As much as I would like to think that I’m a perfect traveler, I’m far from a perfect person, which makes that impossible. I try to be understanding and open and always culturally appropriate, but that doesn’t always happen. To be fair, though, some of my greatest lessons have been learned by making mistakes on my travelers and doing some really stupid things that I regretted later.
So if you’ve made some mistakes traveling, don’t worry. Most of us have been there and I feel like that it can be the best way to learn.
Here are 3 of my biggest travel faux pas—hopefully you can learn from my idiocy!
1. Tokyo blunder
A few years ago, I made the trek from Italy to Japan to see one of my best friends. After only traveling in Europe and North America, I was really used to getting around quite easily and being able to ask for directions if I got lost. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that navigating the Tokyo metro was going to be a bit more of a challenge than I was used to.
Unsure about how to activate my Pasmo card, I ended up pushing through the metro barriers with my giant backpack on (akin to jumping over the turnstiles in New York) because I had no idea how to navigate the system.
I was incredibly grateful that the Japanese people are so polite, because no one stopped me. I found out later that a hefty fine was usually charged to people who did what I did, but they were willing to let me go through because I looked so pathetically lost.
2. Desert sickness
At the last moment, Daniel and I decided to book a trip into the desert in Morocco. I had been there once before with Gutsy Women Travel, and I was thrilled to show him the magic of the Sahara and how it had charmed me. Our first night went along without a hitch, but our second day we must have eaten something that had been out in the sun a little too long, because we both developed an extreme case of food poisoning.
We tried so hard to not be rude to our hosts, but I frequently had to excuse myself in order to go puke in the sand away from the camp. While I had recovered in time to mount my camel the next day, Daniel was having trouble not puking over the side of his on the two-hour trek back to civilization. I’m not sure how well we hid our sickness, and I felt horrible about making our Berber hosts feel bad about the fact we didn’t feel well.
3. Thai whiskey
Recently, I embarked on a two-day hike into the Thai wilderness north of Chiang Mai. I was definitely not up for the journey—I had spent the previous night partying and had woken up massively hungover. I managed to stumble into the red van that we would be taking to the trailhead and complete the hike with a pounding headache. Thankfully, I sweated out most the alcohol as we headed to the Hmong village where we would be staying the night.
After a delicious vegetarian dinner cooked by our guide, one of the locals passed around some rice “whiskey” that he had made himself. Each of the members of our group partook, but I could think of nothing worse than filling myself with more alcohol. Our local friend could very clearly see that I wasn’t interested, and he narrowed his eyes at me. I ended up sneaking it to my friend, Sara, who was a champ and downed it for me so it looked like I had tasted some.
How she did it, I don’t know—it smelled pretty horrible to me, and I’m sure it would have if I were sober too.
What mistakes have you made on your travels? What have you learned from them?