2016 has been a year of many beautiful and memorable moments, the best of which I put together in a list in the previous post. But all good times come with bad times, and even though they aren’t what fill the pages of this blog too often, they happen to me too – this year more than ever. A lot of things that I never thought would happen to me, happened this year, such as losing my luggage, feeling homesick and being in the middle of a natural disaster.
It’s important to reflect on the bad moments as well as the good ones, as they both shape the journey and ultimately, make it what it is. Here are the worst things that happened to me this year during my travels:
Losing my luggage on the way to Jakarta, Indonesia
So, the unthinkable happened. Thousands of people lose their luggage every year, but I never thought that it could actually happen to me. I’ve never had luggage get lost even for a few hours, and the thought of completely losing something never crossed my mind.
Still, when I was on my way from Denmark to Jakarta, my first stop on a 3½-month long journey through Asia, with stopovers in London and Hong Kong, some of my luggage from my backpack got lost. In fact, an entire carrier bag full of shorts, leggings and skirts (including stuff from my beloved Black Milk Clothing) got lost.
Don’t ask me how on earth the carrier bag ended up outside of my bacpack, but my guess is that either someone took it how to inspect it and forgot to put it back, or that I hadn’t secured my backpack properly before leaving home in Denmark. I’ve never done that before though and I usually always double check that my backpack is closed. Thankfully, the insurance company agreed with me and believed that the bag had been removed, and since none of the four airports that I passed through on that long journey had seen the bag after several months, they decided to refund me 2.500 DKK, which covered the costs of rebuying the items.
So, the beginning of my Asian journey wasn’t exactly as I had imagined it, but as soon as I had bought myself some shorts and leggings, and then actually had something to wear on my bottom half, I soon put it to the back of my mind and enjoyed the rest of the journey.
Constant catcalls in Jakarta, Indonesia
Jakarta in general was one big culture shock. It was the first destination on my journey (apart from a short trip to the city during my stopover in Hong Kong), and the city didn’t feel friendly at all. At the time, I hadn’t explored much of that part of the world, so I was surprised to experience that catcalls were the norm there.
Everywhere I went, men would shout “hello miss”, and some would even follow me for a little while. There were too many people for me to ever feel threatened, but I didn’t like feeling objectified and I couldn’t help but wonder how I would’ve experienced Jakarta, if I’d been travelling with a man.
After a while with catcalls from just about every man that I walked by, I decided to try answering one of them. He then started talking to me in Bahasa Indonesian, but when he realized that I couldn’t understand him, he called someone else over, but I decided to just leave, as I was beginning to feel like I’d never see the end of it.
The constant catcalls were extremely daunting, and for that very reason, I’ll – most likely – never set foot in Jakarta again.
Falling and injuring myself on Pulau Belitung, Indonesia
Pulau Belitung was a wonderful contrast to Jakarta, and without a doubt my favourite place in Indonesia, but even there, something had to happen to me. While my travel buddies Ian and Janis were out swimming at Tanjung Tinggi Beach, I decided to go to the edge of the beach to snap some photos of them.
Stupidly, I decided to step onto a large rock to take a picture, and ended up slipping on the slippery surface and scraping my knee and elbow. The staff at the nearby restaurant helped clean up the wounds, but unfortunately, they later got infected. Thankfully, my insurance company once again refunded me, so I didn’t have to pay for the hospital bills.
Oh, and as I slipped, I somehow remembered to hold my camera up high, so it didn’t even get a scratch – and more importantly, it didn’t get wet!
I now have a semi-ugly scar on my left elbow, which will probably never go away. But I see it as a memory of the total solar eclipse, which happened the next day and was one of the best experiences of the year.
Homesickness on Bali, Indonesia
After saying goodbye to Ian and Janis, I flew to Bali for my last week in Indonesia. I didn’t like Bali very much, mostly due to the tourist flocks, but also because it was the first place that I ever felt homesick. Being on a long journey for so long by myself and being so far away from what I know back in Denmark, for some reason hit me hard while I was there. I can’t explain why it happened on Bali, but I’m glad it did, as I had some great friends there to help me through it.
While I was having this travel-meltdown, I actually wrote a blog post about travelling solo and feeling homesick, which I haven’t yet posted. It takes some courage for me to admit that every travel day isn’t perfect, and especially to admit that sometimes, as much as I generally love it, solo travel can get lonely.
Thankfully, as my days in Bali went by, so did the homesickness, and once I arrived in Kota Kinabalu on Malaysian Borneo, the feelings were gone and I was able to enjoy travelling solo once again.
The earthquake scare on Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia
Climbing Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Malaysia at 4.095 m., was one of the best experiences of my life. Despite this, not everything on the two-day hike was perfect. In fact, my travel buddy Josh and I had quite a scare as we were climbing down the mountain after having summited the same day.
We had both paid for an extra activity called via ferrata, which is a form of rock climbing, and were really looking forward to trying it. But just as we had got all of our equipment on and were ready to go, we overheard some of the guides talking about an earthquake. Josh and I weren’t ready to risk our lives for the activity, so we asked them what was going on, but were told completely different stories from the different guides.
One guide told us that it was just a rock that had fallen, but another guide told us that there had been a minor earthquake in the area. The earthquake wasn’t big enough to be felt, but we both knew that a minor earthquake often triggers a bigger one, and under a year ago, a major earthquake killed 18 people on the mountain, close to where we were standing.
We were shocked that they didn’t cancel the via ferrata and get people down straight away, so Josh and I decided to not put our lives in the hands of other people and walked down the mountain without doing the activity that we had paid for.
We later heard that nothing happened after the minor earthquake, but I still think that we made the right decision, especially considering what I would later learn in Japan – to never underestimate the power of mother nature!
The two earthquakes in Fukuoka, Japan
On the evening of April 14th, a few hours after I had arrived at the hostel in Fukuoka, I experienced my first ever natural disaster. I was sitting in my bed, a top bunk, as the ground beneath me and the bed started shaking violently. I think I was in too much shock to understand what was going on, so I stayed on the bed and talked to my roomies about the situation. We went online and learned that an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.4 had hit Kumamoto, which is a city located 108 km. from Fukuoka.
We were far away from the hypocenter, but we could still feel it, and the fear ofm buildings collapsing was big in Fukuoka too.
After a while, we went back to bed, but not long after, we were awoken by another earthquake. The fact that I was in the middle of a natural disaster finally started to sink in, and I began shaking with fear. You never know where the next earthquake will hit, and with several aftershocks keeping us alert all night, the thought of a major one hitting Fukuoka did not seem unlikely. This earthquake was later called “the foreshock”.
In the early hours of April 16th, we were awoken by the ground shaking again, and this time, the earthquake felt much bigger and closer to us than before. This one, which was called “the mainshock”, had a magnitude of 7.1, and already-damaged Kumamoto was once again the hypocenter. My roomies and I rushed to the hostel’s common room, where we watched the news and prepared ourselves to run out of the door at any minute. We experienced several aftershocks, which made me stay up all night. I didn’t feel like going to bed, considering the fact that two major earthquakes had now hit. I waited until the next morning and then rushed down to the harbour and caught a ferry to South Korea.
I was glad to finally be out of the earthquake zone, but the fact that I had been in the middle of a major natural disaster, where over 50 people were killed, over 3000 injured and over 40,000 evacuated from their homes, still seems extremely unreal to me. I was extremely lucky to get out of Japan alive, but unfortunately, not everyone were.
I’ve explained the whole story in a separate post, which you can read here: Earthquakes Hit Southern Japan: My Experience in Fukuoka
The crazy woman in the hostel in Seogwipo, Jeju Island
I was sitting in the common room at the hostel in Seogwipo on Jeju Island with a few other travellers, when a 30-something-year-old woman came in. At first, she just stood there and stared at us for a while, but then she said “who are you? Why are you here?”. We were all confused and didn’t know what to say to her. She then told us all to get out, and the others went, but I stayed. I knew that it was my right to stay there for as long as I wanted, and this wasn’t even late at night.
She kept asking me who I was, and when I asked her who she was, she started screaming “WHO ARE YOU!? WHO ARE YOU!? WHO ARE YOOOOOOU!!?” at me and just wouldn’t stop. I was actually in the middle of a skype session with my family, but she had absolutely no respect for anyone. She just continued shouting and even my parents wondered what on earth was going on. I’m guessing that she wanted the room for herself, and unfortunately, eventually I had to leave, as I was too scared to stay there any longer. She had the most crazy eyes and her shouting only got louder – I’ve never been so scared of a person before!!
I later told the hostel owner about the incident, but he said he had no clue who the woman could be. The next day, I saw her walking into his office. As she walked past me, she gave me the scariest glare I’ll ever see! I think she might’ve actually been the owner’s – crazy – wife, haha. I won’t be going back to that hostel anytime soon!
Coming face to face with a naked guy in Seoul, South Korea
On my last day in Seoul, I decided to go for a hike on Mount Inwangsan at 338 m., which is located in the middle of the city.
I was strolling along, enjoying the sunshine and the fresh air, when suddenly, a man came out of the bushes butt naked and gave me the shock of a lifetime!
I was all alone on the mountain with no one in sight apart from this scary naked man, so – scared for the well-being of my bleeding eyes – I ran away from him. He followed me for a little while, shouting “wait, tell me what the time is!”, but I didn’t have time to tell him the time… I needed to get out of there, and thankfully, I didn’t see him anymore after that.
And trust me, it isn’t something that I ever want to see again! 😂
The worst hostel experience ever in Hong Kong
This has got to be the mother of all bad hostel experiences.
When I went to Hong Kong for the second time in April, I had booked the cheapest hostel available for two nights, which was located in the Chungking Mansions in Kowloon. Chungking Mansions has a reputation of being a ghetto in the middle of the city, but what I experienced was much worse than I had ever imagined. Entering the building was like entering a different country. The ground floor was full of tiny stalls and sellers, who would constantly hassle the people walking by. Some were even trying to sell drugs. The atmosphere of the place was horrible and I couldn’t wait to get into the lift and up to my hostel!
But what I didn’t realize was that the hostel would be even more of a nightmare. It was a small and dirty hostel with the rudest staff I’d ever met. My dorm room was tiny as well, with 8 beds put so close together that it felt like I was sharing a double bed with a stranger, who happened to be a man.
And like that wasn’t enough, my roomies – apart from Florian from France – were crazy! In the middle of the night, we were woken up by two of our roomies that were arguing about turning the air-conditioner on or off. They were literally shouting at each other and had absolutely no respect for the fact that people were trying to sleep. Their argument went on for ages and they kept people awake for half of the night.
In the moment, I was furious, but now it just seems so stupid and hilarious to me. What a thing to be arguing about anyways! With so much stuff going on in the world, I really don’t understand the things that upset people sometimes… But I will agree with them on one thing – the room was definitely too tiny for 8 people!
Mad driving from Murghab to Khorog, Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast
When Steve and I were travelling along the Pamir Highway, a journey that we had generally been loving, we experienced the worse driving EVER as we travelled from Murghab to Khorog.
After two hours of waiting for the car to be full, the driver set off. He seemed fine at first, but during the drive, he did so many things to annoy us that I seriously considered just getting out in the middle of absolute nowhere in the remotest part of Tajikistan.
He played the most crappy, loud music the entire way, which forced me to wear earplugs for the entire eight hour drive after he continuously refused to turn down the volume. The road was as bumpy as anything and I happend to be sitting in the back directly on top of the wheel, which made the bumpiness so much worse. On top of that, the driver was speeding and deliberately driving through every pot hole on the road – and trust me, there were a lot of those! On top of all of this, the driver kept stopping every 5 minutes or so to do a delivery, talk to a friend or to visit someone. He even kept us waiting in the car as he ate lunch at some house in a village that we passed by. The fact that he actually thought it was okay to do that with 5 passengers waiting in the car, is unbelievable to me!
So, a drive that should’ve taken just 6 hours, ended up taking 8 hours despite his speeding. Never in my life have I experienced worse driving, and never in my life have I had such a headache! It was the most uncomfortable drive I’d ever been on, and it was sad to see such stunning scenery go by without being able to enjoy any of it.
The captured bird in Sultan Eshkashim, Afghanistan
In general, Afghanistan was one of my favourite experiences of the year. But at a local restaurant in the village of Sultan Eshkashim, I had my first – and thankfully only – bad experience with the Afghan culture. Halfway through eating, I noticed that they had a huge bird in a tiny cage, which he was struggling to get out of. I love animals and I can’t bare to see them suffer, so I couldn’t help getting teary when I saw the bird. The owners of the restaurant saw that I was upset and when I told them why, they told me that if I paid them 50 USD, they would set the bird free. I was more than willing to pay, but I struggled to understand why he was in that tiny cage in the first place.
At one point, they decided to set the bird free in the room, but they had closed all the windows, so the bird flew straight into one as he tried to escape. This really upset me, but Steve said that it was no use paying for the bird to be set free, as they would either catch him again or catch another bird. As I was thinking about what to do, a friendly English-speaking guy entered the room and did his best to explain to us that catching birds and keeping them in cages is a part of the culture in Sultan Eshkashim. Apparently, the birds are fattened up and then forced to fight for the enjoyment of humans.
He also told us that if I did pay the guy to set the bird free, he would most likely buy another bird and the one that we set free would most likely be caught by someone else. There was no way to win this battle, so in the end, I had to leave the poor bird behind. I was happy to talk to the guy, who actually, unlike everyone else, seemed to understand why I was upset. I realize that I can’t mess with other people’s culture, especially not in a country like Afghanistan, and I know that I can’t save every animal in the world, but if there had’ve been a chance to save this bird without potentially making the situation worse, I would’ve.
A similar thing happened in Kyrgyzstan, but this one ended in a rescue: The Illegal Rescue of a Captive Bird of Prey in Kyrgyzstan
The storm in Klaksvík, Faroe Islands
When Katrine and I went to the Faroe Islands for 18 days in August, it was with the ambition to camp for at least two weeks. The first few days went according to plan and we had a great time camping on three different islands. But on our last night in Klaksvík, the second largest town in the country, the heavens opened and the entire country was hit by a storm.
When we got back from hiking that afternoon, we found the tent drenched. We quickly moved all of our stuff to the campsite kitchen, and had to spend the night in there. Thankfully, we were able to borrow a house in Tórshavn from the next day, so the other nights in the Faroe Islands were dry and comfortable.
This was the second time that the same tent had given up during a storm in the Faroe Islands – the first time was in Skála 1,5 years earlier. Read that story here: Skála and the Storm
So, as great as 2016 has been for me, not everything has been brilliant or gone according to plan. I’ve had quite some scares this year and experienced more than I would’ve liked, but I’m sure that in the future, I’ll remember 2016 for all of the good things that happened instead of the bad.