Hey, people who travel with their bed pillow. You look insane. – Jim Gaffigan

Is everyone on holiday but me? Even though my vacation is later this month, I’m still burning with jealousy at everyone else’s Instagram feed. I’m convinced everyone’s loaded with unlimited cash – and having a great time. *sobs into monogram handkerchief*

Well, for folks who are just getting a few days off, or for those who don’t have the funds to go someplace faraway exotic, and take tons of pictures in restaurants with hammocks while the rest of us roll our eyes, this post is for you!

It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on earth has ever produced the expression, ‘As pretty as an airport.’ – Douglas Adams


Remember, it’s only questionable if you ask questions. [Chiang Mai, 2014]

// I’d Rather Starve, thanks.

Hey, no doubt about it, I’ve been shocked. Seeing the variety of fried bugs at the market for your snacking pleasure was something that I could have done without. Especially the black scorpions of unusually large sizes for tourist photo ops that I avoided with unnecessary fear in Siem Reap. (They are dead, Lani, quit cowering.)

Just the other day, one of my students handed me a crispy silk worm and told me, “Delicious, teacher. Try it!”

I ran away.

The truth is sometimes the local fare is not what we’re used to – at all. We can be brave, we can feel like we’re on Fear Factor, or we can choose to avoid it all together. I think it greatly depends on the situation and what the food is. Regardless, WHAT WE EAT is a pretty big deal and is much more easily controlled when we are in our home country.

Eating well is a form of self-respect.

Flame-torched pig [Biblian, Ecuador, 2010]

// You do it Your Way, and I’ll do It mine.

This is a hard one, a doozy, and I know we do this even in our own country, and by ‘this’ I mean, “Why on earth are they doing it that way?”

Of course, I’m guilty, too. It’s impossible at times to understand why Thais do things the way that they do (drive like maniacs much?), and yes, I’ve dived deeper into those ‘whys’, but we should be aware of who were talking to, who’s around us, and our motivations.

Tourists get upset when locals treat them a certain way, but the knife cuts both ways. We all come from our own point of view, our culture, which is why understanding each other, accepting differences, and navigating through various levels of comfort can be so CHALLENGING! Traveling is a privilege, but it’s also a responsibility.

The cool thing about being famous is traveling. I have always wanted to travel across seas, like to Canada and stuff. – Britney Spears

You know what they say, two selfie sticks are better than one. [Angkor Wat, 2016]

// Other tourists, friend or Foe?

I swear every year there’s a story of someone behaving badly at Angkor Wat, and by badly, I mean, running around taking nude shots around the sacred sites. We’ll do anything for social media these days, won’t we?

After one of my old posts about being respectful around Thais, I was surprised by a couple of comments defending their “right to be ignorant”. I didn’t reply because sometimes those comments should stand alone (asshole alert! asshole alert!). Plus, I honestly was at a loss as to what to say.

I suppose when you’re on holiday you want to act like you’re on holiday. But what I hate is when you behave in a way you wouldn’t normally dare do back in your home country. “Fuck it I’m on vacation” is the excuse, but sometimes your “good time” is other people’s misery, or your stupidity you wear like a hat.

Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company. – Mark Twain

The movie that started it all. The Chinese ‘Hangover’ movie…

// Clash of Cultures (Chinese and Thai)

While the Chinese and Thai governments are strengthening ties and making way for the sweeping numbers of Chinese tourists, some Thais are not pleased with the differences they are enduring. I’ve already spoke about a few of these incidences since I was living in Chiang Mai at the time when the first wave of clashes began.

Although, I’m surprised as many Thais have Chinese blood in them, and you’d think they would be more forgiving or welcoming of Chinese tourists, but this is not the case. I’ve written about this a lot already, but I will share that when I went to a restaurant near the Chiang Rai bus station, I had to go to the WC. There was a Chinese sign over the toilet to remind folks to flush the toilet. Yeahhhh.

Spain travel tip: If bathroom genders are indicated by flamingos, the boy flamingo is the one with a hat. I learned this the hard way. – Dave Barry

A rental parked in a no parking zone. Surprise! [Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2014]

// it’s a Crime being ripped off

Somehow everything is magnified when we travel. But let’s face it, a bad experience anywhere is a bad experience. Short term glory on the thief’s part can create a lifetime of loathing for a city or a country with the tourist.

Crime, I believe also keeps many people from ever traveling outside their home country. I think this is particularly true for Americans, but as statics have shown this has changed dramatically over the last 20 years as more folks are getting out there.

But I remember when my old boss came out to Thailand with his family. They had a great time until they were ripped off by a taxi driver in Bangkok. The BF was cycling through Vietnam when his backpack was taken. Luckily, it didn’t have much in it just his jacket. I met a guy in a bus line in Laos who experienced the same thing. And unfortunately, I know a lot of similar stories from the time I lived in Ecuador.

What can also derail a vacation horribly is when you’ve committed a crime you weren’t even aware of! For example, if you accidentally overstay your tourist visa in Thailand, you will be banned from the country. One day equals one year!

A friend gave me those wristbands. They’re supposed to prevent motion sickness. I’m wearing the mask because the bus fumes were super strong. [Cañar, Ecuador, 2010]

// Whaddya mean, you’re sick?

Airline travel is hours of boredom interrupted by moments of stark terror.  – Al Bolisk

Ahhh, my Christmas in Luang Prabang, Laos back in 2009 or 2010. We ate something questionable and proceeded to spend the rest of our time taking turns using the toilet and changing our plans to return to Thailand by (expensive) air travel.

One of my colleagues had to cancel his trip to Vietnam when he got food poisoning in Cambodia. And let me tell you, I’ve seen enough people hobbling around, bandaged up after getting into motorbike accidents. (If you don’t know how to drive one, learning on holiday might not be the best way to go!)

Adventure, yeah. I guess that’s what you call it when everybody comes back alive. – Mercedes Lackey


What did I miss? What ugly sides of traveling have you seen?


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27 replies on “✈️ Skip the vacation (or the ugly side of traveling)

  1. Holidays shine brightest when you have low, low expectations. Just plan to read a book and eat something and you’re all good. Long, detailed itineraries are a recipe for disaster. Also ‘hotel’ swapping is a pitfall I fall into most of the time but when I resist the experience is always better

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! I like it. We do build ourselves up when we plan something big or have been anticipating something for a long time.

      What do you mean by hotel swapping? Upgrading your room?


      1. Oh, right. I get it. Yeah, on occasion I’ve been tempted to play ‘travel writer’ and see what’s out there. Yeah, generally not a good idea, I agree.


    1. I have a worse pig picture, but decided against posting it. Basically, it’s my friends taking a photo in front of a dead pig. At the markets in Ecuador, a common sight to see the whole pig, face out, for your snacking pleasure.


      1. On one level I appreciate that. I think there would be less cruelty to animals generally and less meat eaten if people had more sensitivity and awareness of what meat actually is and the road it has taken to the taken, so to speak


      2. It’s sort of strange, really. On the one hand, Asians are much more in contact and aware of where their meat comes from, but they have a tendency to treat animals poorly (in comparison with the West).

        But in the US, for instance, most Americans have a much more ‘sanitized’ experience with meat, but they have more sensitivity regarding the treatment of animals.

        Broad sweeping statements, but generally true from what I’ve seen…


      3. I think this is correct. Many more animal corpses on display even here in HK than back home. People tend to eat a lot more of the animal as well — which is a good thing on one level.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. On an overseas flight we saw a woman in the window seat walk across the other two passengers in her socky feet ON the arm rests! She did this several times. It is a good thing she wasn’t in our row.

    Another time, in Bangkok I was physically knocked down on purpose by a Thai man walking with his girlfriend on a sidewalk where there was plenty of room for the four of us. I was shaken and a little bruised, but we kept moving for fear of getting into a confrontation. Old foreign white couple was an easy target.

    While traveling we keep our US passports hidden while in the airport and we don’t speak to each other except in a whisper. We are always watching. Many times in airports, and busy train stations we have been stalked by pickpockets. We look them in the eye and convey the “busted” look. They always go away. Better to be aware than sorry.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow. Those are quite the examples. I want to say I’ve seen something similar in an airplane, but it seems so fantastic that I’m not really sure. Maybe when it’s a kid or when you know the people you are sitting next to, but still, yeah, that’s hella stupid. (No worries, this aircraft is perfectly stable and the people around you won’t get hurt if you fall on them!)

      I had no idea you were knocked down over here. My goodness, the more I hear, it’s no wonder you left. Utterly shocking. I’m sure you and Mr. Hat have gone over why or the possibilities over and over again. There’s no justification and I hate when we have to accept injustices.

      Jeez. Many times? Another thing to look forward to as I get older? becoming an ‘easy’ target? NOOOOOO. A good reminder though as I waver between zombie-mode and hyper-aware when I’m traveling.


  3. I generally love travelling but hate all the waiting around in airports. Thankfully I have no real travel horror stories though I do agree that if anything spoils a place it tends to be the behaviour of other tourists.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think I’m still glowing after seeing your IG bread post. Hahahahhaaa.

      Yeah, I often like to say, I like going to new places, but the getting there – sheesh – I can do without.


      1. 😄😍.
        Little wonder big airport departure areas are crammed full of luxury shops. They have a captive audience of bored folks with travel money.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Okay. I’m reading this on the wrong day. I’m leaving for Hawaii tomorrow. It’s not a foreign country, but the food is not exactly what I cook in my house and the ocean is warmer there. I’ll be traveling with my children and grandchildren, which should be fun. Note to self: I don’t have to be as adventurous as they are.

    Ugly side of travel: scam artists. I fell for one in Suva long ago, and I’m still feeling stupid.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha! No worries, I know it’s the time of year. Hawaii I’m sure will be lovely. Hawaii’s food is the best and so are the beaches, I’m convinced.

      Perhaps one day you’ll share your Suva story. It could be cathartic!


  5. My pet hate is when all people will talk about is travel delays on the way home…yeah, good holiday but Rip-off Airlines were crap and the bus to the airport was 5 minutes late…
    BTW, I’m a Brit and I’d have thought that Stonehenge would be a perfect place to run round naked connecting with our ancestors, yet no one ever does it. Could it be the weather?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Really? Curious as to why the delay-talk bothers you? Is it the complaining?

      I understand that we are lucky to live in the age of conveniences, and that too much complaining is annoying, but also, some of the travel stories of lost luggage and missed flights is insane.

      Stonehenge is probably too cold. Hahahahaha.


  6. Ugly sides of traveling for me: everything about air travel from going to the airport, passing the immigration to collecting the luggage (what a waste of time – I need a portkey), breaking from and adjusting back to the routines and rituals, depleted bank account and post-vacation tiredness as I like to explore as much as I can while on vacation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, you nailed it. I find myself judging countries based on how quickly and efficiently they can get me through immigration. Thailand is the worst.

      Once, they tried to make me go through twice, in Bangkok and again in Chiang Rai, and when I told them NO, they ignored me, thinking I was a Chinese tourist (the place was filled with them), but I marched out and they then realized their mistake.

      I hate the luggage carousel moment, “did my bags make it?” so stressful waiting to see your stuff.


  7. This was a fun post to read, Lani. I think with each travel trip there is bound to be an ugly side to it. So agree with you on the food point. Fried bugs is a no no for me too. In fact, when I travel these days I stick with foods I usually know or try new foods when a local friend has tried it a million times before. One time I had a plate of noodles from an air-conditioned well-known restaurant-chain in Jakarta, Indonesia. The restaurant looked clean and all, looked first class compared to a hawker centre. I ate the noodles and later that day I kept running to the toilet and spent the next two days in the hotel.
    Flight delays. Cancelled flights. Waiting a long time for your luggage to come out at the terminal. Lost luggage. Card declined when you are trying to pay for a snack, or discovering having no cash on you to pay. Coming down with a cold that lasts for a couple of weeks and you don’t have travel insurance and can’t see a doctor. Yeah, been there 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Damn. You’ve got examples! Yeah, overall, I feel lucky because I know someone out there has a worst travel story. Sometimes they can be funny when we look back at them, and other times, it just is a bad memory.

      And guess what I won’t be doing? A follow up on the great sides of traveling! 😛


  8. Well, it’s a seedy hotel that is um memorable. In CAnada. 🙂 We’re spoiled in North America….we get to throw our used toilet paper in the toilet whereas in Seoul, it’s in the garbage can.

    I missed out on a huge hunk of Florence, because I had mosquito bites that swelled up 3 times their size. We were running around to an Italian pharmacy to find steroid cream..my accompanying sister is a pharmacist.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, yes, bad hotels. Classic. It was so bizarre to get to Asia and discover that hotel/guest house/resort lobbies can very often be deceiving. They put a lot of care into lobbies and general/public spaces and then you go up to your room – and – TADA! It’s drab and not as nearly as spotless and shiny as you were led to believe.

      And bug bites! I remember when I was doing archaeology/field work in college and these bug bites got infected; in fact, it sounds like you had the same thing. An allergic reaction and so I went to the hospital and the staff was like, “Ooooh, what’s that?” And I’m like, “Uhh, was hoping you could tell me.”


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