Travel isn’t always as seamless and trouble-free as Instagram would have you believe. To prove it, our featured contributor Leon McCarron asked his adventurous friends to share their most memorable travel stuff-ups.
There was a time in my life, in the middle of a long bike tour in Asia, when I got excited about camping in odd places: Sleeping in the middle of roundabouts, on top of unfinished shopping malls and inside kebab shops broke up the occasional tedium of the task.
In southern China, I spotted a large concrete pipe near an old quarry and unloaded my gear just as the hailstones started. It was fantastic, I thought. How clever I am! Unfortunately, the pipe was a lot narrower than I thought, and I couldn’t straighten my shoulders.
Immediately, my back began to cramp, but it was raining outside. What kind of idiot would go out into that? What followed was one of the most miserable nights of my life—made worse by the local rat population who decided to cosy up with me…
Naturally, we hope to learn from these mistakes but I still seem to collect a new batch on every trip I make. Kim* would be pleased to know that I once interviewed the wrong person entirely on a project in the Middle East. But perhaps most embarrassing of all was an incident on an otherwise idyllic hiking trip in the Alps when I pitched camp too close to a river and all my clothes were washed downstream. I wandered four, chilly miles to the next village in the single remaining pair of boxer shorts I owned. Of course it had to be a Sunday morning, and many a devout villager en route to church may still be haunted by the image of a naked foreigner wandering along the street.
So what do we learn from reading about adventurers losing their clothes and eating expired cat food? Well, firstly, all the people listed above are to be admired as much for their honesty as for their failings. And perhaps more importantly, that adventure is a holistic experience. Unless you’re spectacularly suave and cool-headed, you too will screw up once in a while. Enjoy the ridiculousness of it and, if you can bear to, share it with a few of us too.
*Kim has requested to use an alias as she’s still working as a war correspondent and isn’t quite ready to own up in person…