You typically hear two things about travel: how perfectly lovely and romantically fairy-tale it was OR how horrifically end-of-the-world worst-case scenario it was. This is a bit of both. Travel is unreal, widens your horizons, tickles your senses, and pushes you out of your comfort zone. Travel is also you being vulnerable to whoever, whatever, and whenever happens, without all the safe cushions you are used to falling back at back home.
Travel Horror Stories
Robbed In Spain
In 2010 I was robbed of all cash, credit cards, and my passport in Logrono, Spain. Fortunately, I was Couchsurfing at the time, and my host loaned me money and allowed me to stay while I sorted out banking details and documentation. That night, I read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist and read about a fellow person on a journey who was robbed of everything but turned out to be richer for it in the end. I was inspired and allowed my travels to move me to Morocco, where I enjoyed one of the most beautiful countries on the planet. (You can read more about the robbery in Spain here.)
Forgotten Wallet in Dominica
This happened to us on our recent trip to the Caribbean island of Dominica. Our schedule was hectic, and we left for our day’s activities very early, only to realize I’d left my wallet back at the hotel, which was an hour’s drive to the opposite side of the island. Luckily, our driver/guide Oris Campbell was extremely cool and loaned us money for lunch and shopping, so I was able to buy my daughter some souvenirs. It was indicative of the generous spirits we found in all the Dominicans we met. Thanks, Oris!
Stranded Sex in Tikal, Guatemala
About twenty years ago, way before the kids, Kobi and I were backpacking through Central America. We were about to leave Guatemala when a well-intended ex-pat told us it would be a sin to be in her country and not experience Tikal. So, we went and suffered on the ‘express’ 14-hour cockroach-infested pot-holed roadway there (Kobi gave his seat to an elderly woman and lay in bed for a week afterward), missed the sunset from the overcast, and found out that our ATM wasn’t working and no one accepted credit cards (they all wanted cash). So, to save enough cash for the bus ride back, we survived on barely enough water, a can of tuna, one loaf of bread, and six apples for our four days there. Besides really crazy, spontaneous monkey-wild sex in the jungle (kid you not!), our experience sucked beyond measure. (But, maybe because of the rest, the sex was 20-years-later-remember-when that was amazing!)
Starving in Petra
I wanted to go to see Petra in Jordan, but my travel friend and I had run out of money in Egypt, so we went to Amman first, the capital city of Jordan, where we planned to use my credit card to withdraw money from a bank. Of course, going to Amman added hundreds of miles to our journey, and we’d go home with debt but never mind, this was our one big chance to see Petra, and we must take it. But it turned out none of the banks in Amman accepted credit cards. Not one of them. So we were stuck there for five days while we waited for my parents to wire us money, no money, staying in a hotel that was basically rubble and eating very little. No fun at all, but we did get to see Petra in the end and learned a good lesson about credit cards and how they aren’t always a magic source of money.
Broke and Thirsty in the Red Sea
Just once. I had decided to get the ferry from Egypt to Jordan with a few travelers I’d met in Sharm – we were all solo travelers who wanted to share the experience of Petra—it sounded like a great idea. Until we got to the ferry terminal, and one of the others announced he didn’t have enough to buy a ticket. It turned out he didn’t have any money at all. The girl he was with only had enough to get her own ticket, so I ‘lent’ him the money for his. We had just spent a week diving together, and I thought we connected, so why wouldn’t I? This meant we had no money to buy food or the, more important, water. We had one bottle of water between the three of us. The trip was only meant to take a few hours on the slow ferry, but because we sat in the port for two hours – in the blazing heat (even though we were in the shade, it was still stifling hot) – the trip ended up being four hours. Long story short: I became severely dehydrated, fainted (for the first time in my life) on top of a sand dune in Wadi Rum, landed on my camera, which gave up the ghost just as we were entering the treasury in Petra, ended up spending the rest of the day shaking and puking. Not the experience I was hoping for. And I never did see that money or the man again. Result: When other travelers claim bankruptcy, I’m not so keen to part with my last pennies… and always put water first!
Traveling can be a magical experience, but it can also come with its own set of challenges. Being stranded without money can be a nightmare, from robbery to forgotten wallets. However, these stories show that with ingenuity, street smarts, and the kindness of strangers, it is possible to get by in difficult situations. So, always be prepared, keep your wits about you, and be open to unexpected adventures.