Another year, another set of bad travel experiences. Those are bound to happen when you decide to travel as extensively as I do, but thankfully, there are always more good experiences than bad, which you can read about here. But, because I don’t want to give a wrong impression of the life as a traveller, I choose to write about the bad experiences as well, because travel isn’t all happy days and blue skies. Travel can be HARD, tiring and lonely. But of course, most of the time it’s beautiful – otherwise I wouldn’t do it.
In 2016, I had some brutal experiences that sometimes still haunt me. I experienced two major earthquakes in Japan, encountered a naked man while walking solo on a mountain in Seoul, got constant catcalls in the streets of Jakarta, felt the worst case of homesickness while on Bali and lost 1/3 of my luggage at the beginning of a 3-month journey – and so much more. Thankfully, the travel year of 2017 has been much nicer to me, and I’ve gotten through it without many scars. But of course, there has been some situations that I would’ve rather been without.
So, without further ado, here are my worst travel experiences in 2017:
The Worlds Most Cramped Metro in Teheran, Iran
16 million people live within the city limits of Tehran, so it’s no wonder that the metros there are cramped. When Steve and I were exploring the city in January, we decided to take a metro, and although there is a “women only” section, I decided to stay with him, so I wouldn’t get lost. Maybe I shouldn’t have done that. The section that we entered was even more packed than normal, so for 15 minutes or so, I stood there in the middle of hundreds of men, who clearly weren’t used to seeing – western – women in “their” train section. No one did anything to me, thankfully, but the laughs and the whispers that we got were so extremely uncomfortable, I can’t even explain it.
The Kidnap-Scare on the Way to Bandar Abbas, Iran
On the way to Bandar Abbas from Kerman, I needed to pee badly, so I asked the bus driver to stop. When he eventually did, I rushed out to use the toilet, but just as I was coming back – I was 5 metres from the door – he drove off and left me there puzzled and frightened. There was another guy from the bus there, but what he was saying didn’t make sense, so I pointed at the bus shouting “that’s my bus! All of my stuff is in there!”, but then he said that the bus was simply turning around and would come back… Never in my life have I been so scared and felt so helpless! I honestly thought for a second that I was getting kidnapped and would never see Steve or my stuff again….
The Bus Break Down on the Way to Shiraz, Iran
After spending an entire day sightseeing on the humid island of Qeshm, we were sticky and exhausted when we got on the ferry and later the bus to the city of Shiraz. To save time, we had decided to take a night bus and were expecting to arrive 7 hours later, in the early hours of January 23rd. We were told that we would be on a VIP bus and paid overprice for it, but it turned out to be the dirtiest and least comfortable bus we’d been on. Oh well, we would *only* be on it for 7 hours – or so we thought! Because it turns out that we were told another lie. The driver took us on the biggest detour of all detours, ending in a 15-hour ride instead of a 7-hour ride. And on top of that, of course the bus had to break down in the middle of a deserted highway at 1 AM! Talk about bad luck! Most of the passengers were lucky enough to get on another bus that stopped, but they stopped letting people in just before they got to Steve and I. We were stuck out there with 10-15 others and had to try to get some sleep. Sleeping was impossible, as the fellow passagers were a bunch of idiots, who spoke all through the night, and when I asked them to be quiet, they starting shining lights in my eyes and poking me with stuff. What a friendly world. The next morning, at 8 AM, the driver told everyone to get out and try to hitchhike, so I guess they didn’t have any luck finding another bus to pick us up! We were eventually picked up and given a ride to the village of Lar, where we waited another hour, before getting a new bus (that we also had to pay for) to Shiraz.
The Aggressive Mountain Boys in Berat, Albania
I was walking by myself on a mountain in Berat, trying to find a lookout to Berat Castle and the old town, when I walked past a young boy, who was out helping his father get some goats together. At first, he didn’t say anything, so I smiled and walked past him, but then he started shouting to me, so I stopped and he said stuff in Albanian that I couldn’t understand a word of. After a while, his slightly older brother came over, and he also couldn’t speak a word of English. I tried to tell them that I was going to the lookout, but they kept pointing at my bag and my camera… So I gave them my water in case they were thirsty, and they drank that. Then they kept pointing at my camera, so I took a photo of them (which they posed for). And then they suddenly changed from nice (and slightly annoying) to aggressive. The younger boy tried to take my phone out of my hand, but I pulled back, and when I tried to leave down a hiking trail, the older boy jumped in front of me and blocked my way! I was really scared at that point, so all I could think of doing was to give them my bag with two pieces of pizza (which I had saved for the street cats and dogs)… and then I ran, and I didn’t stop until I saw another human being down in the town! Thankfully, I didn’t see anymore of them!!
A failed attempt to get to the Faroe Islands by plane
When Katrine and I were headed to the Faroe Islands in April, things didn’t go quite as planned.
The first part of the flight from Copenhagen to Vágar went well, and two hours later, I still hadn’t noticed the thick clouds beneath us. We had been circulating above Vágar Airport for half an hour, when the captain said these words over the loudspeakers: “We are going to give it one attempt to land in Vágar, and if we can’t, we have to turn around and return to Denmark”. I felt sick to my stomach. We were right above my favourite islands, but the chance of us being able to land was so tiny. And just as I had feared, the attempt to land didn’t go as everyone hoped. Instead, we turned around and headed back to Denmark.
I felt so disheartened. I just wanted to get to my favourite country, my third home. But SAS wouldn’t let us. Thankfully, we did manage to get there the next day though, and SAS also compensated us with a free stay at a hotel, taxis and food.
The mishap affected me so much that I actually wrote a full post about it! You can read the whole story here.
Sleeping in an aiport toilet in Luxembourg
So, the airport in Luxembourg closes from 24-04. I had a flight at 6.20 AM, meaning I’d have to be at the airport by 4.20 AM. I’m too budgety to book a hostel for such a short night, so I always sleep in airports when I have early flights. Now in Luxembourg, I could’ve just waited outside for those four hours, but I had a long day ahead of me with work and other arrangements in Denmark the following day, so I really needed to get some sleep.
So, instead of trying to sleep outside with my unlocked bags (I’d forgotten my padlock…), I decided to lock myself in a big and clean toilet at 11.45 PM and hope for the best! Thankfully, no one knocked on the door or unlocked it, so I was safe for the night. But I had a terrible night anyways as I simply could not sleep as i was shaking too much from fear of being caught I got a few hours, which was much better than if I’d slept outside, but still it was an awful night.
The South Central LA Nightmare
Los Angeles may be one of the world’s most developed cities, but an easy way to get from A to B does not exist. When we arrived at 11.25 PM on August 10th, we decided to catch a metro to our hostel instead of an expensive 50 dollar taxi ride. BUT the metro line that we needed to go on had stopped running for the day, and when we figured out how to get there by bus, we realized that we didn’t have any small change for the bus! A lovely local woman helped us pay for the first bus, but we were stuck when we had to catch another one and were out of cash again.
So when we got off the bus in the middle of a deserted street, we desperately searched for an open shop to exchange my 100 USD note, but nothing was open! Then a kind local walked us to an open fast food restaurant, which was a good half an hour’s walk away. We didn’t feel very safe in the area, but thankfully, nothing happened, and we definitely thought it would be better near the hotel.
By the time that we got to the restaurant, we were too exhausted to keep trying to take public transport in LA, so we decided to take a taxi to the motel after all. Four hours after arriving in the airport, we were FINALLY at the motel (at 4 AM… and it was only 20 kilometres away!).
We had now been awake for 42 hours straight since waking up in Copenhagen to go to the airport! After a good night’s sleep, we woke up and walked out onto the streets of South Central LA, where we were staying. It wasn’t long until we realized how big a mistake we had made when choosing this area to stay in. It was nothing less of a dump. We felt so unsafe there and were even told by locals to stay in our motel by night – so that’s what we did.
Nothing happened to us, but we hadn’t imagined feeling so unsafe in LA. It was a terrible start to our journey, which was otherwise – thankfully – a beautiful time!
Missing Out on Death Valley Because of Car Problems
Death Valley has long been a dream place of mine to visit, and on our August trip to the USA, Amanda and I had planned on finally visiting it! But, unfortunately, all didn’t go as planned.
Have you ever heard of problems with an air filter in a car? I hadn’t before it happened to us. Halfway on our way to the Death Valley from Las Vegas, a small sign popped up on our car signalling that. Since neither of us knew what it meant, we weren’t going to take a chance, so we went into an auto shop, where a lovely employee did all he can to help us with the car.
Unfortunately, we had to call up Hertz and they told us to come back to Las Vegas for an exchange of cars, as it was too risky going to the world’s hottest place in a car that had problems with the air filter.
We were bummed to miss out on Death Valley, but we were given a much better car once we got back to Las Vegas! It turned out to be a great deal for us, and we were now able to listen to our own music as the new car had a USB! Also, they extended our rental time, so we could keep the car until the 23rd of August, where we left the country from Chicago.
We decided to knock Death Valley on the head and save that experience for another good time – with a better car!
Travelling around Belarus in Old Marshrutkas
Oh wow, marshrutkas. Have you ever travelled in one of those? They physically hurt to travel in – I’m not even lying!
I spent five days in Belarus and I had decided to cover as much land as possible, seeing some very beautiful areas of the country! But that also meant spending over 24 hours over the course of five days on public transportation, taking me from one end of the large country to another.
Unfortunately, Belarus is a bit behind on public transportation, so marshrutkas are what are usually used. Terrible, old, ready-to-breakdown marshrutkas. I’ve driven in marshrutkas in many other countries, in Central Asia and Mongolia, but I’ve never had such bad experiences with them before.
For the entire multiple-hour journeys, I was literally jumping up and down, banging into the hard seat and hitting my head every few minutes on the top of the vehicle. Talk about a nightmare!
Meeting the Rude ‘Saksun Man’ on the Faroe Islands
Some people just deserve an entire post to be written about them – for no other reason than leaving an enormously bad impression on me. In 2016, I wrote about the crazy bird woman, who Katrine and I met on Mykines in the Faroe Islands, and this year in November, Solveig and I met another crazy person on the Faroe Islands (although trust me, crazy people are VERY RARE on the Faroe Islands – most are lovely).
This encounter happened in Saksun, one of the most beautiful and remote places on the island of Streymoy. Saksun is quite famous for its turf-roofed houses and is thus a popular place for tourists to go. Unfortunately, as we found out, not all locals enjoy having tourists in their quaint little town.
We were walking along a road, chatting and taking photographs, when we heard a man shout at us. I first thought he was shouting at his dogs, who had come out to meet us, but nah. Solveig and I wanted to see a specific spot with a view of a tiny cabin above the tidal lagoon, which is located behind this man’s farm (but not owned by him). We asked him politely if we could walk along the road going behind his farm, to which he responded “nej, hold jer væk!”, which translates to “no, stay away!”.
We were shocked to experience such hostility, but wisely decided to turn back and walk to my friend (or Faroese granddad, really) Erlings house in the town. While we were eating our lunch by the window in the house, we saw the crazy man drive up to the house, but then he disappeared! We were so scared that he was going to lock us inside the house, but thankfully nothing happened and we never saw him again! I’m sure he thought we were trespassing.
Meeting such a hostile person in such a beautiful town was not a pleasant experience. We’ve since found out that he’s notorious for being rude towards tourists and that – apparently – he feels it’s his right to scare people away from visiting Saksun.
Read the whole story on our encounter with the rude ‘Saksun Man’ here.
Climbing Pen y Fan Mountain in the Thinnest Sneakers Ever
In December, Amanda and I headed to Cardiff to attend an archaeological conference, but we also wanted to explore some of South Wales while we were there. One day, we decided to go hiking in Brecon Beacons National Park – and we honestly couldn’t have chosen a worse day to go!
It was foggy, raining and extremely cold. But still we decided to climb Pen y Fan Mountain, the highest mountain in South Wales. Why we decided to do that in thin sneakers, I don’t know.
What we didn’t realize was that even though Pen y Fan is “only” 886 meters high, there was thick snow already halfway to the top (I must’ve forgotten that we were in December). We managed to do the hike without falling off the mountain or freezing to death, but that was mainly because of our new friend Hubert, who helped us all the way to the top and back down – and then even drove us back to Cardiff!
One big lesson learned – NEVER hike in thin sneakers! Especially if you want to keep those sneakers afterwards (mine died).
Thankfully, 2017 hasn’t been all bad! In fact, I think it’s been a wonderful travel year, which you can read all about in my previous post listing the BEST travel moments of 2017.
In a few days, my travel year of 2018 will finally begin, starting with a trip to Moscow and Azerbaijan! Let’s hope I don’t experience any mishaps this year (I can dream)!