My 10 Most Epic Travel Fails and What I Learned From Them

Insider Guides
by Jennifer Schlueter Dec 2, 2016

I’d go as far and say that on 80-90% of our trips we experience travel fails: missed flights, harassment, theft, horrible accommodation, running out of money, etc. In the moment of living them, they may bring us down or mess up our plans, but oh, do they make for some of the most memorable stories and great lessons! After all, as travelers, shouldn’t we be grateful for these experiences because travel wouldn’t be as much fun without them?

Bringing only short clothes to Oman.

Let’s just say I was young, dumb, and inconsiderate for other cultures. It was supposed to be over 40°C (>100°F) where we would stay in Muscat, and so 17-year-old me packed accordingly: skirts, shorts, and tank tops. This would be my first time visiting a mosque and nowadays I laugh at the thought that I really wanted to go there with a skirt and a tank top. How rude! My mom knew better, so she forced me to put on her pants and my brother lent me one of his jacket. Can you say I looked ridiculous? Yes! Here’s proof:


Lessons learned: Look up the dress code before going to other countries. Be considerate and respectful towards other cultures because after all, you’re a guest in their country and a representative of your home country. Also, some women there dress in all black, long sleeved clothes there and are out in the sun. This is proof you won’t die from a heat stroke if you wear pants and a jacket or sweater.

Having pictures of my butt taken in Costa Rica.

I was studying Spanish in Costa Rica for two weeks and befriended a girl from Turkey and a guy from Saudi-Arabia. We all went to travel to Puerto Viejo for the weekend and took pictures with our phones obviously. At one point, he asked me to take a picture of him and gave me his phone, where the camera app was already open. In the bottom left, I was able to see the last picture. It showed: MY BUTT! What the fuck? Because I was afraid of confrontation back then, shy, I gave him the benefit of a doubt. He had been so nice to my friend and I, I let it slide for the moment and talked to the girl about it. She was as surprised as I was and didn’t believe me. When he was outside of our room, we looked at his phone where we found one more picture of my behind. Then, I finally confronted him. He pretended these pictures were accidents and deleted them. The fact that he didn’t dare to speak to my friend and I after this incident proved otherwise: he was clearly ashamed. One more proof of it: My friend looked through his camera later on and found another ass picture.

Lessons I’ve learned:
Guys don’t take “accidental” ass pictures. If you find out, confront them right away. Make sure he deletes the pictures fully and to be completely save, why not destroy his phone? If you can and feel up for it, nowadays I would even suggest to go as far as to report him whether to his mom on Facebook or the police. Who knows what else guys like this do! If you report them, you may scare them so much that you can prevent the harassment and humiliation to happen to other girls!

Missed flight to Rio during the highest season.

I was traveling with three other people. All of us had to catch a flight from Lima, Peru to Rio, Brazil in the evening. Long story short – two of us took too long, we reached the airport to catch the flight just in time, but our luggage wouldn’t have gotten to Rio for 3 more days because they had already closed the storage of the plane; thus, we paid $900 each for another flight to Rio, had to spend the whole night at Lima airport, and missed one day in Rio. Epic fucking fail!

Lesson learned: Even though you’re traveling with people, never ever wait on them if they’re late. That’s their problem, not yours. Unless you got it like that and are able to spend almost a grand on another flight. Be selfish and leave them behind – they’re not going to pay for your new flight. They can figure their ish out and meet you at the next destination.

Having my purse stolen in Madrid.

This was my personal rock bottom of the year 2016. GoPro gone, phone with some pictures gone, money, IDs and banking cards from two countries gone and no chance of finding anything, especially because the police in Madrid didn’t seem to give a fuck, other than just taking my complaint. They didn’t even ask if I had tried the “Find my iphone” app nor did they attempt to locate my phone otherwise.

Lessons learned: I was assured that I have an amazing network of helpful friends and family who supported me through this. I also learned that you shouldn’t think things into existence (I’m a strong believer in the Law of Attraction). This had been the first time I strongly felt that my belongings were going to be stolen. Up until the last ten minutes before leaving the park, I had my purse under my head, but as soon as I didn’t it was gone. Should have backed up my phone data. Read this in this blog entry for more lessons and the whole story.

Packing the wrong shoes for my Trolltunga hike.

My three friends and I were stoked to go on the 12 hour hike to Trolltunga, and wanted to take before and after picture. Here’s the before:


The after never got taken because I had been crying for a good two hours out of enormous pain due to bringing the wrong shoes. The way to the top was fine, but the way down was disastrous. I ended up walking in my (fortunately thick) socks for the last two hours and being supported by my friend. Yikes!

Lesson learned: Always test shoes by bringing them on a hike from which you can easily return to civilization because once you’re still four hours away from roads and people, you may have to call the ambulance in an emergency. Luckily, I had my friends and wasn’t alone! Therefore, don’t go hiking alone. You may get lost or hurt and in that unfortunate case you’ll be so thankful to have someone with you!

Booking a room underneath the roof in Madrid during summer.

How fantastic the Airbnb looked that my friend and I had booked! Super artsy, spacious, comfortable, unlike anything else I had ever seen before. On top of that, it was a great deal. For a reason… When we reached Madrid this summer at the end of July, it was a scorching heat, 35-38°C during the day, 40°C at 9 p.m. (odd?). The room underneath the roof had a tiny window at the top which was only reachable with an old school, tiny, wooden ladder and was equipped with a fan, which did not really do much except for circulate the hot air. I don’t even know if it was legal having us stay in a room like that.

Lesson learned: Check Airbnbs for adequate A/C in the summer, especially in hot countries. Do not book a room underneath the roof during summer, especially in hot countries.

Almost getting kicked out by a Couchsurfer.

Well, this one is pretty weird and funny after all this time… My friend and I had stayed at a couchsurfer’s place. One night, we all went out; I ended up making out with him, she with his friend. Next day, we all went out again; my friend and his friend were having a better time than me and the couchsurfer. I was over him being too drunk every damn night, three nights in a row. The day after that, we all hung out again at a bar when I spot a cute guy and tell my friend. She walked over, talked to him and tells me to come to them. Obviously, the couchsurfer got super pissed and told us we should leave his house first thing in the morning. His friend took all of us back to the couchsurfer’s place, the couchsurfer passed out immediately and we just stayed there. The next day, as soon as he was up, I asked him: “What time do you want us to leave?” He answered: “What are you talking about? You can stay until later” As it had happened the nights before, he got so drunk that he didn’t remember anything. Or he just pretended not to remember.

Lesson learned: Never hook up with your couchsurfer. Even though, I really shouldn’t have done what I did. Or be more respectful about it and told the couchsurfer that I wasn’t really feeling him and why.

Running out of money in the middle of a trip in Paris.

For my trip to London and Paris, I scheduled my money so tightly that when I had to pay 50 Euros for an additional carry-on bag, I was screwed. Unexpected things happened so I had to rely on my friend for money. Furthermore, I let my worries about being broke get the best of me and even jeopardized my friendship with her.

Lessons learned: Always have extra money saved up for emergencies. Don’t let the current state of being broke make you feel less worthy. It will pass and it will be something you regret to have worried about. Do not take your mood out on your friends. They don’t deserve it and they shouldn’t take the credit for your fuck ups!

Not getting enough sleep in Copenhagen.

I knew sleeping in a hostel dorm with 30 beds wasn’t a great idea as soon as I walked in. But I had to because Bergen was expensive and two nights would be doable, I thought. People were shuffling, farting, snorting, and making all kinds of weird bodily noises and letting out bodily odors, some involuntarily perhaps, which resulted in me not really getting any sleep. Waking up at 3.45 a.m. to catch the flight to Copenhagen robbed me of even more sleep and since I can’t sleep on buses or planes, I was pretty much a wreck when my friend and I arrived in Copenhagen where we would spend the whole day. Since neither of us had ever been, we tried to do as much as possible, started off with breakfast and a 2.5 hour walking tour. After that we were grumpy and in endless need of sleep. So what did we end up doing? We found a park and just crashed. Lucky, for us, it was summer. But we must have looked pretty ridiculous – messy hair, bags underneath our eyes and all – just as we had taken the best spot right at the entrance of the park to snooze. Alarm after alarm was turned off until we finally got up all scraggly and droopy-eyed and kept continuing our sightseeing before taking a train to Sweden.

Lessons learned: No more 30 bed hostel dorms. EVER. I’d rather pay $20 a night more. I also want to take more time in a city rather than rushing through it and have a hotel there, so I can at least leave my bags.

Getting lost in Reykjavik in the middle of the night.

I arrived at the Keflavik airport around 11.30 p.m. It was still bright outside. Around midnight or so, the sun went down for a total of 2 minutes, then came back up. I took a bus which was supposed to let me out close to the Airbnb my friend and I had rented. I got off at around 1.30 a.m., fortunately, it was still somewhat bright, but no one was in sight. I tried to look up the address on a screenshot I had taken because my Internet didn’t work. I walked up and down the street but I couldn’t for the life of me find the Airbnb. Then finally, an Icelander walked towards me. “Excuse me, can you help me?” His first answer: “What are you doing here by yourself? You shouldn’t be out here!” Great… After scolding me, he tried finding the apartment as well with the help of Google maps, but also failed. Then, he let me call my friend who, fortunately, was up and described to me where he was. The Icelander even took me there. “Now, you love Iceland, don’t you?,” he said and gave me a hug.

The next day, my friend told me about a Reykjavik city tour he had taken the day before. The guide had explained to them that Iceland owns two helicopters, which they mostly use to rescue Germans who get lost. Gaaah! Go figure!

BONUS: Drinking too much in Prague.

I don’t know if I should consider this one a total fail. I had two freakin’ amazing nights out, but was hungover two days in a row and didn’t go sightseeing; however, I met great people and had a blast!

Lesson learned: If you want to see a city, do not go out drinking until 5 or 6 a.m. unless you’re 20 years old. Then, you might still be able to do it.

All photos by the author.

This article originally appeared on Discovering Legacies and is republished here with permission.

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