be fine and set off.
    We were taken across the river and plunked map in hand to embark on our 1.5 hr hike to the Hide. Within 5 minutes the minnie mouse zip burst, and so we had to fashion a way to close it, with limited success.
    Needless to say we got lost.
    The trek in total took us about 3 hours.
    A major hold up came in the form of a small stream crossing our track. We’re talking a few inches deep and about 2-3 metres wide. I decided to try to get across on the stepping stones so as to avoid getting my feet wet, while holding on to the guide rope. Halfway across I lost my balance and so held onto the rope expecting it to tighten up and break my fall. It didn’t. I was consequently soaked, along with the entire contents of my broken kiddie bag. The food went off down river and my matress was dripping wet.
    When we arrived we shared our measley portion of food with two Canadian guys who were cooking a ton of noodles in the Hide who offered to split it with us, shortly before spilling said noodles on the floor.
    After eating dinner off of the floor, we set down for the night, me in my still wet bed.
    About an hour after dark a Japanese guy who got more lost than us arrived and half unpacked before going to sleep. The Canadians gave up looking for animals about an hour after that ans started smoking, the smell of which will keep anything away.
    Except rats.
    Giant Rats.
    These rats broke into the hide about 2 am. The Japanese guy had left his food out, and these things were fearless. And HUGE.
    As one jumped onto my bed with me I screamed ‘he’s going to eat my eyes’ before hurling myself into my friends bed before refusing to move for the rest of the night.
    Of course, using torches helps keep them off of you/your bed. But, we didn’t have any torches. But I did have my movile phone before the bettery died, which wasn’t quite as effective.
    I’m pretty sure that was the last jungle trek I’ll ever want to do…still, I wouldn’t change it, it makes a great story!

  • I have to post this anonymously, and I apologize in advance for the graphic details- THAT being said! I went to Italy with my mom. We were so, so excited. I knew Italians dressed top notch so I wore my best dress on the plane- to make a good impression upon arrival! However- I learned very quickly that 10 hour plane rides and tight pants DO NOT mix. My visions of arriving in Italy ready to drink wine and see art, quickly turned into my mom and I frantically looking for a Pharmacy. We found one. Then picture my mom and I trying to describe via hand movements what my symptoms were! And on top of that the pharmacist was a young and very handsome Italian man. He ended up calling his grandmother over to try and decider our message – Che casino!

  • While exploring Venice for the better part of a day I found a ladies room to use. I thought it would be a quick trip, but when I went to leave the stall I found that I was locked inside. The attendant doesn’t speak any English and I don’t speak Italian. All she hears is me beating on the door–frantically expressing that I’m locked inside of the stall. She stuck a phone under the door and was saying, what I can only assume to be, that she was calling someone and that help was on the way.

    After ten minutes, I heard my (now) husband lean in and say, “Baby, is everything okay?” I responded with, “No! I’m locked in a water closet!” He proceeded to laugh heartily and apparently clear his entrance into the restroom with the attendant. He climbed up in the adjacent stall and peered over the wall, smiling from ear to ear. He climbed into my stall and gave me a lift over the eight foot concrete wall. Turns out, my knight in shining armor rescued me from an Italian water closet!

  • On a Sunday morning in Amsterdam, my husband and I were biking to the train station to travel to Sunday service. I was dressed up in a skirt and ballet flats, and slowly, over the span of the 3 km trip, my bike got harder and harder to ride. Convinced that something must be broken with my bike, we stopped by the bike shop on the way home. Turns out someone had tried to steal my bike and had loosened the bolts on the wheels, and nothing was actually wrong with my bike!

  • I’m from the Deep South and there’s not much money for travel, but I did get to go to NYC once as a teenager. With my grandmother. She held out her hat and sang Oh Holy Night for tips. Nothing will ever embarrass me now. I’m immune.

  • I’m enjoying some of these disaster trips- they make some of mine see minor (bombs going off in the London underground, a guy in my Prague hostel room coming in super late with his boy friend- high as a kite- proceeding to try to jump out the window while pulling his pants down and eventually going on himself and passing out, thinking the woman in my women’s only dorm in Perugia was a man, my friend touching a sea urchin in Croatia and dousing the wound in homemade alcohol from a Cockta Cockta bottle provided by the owner of the room we stayed in, and eating way too much good food in Ireland, only to get food poisoning (both my friend and me) by eating fancy cheese we had stored in our purses… I got sick on the plane flight home) So I’ll stick in a short and happy note:
    I was studying in Florence over summer with a friend and we skipped out of class to see Il Palio (horserace) in Siena. It’s magical- hours in the sun, shiny swords, lots of fanfare, drinks, and the most exciting minute when the horses race around you– the ground shakes and everyone starts sobbing. It’s beautiful. At the end of the day, we miss the train home. We can’t get a room anywhere, and technically we have class in the morning. Another group, of dutch tourists (that my friend brings over to talk to me, thinking they’re speaking to her in French), is in the same boat. We all start bedding down in the station, when lo-and-behold a taxi driver says he’ll take us back to Florence for 100 euros (75$ at the time) this is the price of a hotel, and we get to sleep at home so we take it. Its over an hour to get back, but since the driver doesn’t speak English, I’m forced to use my less than 1 month of Italian (my friend has studied for a few years). Somehow, it finally clicks and I have a real conversation! The driver was so nice, he insisted on dropping us off on our one way street so we didn’t have to walk from the Florentine train station. He drove backward on the one-way street to get us there. It’s a small incident, but shows that a little effort in conversation goes a long way. It was the first time I was rewarded for interacting with locals and I kept doing so throughout subsequent trips. I’ve gotten tips on places to go, made fast friends at a bar and later shared a walk about town with them, even been invited to watch movies and grab a home cooked meal. Half the fun of travel is meeting people- go to local bars, events, you’ll meet em. (Hint- a few words in the native language are appreciated, and Rick Steves is awesome- but follow his advice! Tear out the pages you need for the day fold and slip into a day planner. No one will know you’re really checking a map or reading a tour book!)

  • Years back, I was traveling in Europe with my cousin and we were flying by the seat of our pants; no itinerary or anything. We decided to head to München but once on our way, we found out there was vacancy in any of the hostels… but one – one that was ran by a convent.

    Now, not that that’s a bad thing … but they had [very early] curfews and locked the door at 10pm sharp. But, we needed a place to stay. So without even unpacking our bags, we went to explore.

    For dinner, we stopped off at the ever so famous Hofbrauhaus. New friends, music, and beer got the better of us and before we knew it, it was 9:45 and the convent was clear across town.

    We paid, bid farewell to our new friends and ran as fast as we could, sometimes crooked, across town…

    To a locked convent.

    What were we going to do? I felt horrible … guilty for being late and guilty for being drunk – on the doorstep of a convent. We rang the bell. Waited. Thought about alternatives (non that made any sense at all). Rang the bell again. Waited – and it seemed like forever and then the door slowly creaked open to a drowsy, disappointed old nun.

    “You’re late.” she said as we walked by her with our heads hung with shame. “And you stink.”

    So, before we our bodies could even process the liters of beer we had just consumed, we found ourselves sitting in our dark little cell of a room tucked away in a convent in Germany.

    Lights were out – as we were past our curfew. So, with nothing to see and nothing to do, we passed out. Literally.

    Just a little later, I woke up in my own vomit.

    In my sleeping bag.
    In a convent.
    In a drunken state of mind.
    In the dark.
    In Germany.

    What was I doing?

    My cousin and I tiptoed through the hallways, found the bathrooms and rinsed both myself and the sleeping back off and drank some water out of my Nalgene bottle and went back to sleep.

    The next morning we were asked to leave.

    And for the next 2 weeks, both my sleeping bag and my Nalgene reeked of vomit. I was embarrassed – but they had an unreasonable curfew, thought my 18 year old self.

    But I had a great time – and isn’t that all that matters?

  • I was 18 years old and I had never kissed anyone. My two girlfriends and I were traveling from Marseilles to Corsica. On our way to catch the ferry, I bought and ate a panini sandwich with tomatoes. It didn’t taste quite right, but I was trying to be open to different flavors as part of my travel experience.

    We waited a very long time in the ferry terminal. I complained about the incessant smoking of one of our fellow passengers, a very lean, tall Frenchman. It was making me feel ill. By the time the ferry got moving that night, I was very sick. I left my friends eating in the ferry dining room and ran for the deck as fast as I could – but not fast enough. I threw up in the hallway. After making sure no one had seen me, I left the disgusting mess where it lay and headed outside.

    I felt much better leaning on the rail of the deck with the night air around me. My friends came out and offered me a mint, but I didn’t think it was a good idea to put anything in my mouth, so I thanked them and they left. I noticed a tall, dark Frenchman smoking and leaning on the rail several yards down. It was the man from the ferry terminal, and he was definitely looking at me.

    The smoking man approached me. He was kind of cute, and after a conversation that was more of a silence (thanks to my terrible French) he leaned in to kiss me. “Why not?” I thought, forgetting that he was a smoker and I had recently been sick. We kissed.

    After a few minutes I excused myself and went inside to tell my friends. I was feeling lots better, so we decided to celebrate my first kiss with a drink at the ferry bar. Unfortunately, my nausea returned and I repeated my failed attempt at escape. The ferry’s crew, no doubt on the hunt for the puke-and-run artist, were on hand to witness as I was sick. I tried to explain that I wasn’t drunk, but they sent me to my seat and instructed me to stay there for the rest of the night.

    That awful panini gave me the worst food poisoning I have ever had, but it also gave me the most memorable first kiss I could have hoped for.

  • On the morning of leaving Paris to return home after 6 months, I called the friend of the friend who was storing my luggage in his workshop, so I could come pick it up and then leave immediately for the airport. Well it was a Sunday, and apparently french people don’t always answer their phones on Sunday. I’d run out of money so my options were pretty slim, leave my luggage and hope a new acquaintance would bring back with her a week later (to NJ, I lived in RI) or call my parents and ask for a little money to change my flight and stay an extra day. Well I tried option 2 first, called my mother at 4:30AM est, asked her for money, explained the dire need I was in so I wouldn’t be stranded in another country broke & unable to change my flight. She responded in her usual sleepy uninterested late-night phone call way, “don’t worry about it call me in a few hours” and hung up. SO I spent my last euros calling my mother who told me everything would be ok and then hung up on me.
    Awesome. I begged the super nice woman to help me out and she agreed to take my luggage, so I barely made my flight, and had to travel to Newark airport a few weeks later to pick up my excessive amount of luggage. Oh and why did I have twice as much as I needed, Because a few months earlier my mother came on a surprise visit and brought all my winter clothes because she thought I’d need two jackets, two pairs of boots, seven sweaters, lots and lots of socks, and five more books. When I’d be leaving the country in early November.
    Long story short, I learned to trust the kindness of strangers and get a credit card. And everything did work out ok. My mother got to pay the 250$ it cost to store my luggage and 200 euros it cost to get it to the country, and I got my uggs back! oh the joys of being 19!

  • In high school we took a trip to Italy as part of an exchange program. On the last night we ate dinner at a lovely resterant with a preset menu. The dinner included a glass of champagne. Whenthe chaperons saw the chanmpage being poured, they quickly stopped the waiters and made a big fuss. Later the waiters came up to out table and asked if we would like another soda. Much to our devious delight, the waiters filled our empty coke cans with champagne!

  • Two years ago I spent 11months living and teaching English in rural China. My brother came to travel with me for a few weeks, and as part of our trip we took a 3-day “cruise” in an rickety steamer down the Yangzi River. The boat leaves you in a city that most people leave immediately, but our flight wasn’t for another 24+. It’s a city where westerners seldom explore back streets. Looking for some grub, we wandered down an ally in filled with food vendors cooking on old barrels. In my poor Mandarin I order us lunch from a wrinkled (but obviously wise) grandma. She could barely understand me, and I could barely understand her. While it wasn’t a funny moment per se, it stuck with me as an example of what travel and exploration should really be.

  • While on a backpacking trip in Bolivia we decided to take a flight from La Paz up into the Bolivian rainforest area. We showed up at the airport, and after many delays due to things like flat tires on the landing gear and a late gas truck, our flight was ready. That should have been our first clue to what was in store for us.

    The plane was an old Soviet-era military plane that had been put into commercial use by a Bolivian company. It was bare bones inside, and our seats were the equivalent of jump seats. Not to fear – we were finally off!

    A bit into the flight we began to experience serious turbulence. Serious. La Paz is at such a high elevation, and to get to the rain forest we needed to pass over high mountain ranges and then descend into the more tropical areas. That huge drop in elevation caused the plane to literally *drop*. Floor-falling-out-from-under-you drops. Passengers were screaming. White knuckle grips were happening. Lunches were lost. And, meanwhile, the co-pilot was walking up and down the aisle with aviator sunglasses on, a pilots’ jacket and hat, smiling a goofy grin and offering us mints. Yes, please a mint. We think we’re going to die and a mint will suffice. I believe I turned to my husband and said: “This. Is. So. Not. Worth. It.”

    But, we made it. After they moved the horses from the pasture, our plane was able to land and we went our our merry backpacking way. Needless to say, that [now funny] flight memory is now embedded in my travel memory bank.

  • i fell down the steps in the lourve the first time in was in paris. and not a set of side steps – the main set near the glass pyramid. the nice asian couple in front of me asked if i was ok in their native tongue – or at least i thought that may be what they said. they could have called me a silly american for all i know.

  • Lovely city maps!  After a spring semester abroad in college (more than 10 years ago), some girlfriends and I spent 3 or 4 weeks traveling around Europe together.  You know, back before everyone had cell phones and you found places to sleep by using your travel book and the pay phone in the train station.  

    Our trip was filled with happenstance and dumb luck.  While on a tram to our hostel in Zürich, we spotted a poster for a concert the following night – Dave Matthews Band, opening for the Rolling Stones.  It was in a nearby town and we decided to try and buy tickets at the event itself.  The next day we took a train to the town and then quickly asked around for directions.  Someone shuffled us towards some buses that drove us to the concert location, basically in the middle of nowhere – engulfed in fields.  

    We found someone to sell us tickets (at face value nonetheless) and it was a fantastic show.  Once it was over, the crowds of people started streaming towards a nearby road.  We followed suit.  Soon we realized that we were approaching dozens of buses.  People started fighting for spots.  Unfortunately the buses were marked two different ways, in a language we did not know (yes, dumb Americans).  The buses were quickly filling so we took a chance and got on one. After 10 minutes or so, we were let off the bus in a corn field full of cars.  Yeah, wrong bus.

    So we started walking back in the direction we came from.  It was dark, late, and we were in the country somewhere – not even in the town we were staying.  We decided to make our way back to the train station somehow, if only to sleep there.  So we walked and walked.  

    Eventually we saw a group of people approaching us and we realized they were speaking English.  We asked, “Do you know where the train station is located?”.  They replied, “As a matter of fact we do!  Have you by chance seen a corn field full of cars?”  

    Needless to say, we weren’t the only dumb Americans that night.  We made it back to the train station by the skin of our teeth and hopped on the last train to Zürich that night.

  • When in Rome: Go to the McDonalds. It was fancy, and had pictures of American flags and such, and was considered a cool place to eat. So I wanted to order a number 2 meal (which was exciting after eating pasta for about month). I go to order and I say “due” (#2 combo). Because my italian was sub-par I felt the need to re-iterate myself, I end up saying…’Due…(quite a long pause) due” (2…….2). I thought maybe McDonalds there was more expensive (i think it was paying over 10 euros, red flag) but when I got my order I really just ended up with 2 number 2s. due due of course, thank you very much haha. And since I was becoming a poor college student traveling around Europe, I saved my second due for later. I knew the guys I was traveling with could have finished off my extra burger and fries but no, i just had to carry it around. Order 2 number 2’s and carry around cold french fries…when in Rome. :)
    And when in Munich get due (2 cute twins from Spain) to kiss you on the cheeks. So we sat down with strangers at a large table and were served up the largest beers (hofbrauhaus!) I have ever seen. We cheered, and sang, and joked around, and I made friends with the twins from Spain (another due/two for me). One of them decided to give me a kiss on the cheek and a cute picture was taken. It only made sense to get the other twin to kiss my other cheek, so twins kissing both cheeks and me with a huge grin. “i’m lovin’ it!” (yes, a McDonalds reference, haha) Good times.

  • When I was little my family visited a town in southwestern China, and unwittingly arrived on the first day of the water-splashing festival. If you watch the traditional dances, etc., you might get the impression that this is a genteel occasion where people go about delicately sprinkling water on each other with twigs… but not in this town! Men would heave whole buckets of water at you from the backs of trucks as they drove by, and every person on the street had one of those pump-up supersoaker water guns. As pretty much the only foreigners in town, we immediately became prime targets, which was a bit much for my two-year-old sister who burst into tears. Some teenager with a bucket thought it was funny and tried to go after her again, and I’ll never forget the sight of my brave mother, soaked to the skin and armed with only an umbrella and very broken Chinese, sending that boy running!

  • In Athens when I was 23 with my best friend. Late at night we were wandering around the city talking about how beautiful the Acropolis was at night. A man walked up to us and said he was the night guard and would be happy to take us for a private tour! We thought we had hit the jackpot – best travel opportunity EVER! (Yes. It’s possible we were the stupidest girls alive. Luckiest, too, considering I’m still here to tell this story!)

    He led us through the “side door” (hopping over a low fence) and we spent the next hour wandering around the Acropolis in the dark. Spectacular. Then the guy offered to take my camera down the hill to a “very special” monument that no tourist was ever allowed to visit. Not until after I handed it over and he disappeared did it occur to us – something about this is kind of fishy, no?? We saw the camera flash six times off in the distance, and after a while the guy returned, threw the camera at me, and turned and ran away. Lost and scared, we hoped a nearby wall and landed in the dining patio of a very fancy (and very full) restaurant.

    This was Back in The Day before digital cameras, and it wasn’t until I returned home from that trip four months later, did I get the film developed. I had put the Acropolis Incident out of my (silly little) head. Imagine my surprise when, going through the photos, I came across 6 photos of a man’s, um, privates. Imagine me trying to explain that one to my parents, who were sitting with me as I went through all the pictures!

    Here’s hoping I’ve raised my own kids to be smarter than me!

  • During our vacation to Brazil, my family and I were walking along the beach right before dinner. My brother, who was an avid basketball player at the time, saw kids of his own age playing basketball and decided to try and join them as my parents went into a nearby jeweler’s shop. The other boys took to my brother well, even though there was a huge language barrier. At the end of the game, my brother didn’t know how to thank them for letting him play, so he tried to sign to them by putting his forefinger and thumb together in a circle and three fingers up (could also symbolize the number 3). The boys gave him an awful look and my dad was laughing as he pulled my brother away and told him that that hand signal was essentially to the Brazilians what the middle finger is to Americans!

  • My husband and I recently returned back to the US from serving as aid workers in a couple different countries over the last 3 years. During our time away we called Nairobi, Kenya home base for a little while. There is a nice lake with plenty of camping not too far from Nairobi called lake Niavasha. In the same area is one of the National parks called Hell’s Gate which was the inspiration for the scenery in Lion King. You can bike or hike through the park or take a vehicle, but we had heard from some friends that a couple local tribesman would guide us through the park and into tribal land to spend the night in the cave with a campfire meal of goat and local fare. A friend had mentioned that it had been a short hike… maybe an hour and a half. We arrived at the park to meet our guides ready to take our leisurely march to a cave and spend the rest of the day listening to stories around the campfire. This, however did not go quite as planned. After having a troupe of baboons interrupt our picnic lunch, hitchiking to the ranger station because our guide was not where we planned to meet, and then hiking 6 hours … not the 1.5 we were planning on we arrived at our cave. Little did we know that by paying for this adventure we had payed for a party for the village men… we just happened to be headed to their party cave. when the rest of the men arrived they slaughtered a goat on the spot and cooked it over a fire, but were waiting for the men with the water and a bottle of wine to show up. we were out of water due to the 6 hour hike, and really looking forward to something to drink. The men with the water, however did not show up for another 5 hours, long after the goat was cooked and we were trying to sleep on the cave floor. to make a long story short, the men wanted wwine and had to travel an hour and a half to the nearest place that would serve them because none of the local shops allowed them in any longer because of misconduct. So, we finally got water in the middle of the night, spent most of the night listening to drunk tribal men tell us how they could stick a spear through three of us because they were that string, and then got up and hiked 8 hours out of the park. Not quite what we were expecting, but we look back on it cracking up now… and will never recommend random tribal guides for a 1.5 hour hike to anyone ever!!!

  • While traveling in Thailand, a friend of mine and I heard about a park/restaurant in the city of Chiang Mai where you can pet tigers (and eat dinner, of course). We were dying to go, so when we got to our hostel, we asked the woman who worked there if she knew the name of the place where we could “pet baby tigers”. The woman’s English was good but we could tell by her expression that maybe she didn’t quite understand what we were asking. So we proceeded to speak a little more slowly and act it out for her: “You know- pet (as I began stroking my friend’s arm in demonstration)…We want to pet the baby tigers (my friend began growling and making clawing motions).” She gave us an odd look and responded by telling us, “we don’t do that here.” We persisted, trying several ways to explain it but she insisted that they “don’t do that here.”

    Confused, we left and wondered around town looking for a taxi driver who knew what we were speaking about. We eventually made it to Tiger Kingdom (appropriately named), and had a wonderful time.

    We came back to the hostel a little later in the evening to find a bunch of Thai guests and that same woman having dinner at one of the tables in the common area. She looked up and asked us if we found what we were looking for, and we told her that we had- the name of the place was “Tiger Kingdom”. Well, she practically spit out her food and exclaimed “Oh!!! TIGER!!!!! I thought you were saying THAI GIRLS!!!!!” We just about died!!! The whole time that my friend and I were petting and growling and clawing at each other, this poor woman thought we were asking where we could pet baby Thai girls!!!!!!

  • I studied abroad to Rome last winter. Some girlfriends and I got up at the butt-crack-of-dawn to shop the largest Sunday market in the city, but had to be ready for class at 10am at the Colosseum. Naturally we stayed way too late amid the wonderful stands of discounted wares, and quickly began to panic at our prospects of being late. The four of us started running up the LONGEST hill EVER along-side the Circus Maximus, all the while shouting about trying to hail a taxi!
    Well, in Rome, it isn’t like the States – you can’t just -hail- a cab, you have to call for one. So I, being the eldest of the bunch and subsequently in charge of the Italian cell phone we’d been given, stop and search my purse for a taxi line. I call, it answers!- I stammer out PARLA INGLESE??! WE NEED A CAB! and the poor lady on the other end said “Yes yes, OK, where are you.”
    A glimmer of hope!- I say “Circus Maximus! We’re students we’re running– and then nothing. The FRIGGIN battery had died! Noo!!
    I’d been stopped with one pal, while the other two girls continues running, and I just looked at her, blankly, knowing full well none of us would make it to class on time, thoroughly disappointing our favorite teacher!
    Suddenly, a large white van circled the block – A TAXI!! They’d heard me! We were saved! We piled in, but one girl was much farther away from us and didn’t even know we had a cab. We saw her running across the street a ways up, all the while trying to explain to the nice Italian man why we were all out of breath and pointing furiously to a girl in the road!! One girl pops out the window and screams out “LIIINNNNDSAAAAAY!!” scaring, but getting the attention of our sprinting comrade! She jumps into the cab mid-busy-Roman-street!!, and we’re whisked away to the Colosseum EARLY for class, with enough time for un cafe e corneti! Molto bene!

  • Last summer, my two best friends and I decided to plan a trip to China. My friend’s mom, through some connection, was able to book us a tour for part of our month long trip for a really cheap price. After the three of us spent some time in various parts of China and Hong Kong, we met up with our tour in Shanghai and were greeted by twenty 74-85 year old ladies! We spent our last twelve days running around China with these women and even climbed the Great Wall alongside them. These women were so resilient to brave the “Eastern toilets” (also known as holes in the ground) and were so full of life. Needless to say, they were the most inspiring group of people I had ever met and I am so grateful to have twenty extra grandmothers.

  • My sister and I were backpacking through Europe together and intended to stay at the backpackers’ hostel in a small Scottish village. When we arrived they had no knowledge of our booking and it turned out I’d accidentally booked us into a double room at a vegan B&B instead! It turned out to be lovely (if a little more expensive). Also, they thought we were a married lesbian couple because we nave the same surname.

  • in Cambodia there are no toilets, only holes in the ground with makeshift wood toilet seats and if you’re lucky, creaky walls for a stall. as if that wasn’t bad enough, i had to go really bad in a tourist spot and a little boy was guarding the one and only “bathroom” making people pay him to enter! smart boy. but bad for me. i didn’t have any money on me whatsoever, and i had already walked a long way from my party to get to this toilet. all i could find in my little travel purse was a piece of old hard candy. thank goodness he was still a little enough boy to consider candy as good as money!

  • My job has me traveling to Germany a lot, often for a couple of weeks at a time but it is for work so I only have the weekends to myself – but they are great. One Saturday morning I decided to eat breakfast in Heidelberg Germany, drive to Strasbourg France for lunch and then on to Lucerne Switzerland for dinner and back home to my hotel in Germany for bed. Being an American it is quite novel to visit 3 countries in one day. I love cities but being able to drive through the smaller towns and villages gives you so many opportunities to be spontaneous; attend a festival or see a local monument, try truly local restaurants, things you would never find traveling only by plane or train.

  • I studied abroad during my junior year of college. One of my favorite trips was to Paris in November. I loved strolling the streets, people watching, and eating as much cheese and croissants as I could stand! On a day trip to the Eiffel Tour, a young man asked if I would take a picture of him and his girlfriend. I gladly said “oui,” and as soon as I put the camera to my face, he got down on one knee and proposed right in front of me!!! I was memorized by what was happening that I almost dropped the camera. Luckily I got back my composure and quickly snapped some shots of the couple hugging and kissing (she said yes!). It was one of the most memorable moments of my trip and something I will never forget! :)

  • Technically this isn’t my story, but it’s too good not to share. I’ve been living in London for 10 years on and off, and while a student used to go backpacking in the summer with friends. One of those trips, we shared a room with an American dudette in a hostel, who told us how English ‘hospitality’ floored her – literally. (I’m not English btw, so I found her anecdote esp hilarious).

    She’d been backpacking alone in London, carrying a 20 kg load that acted up on a day of busy shopping traffic on Regent St. A simple act of losing her balance caused her to fall on her back, arms and legs in the air like an overturned roach. While she was waving her limbs helplessly for a good 5 minutes, not a single soul came up to help – it seems your ordinary Londoner was way too embarrassed. When a gentleman did finally turn up to offer assistance, he tried yanking her several times from the front: didn’t do the job, alas. Finally he had to turn the girl on her side, whereupon she could right herself up into perpendicular motion and get up to walk again!

  • California girl headed with 4 other friends to a Switzerland wedding. Find out I’m pregnant a week before departure, backpack any way, watch all my friends enjoy the “Festival of Wine” which only happens every 25 years, get delayed in France on the flight home, plane over booked, bff is asked to stay overnight in Paris – i use the preggo card – fly home in First Class. Sweeeeeet.

  • I lived in France one summer and we rented a car once to drive around the countryside. Somehow we ended up on a toll road, and we didn’t think through having to navigate toll roads using my broken french and poor maps. Needless to say, we had an adventurous day! I feel sorry for the toll road operators that day :)

  • My husband and I were in Paris on our honeymoon. It was New Year’s Eve and we’d boarded a train heading towards the Eiffel Tower. All of a sudden a group of kids start hollering “Bon ane! Bon ane!” and laughing and kissing and what-not. We’re so confused. Maybe they’re just excited? We look at our watches to see that they say it’s eleven. We’re really stumped. Until we realize there was an hour time difference between London, where we’d started our honeymoon, and Paris. So… We had a lovely New Year’s celebration (not) on a train somewhere in Paris, rather than by the Eiffel Tower with the rest of Paris. Oh well!

  • I was in Zimbabwe, Africa meeting my fiancée’s family for the first time. After greeting his parents, his elder sister came in to meet me. I’m used to a handshake and looking people in the eye when saying hello, so when she leaned in to greet me with a peck on the cheek (a custom new to me) not only did the hand-shake not happen, but as I turned my head to maintain eye contact while saying hello, my lips went where my cheek was and we found ourselves in a very surprising (and not at all customary) kiss. I don’t remember what happened after that, everything was drowned out by my internal “Nooooooooo!”

  • Well it wasn’t funny when it happened but now we joke that we need to travel like children with our information written large and hung around our necks. My best friends and I missed our plane while sitting at the gate. We still can’t figure out how that happened.

  • We had a 3 hour travel(flight) to India that ended up being 30 hours due to bad weather and poor management by the airline. As we sat by the gate we only saw this airline run this one plane. The same plane that took us to 5 airports before we got to our destination. There were rumors it only had ONE plane – hence the delays. :)

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