Travel Horror Stories and How to Avoid Them

Sea-Sick Snorkeling

Andrew and I had been looking forward to visiting the Underwater Museum in Cancun, Mexico as soon as we bought our plane tickets.  For those who have never heard of it, it is a two stop snorkeling tour where you can experience looking at amazing statues under the water on the first stop and swim along the fishes and reefs when you reach the second stop.  After a long night of tequila (to justify it was my 21st birthday), we arrived hungover but ready to snorkel for the 1:30pm tour.  We boarded the boat to take us to the museum and we were greeted with drinks and upbeat music, so far so good.  But then the boat began to move at full speed…

Andrew was the first to lose his lunch, starting the domino effect of sea sickness.  One by one, the people on the boat began looking green in the face.  The sea-sickness was so bad that some people did not even make it into the water when we arrived at the museum.  When we reached the first stop I quickly grabbed my gear and jumped off the boat, hoping that getting off would make me feel less nauseous.  Nope. The chain reaction hit me in the water as the huge waves rocked me side to side.  Not pretty or fun to say the least.  Struggling, I did my best to continue through the museum, but I was more than ready to just lay down on anything that was not moving.  After we got back on the boat, I saw that more than half the people were already back on clutching their barf bags tightly next to them.  Most of the people on the boat stayed on board (including Andrew and I) while the other few continued their snorkeling journey at the second stop.  I was sad to be missing the second part of the tour, but I knew I could not handle moving another inch.  It was a long journey back to Cancun on choppy waters, but we finally made it back after what felt like an eternity.

Lesson Learned: Research conditions of the water before boarding a boat and do not schedule a boat tour after a long night of drinking- it will not be a fun experience I promise you.  I know it was not the anyone’s fault for the rough conditions, but I’m sad that I had to miss out on something I was very much looking forward to.

(Read about my happy experiences in Cancun here)

A Stubborn & Lost Girl

I was going to fly for the first time to visit my mom in England before my study abroad experience started in the fall.  I had never been out of the country before, but I felt a little comfort in knowing I was going to a place where a majority of the people spoke the same language as me.  Beforehand, I was researching the city of London for weeks, trying to figure out the best things to do and the best ways to get there.  For this reason I believed that I could navigate my way through “the tube” from the bus taking me from the London Stansted Airport to Baker Street.  From where the bus dropped me I planned to take the tube until I could walk the remaining distance to the hostel, easy enough right?

After a fourteen hours of flights and hours of bus rides, it was long after the sun set when I stepped off the bus at Baker Street. Keep in mind I had no wifi, no cell service, no map other than screenshots of metro directions to the hostel, and no clue where I was in terms of familiarity with my surroundings.  Then another thing I had not planned for happened: the metro stop was closed.  Too stubborn to resort to a taxi or admitting I couldn’t get to the hostel on my own, I began to walk in the direction I believed my hostel was in. I walked in the dark of the night for a while, stopping to ask for directions and checking for signs that hinted I was close.  I was trudging through the dark of London with my backpack and two large suitcases but with no sure clue that I was headed in the right direction.  In the end, scared and tired, I ended up doing what I should have done in the first place and ordered a taxi.

Lesson Learned: It is better to be safe rather than feel uncomfortable, lost, or scared trying to make it to where you want to go.  I was stubborn to pay money for a taxi but I realized that I had to prioritize my own safety and self first.  It was hard for me to admit that I didn’t know where I was going but I had to keep in mind that it was an unfamiliar place for me and that I shouldn’t risk getting more lost.

Lost in Translation

When I told my friends and family that I was going to Istanbul as an American, I was always greeted with same responses: “Why there?”, “It’s dangerous over there!”, “Be careful!”, etc.  I told myself that I would be fine and that the warnings were just misconceptions, but still they lingered in my mind.  My roommate and I always took extra precautions based off these warnings like always being back in the hotel room by 8 o’clock at night and never trying to talk many strangers.  We had an amazing time exploring the city and with only minor incidents that would happen in another major city.  But on the morning we left for the airport, we let the fear creep back into our heads.

The hotel we stayed at ordered us a taxi for our very early morning flight, where the taxi driver was suppose to take us to the Metro where we could then ride to the airport.  I noticed the driver spoke little English when we exchanged pleasantries and again when he tried to speak to us as we rode off towards the Metro.  As we began to approach the Metro he began to slow down as if to stop, but then all of a sudden started trying to speak to us and sped up, driving past the stop.  My roommate and I looked at each other in a panic and began to yell to stop the cab because we feared he was taking us to a place we would never return from. Still trying to speak to us in broken English, we ended up yelling over him trying to get him to pull over and let us out.  As he continued on, we silently gave up defeated and confused.  As I was about to fight on, he tried to speak again saying, “Metro closed…take to airport.”  My roommate and I immediately began blushing and feeling so ashamed for giving into the idea that we would be featured in the next Taken movie.  We arrived at the airport safe and sound with a realization that if we got dropped off at the Metro as planned we most likely would not have made our flight.  Thank you taxi man.

Lesson Learned: A number of times during my travels I have noticed that a person’s fear of the unknown or preconceived notions of a culture of country can interfere with them truly letting themselves go during their experience.  While it is important to remain aware and vigilant during your travels, it is also important to realize that your life is not a movie.  Traveling is about opening yourself up to the world and experiencing and learning about the unknown, so let you guard down while keeping yourself safe.

I hope you got a laugh or a lesson out of reading about my experiences.  It’s important to remember that there are downsides to everything, even the magical experience of traveling across the world.  Do not let the bad experiences override the good ones.

“And I realize that no matter where I am, whether in a little room full of thought, or in this endless universe of stars and mountains, it’s all in my mind.”
-Jack Kerouac, Lonesome Traveler

Stay inspired,

L x

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19 thoughts on “Travel Horror Stories and How to Avoid Them

  1. I definitely know the feels of the first case!
    Once time I had terrible sea-sickness and vertigo while scuba diving – I had no sleep (worked in a nightclub) and wasn’t feeling well… ended up chucking up underwater through my regulator. Definitely was the worst dive I’ve done (in over a hundred), had to sit the second dive out! 🙁

    I find sea sickness tables work a treat though!

  2. I wanted to go Underwater Museum in Cancun when I was there but we went and swam with the whale sharks instead. You poor thing, I would hate to be sick on a boat especially as you can not get off.

  3. Augh. I love the sea and I love snorkeling but when the ocean is too wavy, I stay away from it. The Lost in Translation story is just a funny one but only because it had a better outcome than what was feared.

  4. sea sickness is the worst because it doesn’t go away. I like this post and the different situations that people don’t think of before they say “let’s go.”

  5. Sea sickness is terrible. I experienced it while speed-boating through the San Blas Islands, and it was just miserable. I get motion sick pretty easily on bus rides as well. I’ve found that dramamine helps, I wonder if anyone else has found a better solution that doesn’t result in drowsy-ness though?

  6. Oh my that taxi ride sounds a lil scary…that would be a nightmare for sure, glad it ended up okay! These are great tips and thanks for sharing!


  7. Your sea sickness story brings up a horror story of my own! I was at the coast with my then bfriend and his family and we spent the night drinking and chatting. Waking up for a sunrise boat trip with only a few hours sleep was not a good idea and I spent the day feeling so incredibly sorry for myself. Lesson learnt, never drink before getting on a boat!
    You’re so right about the taxi story. You’re so on edge when you can’t speak the language and when you don’t know where you’re going. If you’re home and the taxi driver takes the wrong turn you just sigh and know they’ll get you there. But in a foreign country you start playing out Taken in your head and how to alert the police with no signal service!
    Great stories!

    Rebecca | http://www.whatrebeccaloves.com

  8. OMG!!! I had a similar lost in London experience! Schlepping my luggage through Oxford Circus only to find out I was going the wrong direction. Ended up taking a Taxi (the black expensive ones because I didn’t know better) But finally made it to my hostel! Thanks for sharing your stories!

  9. Sea sickness is the worst! My hubby suffers terribly and we are always cautious to take precautions when we are on the water. So sorry then you missed the second snorkelling spot in Cancun ?

  10. Oh no. Sorry you got seasick on your snorkel trip! I always wanted to visit an underwater museum though. It does sound like a fun variation on snorkeling.

  11. Love this post 🙂
    Have met so many wonderful people along my adventures. You can never be too careful but sometimes it makes the trip less fun.

  12. These sort of things all make great blog and post and even better war stories to tell people. Finding a hotel and navigating public transport always seems easier when you are planning it than executing it

  13. I get sea sick too. I found that laying on my back and focusing on the sky helps a whole lot. And by the time I get into the water, i feel more steady.

  14. Sea sickness can be a real turn off from the excitement of the trip and that’s why to avoid it, take a medicine beforehand. The taxi horror has happened to every traveller at least at some point of time due to the language barrier and preconceived notion. But , these stories are the ones to make up for the travel memoirs!

  15. I had a wonderful time in Istanbul. Outside of Thailand, probably the friendliest people I’ve ever met. Driving to the airport is always my greatest fear!

  16. I love these stories. I have had so many travel disastters, that I totally relate. And I don’t blaime you for being scared about the taxi. I would be too. But yeah, travel is not always easy, but we persevere on!!!

  17. The most obvious thing any person can do when it comes to avoiding an Airbnb horror story is carefully reading the ad. The tiny-beds issue I described was disclosed in the text.

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