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Travel blogging isn’t all sunset beers, yoga poses struck atop mountains, and FOMO-inducing white sand beaches. There’s a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and shit (both literal and figurative) that goes on behind the scenes. Here, I got some shameless travel bloggers to share their most awkward travel moments… (CosmoGirl! throwback, anyone? Just me?)
As it’s only fair, I’ll share one of my own at the end. Share yours in the comments!
Full Moon in Lake Bacalar
From Dani of Like Riding a Bicycle
I was once sitting on the dock of an absolutely idyllic lagoon in a town called Bacalar, Mexico. The water was magical, spreading seven shades of blue across the view. A few days previous, I’d noticed a European man and his son skinny dipping off the dock, and thought how wonderful that seemed. So naturally, with no one around, I decided to dip into that beautifully blue water completely naked.
I hopped in and it felt just as wonderful as I knew it would. I swam for a minute, until suddenly I noticed it: a boat. It was a small boat carrying tourists, and that boat was coming right at me. I paused and contemplated my options. I could stay in the water, risking that they come close enough to see me completely naked in this crystal clear water. Or, I could frantically get back on the dock, giving them a more distant but very clear view of my bum (and perhaps more).
Unfortunately, it was a decision that needed to be made fast, and I tell you, that boat was definitely moving fast. I went for option 2, and quickly scampered back onto the dock, to give them what I can only imagine was the best view on their boat trip.
Number Two with Nomads
From Margherita of The Crowded Planet
A few years ago we visited the Altai region in Mongolia, near the border with Russia, China, and Kazakhstan, and had a 10-day homestay with a family of eagle hunters. Our host family lived in a ger, the traditional round tents, while we pitched our own tent right next to their ger. The toilet was a hole in the ground, surrounded on three sides by a stone wall that came up to my waist.
Now, I have a real problem with going to the toilet in public. I sometimes get stage fright even when I have to pee, let alone number two. And during the day, there was always someone around the toilet – kids playing, animals wandering, the family milking goats or horses… somebody would ALWAYS see me. I thought I’d solve the issue by going to the toilet at night, but when I tried I realized it wasn’t a great idea – the ‘hole’ was surrounded by slippery, uneven stones, and I didn’t want to fall in! So, I held my number two in, for three whole days. I was dying. I had cramps and sweats, but I just couldn’t go, I was too embarrassed that somebody would see me.
Then on day 4, I had enough. I was like now it’s the time, or else I’ll die. So I dropped my trousers and did it – even though there were four kids, their grandma, and their goat right next to me. If I think about it, I can’t believe I actually did it!
By Hannah of Getting Stamped
So I may have brought my mother to a “girly bar” in Bangkok…
I have been traveling the world full-time for 4 years and my first Christmas away, my parents flew to Thailand to spend the holidays with me. We were going to go off on a
Next thing you know we’ve got working girls with numbers giving my dad and husband tons of attention. We had our one beer and left, but my dad left with quite the story for his work buddies. After this, I promised my mom only beach bars and beers from 7-Eleven. It still was an epic family trip!
A Stool Sample in Bangkok
From Taylor of Travel Outlandish
While teaching English in Thailand, I had to go to a Bangkok hospital to get tested for a parasite. The only problem was that the doctors only spoke Thai, so I got paired up with a translator from my program that had barely crossed 18. He endeavored to communicate the process as the doctor explained it, but some politeness was lost in translation.
“He wants you to shit in a cup.”
He looked at me so earnestly that I knew he didn’t actually mean “shit”. If he had had the vocabulary, he surely would have asked me to “give a stool sample”, so I just took the cup and nodded. I must have shown my discomfort for he and the doctor shared a loud, nervous laugh.
Just as I headed to the bathroom, cup in hand, a group of fellow teachers arrived. I could hear them chatting through the door, awaiting my sample.
I came back out a few moments later, and they all turned to me at once. “Did you shit?” he asked. I handed the clear plastic container over to the doctor. “Yes, I did shit.” I responded, now unable to stop laughing, and the group erupted in applause for my accomplishment. The months that followed may have been filled with bad karaoke, cultural misunderstandings, and unusual lunches, but this experience for sure stands out in my memory as the most ridiculous of them all.
What’s French for Gynecologist?
New Buddies in Budapest
From Ryazan of Everything Zany
My friend and I went on a trip to Budapest and decided not to miss the thermal baths. After a research on places, we’ve decided to go to the Turkish baths underneath the Gellert Hill. It was our first time to go and experience the Turkish baths. We thought to treat ourselves with a lovely full body massage after few days of walking around exploring Budapest. The Turkish baths were superb. They have numbers of traditional hot baths and an outdoor pool overlooking the Danube river and the Gellert Hill. Everything went as planned.
When our spa treatment slot was called upon, we were puzzled why the two topless old man were calling our spa ticket numbers. We answered the call and went into the massage cubicle. My friend and I were so surprised that they were the actual masseurs assigned to us. We were caught on the spot, as we expected to have a female masseur. I can’t fault anything to the masseurs for being so professional. That was probably one of the highlights of our Budapest trip. Until now, we can’t help but laugh about it every time we remember that embarrassing spa treatment.
Lost in Translation
By Jamie of Crashed Culture
I was an American living in an apartment with all Spanish roommates. It was winter, and the heater had sprung a leak. One day when I was home alone, a plumber came to fix it. We greeted each other and he went to the kitchen to get to work. My roommate was afraid he might steal something, so she asked me to watch him. Pretty quickly, the leak exploded, and the room tensed up immediately.
The (big, dirty) plumber started screaming at me in Spanish while I was too in shock about the water going all over the kitchen to even try to get past the greater shock of this guy screaming at me in a foreign language, much less understand what he was saying. I stood there for half a minute staring at this guy blankly, while he’s clearly trying to tell me something really important. He’s screaming at me, I’m fighting back tears… it was not a good situation. Eventually, he stopped trying to talking to me, got up, and grabbed the bucket I was standing next to. Oh.
Center of Attention
From Shara of SKJTravel
I was traveling with an 8-member volunteer ethnographic research team in rural northern China documenting peasant villages. We were the first foreigners to visit the region and we were treated with both curiosity and reverence. We were invited to a local rain festival by one of the townships where the town officials made very special arrangements for us, which included a lunch before the parade. People in the region don’t wash their hands before meals (water too precious, soap too expensive), but the town officials had heard that foreigners like to wash their hands. So they purchased for us several wash basins and soap and towels, and set them outside on a sidewalk right next to where we drove up and parked.
This gesture alone, in such an impoverished region, made us feel a bit awkward, but by then everyone had heard that foreigners were arriving and they crowded around, pressing at our backs, highly intrigued to watch us dip our hands in the water, caress the bar of soap, and dry off, as if we were performing a sacred ritual. We had no idea what to do with ourselves once we were done and everyone was staring at us. Smile? Wave? Show them our clean hands? Feeling so scrutinized and awkward, we simply turned toward each other and talked among ourselves.
Getting Robbed… by a Blue-Balled Monkey
From Gabor of Surfing the Planet
When you go to a safari, you expect to see lots of animals, but inside your jeep you usually feel protected from having any contact with them. When we were visiting the Tarangire National Park in Tanzania, we learned that even inside your car, you are not fully protected. We were watching a couple of lions not so far from us, and I was taking pictures of them. Suddenly I heard my wife scream, and felt that something came into the vehicle, but when I turned around there was nothing there anymore.
What happened? A tiny velvet monkey (a monkey easily recognizable for its blue balls) noticed that we were distracted, jumped into our jeep, and stole a whole package of chips. It really happened in an instant, and we were lucky that he didn’t take our small camera, which was on the same seat. The monkey then skillfully opened the package and started eating those chips, while he was looking at us from the tree with an almost recognizable laugh on his face. Conclusion: in order to avoid such awkward moments, never underestimate the animals, especially the monkeys!
Butt of the Joke at the Dead Sea
By Trisha of P.S. I’m On My Way
When you have Israeli friends, you will be bombarded with a bunch of jokes about visiting the Dead Sea and I can’t believe I fell for it. I know for sure that you have to avoid getting water in your eyes and to not shave before diving in because it will hurt like crazy. This is a matter of public information, but when my friend said I cannot go into the water with my period, I totally fell for it! So, during our visit, I stayed by the shore with a beer and watched everyone float, wondering what it’s like!
Stuck in a Van Window in Cambodia
One of the joys of backpacking in Cambodia in 2006 was riding the “bus.”
The driver motioned for us to just exit via the window. I had the window seat, so I was first up.
With my legs dangling from the window, my butt inside, my head outside, and my shoulders jammed, I was stuck.
I was stuck in a Cambodian van window and the entire town (and van) was watching.
Lindsay starting pushing me from behind.
By Rhonda of Albom Adventures
The summer was much hotter than I had imagined and the Spanish house we were living in didn’t have air conditioning. I needed a sun dress and had seen the one I wanted at the local market. Enthusiastically, I slipped it over my head and looked at my teen, whose initial reaction is always better than any mirror. It was obvious; this was not the dress for me. As politely as possible, she said, “you can’t wear that, mum.” Before I removed the dress, the stall owner told me how beautiful I looked. In Spanish, I told her my daughter said I looked fat. Pointing at my chest, she announced that I wasn’t fat, but rather it was my “titas grandes” that made the dress appear that way.
An Awkward Toilet Moment
By Dante of Dante Harker
I’m often at a loss when traveling, most of the time it’s because I speak in a broad Yorkshire accent and very few people outside of that Northern UK county understand me. Even if they are fluent English speakers, or for that matter Americans.
Yet oddly enough, it’s toilets that often bring me the most embarrassment; when you travel, there are some serious humdingers. Recently in Kenya I was making my way into the loo (for a number 2, a lot of detail I know but I am talking about toilets) and a local stopped me and said “I wouldn’t use that one, you might squat down, but you’ll never get back up”. Now I was a fat teen, and inside I’m still the same teen who often did have trouble standing up. This meant that I instantly took this personally; still, I went into the toilet he was pointing at – your standard western one.
I did what you do in these places, though I was seething about the comment. When I walked back out, I glanced in the open door and saw this — click if your curiosity gets the best of you.
Turns out he was right. If I had have squatted down, the thing was so disgusting I would never have gotten a hand hold to get back up!
By yours truly
I bought a Diva Cup and was feeling like a badass, eco warrior feminist — until I was convinced that it was suctioned to my cervix in a hostel bathroom in the Albanian Riviera.
I must have spent thirty panicked minutes in various contortions on the floor of a dirty bathroom trying to get the damn thing out of me, which I had accidentally inserted way too high. So, naturally, I internet-ed it and went into a K-hole of fear, reading Buzzfeed articles about women who had done the same thing I had done and needed to get it removed by a gynecologist. I have a vivid imagination and I was near tears imagining the awkward series of pantomimes and Google Translates for “I have a piece of silicone stuck in my vagina, and no, it’s not a sex thing.”
Luckily after I got off the internet, calmed the hell down, relaxed, and gave it another shot a few hours later, it came out and a trip to an Albanian hospital was narrowly avoided. I still use my Diva Cup but I’m always extremely, extremely careful now!
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