April 19, 2012

BEST OF: My Biggest Travel Fails

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I feel like I constantly hear the phrase, “That WOULD happen to you” from my most intimate friends. Is it my generally naïve demeanor, or am I just a magnet for quasi-unfortunate events? I like to think that it is neither of these things and that I have been chosen to serve honorably as an example to my luckier counterparts, a how-to manual in reverse, if you will. Here are the best of my failures while traveling abroad.

Getting Pick-pocketed

A rite of passage, right? I happened to be walking out of the Barcelona metro looking for Gaudi’s Park Guell and didn’t see any signs pointing me in the right direction. As the only Spanish speaker in my group of traveling companions, I was elected to ask a very, VERY innocuous-looking man for directions. He was old, about five-feet tall, wearing a tweed blazer, a golfing hat, and, I kid you not, holding onto a cane. A CANE! One that was carved out of blonde-colored wood and shellacked with great care, no less. And this charming-looking old man pick pocketed me blind when he pointed towards the park with his cane, reached into my purse with his other hand, and stole my entire wallet—getting away with two credit cards, forty Euros, and my dignity. My advice to others? Read Alexandra Ruby’s blog entry “Travel Tips: How to Avoid Getting Pick pocketed in Barcelona,” and don’t trust anyone to get closer to you than arm’s length, not even an innocent-looking old man who reminds you of the Spanish grandpa you never had.

Food Poisoning

Yes, food poisoning. It was my first day in London, and I was so excited to do some site-seeing at Camden market, one of London’s notorious centers for casual outdoor shopping. After exploring this market full of vintage clothing and sampling fresh donuts, we decided to stop for lunch where the food stalls were. Two of my friends chose Indian food, one chose falafel, and I chose Chinese. Three hours later I was throwing up in the University College London dorm bathroom, crying via Skype to my American friends on our native soil in an attempt to solicit sympathy, and sipping on English ginger ale to cure bouts of nausea. Word to the wise—stick to the falafel.

Bed Bugs

A New Yorker’s worst nightmare. After walking into my room in a youth party hostel off of La Rambla in Barcelona, I pulled up the corners of the fitted sheet and checked along the seams of the mattress for these cheeky pests, but let’s be honest, I had way too much confidence in this hostel and being on the top bunk made this formality too much of a chore for me to complete it thoroughly enough.  Nine days later (it takes nine days for bed bug bites to show up on your skin) I had something close to ten welts all over my arms with the signature sign of bed bugs—three or four bites all in a row colloquially deemed “breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” The worst part? I had to call all of my friends that I saw between getting bitten and discovering the bites to tell them that I might have brought bed bugs into their rooms. They did not disown me—a sign of true friendship, and I am so grateful.

Devon Quinn is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at dquinn@cornellsun.com. Notes from Abroad: BEST OF appears on Fridays.

Original Author: Devon Quinn

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