Photo: Manoel Lemos
GHOSTS AND GHOULS AIN’T GOT SH*T ON SOME of the scary things that can happen when you’re traveling. Especially if you’re someone who travels all the time or constantly seeks adventure like myself and these awesome travel bloggers and experts.
It’s not likely that something scary will always happen when you travel (although everyone’s response was, “Oh I have so many stories”), but let’s be serious, it’s a scary world sometimes, and stuff happens. The good news is that when it does, it always ends up making for a killer story, especially since we are all still here to tell it!
So instead of the typical haunted tale, here are a few real-life tales of things that happened when traveling that were scary AF.
1. Getting locked in the Sydney Aquarium
Alyssa Ramos, MyLifesAMovie.com
After taking an extremely creepy, extremely empty, Malaysia Airlines flight two weeks after the second plane went down, I arrived solo in Sydney on a very cold and rainy day. No, Malaysia Airlines wasn’t the scariest part. With nothing to do outside in the rain, I bought a ticket online to the Darling Harbor Aquarium since it was indoors. The website said it closed at 7, and it was only 5:30, so I headed over, but when I got there, there was no one inside to take my ticket.
But my super logical self thought, “Well I bought the ticket, and it says it closes at 7, so I shouldn’t get in trouble if I just go in.” So I did, and even passed two workers who said hi and whatnot, so I just continued on looking at the fishies, thinking I was all VIP and badass.
Well, I must have spent too long trying to take selfies with sharks in the shark exhibit, because when I went back inside, all of the doors were closed and locked, and it was pitch black besides the fish tank lights. Now, I do a lot of crazy, sometimes stupidly dangerous things sometimes, but for some reason being locked in the aquarium freaked me the f out. Eventually I found an emergency exit and slammed it open, making the alarm go off, but I didn’t care, and just took off running towards the Sydney Opera House bar for a much-needed glass of wine.
2. Crossing a crocodile-infested channel in Kenya
Janet Newenham, Journalist on the Run
A few years ago I was travelling around Kenya with two friends, and one weekend we ended up camping out at Lake Turkana, the biggest permanent desert lake in the world…and also home to over 10,000 Nile crocodiles. To say the weekend was a disaster would be an understatement. The luxury fishing lodge that had great reviews in Lonely Planet no longer existed, so we were forced to sleep rough on the shoreline. We even had to pay a local boy to protect us while we slept, in case we were robbed or worse.
The boat trip we had organized out to a UNESCO-listed island ended in disaster when my camera went flying overboard, and there was the fact that this vessel was more of a dug-out canoe than a boat. The icing on the cake was the walk back to where the bus left from, which involved wading through a 200-meter wide channel heavily infested by crocodiles. Even the local kids would not join us for this treacherous task, screaming “Crocodile, crocodile!” as we made our way across, backpacks balanced over our heads.
All I could think was,”Would I rather lose an arm or a leg?” which left me to conclude that if I was about to get attacked, I should wrestle that croc even if it meant losing an arm. I don’t think I have ever been more scared in all my life. Luckily, we all made it to the other side with all limbs intact and trekked 7km across the desert back to safety. Definitely something I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
3. Getting shot at while sneaking across the Libyan border
Lee Abbamonte, LeeAbbamonte.com
Ironically, back in 2011 when I was attempting to become the youngest American to go to every country in the world (193), the last country I had left was Libya, which happened to be at war at the time. I was already in Egypt, and trying to figure out how to sneak across the border, but it was obviously very dangerous and difficult.
I ended up meeting an older Libyan man named Hussein who helped smuggle me in the back of his car, but as we were attempting to cross the border we got caught in a crossfire between Libyan rebels and Chinese smugglers. They weren’t shooting at us on purpose, but we got in the way of the battle. It was the scariest moment of life.
4. Almost drowning while scuba diving
Valerie Wilson, Trusted Travel Girl
The scariest thing that ever happened to me while traveling was when I was scuba diving in the Florida Keys. An overly cautious diver thought I was almost out of air on my way up from 85 feet. He took my perfectly good regulator out of my mouth to give me his pony tank and after he did this twice I panicked, not understanding what was wrong with my own regulator (nothing was wrong, I had 800 pounds left and was on my way up) and I inhaled sea water at 85 feet and started drowning.
I tried coughing the water out of my lungs and into the regulator and that didn’t work, so then I tried to bolt for the surface because I couldn’t breathe. If I did manage that, though, my lungs most likely would have exploded, killing me, but luckily 5 people held me down to safely ascend. Because I was unable to exhale for 3 minutes, the nitrogen never left my body so I got the Bends (decompression sickness) and spent 6 hours in a decompression chamber at the nearest hospital.
Since this was a solo trip, I was all alone which made it extra scary. I can’t stress enough: Trust yourself, dive with someone who you know, and get diving insurance!
5. Getting lost alone in a remote part of Austria
Gloria Atanmo, The Blog Abroad
So my sense of direction is pretty horrific, and there was a time when I was in a very remote part of Austria (Grünau) and wanted to go meet up with some friends at a lake. I grabbed a bike and set off, map in hand. All was going well until I realized I was in a really, really remote part of the town, and pretty soon realized I was also on an incline. My poor sense of direction and my infantile relationship with maps inadvertently led me up a mountain.
I was 2.5 hours into my voyage, there was no sign of any life around me, the noises got stranger, and there was definitely no lake in sight. I looked at my map wondering how it could deceive me and where our relationship took a wrong turn (pun intended). Then, I turn around and BOOM, I get a flat tire. It was getting darker, I was shitting bricks by the second, and any moment now, something was going to jump out and eat me alive, because logic.
I eventually stop caring that my bike will collapse on me and start riding it down a very rocky trail at a pretty fast pace, just hoping to get out of there as fast as possible. Safety hazard, absolutely, but again, logic. Several minutes later, I finally see a highway, so I get back on a known trail and just a few kilometers up, I see the sign where I missed my turn for the lake. After my 2 hour detour, I had no desire to be near anything wet, as I was already soaked from exhaustion, so tried to get reception to call and see if anyone could pick me up. Eventually, I was able to track down some elderly Austrian men who could see my dilemma. They gave me their phone, and a large pint of Austrian beer to save the day.
6. Almost having a plane crash in Fiji
Johnny Jet, JohnnyJet.com
My scariest flight was getting on a small plane in Fiji to fly out to one of its remote islands. I don’t like small planes or turbulence, and the thing about flying around Fiji is that when the planes go over water it’s usually smooth, but when they go over the mountains it gets bumpy (due to the unequal air flow).
Everything was smooth on takeoff, but 10 minutes into the flight we started going over the mountain range. Thunderhead clouds approached, then an alarm went off. The plane dropped, it got real quiet (I think the engine stalled), but the pilot and co-pilot both grabbed something instantly and everything was normal again.
But while it was happening I turned white as a ghost, and everyone around me stopped talking. I seriously thought that was it. In fact, I have never been more scared while flying in my life. The folks in back thought it was no big deal, and kind of fun. They couldn’t hear the alarm go off, because the engines were so loud — nor did they see the veins pop out on the pilots’ hands as they grabbed whatever it was to save us.
Besides going over the mountains, the rest of the flight was relatively smooth, and the scenery was gorgeous. You can bet I kissed* the ground (actually, I almost made out with it) when we landed.
7. Getting bitten by a shark
Steph Be, TravelBreak
I went to go shark diving in Sydney at the Manly Aquarium, but in order to do that, you have to get SCUBA certified. I wasn’t scared to be around the sharks, my only fear is of actually drowning, and I didn’t pass my scuba test. I was still determined to go, and I finally convinced them to let me stay near the entrance in the only area I was “allowed to be at”, which apparently is the same area where they feed the sharks.
So while everyone was going around inside the tank just looking at the sharks and turtles, all of them were coming towards me to where they got fed. I actually felt more comfortable with the animals around me, but then one of the smaller sharks bit me, and its teeth got stuck in my wetsuit!
8. Getting blood drawn with a knife in Bohol
Anna Lysakowska, Anna Everywhere
During my last night in Boracay I began to feel terrible. I almost never complain when I feel bad, but I started to shiver, vomit, feel a horrible pain, and I seriously thought I was going to die. The next morning I had my flight to Manila scheduled in the evening, and the next day I was meant to hop on another plane to Tagbilaran in Bohol. In the morning, however, I was convinced that I wasn’t going to be able to survive a ferry, bus, and plane ride and I took the worst decision on this trip by visiting a local clinic.
Without going into too much detail, I was asked to purchase my own peeing kit, and my blood was taken by cutting my arm and squeezing the blood onto a piece of glass. The doctor had no idea what was going on with me, but gave me a drip to drink (yes, you read correctly!) and told me to go. Fortunately enough, my friend Clelia from Keep Calm and Travel told me that I should make my flight to Manila and head to St Luke’s Medical Center.
9. Losing a car at the Chapel of Bones in Portugal
Charles McCool, McCoolTravel.com
The Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones) in Evora, Portugal is certainly one of the most heart-pounding places I have been. My girlfriend (now wife) and I were awed, repulsed, and fascinated by nearly 500- year-old skulls and human bones covering every inch of the medieval chapel. Although the Capela is chilling (literally AND figuratively), the scariest part happened afterwards.
We returned to the town plaza to find our car missing. After trying to communicate with locals, we went to the police station. The first two policia looked at us like we were crazed foreigners. Oh, I suppose we were. The third guy spoke the tiniest English and, after hearing our story, laughed heartily. He said, “Policia came, everyone move cars, your car no move.” So our car was towed, I paid a small fee, and I have a great story.
10. Walking through an abandoned explosives factory in Russia
Polly, A Girl and Her Travels
Is there anything more terrifying than crunching through the debris of a dark, abandoned factory? Yes — crunching through the debris of an abandoned Soviet explosives factory where chemical bottles still stand on lab tables next to notebooks filled with scribbled formulas. Why was this factory in Moscow, Russia abandoned at what seems like a moment’s notice? No idea, but the creaking and rustling inside the decrepit building (not to mention to plethora of ‘Danger! Explosives!’ signs) would be enough to freak out even the most intrepid explorer.