Because shit sometimes gets really weird!
Travel can be fun, exhilarating, exciting, liberating. Travel is about those times when you say “yes, yes! YES!” to experiences and people that otherwise you’d have been like…
So there are bound to be times when you look around and you’re like…
Here are my top 11 what the actual fuck moments: those times when I’ve been so confused as to how I got somewhere, why I was with someone, and wtf we were doing.
1. Riding a motorbike through remote jungle in Thailand at midnight with no lights. Or brakes.
Yeah, pretty much what it says. We’re on the four hour journey back from Chang Mai to Pai in northern Thailand, winding through mountains thick with dark jungle on barely roads, when the sun goes down and we realise we’ve got no lights on our motorbikes. None. Oh and no rear brakes. I think it’s the one and only time I truly believed I was going to die, planning how my mum would find out and who would find by mangled body going to die. I was beyond terrified. How did I get in this position? Why didn’t I check before I left the rental place? Luckily, a friendly Thai guy on a motorbike which had functioning head lights (smart man) helped guide us back to the outskirts on Pai by letting us drive close enough behind him to share his light. To this man wherever you are right now, you are a literal lifesaver, thank you!
2. Getting head lice in same Thai jungle
As if that wasn’t traumatising enough, I woke up the next morning with an insanely itchy scalp – turns out the helmet I’d been riding with over the last few days was infested with head lice. WTF?! am I 5? Want to know how you de-lice yourself in the jungle? With a palm leaf. No shit. An actual palm leaf, so big a rat could have cart-wheeled through its fronds, let alone a microscopic nit. I gave it a shot. It didn’t work. Thank god we found a pharmacy that sold nit shampoo and that seemed to do the trick, but by god I never felt so ridiculous as sitting on our hut’s bamboo patio stroking my head with a palm leaf when all I wanted to do was scalp myself.
3. Escaping a landslide in New Zealand
On our way round New Zealand’s South Island, we needed to cross from the west coast to Lake Wanaka, and the quickest way was through a section of road, carved into the mountains, known as Haast Pass. We were on a tight schedule and had to make the crossing in order to see everything we wanted to and get the campervan back to the rental place in time. Instead of cruising through this spectacular landscape, we were greeted by road blocks: we had just missed a landslide on the road about an hour earlier, in which a camper was knocked off the side of the cliff-face and all passengers killed. We were so incredibly lucky, if we’d have left our last campsite earlier that could have been us! We stopped in Haast for a few days in the end, sleeping in the car park of a possum fur shop with a bunch of French guys who were stranded just like us. It forced us to slow down and to remember what a privilege travel is, how dangerous it can be, and just how grateful we should be, to simply be alive and enjoy every single day. Find out more about my adventures in New Zealand over here.
4. Watching the sunrise in bed in Vermont’s Green Mountains
I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking, but needless to say this was one of those travel moments when you’re like “how is the world this beautiful?” Big thanks the Airbnb and the wonders of the world for this one!
5. Champagne dinner with Napoleon
In Warsaw earlier this year, we decided to treat ourselves to dinner at a swanky hotel, an ‘all you can drink’ champagne dinner. Reading up on the night, anyone who knows me will not be surprised to hear that I stopped after ‘all you can drink champagne’, paid my euros and didn’t bother to find out any more about it. We turn up late and rush through the first few courses to catch up with everyone else. Then the projector comes on. Turns out this isn’t the boozy 9-course affair I was imagining, but an homage to Napoleon, the (in)famous son of the French village where the champagne comes from. So we’re eating dinner, watching a re-enactment of one of Napoleon’s battles on a large stand-up projector screen, surrounded by modern art in this super fancy hotel (nudes, there were lots of nudes) when the sword comes out. Apparently chopping the top of your champagne bottle off with a huge sword is a thing… One of the weirdest dinner experiences ever!
“Three months later, on New Year’s Day, there I was sitting on my top bunk in a hostel in Sydney, popping the pus-iest, grossest blister I’ve ever seen,!”
6. Getting my phone stolen, and then returned, in Myanmar
I returned to Myanmar in January this year and decided to go west, into the Rakhine State, which has only recently opened up to tourists. This has its pros and cons, which I’ll discuss in a later post, but needless to say it’s one of the poorest parts of the country. What did we do? We stupidly left our iPhone in our bike baskets while we went Indiana Jones-ing it up a hill to visit a ruined temple in the famous archaeological city of Mrauk U. When we turned to come back down the hill we saw a Burmese man cycling like mad away from our bikes – what’s that about? A quick getaway it turns out: he’d stolen the phone. We decided to head back to the hostel to report it, unsure of what they could do, but it seemed like the best plan at the time, when, on our way back up the road another guy came cycling towards us, shouting and manically waving his arm in the air. He was waving something when it caught the light and the flash made us stop. He came over and handed us back the phone that had been stolen not half an hour ago. It wasn’t the same guy, or at least as far as we could tell. He didn’t speak any English and would not take anything from us as a thank you.
What we think happened was that whoever stole it realised it was a tourist’s phone and was too scared to try and sell it on, afraid of what the police might do if caught. It was a moment for mixed emotions; stupidity for ever leaving the temptation in this guy’s way in the first place, coupled with joy and disbelief in getting the phone back on the one hand, on the other it kind of left a bad taste. The guy might have given it back out of charity, but in all likelihood it was fear that motivated him the most, and we felt hugely embarrassed that we would be so careless with our belongings to put this man in such an awful dilemma. As I say, more on the Rakhine State in a future post, but if you’d like to know what else goes in Myanmar, there’s a load more crazy situations like this one over here.
7. Mini-surgery on my toe in a hostel bunk in Sydney
I’d gotten a piece of coral stuck in my big toe while in Langkawi (which you can read more about here) and it wouldn’t budge. Everyone told me my body would eventually reject it and so I left it alone. Three months later, on New Year’s Day, there I was sitting on my top bunk in a hostel in Sydney, popping the pus-iest, grossest blister I’ve ever seen, when the tip of this coral starts poking out. I tug on it with a pair of tweezers and it starts to slide out of my toe. Thinking about it even now makes my tummy do flips. It just kept coming out! It seemed to be about a metre long – in reality it was probably like and inch long. So surreal. So fucking gross!
8. Seeing orangutans in the wild in Borneo
I don’t think I’ve had an encounter with nature and the wild as profound as this. Three nights spent in the jungle of Indonesian Borneo, hiking, sweating like a sinner in church, picking leeches from in between my toes, and for the first few days there was nothing. But this made spotting my first truly wild orangutan all the more amazing. I cried. I was shocked by just how human-like they are, cradling their babies, pelting us with tree branches and fruits in warning in case we got too close. What made the whole thing even more poignant was the whirring of chainsaws in the far distance, barely audible, but constant throughout our stay, a reminder that these beautiful creatures are living in danger and we were so so privileged to share what remains of their habitat with them. Want to know more about my experience with these stunning animals? Check this out.
9. Breakfast on our private beach in the Bay of Bengal
I’m a massive fan of AirBnB (Vermont and now this place, wtf?) and even more so after we found this paradise in western Myanmar, on the Bay of Bengal. Run by the lovely Yvonne and Ronald, this Dutch Burmese duo were the best hosts, and their bungalow was an absolute world away from the more touristy (well, as touristy as Myanmar gets) Ngapali Beach. Each morning, Ronald (who is the best cook) would bring us a tray bulging with breakfast – everything from traditional Burmese mohinga, to jam and peanut butter on toast – and we’d enjoy it overlooking their deserted beach. Not a soul other than us, Ronald and Yvonne, their dogs and the cows in the field behind our hut. How did I even get here?! Bliss!
10. Getting a tattoo in Bali one rainy day
What do you do when you’re back in Ubud Bali, you’re templed out and it’s pouring with rain? Not content with just chilling on our veranda, reading a book or checking in for a massage, we thought it’d be fun to go hang out at the tattoo parlour. Now I’m not saying that this is everyone’s cup of tea, or that you should necessarily jump into something like this – I’d actually been thinking about getting a second nose piercing and another tattoo for a while and this seemed like the perfect time. A few hours later, rain having subsided, I emerged with an extra piercing and Hamsa-inspired design on my back. I love both, they are the best souvenirs, and a reminder to not postpone things you really want to do in life: be brave and go for it!
11. Putting my hands in the imprints left my pre-historic man in Spain
Northern Spain, and more specifically the Cantabrian Coast, is home to 17 prehistoric caves, each with their own unique treasures. We visited El Castillo cave in Puente Viesgo, and was blown away by Europe’s oldest cave art: buffalo and hand prints from ancient man, more than 35,000 years ago. A trip to these UNESCO World Heritage protected caves is a journey into the past and the connection we felt with history and heritage was way stronger than I’ve ever felt going round a museum. Actual hand prints from real people who lived in these very caves thousands and thousands of years ago. Mind. Blown.
So yeah, travel is inspiring toes in sand, cocktails by the pool and all that insta-worthy stuff. But it’s also the little moments, the weird shit, the times when you’re forced to look up, look around and think “wtf is happening?”
Thanks for stopping by! Why not stick around and check out more of my adventures?