Hi from the past! If this queue thing works out, I should be in upstate New York by the time you read this.
Day 4: Everyone makes mistakes. We forget to ask for Coke without ice in Mexico and spend the rest of the trip in the bathroom. Or we arrive at the airport for a 7pm flight only to realize the flight left at 7am. Tell us the story of your worst travel mistake.
I have a bunch. First, the honourable mentions:
- Going to see a show at the Sydney Opera House and forgetting the key to my apartment.
- Visiting Chicago in February and being woefully unprepared for how extraordinarily cold it is over there in winter.
- On the flip side, visiting Las Vegas on the hottest day of the year. Remember in July when the heat index was 115? Uh…yeah. In Vegas it actually was 115. I can hear y’all going but it’s a dry hea—one hundred fifteen. When it’s that hot it doesn’t matter.
- Hoofing it from one end of the Las Vegas Strip to the other. And back. (That’s seven miles of walking, right there. But hey, at the other end was the Stratosphere, so it all evens out.)
- Going to the (unbelievably crowded) Rally to Restore Sanity in DC and seriously thinking we wouldn’t have any problems taking the Metro back to RFK Stadium.
…and here’s my Top 5!
- 5: Flying out of John F. Kennedy Airport. Kennedy is an eldritch abomination whose inevitable sinking would be the only good consequence of rising sea levels. When I flew out, my plane was delayed three hours because of a medical emergency. When I flew back, my luggage, instead of going to the nice and shiny and wonderful Terminal 4 where my plane landed, went to the next terminal over, the filthy and decrepit Worldport. (And let’s not get into letting their kids play Air Traffic Controller on Bring-Your-Spawn-To-Work Day.) Fun times at Idlewild, oh yes!
- 4: A lot of the stuff I did in Tokyo. I’m not sure if it was the experience of being in a new country or if this is a thing that Tokyo does to all tourists, but I didn’t have a whole lot of common sense while I was there. Three incidents in particular stand out: misunderstanding a random person’s very clear demands that she not be photographed; trying to order something at McDonald’s in a language I do not speak and discovering immediately afterward that at least one of the cashiers spoke English; and being a monumental jerk to another fellow in our party over something as silly as the subway map, thus blowing a simple misjudgment into what would have been an international incident if the other guy wasn’t from Maryland. Not my finest hour.
- 3: Destroying my iPod and my cell phone in Myrtle Beach. Y’all know this one. I’m walking down the beach, I attempt to cross an inlet, I discover the water goes up to my waist, and then I discover that my iPod and cell phone are in the pockets of my shorts. Go me. The best part is this may have been avoided had I known about that thing where the iPod goes in a glass filled with like rice or something and the rice sucks out all the water.
- 2: Not cooking anything while I was in Sydney. This one’s especially embarrassing because I had the recipes right there, I went and bought the food, I had practiced cooking before going down, basically I had absolutely no justification for blowing half my spending money on Macca’s and Oporto…and that’s what happened anyway. I have never eaten less healthily or more expensively at any time in my entire life than when I was in Oz.
- 1: Going down to Myrtle Beach in a blizzard. An oldie but a goodie. (Technically, as this happened during my childhood, this isn’t a thing I brought on myself but a thing that happened to a random innocent bystander, and an example of truly lousy timing more than anything else, but it’s still an interesting story.) So, the family and I are headed down to the Southest of Carolinas for a week. The weather’s calling for some snow. Okay, no big deal. We can deal with snow. Except, about an hour or two after we left, the snowstorm in question decided to mutate into the Blizzard of ‘96. It goes without saying that ours was the only car on the road, that you could barely see the road, and that you had to wipe snow off the windshield every time you hit a bridge, and by the time you emerged from the other side, your car—up to and including the antenna—was covered in a layer of ice an inch thick. (But we didn’t care. If the car broke down or we got snowed in, we had enough food and supplies to last us the whole week. We were set.) [I’m probably confusing two childhood memories here. There was the time we went down in the ’96 blizzard, and then there was the time we went down in the middle of an ice storm.]
Day 5: One of the greatest joys of travel can be the random acts of kindness you’ll receive from total strangers. Have you ever found kindness from strangers in unexpected places?
I’ll just sort of defer to what Kathryn Pardo says about the subject. It almost certainly has happened to every one of us, but we don’t remember it:
I see the acts every day, and every day they get filed in the back of my head under “Aw, wasn’t that thoughtful,” right behind the list of distant relatives’ birthdays. You know it’s happened, but you never think of it again. What does stick with you is the sense of fear-abandonment-loss-panic-anger that created the need for kindness in the first place.
I don’t think I’ve traveled enough to have an experience like that of my very own. For me, it’s just been those little things, like showing me the English menu at a fast food joint (Tokyo, Osaka) or helping me negotiate those byzantine farecard thingies at train stations (DC, Sydney).
Oh, wait, I think this sort of counts. There was also that one time I was out late in Osaka and I was in a bar with a bunch of people from our little group, and I wanted to head back to the hotel because I was tired and worn-out and all the non-alcoholic drinks were unbelievably expensive. Also, I’m in an unfamiliar city and I’m a huge wuss, so I didn’t particularly want to go back by myself.
Thank goodness someone else traveling with us was tired and worn-out, also.
Day 6: Just as travel can be fun and exciting, it can also have its challenging, or even downright scary, moments. Being in a new place pushes us out of our comfort zone and makes us face our fears. Tell about a time you had to face your fear when traveling, and what was the result.
My fear is unique to people who live in places unfit for human habitation.
See, my hometown sucks. Mine is a disgusting, decrepit, foul city which feeds on the hopes and dreams of all who live here. During the day those brave enough to venture outside are forced to negotiate an infinite urban wasteland of collapsing townhouses arranged in malevolent patterns designed solely to keep its inhabitants imprisoned within its graffiti-stained walls. At night the hills are alive with tortured wailing as the grotesque nightmares it forces upon its citizenry slowly drives them to homicidal delirium. The city demands human sacrifice, blood-drenched human sacrifice, and its appetite is insatiable. [Thankfully, the rest of the state is actually fairly hospitable.]
Which is all a very long way of saying that going outside at night is basically a form of assisted suicide.
Not long after I arrived in Sydney I had to go pick up a battery for my laptop, which battery was languishing in the airport’s DHL warehouse because they had an invalid address. I’d left my apartment in the (really) late afternoon, but by the time the train pulled back into my station night had already fallen.
It’s a ten-minute walk from the station to my building, but it might as well have been ten miles. Ten miles of pure terror. Even though I knew Sydney was perfectly safe, spending your whole life in a place where your reward for going out at night was having your internal organs spread over a four-block area can give a man horrifying visions, y’know?
Nevertheless, the facts remained: I still had a ten-minute walk between me and my apartment, and the cheapest way to get there was to hoof it. I might as well suck it up and death-glare at everyone who looks at me funny, make it known that I was a man on a mission and I was not to be messed with. [For the record, that was the one and only time I did that.]
I had no problems going out at night after that.