The Crappy Bits From 1 Year of Travel – Travel Lowlights

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We’ve had our share of ups and downs over the last 12 months of non-stop travel. We’ve had a fantastic year, go check out our travel highlight post to see our best bits, but there have been some absolutely stinking times. Some we’ve written about and shared before, some we haven’t.

This post is very honest, very real. Travelling full-time isn’t a fairy tale. We eventually travelled for over half a decade. This post is about our first year on the road. This year had more mishaps than any other!

lowlights of travel bad travel experiences

Just to prove that we don’t live charmed lives and that travel isn’t all sunshine and stardust, here are our crappy bits from one incredible year of non-stop travel.

Travel Sickness – My husband, Chef, needing emergency surgery.

Getting sick while travelling emergency surgery

When Chef disembarked from a bumpy taxi ride on Ko Phangan feeling like he’d been “kicked in the guts.” I feared appendicitis. A quick look down his trousers ( we’re married, it’s OK) revealed a tell-tale lump.

He had developed a hernia, one requiring emergency surgery. Read all about that fun week in this post.

But every cloud has a silver lining, his invalid status forced us to spend a blissful 6 weeks on Ko Phangan, the insurance covered the op, his hospital experience was excellent and he’s good as new again now.

Staying 6 weeks wasn’t part of our travel plans, places like this are expensive by Thailand standards, so we spent a lot more than we would have liked to spend during this period.

At this time we were funding an our extended gap year on savings. This was before our family travel blog took off and before I was earning a full-time living as a travel blogger.

Accidents – Our scooter crash.

scooter crash

There were no injuries other than to our bank balance. Read all about that particular drama here and think very carefully before you rent an uninsured scooter.

I avoid hiring scooters like the plague normally, but on Ko Phangan we were extremely isolated and there was no public transport available. I’d walk the 45 mins to the nearest shop most days, but from time to time we did hire bikes and yes, we put our kids on the back.

We, like a lot of other foreign tourists, got into trouble. We had to pay a lot of money for bike repairs. It was crazy expensive. A freak accident that nobody could have predicted.

Thankfully nobody was hurt, but again our savings dwindled. I had to blog harder, much, much harder.

Theft – Malaysia giving me a hard time.

Penang Street Art Malaysia

Malaysia seems to be my nemesis. We were there for an environmental catastrophe back in June last year, I was the victim of a pickpocket along with a petty hostel thief.

We stayed in the worst guest house of our entire trip and had a nasty experience or two. I don’t know what it is about Malaysia, we are just magnets for crappy happenings whenever we go there.

The good news is, Malaysia has lots of good things to offer including sensational Indian food. Find out more about our Malaysia experiences here.

Delays – 13 hours at Fort Lauderdale airport.

travel delays

Fort Lauderdale airport is possibly the least entertaining, most crowded and the grubbiest airport I’ve ever been to. ( Barcelona gets our award for the best).

Our flight to El Salvador was due to leave just after midnight, it eventually left around 2am. The kids slept, James and I had to battle to stay awake. Not our finest day.

But Florida is awesome, we’re totally in love with the many diverse experiences the state has to offer. Our post on things to do in Orlando is here.

More Sickness – Boo being sick in Laos and a hospital visit.

Luckily, nobody needed to use these.

We were in Laos for 6 weeks during the worst Dengue outbreak imaginable. We were convinced Boo (7) had Dengue. We didn’t know about the outbreak until we were already there.

After a couple of days of fever, rash, and then vomiting we decided to take him to the hospital in Vang Vieng for testing. The nurse and doctor we saw spoke no English, they did bloods, but not a test for Dengue fever.

We came away with two words of advice “Give water” and no answers. He got better, but I’m still convinced it was Dengue and that scares me.

But, despite sickness issues, we totally love Laos and we plan on going back soon to see more. Visit our Laos archives here.

No Cash – The blog money drying up.

One of my many offices around the world.

We were making decent money from the blog for a while and that influenced our decision-making. Changes in the blogosphere have caused that money to almost dry up, it’s down to a trickle.

It’s not good and has contributed to our change of plans. Read can travel blogging fund long term travel for more information.

Family Problems – A bust-up with my family making us homeless at Christmas.

Wales at Christmas is magical.

We were really looking forward to our first family Christmas in years. We left Asia early and totally changed our plans to be there. Unfortunately, our lifestyle choices put a strain on family relationships, things didn’t go to plan and we ended up with nowhere to go.

Such a shame, we don’t have to do things the ‘normal’ way, nobody does. Some just can’t see that and take our choices as rejection of their life path.

A friend said to me recently that we “weren’t actually homeless”. We were. We got in the hire car and just drove, it was a few days before Christmas, we had no friends to go to, no family, no hotel booked. Of course, we could book a hotel, we did and it cost us a lot.

We weren’t sleeping on the street, true. But we had nowhere to go and were in a country we didn’t want to be in. That’s one of the perils of choosing an alternative lifestyle.

New friends and strangers came to the rescue in the end and we eventually had the most wonderful Christmas in Wales. A sad and disappointing time for all of us though.

Go check out our Wales section, it’s a beautiful part of the world with many free attractions.

More Sickness – Chef being “proper poorly” in Laos.

Sickness Buffets Travel Food Poisoning

I told him eating from the all-you-can-eat 1 dollar buffet was a bad idea.

Luke warm, covered in flies and probably recycled. He was sick as a dog for 3 days, high fever and everything that goes with it. Silly boy, he should know better, he has training in food hygiene.

The kids and I ate a little and weren’t sick. Coincidence or something to do with 3 of us getting vaccinations in Kuala Lumpur?

More Sickness – Flu all round in Malaysia and Sri Lanka.

cows on the beach Sri Lanka

We started to drop with flu in Kuala Lumpur picked up, probably, at the excellent Malaysian Legoland from the hundreds of kids coughing and spluttering around us.

A few days later we flew to Sri Lanka, 3 of us horribly sick. I really felt for the others on that plane, I bet we spread the bug around the cabin.

Our first week in Sri Lanka we were all wiped out, my temperature reached 103.5 F and we all struggled. But I can’t think of a nicer place to be sick than Sri Lanka, we loved it and we’re going back, maybe even to live.

We do not have flu vaccinations and I would still not chose to get them.

Bed bugs

Sri Lanka with kids

Bed bugs, horrible things! But I think the reality isn’t actually as bad as the imagined nastiness 

I got over my repulsion at nits and worms years ago when my eldest briefly went to school, I’m over bed bugs now, too. A bit of itching and none of them followed us to our next accommodation.

In all my years of travel this is the first and only time I’ve ever come across them. Sadly, in Sri Lanka, one of my favourite places.

That’s it, I can’t really think of anything else. I just asked the kids, they couldn’t either, they say it was all good. So there you go, if you’re thinking of doing something similar, what’s the worst that can happen?

Something good often comes out of the bad anyway, plans change, often for the better.

We were in an earthquake in San Salvador and we saw hundreds of rats in Thailand but we loved both of those experiences, particularly the kids, they loved rat counting. One man’s crappy is another kid’s fun! I’m very glad there have been no terrifying spider incidents.

If you want more travel horror stories you need this post! The bad bits make the best stories.

Do you have fears about taking on the world?  Do you worry about the what ifs?  Would you like to share them with us in the comments? Maybe we can help.

If you'd like to hire a car during your stay, use this car rental comparison tool to find the best deal!

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About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

14 thoughts on “The Crappy Bits From 1 Year of Travel – Travel Lowlights”

  1. But don’t the crappy bits always end up as the best memories down the road. Still, it’s hard to fondly recall flu and hospital stays. Have you been to the LA airport? It may give Ft. Lauderdale a run for the money.

  2. Your blog is great! I love reading the stories and that you are keeping it real! I have found that travel misadventures do indeed make the best stories AND the best memories! My two recent favorites are when my 9 year old son got smacked on the head by a man in Costa Rica for failing to pay to use the bathroom (my kids are half Filipino and I am sure the man thought he could speak Spanish but was ignoring him) and also in Costa Rica the next week I was traveling with a friend on a bus and we accidentally left our luggage under the bus and got stuck in the middle of nowhere at night. With the help of a good Samaritan (and lots of use of our intermediate-level Spanish) we managed to get our luggage and a hotel room in a nearby town and our travel plans back on track. I hope to expand our travels to Europe and Asia so love reading blogs like yours to get ideas and inspiration!! Keep up the great work 🙂

  3. Love your blog. Enjoy London, work there everyday. If you need a place to stay. (One traveller helping another, took my teenage daughter to Cambodia, teaching English… Adore SE Asia), in Andalucia, v happy to help ( or if you need emergency help.whilst in London), could meet for a coffee (i work near Euston).

  4. Sorry you had all these mis-adventures, but I know they make the high times even better! I also find value in sharing our mishaps along with the exciting highlights. Bummer about your family; it’s hard when they don’t understand. I look forward to reading next year’s edition of highs and lows 🙂

  5. Yep, you definitely beat us on the crappy-parts … but you beat us on the highlights too!
    We had a pretty nasty experience two years ago : we showed up at the airport for our trip to Borneo only to find out our plane had left five minutes ago (the flight had been rescheduled but somebody forgot to inform us…). After 8 exhausting hours of fighting with insurance companies and travel agents we ended up in a brand new Airbus380 of Korean Airways – and discovered that Seoul has possibly the best and most (free) entertaining airport on Earth. The travel-agent reimbursed the extra tickets two weeks later – so all’s well that ends well. .. and it does make a nice story to tell!
    Take care and tell us on how it is to find a job in the UK. Talitha

  6. And you managed all that while still getting on flights and buses and managing the two children and all looking out for each other. That’s what makes a great family.
    I loved reading the highs and lows. For every up there is often a down but then the only way is up again. Life is a great balance and we wouldn’t appreciate the rainbow without the rain. Looking forward to hearing what comes next for you all. Onwards and Upwards. xox

  7. You know, when the crappy stuff happens, I complain and then forget about it. I was reading this and thinking, well we had a pretty good year… then it triggered a few bloopers of our own. Now I remember them. LOL I guess I just put them out of my mind once they pass. I should keep note as this is good stuff.

  8. You did have some nastiness! I was the medical recipient in our 4 year trip with our kids. A broken arm in Ecuador and a bad case of food poisoning in Peru. Luckily a British nurse came to my aid with Cipro. Its’s an adventure out there. I sorry to hear about your Christmas though. My family was not encouraging either. My mom thought I would ruin my kids future . She told me she would give me 30 days and we’d be back. I told the kids I don’t care if the boat sank we would float on a cooler for 31 days!

  9. Oh dear, when you put it all together that does sound like a lot of crap going down in one year, but we’ve been following your adventure long enough to know that you had so many more positive experiences 🙂 I’ve always loved your candid, warts ‘n all style of commentary on Family Travel, love your honesty xx


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