The Worst Travel Experiences of 2016

~ Carmen

Even though Joe and I have been experienced travelers and campers for most of our dating/marriage relationship, this is the first year of our travel blog and so the first real year of keeping track of what has been excursions earning smiles from ear to ear or adventures that we’d like to forget.

And so as we look back on 2016, there were some travels experiences that we definitely would hope to never repeat.  It won’t keep us from loading up the truck or boarding a plane.  The pluses of travel add so much to our quality of life.  BUT, let’s not experience those unwanted adventures again.


Carmen’s Worst Travel Experiences

I have 2–

#1- The first involves our last camping trip as tent campers (read The Last Tent Standing) last April.  I was accompanying Joe to a mountain bike festival in northwest Arkansas.  The location of the festival was close to where my daughter goes to college, so I could visit her while Joe was free wheeling his bicycle between trees and rocks.  We had recently bought our first camper, but all camper campsite spots were full.  This wasn’t a concern because we had everything we needed to pitch our tent.

My idea sleep doesn’t include frozen eyelashes and rock hard firmness of the ground.

What we didn’t expect was below freezing temperatures.  It was cold!  We had brought jackets, hats, gloves, and extra clothing to keep warm as we tried to sleep.  We even brought a little propane heater, but we did not have enough propane!  We woke up in the middle of the night covered in frost.  No, problem.  I’m not a wimp.  I just huddled closer to Joe on our air mattress.

Last Tent Standing

It only looked sunny. At night it dipped down to below freezing


All was fine and dandy until the air mattress sprung a leak.  I know some of you are outdoor survivalists conditioned to sleep on frozen tundra, eat raw meat, and weave your own clothes.  I’m not that person.  I’m about to turn nifty 50.  I go to a chiropractor.  I don’t go to yoga two times a week for the fun of it, but to keep my knees and back from giving way when getting out of bed.  Sleeping on a firm bed of rocks is not within my tolerance level.  I woke up Saturday morning around 3 a.m. with my eyelashes frozen together and sleeping in the bottom of the V-of a deflated air mattress with my face contorted onto Joe’s face.  Later in the morning, my expectations were dashed for a hot cup of coffee made more of a challenge with no propane for the camp stove and frozen wood for a fire.  Luckily, I was a Girl Scout leader, so I got the fire going and a delicious pot of coffee, toast, and eggs made the horrible night not so bad.

Nothing tastes better that a campfire breakfast!


#2- My second worst experience would not be considered a bad experience by a lot of people.  Some might even think it was breathtakingly beautiful.  Indeed, driving through the Swiss Alps was spectacular sight (read 3 Reasons to Spend a Day in Lucerne, Switzerland).  Unfortunately, I have a phobia of falling off of mountainsides.  I’m fine on tall bridges.  Balconies don’t raise my blood pressure.  Observation decks are fine, too.  There is something about being on the side of a mountain.  Maybe it stems from growing up in the flat delta of southern Arkansas.  Maybe, it is because I’m a control freak and I can’t control rock slides.  Regardless of the cause, you won’t find many pictures of my girls from our trip to Colorado.  When I traveled to Guatemala, I spent most of the road trip in an open air truck with my eyes closed, leaning towards the center aisle away from the mountainside, because as you know, my weight balanced towards the center would help the truck stay up on the road.

You have nothing to fear but falling 1,000 feet to your death.

Last June, Joe and I traveled through Germany, Austria, and Switzerland with a group of middle school students from the school where I teach 6th grade.  One of our hotels was high up in the mountains outside of Lucerne, Switzerland.  We were traveling in a long, I repeat long, chartered bus (Can you see where this is headed?).  The road leading up to the hotel was switchback after switchback.  The road was also under repair meaning no guardrail.  Not that a guardrail could keep a long, long chartered bus from tumbling off of the mountain, but mentally, it helps me.  So no guard rail.  No shoulder.  Just smiling Swiss road construction workers, who at least had a safety line connecting them to the earth.  I spent the entire hour up the mountain with my eyes closed, praying with the occasional gag reflex kicking in from mounting stomach acid.

No bus should ever go down this road!


The next day, the trip down the mountain was even worse.  Now we had the added element of fog.  And everyone knows that a bus’s brakes can go out more easily going down than going up!  Next time I’m in the Alps, I will stick to trains and gondolas which don’t scare me at all.


Joe’s Worst Travel Experiences

Only 1 (because I’m a man and that’s how we roll)- In our 7th day of our summer 12-day European vacation I was afflicted at the most inopportune time with shingles.  You know, the bad looking rash that the commercial advises old people to vaccinate against.  Well, 48 is not old, but apparently you can get shingles at any age.  AND, it is not just a scary little rash.  It is a debilitating pain that will make you want to curl up in a ball and cry for your mama.  Even now, 6 months later, my torso has a permanent scar circling it that will itch like crazy about three times a day.

At the initial onset on day three of our trip, I was experiencing an increasing side ache, a self diagnosis with WebMD the pain mimics several ailments such as appendicitis, kidney failure, or stones. My lovely wife even chided me for not walking enough before the trip…”Everybody is sore, Joe.  Suck it up, Buttercup!”  (read 3 Reasons to Visit Neuschwanstein Castle).  Initially, I attributed it to the strain of pushing myself on the excursions we took in the first three days.  A couple of Motrin/Advil I would push through.

As the pain increased I vowed to go through the tour as I always told myself to take the experience good or bad as it may be the only opportunity to take advantage of the experience.  I didn’t want to curtail our trip with my wife, daughter, and in-laws touring the trip of a lifetime.  Our group had a physician on vacation who diagnosed me with shingles at day 7 with visible blisters.  Coincidently another member of our group was afflicted with shingles as well and were flying out the next day. I found it was stress triggering my dormant chicken pox virus into shingles. Stress?  In any case I would have to wait out the treatment as the most  effective window was 72-hours of onset.  I was past the “nip it in the bud” stage.

After all, how bad could a little rash be?

Forewarning–it can be bad.  The following video was taken before it became bad.  When it was at its worst, I wouldn’t let Carmen near me.  View at your own risk.


The remaining days of our trip were tolerable with bucket loads of Advil. It only became unbearable on the 12 hour flight back in coach seating. With the tight seating and limited range of motion tested my pain threshold. I wouldn’t wish that flight on my worst enemy.  But I’m not one to dwell and try to always see the good in everything (drives Carmen crazy).  My thoughts about this experience are this–Overall I got to experience Europe with a my new friend Shingles. Europe was a sight to see and it pained me to no end.

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Did you have any bad travel experiences this year?  Please share by commenting below!  

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~ Carmen

The Worst Travel Experiences of 2016





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