I consider myself a seasoned and responsible traveler, but I wasn’t always that way. Every once in a while I found myself in an undesirable situation, whether I played a role or was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Age certainly factors in travel smarts and maturity. The majority of these moments happened when I was 21. Now, at 36, I just don’t find myself in these situations if I can help it, and am now solidly entertained by this list.
Here are my top-five embarrassing travel moments:
5. Vodka Ripple (London)
“You have to try this new drink, it’s called a Vodka Ripple,” my friend yelled over the music at the bar. The year was 2000, and as an inexperienced drinker, I ordered whatever my friends did. A bit fruity with a kick of alcohol, I made this “ripple” my official drink of the night and consumed nothing else for hours. It was all fun and games until 7 a.m. when we were incredibly drunk, wide-awake and still wandering the streets of London. “Why can’t we just fall asleep?” I panicked. I later learned that I was drinking an energy drink concoction that had not yet hit the U.S. markets - the Vodka Red Bull. Yes a slight mispronunciation resulted in a funny consequence.
4. Missed Flight (London)
“Where is our taxi?” my flat mates and I nervously wondered. We were to get to the London Luton airport for a weekend trip to Dublin, Ireland. When the taxi finally arrived, we were all surprised that the airport wasn’t actually in London and was, in fact, an hour away. Upon our drop-off, we ran up to the check-in desk where we were informed that our plane was just boarding and that we’d have to catch the next flight early in the morning. Not wanting to take a two-hour roundtrip taxi ride and risk missing a second plane, we decided to camp out in the airport all night long. Sleeping in chairs with feet on suitcases was no way to sleep, but we somehow managed. I have never missed a flight since.
3. Longest Train Ride Ever (Somewhere between Paris and Florence)
Taking an overnight train with friends sounded so exciting that I couldn’t wait for the experience. Funny enough, our train was quite an adventurous disappointment. It was delayed by people standing on the tracks in protest, and somehow managed to catch on fire. What’s worse is that by the time things finally got moving again, the dining car ran out of food and the rest of the train ran out of running water. A rough night’s sleep coupled with hunger, thirst and a “bath” via wet wipes took some of the mystique out of the journey. We did take funny photos upon exiting the train and now remember it with good humor. I’ve learned to eat and drink early on any train and have yet to take another overnight one, but I want a do-over!
2. Psst, psst! (Paris)
“I don’t know why the French don’t like it – I think it’s beautiful,” my friend stated about the sparkling Eiffel Tower donning the millennial 2000. An evening walk after a delicious dinner was the perfect way to end our night. The trek became less enjoyable as we struggled to find the nearest Metro station in the dark. Those feelings were compounded when we suddenly heard “Psst, psst! Kiss, kiss!” The three of us turned our heads toward the bushes and saw a man, wearing nothing but a trench coat, exposing himself to us from the dark shadows. Naturally, we all screamed, laughed and ran to the nearest taxi. Getting flashed completely earned an expensive, direct taxi ride to our hotel. So far, the flashing was an isolated incident.
1. Offended! (Florence)
“You like dancing?” asked the handsome Italians at the Irish pub. They didn’t speak much English and we didn’t speak much Italian, but the night was young so my friend and I decided to continue our adventure with our new companions. They took us to Central Park, a beautiful outdoor club with a Ferris wheel. All went well until she and I were ready to head back to our hotel – without our new friends. “Offended! Offended!” yelled the Italian as he hit his chest and walked off into the night. Suddenly he knew some English – had this happened to him before? She and I were completely lost, walked for at least an hour and found two young men, also Americans, with whom we shared a cab.
Ah, but wait - the story continues. Four years later I returned to Florence with a couple of girlfriends. We also found ourselves at a bar and met up with some handsome Italians who suggested a nightclub. Yet again, I saw that darn Ferris wheel and I faced another night at Central Park. This time the young men were nice and purchased all of our drinks on a punch card. The mood quickly shifted, however, when I told them I had a fiancé and that my friend had a boyfriend. The Italians were annoyed and left us to fend for ourselves. As we tried to leave the club, we learned that they had used our punch card all night and that we had to pay for every drink prior to exiting. After pooling our cash together, we wandered the dark streets and had to ask directions from a lady of the night.
Upon writing this article, I learned that Central Park is permanently closed. That’s probably not the worst thing in the world.
Looking Back and Laughing
The great news is that yesterday’s mishaps are tomorrow’s legendary stories. Sure I’ve been lost in numerous cities throughout Europe and I’ve had other, smaller bloopers along the way. I survived them, they haven’t scared me off travel, and in some cases I learned something. In all cases, I’m entertained, for this is the stuff that life is made of.