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


  • 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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