Why I Should Have Quit Traveling: Part 2 of 3

Part 2 of “Why I Should Have Quit Traveling” documents my misadventures during my two Eurotrips between the age of 22 and 24.

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I didn’t have too many issues a couple years after being 19, thankfully enough. This may also be due to the fact that I wasn’t travelling extensively except to and fro Bangkok to Ottawa for my studies. The next couple of incidents occurred when I was on my 1st eurotrip after graduating my Bachelor’s Degree (2010). Krista and I took a 5 week backpacking trip across western Europe, hitting about 8 countries along the way.

We arrived at the Amsterdam close to midnight, and were quite disoriented about how to get to our hostel, so we decided to ask a local. He told us that it was free to get on the tram here. We were skeptical, but chose to believe him. He joined us on that tram as well and said he knew where our hostel was and would let us know where to get off. On the tram, we started talking to a couple of Australian backpackers (this little detail will become important later). When we got off the tram, the local decided to join us again. This time we were getting a bit nervous. He insisted that he walk us directly to our hostel. We told him that we would be fine, and that we knew where it was. Since he was being persistent, we decided to thank him for his help for far, and assure him that we could make our own way from here. He continued with his persistence, and we could sense anger starting to brew in his voice. Afraid to just walk away, we decided to let him know that we were hungry and would like to grab a bit at the McD before heading to the hostel (which happened to be right behind us), and we didn’t need him to wait for us. Suddenly, he flipped a switch, yelled as us for being spoilt brats, and tried to grab us to go with him. At this point, we were down right scared.

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Luckily, the australians we met on the tram ended up getting off the same location we did. They noticed us being haggled and remained in our vicinity throughout the incident. Once it got too far, these two boys stepped in, and told the man to leave us alone, and that we were with them. After a few moments of back and forth, the local left, all the while still yelling hate our way.

Lessons learned at 22: Keep your guard up at all times. Not everyone you meet while travelling will be genuine.

After spending the night partying away the Spain victory of world cup 2010 in Las Ramblas, we decided to call it a night and take the metro home. It was an exciting time to be in Barcelona. Everyone’s spirits were up, people were celebrating the victory, and making a lot of noise.

When we got on the metro, it was no different. The trains were crowded with people. We were at a standstill waiting for as many people to file into the compartment as could possibly fit. We were pushed towards the corner end, far away from the exit doors when we smelt gas and saw it fill up the train. We all immediately started coughing, itching our eyes, and going into panic mode. Till this day, I’m not quite sure what it was, but I know that we wouldn’t have survived it, had the train doors not been open still. Everyone stampeded out of the compartment, with me and Krista being one of the last to make the exit. We decided to walk over 10km back to our hostel that night. Risking another train ride home just didn’t seem worth it.

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Lessons learned at 22: Even in one of the happiest of times for a country, there will be some protestors that act out. It’s good to be cautious, but know that some things can’t be predicted.

Aside from the two incidences, Europe proved to be fantastic. I loved Europe so much, that I decided to do a 2nd Eurotrip after my Master’s Degree with Caitlin, but this time to another set of countries I hadn’t touched on my 1st Eurotrip. When we arrived in Athens, we contacted an agent to support us in booking our boats and hotels in advance, so we wouldn’t need to deal with this hassle during our 2 weeks island hopping around Greece. Our 1st stop was Mykonos.

We were supposed to stay in Mykonos for 2 nights, and transfer to Santorini for another 4 nights. Due to choppy waves and bad weather, we were going to be stranded on Mykonos indefinitely, along with a large number of other anxious tourists waiting to head to Santorini. We had a feeling we might not be able to get out after our additional night’s stay so we moved on to Plan B after spending a 3rd night in Mykonos and getting restless; especially with having to rebook our ferries and accommodation constantly. Through talking with some local boat companies we eventually figured out that we could go to Paros, spend the night there, and take a boat from there to Santorini. We didn’t know if the choppy seas would be on our side from Paros either, but decided to give it a shot anyways… and it worked! (albeit through A LOT of sea sickness). We found ourselves in Santorini with 2 nights short of out what we had originally planned, but nonetheless we made it there, and got to see another quaint Greek island in the process!

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Lessons learned at 24: Some things are just out of your control, so always get creative and flexible with travel plans, instead of being fixated on a destination.

Another major incident occurred in Greece when we were somewhere up north, waiting for our overnight boat transfer to Bari, Italy and from there heading to Croatia on yet another overnight boat. It was a long journey ahead of us, and before it even began, we missed the 1st overnight ferry. There were two (I would like to think good) reasons for this.

1. We were engrossed in the Greece vs. Germany match at a pub (Eurocup 2012).
2. We were smart enough to watch the match at a pub near the pier where we had to catch the ferry. However, what we didn’t realize was, we watched it at the wrong pier.

By the time we found out we were at the wrong pier, we only had 15 minutes to spare, and needed to make a 5km dash to the other end of the harbor. No taxis were on the streets, and the cops were also too entertained by the Eurocup match to be of any help. We tried to hail down rides to the pier, but to no luck whatsoever. So we decided to run with our heavy backpacks to get to the pier, which obviously didn’t end up working in our favor.

We watched as our ferry left the habour, and waved it goodbye from the side of the pier, having no clue what to do next. It was close to 1am in the night. I started freaking out, and went straight into tears and helplessness (seems to be a trend that I’m not good at crises, but Part 3 will prove otherwise in such an extreme way!). Luckily Caitlin was great at crisis so that saved us both. Two crying and helpless girls would have been a recipe for disaster, so thanks for taking charge, Caitlin! 🙂

bariPhoto Credit: Goista.com

A nice lady gave us a ride from the pier into the city and we found a hotel to stay in for the night. After asking around about how we could make it to Bari, we were told that in the morning we should take a taxi that would drop us off at a bus stop where we would be able to catch the bus that would take us to a pier, and onwards to Bari. We decided that this is what we would do the next day. Little did we know that the taxi driver would drop us off in the middle of nowhere, at an old bus stop that didn’t look like it was being used anymore. He told us a bus would be driving by, and we needed to flag it down and get on it.

Which bus? We had no idea.
When was it coming? We had no idea.
Which pier was it taking us to? We weren’t quite sure.

He drove off, and we just had to hope that there was a bus coming for us to flag down, and that hopefully it was heading in the direction we needed to go. Luckily it all worked out and we made it to Dubrovnik, Croatia with a 24-hour delay.

Lessons learned at 24: Crying in a crisis does not help. Try and remain as calm and level headed as possible, and figure out another solution. Remember, there’s always a solution.

We knew we wanted go to Croatia, and I knew from my “lessons learned” of 2007 that I should really do research on the types of visas Croatia accepts. As early as January 2010, Croatia started accepting foreigners with Schengen Visas into their country. Prior to this, I would have had to get an additional visa for Croatia.

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Luckily, this was not the case. Because I have had entirely to many issues with travels for my likely, I decided to play it safe and print a copy of the announcement from the country’s official website. Upon arrival at the border, as I expected, my entry to a country was denied yet again. They stated that I didn’t have a Croatian Visa and that my Schengen Visa doesn’t apply. This time though, I wasn’t letting another issue like this keep me from entering a country. I had done my research thoroughly, and learnt from my USA incident in 2006. I showed them the announcement I printed off the immigration website, to show that Croatia started accepting foreigners with Schengen Visas into their country as of January 2012. It was now June 2012. After some internal debates and back-and-forth arguments between the government officials, “Bang”, the sound of the entry stamp into Croatia echoed on my passport.

Lessons learned at 24: Never assume that the government authorizes at immigration know all the regulations that have been passed. They have so many country’s entrance visa regulations to remember, that its likely they aren’t fully up-to-date on the amendments, especially in cases where you’re trying to cross the boarder by land.

In case you missed it: Part 1 of “Why I Should Have Quit Traveling” documents my travel memoirs of unfortunate incidents due to lack of travel experience between the age of 18 and 19.

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