4 Bad Things That Happened to Me When Traveling
4 Bad Things That Happened To Me While Traveling - And How to Avoid Them
4 Bad Things That Happen When You Travel and How to Avoid Them
Contrary to what we’re told by movies, books, and social media, travel isn’t easy. It’s one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do, but it can also be hard work and easily filled with disastrous misadventures. Missing trains, missing flights, dealing with language barriers, getting food poisoning, or getting robbed are all things that can happen on the road, regardless of how many glamorous pictures you have on your Instagram.
Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or just starting out, read below for some of my least glamorous travel tales, what they taught me, and how you can make sure it doesn’t happen to you.
1. I got violently sick after eating a strawberry
When I was 19, I moved to Antigua, Guatemala for three months. Whenever I told people I was planning on doing this, they would tell me one of three things:
1. Buy a money belt
2. Don’t walk around by yourself at night
3. Don't drink the water
Money belts are basically only reserved for older American tourists with cargo pants who spend their trips nose-deep in tourist guidebooks, and not walking around by yourself at night is pretty much a good idea for general life. As a tourist, you can get very sick from consuming water that may carry bacteria your stomach isn’t used to. The obvious solution is to buy bottles of water, which I did. However, one night when I had only a few weeks left in Antigua, I went out for dessert with some friends. I ordered brownies and ice cream, and they came with fresh strawberries on top.
Obviously, in order for produce to grow, it has to be watered, and the strawberries were likely also washed before being chopped up and put on my brownie. I had been there for almost three months, and I should have known better, but I ate the whole thing, strawberries and all, and I’ll spare you the details, but I was very very sick all night long and for the several days that followed.
How you can avoid this: When traveling anywhere where you might be at risk, buy your produce at a grocery store, and limit your fruit consumption to fruits that have a shell or rind you can take off, such as melon, bananas, mangoes, pineapple, oranges, etc. That way, even if the outside of the fruit was washed with water that may not agree with your stomach, the inside is still good to eat.
This means, avoid berries, peaches, nectarines, and, you know...unknown orange fruit chunks on a Colombian beach?
Which brings me to…
2. I got E. coli poisoning after eating random fruit on a Colombian beach
Picture this. It’s 9 a.m., it’s your second-to-last day in Colombia, and you’re laying out in a beach chair on the picturesque Colombian island Playa Blanca with your best friend after having just gone snorkeling in the warm sea for an hour. You’re half-thinking about what to eat for breakfast, but you’re mostly just really enjoying the sound of the waves lapping over each other onto the shore.
Suddenly, a man appears, selling bowls of chopped up fruit that’s probably some sort of melon, but you’re not really sure. It’s ridiculously cheap, and tropical melon-esque fruit seems like the perfect thing to tie your relaxing morning beach scene together. Your friend buys a bowl, you both have a couple of slices, and you think nothing of it.
...Until roughly 8 p.m. that night, when suddenly, you and your friend both feel incredibly ill, stagger back to your room, and spend a very long time taking turns in the bathroom before you both pass out with a trash bin between your beds.
The next morning, your friend heads back to New York, and you spend one more night in Colombia before going to Madrid, where you took a long trip to the bathroom every hour for the entire four days you were there. Your friend sends you a Facebook message telling you she went to the doctor in the States...and that it’s E. Coli. Cool.
How you can avoid this: Same as above. I need to learn from my mistakes, apparently.
3. I woke up one day in another country and realized I was completely broke
After living in Barcelona for a bit, I took a 10-day trip to other parts of Spain, during which time I basically only bought a beer here and there, a few nights of hostel accommodation, and pasta from the grocery store. It didn't seem like I spent a lot, but I hadn't kept track of how much it had been, and it had been a lot of tiny expenses, but like, a lot of them. I mean, at least three meals for 10 days plus some alcohol adds up quickly.
When I headed back to Barcelona, I began working a hostel, which paid me in a bed to sleep in instead of actual money. One morning, I decided to count my money, which was all the money I had in my life, which I was for some reason carrying around in cash, which is just not a good idea.
I counted it up, and I had roughly €300. Like, in my whole life. And no source of income. And I was in Spain. And €300 was nowhere near enough to eventually get home to California.
I spent the next two months barely eating. My stepdad eventually bought me a flight home, and I paid him back over the next four months.
How you can avoid this: Keep track of everything you spend! Decide on a budget and stick to it. Write down every single expense. I do this now in a note in my phone so it's easily accessible.
4. I got mugged
Shortly after the morning I woke up and realized I was broke, I was walking home from a club in Barcelona with a friend at 3 in the morning. My friend thought it would be a great idea to take a shortcut through a park. We started walking, my friend walking on my left side. Suddenly, I felt someone brush against my right side, and saw a man suddenly running up ahead of us, holding my purse. My friend ran up after him, grabbed my purse, and ran it back to me. All of a sudden, two other guys appeared out of nowhere, startling us. One of them grabbed my purse back, and the three of them started fighting my friend. They ran off, still holding my purse, and my friend ran after them, leaving me alone in the middle of a park in Spain without any of my stuff at 3 in the morning.
My debit card, American ID, newish iPhone, and 60 of the 300 euros I had in my life had been in my purse. I ran back to where I was staying, used my housemate’s computer to message my mom in California on Facebook, and asked her to cancel my debit card ASAP, since my housemate didn’t have a functional phone I could call the bank on. Then I checked my email, and saw that the thieves had already logged into my Apple account and turned off Find My iPhone. That’s when I remembered that I’d had my Apple ID written in a note in my phone, and my phone’s passcode was written on a Post-It note inside of the case. *facepalm*
I got a replacement debit card mailed to where I was staying, and I got a new ID as soon as I returned to the States, but I lost a phone, and with it, more than 100 pictures of my last few weeks in Barcelona. At least I wasn’t carrying around my passport.
How you can avoid this: Don’t carry all of your valuables on you. Don’t carry lots of cash on you. Protect your stuff. And, like, you know. Don’t walk through a dark park at night.
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