I’ve been traveling for almost 30 years, much of it long-term, independent travel to places like Southeast Asia and Latin America. I should know my way around the block by now. And I do. Mostly. But within hours of entering Peru, I’d blown out my surge protector. Apparently, Peru, unlike the majority of its neighboring countries, uses 220V electricity, and my surge protector (purchased in the United States) was only rated to 110V. Luckily, nothing was plugged into the surge protector at the time, but my travel pride was a little singed.
I have taken consolation in the following travel fails from some of my fellow travelers, which prove that even impressively credentialed wanderers blooper it big sometimes.
1) (Almost didn’t make it) out of Africa
“On my first trip to Africa, I had an overnight in Johannesburg. I put my camera, passport, wallet, etc. in the room safe, then had a wonderful massage followed by dinner. The next morning, the taxi picked me up for the 45-minute ride to the airport. Halfway there it dawned on me that I never unpacked the safe. The taxi driver lent me his phone, and I convinced hotel security to put the contents of the safe into another taxi to the airport. Thank God my flight was delayed. Ever since then, anytime I put something in a room safe I put something weird in my shoe to trigger my memory to empty the safe.”
—Hilary Nangle travels internationally half a dozen times a year and explores Maine like it’s her job—because it is (she’s the author of three Moon guidebooks to Maine).
2) Couldn’t put a finger on what was missing
“I once left my entire packed suitcase at home. How is a brain fart that big even possible?”
—Christy Karras is the coauthor of four books about motorcycle touring. She’s visited every continent except Asia and Antarctica and travels at least once a month.
3) Slept on the job
“After four months of traveling through India, my husband, weary of wearing his travel belt containing his passport and our plane tickets home, took it off on an almost-deserted train platform in Trivandrum and left it beside me while he went off in search of chai. I sat there blearily thinking ‘I should pull that sucker over to me and hold it in my lap.’ Instead, I let myself zone out and the belt was swiped almost from under my nose.”
—Lela Nargi grew up with expat parents who moved around Europe. She has continued to explore Europe along with much of the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and, of course, India.
4) Missed a flight . . . by not missing a flight
“I’ve gotten on the wrong flight and wondered how in the hell I ended up in Houston.”
—Julie Schwietert Collazo has lived in China, Puerto Rico, and Mexico and takes at least six international trips a year.
5) Made a 50 Shades of Grey memory
“I drove a friend to a Spanish emergency room, then accidentally parked the rental car in front of a well-concealed delivery door. Of course, it got immediately towed. When I went to spring the vehicle from the pokey, the attendant noticed the Seattle address on my driver license and screamed ‘50 SHADES OF GREY!!!’ It wound up being one of my favorite trip memories.”
—Amanda Castleman has lived in England, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey and spends at least a quarter of every year traveling.
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