My biggest travel fails – When everything goes wrong

Travel fails are part of a traveler`s life.

Sometimes they are caused by external reasons, and we cannot avoid them. Sometimes it’s our own fault… And most of the time – at least with me – , Murphy is the one to blame! (did I ever tell you that Murphy loves me?)

As someone who has done quite a lot of travelling over the last 10 years (But Vick, I though you were in your 20`s, you look so young! I bet you must be thinking… right?!?), it was inevitable that nothing bad ever happened to me while traveling, doesn`t matter how careful one can be.

Montserrat, hiking, spain   Life itself is one big great adventure! 

One thing I`ve learned – the hard way, you bet, but I did – is that you just can`t control everything. Sometimes, pardon de words, shit happens.  Being kind of control obsessed like I am, this was a hard lesson, and in the beginning I would spend hours, days, sometimes even weeks just replaying something in my head, trying to make sense of it, thinking about “what if”…

But let me tell you something:”What if`s” will only make you frustrated, and sad, and a little crazy. Needless to say, once the situation has already happened, there is nothing you can do about it except move on, so this was useless and a waste of my energy and mental faculties.

So what do I do now? Whenever I have one of those epic travel fails, I will scream (on my insides, I`m a very discreet and polite person), cry (in the shower so no one will see), wonder why Murphy is so obsessed with me, get a little mad, send my family a huge WhatsApp voice message whining about it, and then… Turn it into a post so you can laugh at me! Ha ha ha!

Not a glamorous travel blogger...… And you can start in 3, 2, 1!

Today is your lucky day because this moment has arrived, so sit down comfortably because you are about to find out my top travel fails!

 

  1. That time when I went to the airport one month ahead of time – and still managed to almost miss my flight !

    Also know as “the time I broke the laws of time travelling” or “How can I be so stupid!? 

    This happened in Madrid. My father and I had been traveling through Europe – Daddy financed trips (also know as “paitrocínio” in Portuguese) are the best! – and our last stop was Madrid. From there, he would come back to Brazil (daddy don`t goooo) and I would come back home to Barcelona. I bough a ticket to the same day he was leaving, just 2 hours after. We said our goodbyes at the airport (tears), he boarded his plane and I went to check in my luggage to get to my flight. Then I noticed that my flight was leaving from another terminal…

    No sweat, I`ll take the airport shuffle, I thought. But the bus took 20 minutes to arrive. Then another 10 to get to the other terminal. So when I finally get to the check-in counters, they had already started the boarding procedures. Somehow while desperately clinging saying good-bye to my father, I lost track of the time. So I rush to give the lady my bag and my passport and that`s when, right after saying that I`d have to hurry, she says: “Oh, wait, you don`t have to run!

    I was puzzled. Did I just win a priority boarding and maybe a first class upgrade???
    Then she said: “Your flight is not today. It is exactly A MONTH from now!”

    Pause. What? Whaaattt????

    Madrid, Guiri Insider, travel failsChillin by the pond at Parque del Retiro in Madrid, unaware of what was to come…

    Somehow I had booked a flight a month ahead of this day. And I blame the leap year for that – this time Murphy had nothing to do with it. See, when booking the flight, I saw “Wednesday 3rd” and didn`t look at the month. Turns out, this year had Wednesday 3rd two consecutive months. So my flight was for march, not February…

    What do I do now??? I can`t stay in Madrid, I have a life back in Barcelona, a have a dog waiting for me, the dogsitter is already gone, I have to work tomorrow!!! (what I really didn`t want was having to buy another ticket or pay for a hotel for the night, since daddy was gone… Just kidding, dad!).

    But, miraculously, luck was on my side this time. I went to the counter of the company to see what I could do and they were willing to change my ticket without any extra charges. Yey! When is the next available flight, I ask.
    “It could be for today!”
    “Great! What time does the flight leave?”
    Attendant looks at the clock, responds with the greatest calm of the world: “In 10 minutes
    As I was already running for my life the boarding gate, he calls me out: “Lady, you still have to check your bag at check in!”

    Travel fails, Parque del Retiro, Madrid The beautiful Parque del Retiro, my favourite spot in Madrid!

    I run back to check in, throw my bag at the counter, give the lady my passport with shaking hands, and like Usain Bolt, prepare for the run, waiting for her order. I still had a hand luggage with me so running across the airport would be a challenge, but I was up to it. The second she gives me my boarding pass, I run. I run through the airport, run through the safety check (until they stop me at the x-ray and make me take my boots and my coat off), almost run barefoot after passing the x-ray (Miss, your shoes!!!), run and run a little more, run to find a screen, see my gate number, then run to the gate…

    “Boarding closed”

    NOOOOOOOO!!! A breathless Vick manages to gasp. But the company employee was still there so I start begging her to let me board. She takes a look at my boarding pass and says:
    “I can`t let you board. This is not your flight, your flight is through Vueling, this is Iberia. They might still be boarding if you RUN”.
    What are the odds? Two flights leaving from Madrid do Barcelona at the exact same time… But of course, opposite boarding gates! So I, like an endangered gazela being chased by a lion, start running again, dragging my bag across the airport all the way to the other side. I finally make the gate… And they are still boarding! YESSSSS!!!

    Travel Fails, Madrid Bye bye Madrid!!!

    I sat down, streapteasing myself out of my winter sweaters, red as a lobster, trying to recover my breath, puffing and sweating like crazy. But at least I would have kept my personal record: I still have never missed a flight!

    Lesson learnt: Always triple check the details of a flight when buying one!
    Travel fails scale: 7/10

     

  2. Stepping in a sea urchin while snorkelling

    I love scubadiving and snorkeling. I had the luck to grow up only a few hours away by one of the most beautiful places for diving of Brazil, the island of Florianópolis, in the South of Brazil. The underwater fauna and flora there are impressive: Fishes of all sizes and colours, the most beautiful corals in all shapes you can imagine, clear blue water, starfishes, so many friendly marine turtles that approach you for a caress…

    TRAVEL FAILSWelcome to Ilha do Francês, a natural paradise near Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil.

    … And a lot of sea urchins on the rocks.

    That day I was snorkelling with my father (we love to do that together, and my brother also joins when he`s with us) at the Ilha do Francês, this beautiful little island where you can go by boat or even by jet sky, with a tiny stripe of sand and rocks all over it, perfect for diving. That area is pretty shallow too, so we were just swimming around, lost in our underwater paradises. But then there was some water inside my mask, and I had to stop to take it out and clean it (yes, that classy spitting move…)

    Kayaking with my father!Kayaking in the ocean with my father. We always have so much fun together, I love travelling with him! 

    There were some waves crashing by the rocks so, to stay still, I had to support my feet on one of the stones to avoid being thrown against the rocks. Still with the mask on, I looked down, examining the rocks, being careful not to step on anything, in a mix between ecological consciousness and a sense of self-preservation (I wasn`t wearing fins). I found a spot, carefully put my feet there, and just as I took the mask off, a boat passed by, creating stronger waves my way. I lost balance and automatically tried to regain it by stepping on the rocks again to steady myself…

    Aaaaaaarghhhhhhh!!!!!! 

    Suddenly I  feel this pungent pain coming from my foot and spreading along my whole leg.

    I had stepped right into a sea urchin, barefeet!!!

    My paradise, Ilha do FrancêsNatural swimming pools and the most amazing blue water. This was safe enough…

    The pain was so intense I could not swim, my foot contracted so I just could not move it, like it was frozen in a weird, creepy position. I also could not steady myself stepping in the rocks and the waves were too strong for me to just float there. I looked around and my father was nowhere to be found. I`m a good swimmer and I have experience diving so I knew I would not drown or anything, and I was close to the little beach, but between the surprise and the pain, I had swallowed some water, some had got inside my nose… Not a pretty scene. And I still could not find my father (not easy to spot your dad just through his snorkel, among 15 other divers on the surface).

    Help!!!! 

     

    Ilha do Francês, travel fails, BrasilFeeding the fishes, much more fun than fishing them! 😉

    Finally this guy who was snorkelling close by noticed my agony and came to my help. He helped me get to the shore and waited with me until my father came back. Nothing serious happened, but I could not wear any shoes for almost a week, and it took me 3 days to be able to wear my flip flops again, so swollen my foot got!

    Lesson learnt: Never underestimate nature and only dive alone if you are really experienced.
    Travel fails scale: 5/10

  3. The monstrous backpack fail

    This is about the time that I almost abandoned my backpack –  with all I had inside – halfway through my destiny, intentionally. And this one was all on me… Beginner`s mistake, let`s call it. This was my first trip backpacking and, besides when I took the plane from my city in Brazil to come to Barcelona for the first time, and spend most of the time inside an airplane, not actually carrying any weight on my back for longer than 1 hour and inside the comfort of an air-conditioned airport.

     

    Cadaques, travel fails The beautiful Cadaqués! I love this place…

    I had never really traveled backpacking. So, amateur innocent me, I packed for a 3 days backpackers trip like I would pack for a month-long resort vacation. (such a smart move, Vicky…)But my destiny was the Costa Brava, the northern coast of Spain, just before getting to France. I was going with a friend and our plan was budget travel through some of the beaches there until the Dali`s House in Cadaqués, starting in Rosas. We though we could just take buses from one small town to the other, I mean, we are in Europe, public transportation here is great, right?

    That was mistake number 1. Turns out that, during the summer, which to me means high season thus more people traveling thus more transportation options available, Spanish actually decide to… Put less buses to work! That meant having to wait sometimes longer than 2 hours under a saharan sun, by the road, for the damn bus. And that brings us to mistake number 2: With a 20 kilos traveling backpack on my back (that, back then, was almost half my whole body weight – good times…)

    TRAVEL FAILS COSTA BRAVAMe and my friend Agnieszka. Frowning, sweating and waiting for the bus… . Don`t I look happy? 

    Things got even worse once we arrived in Cadaqués and wanted to visit Salvador Dali`s house, in Portlligat, a neighbour beach. See, to get there, you either go by car, or take an excursion… Or, yes, you walk. All the way up the hill then down the hill on the other side. Under the 40ºC heat of the Spanish summer in August. So what was not at all a hard level hike became an impossible mission. The skin of my back was glued to the backpack. My t-shirt was all wet. I was sweating profusely, my neck and shoulder hurt and I felt like I was going to fall on my back from the weight of the backpack. It was hell. There was no place I could leave that damn thing.

    Portlligat, Costa Brava, travel failsHalf way through the path, this is the view of Portlligat bay from the mountain…

    I was so frustrated and mad at myself I wanted to scream, and cry.
    I got to the point where I actually entertained the idea of just leaving the backpack there, in the middle of the trail. I hadn`t used any of the clothes (and shoes) I took there anyway, since I was wearing a bikini and a summer dress the whole day. But I`m too attached to my ohhh-so-beautiful clothes (judge me) to have the guts to do that. So I just suffered all the way up and down the mountain, and when we finally arrived at Dali`s House…

    … They didn`t let us in because we hadn`t purchase the tickets online and they were all booked for the day!

    Laughing dogI swear to God, this dog was laughing at me when he saw me dragging the monstruos backpack, all sweaty and red!

    Lesson learnt: Pack light, please, unless you have servants to carry your bags for you!
    Travel fails scale: Very annoying, I would say 7/10 !

     

  4. The drowned camera incident (Horror story nº1)

    This one besides one of my biggest travel fails is also part of my “Travel Horror Stories” and occupies 1st position on that list. My most prized possession – besides my dog Chilli – is my DSLR camera. I`m a professional photographer so without my camera, I`m nothing: I can`t work without a camera and if I can`t work I can`t make money and without any money I cannot buy another camera thus I can`t work… You got the picture, right?

    So you can imagine my utter, complete and total despair when, in the middle of my first Italian trip, going to photograph the Carnival of Venice the next morning, I go for my camera inside my purse and… It is soaking wet, dripping water!!!

    But how did this photographer`s nightmare happened to me???

    Here`s how: I was in Milano, and I went to see an art show at the Trienale. When I got in, the guard told me that no photos were allowed and I should put the camera inside my purse. I wasn`t going to take any pictures inside anyway, so I told him that but he insisted that I had to put the camera in the bag. All right…

    MilanoIf only I knew what was about to happen to me, I would have asked the lady to light a candle for me too…

    When I got out of the exhibit, I went to the cafe of the Trienale to buy a snack and as I go for my wallet… Wet. WTF…??? My heart starts pounding so fast and my hands are shaking so hard that, when I take my camera from the bag, I almost drop it on the floor.

    The camera is soaked!!! Oh my god ohmygod ohhhhmyyygoooooddddd!!!!

    Turns out that, first time in my life this happened, I had a little bottle of water inside my purse, with just the right amount of water to cause a small disaster. And the bottle opened itself inside my purse, who was a waterproof bag, so when I opened it, I found a mini camera murderer lagoon…

    Damn you Murphy, this one I blame on you!!!!! 

    I try to turn the camera on to check how big of a catastrophe that was… The lcd was purple. Just plain purple. No commands would work. A complete pane. Let me just be clear, so you can imagine my terror, this was not a compact camera, or a cellphone, or a GoPro… This was a professional DSLR camera, with professional lenses… And the only camera I packed during that trip. How am I supposed to take photos of the Venetian Carnival without a camera???

    Duomo Milano, Milano, Milan   But hey, at least I have a good picture of the Duomo of Milano, right? …

     

    You know how I say that I try not to cry in public? Well, that was not one of those times. I just sat at the stairs of the Triennale, the body of my dead camera in hands, and cried compulsively… I didn`t know what to do. I was crying so hard that people would stare at me, a little afraid to ask what was going on. It must have been a pretty bizarre scene, a girl, alone, crying her eyes out in the stairs of a museum, holding a camera in hands. So weird indeed that a guy – with a camera – came to ask me what happened. So I told him (the look on his face was the same someone would get when watching sad kittens videos on internet. Actually he almost started crying with me. He was also a photographer too so he felt my pain!).

     

     

    Travel fails                                                                         “Hey, girl, we feel your pain too…”

    He told me of a place that I could take my camera so they would open it and put it to dry. It was outside the central area and if you ever tried to take public transportation in Milano without knowing the city well and without Google Maps (that was 2010, I`m that old, yeah), you know that I was in for a challenge. Eventually I gave up on trying to find this place and decided to (try to) enjoy what I had left of the day. So I went to the Sforzesco Castle, and they had a Pinacoteca. My brain was still operative even before this trauma so, can you guess why a Pinacoteca is the greatest place to go when you have a drowned camera?

    Because the place is full of room`s dehumidifier because of all the old paintings and pieces of art!

    And that means I could take the lens off my camera and put it facing down on top of one of those so it would suck the humidity away from the insides of my camera and specially, the sensor!!

    …I`m such a genius!!!

    Sony Alpha 350As you can imagine, I don´t have many pictures to illustrate this post… But this is one of my favourite ones and, miraculously, I managed to shot this with my poor drowned camera! Damn she was a good one… RIP my lovely Sony A350!

    So this is exactly what I did. I paid for my entrance, entered the pinacoteca, located the first dehumidifier, placed the camera on top of it… And sat down on the ground, waiting.

    Until the guard came to ask me what the hell was I doing. So I told him my tragic, catastrophic story and… He felt to bad for me (Nooooo!!! Poverina!) that he not only let me stay there, but came to check in on me and my now not so dead camera many times, until I went back to my hostel at night, to get ready for the Carnival of Venice.

    Do you wanna now what happened when I arrived in Venice the next morning? Did my camera work? Did it die overnight?

    I`ll let you know in a future post…! 😉

    Lesson learnt: Water bottles and cameras are dangerous enemies!
    Travel fails scale: Epic fail, this ones gets a 10/10!

    Yes, as you may have noticed, I have more fails stories to tell you about. But I`ll do this in another post, because I imagine that right now you must 1) crying for my travel fails or, more probably 2) crying of laughter because of my travel fails…

    Do you have any travel fails? Share it in the comments, I would love to laugh at you too hear it!

     

Showing 5 comments
  • Kristine Li
    Reply

    Lol! I hope your method worked and your camera still revived somehow. You’ve really had some misadventures during your trips! And I especially could feel you about a heavy backpack almost half our weight – you’ll really feel like dumping it. I’m petite and I swear, carrying heavy stuff zaps all my energy away too soon =\

    Not so much of travel fails but I tend to have not much luck with cameras when I travel. I’ll either have left the DSLR batt charger in my home country while I’m away in the highlands with no modern shops, or my cameras just simply DIE overseas for unknown reasons. Sheesh.

    • Vick Fichtner
      Reply

      Hi Kristine!

      I`m petite too, only 1.58m high so even just the camera bag weights down on me after a whole day carrying it around!
      I did something like you with the charger, the first time I was in Marrakesh. It was quite an adventure desperately walking around those labyrinth streets of the medina trying to find a compatible charger for my DSLR that would actually work…!
      Did you find the charger in the Highlands? When I was there all the stores would close at like 4pm!

  • Brianna
    Reply

    Oh gosh, I love reading stuff like this. Travel always seems so glamourous and wonderful…until things go wrong! Good thinking with using the dehumidifier on your camera! That was truly genious!

    • Vick Fichtner
      Reply

      Hi Brianna!

      I know, I always see this perfect travel bloggers in their perfect Instagram lives, looking all luxurious and without one drop of sweat in the middle of the desert and I wonder “How do they do it???”

      My guess is… They don`t, it`s all fake! Either that or I must be really unlucky hahaha!

      Glad you liked the post! 🙂

  • Ania | Snow to Seas
    Reply

    Really interesting read! I am sorry for all this things that happened! When it comes to packing a backpack, I’ve definitely had a similar experience…I overpacked and when it came down to carrying the load on my back for a good 6 hours…I felt done after the first 6 steps! I don’t know how I got through that day. Curious to hear what happened with you camera though!

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