Friday, June 12, 2015

Embarrassing Stories from Abroad

As a teenager, one of my favorite things to do was read aloud with friends from the embarrassing stories section of magazines like Seventeen or CosmoGirl: "OMG, my crush saw me do a belly flop at the pool! I was mortified."

With traveling to different countries, through strange cultures and speaking foreign languages, embarrassing moments happen. A lot.

I know this well because I have many stories much worse than those in the teenage magazines. But I don't always want to share these moments on here because, well, they're embarrassing!

I thought it would ease my nerves a little bit by asking a few other bloggers to share their mortifying moments along with mine.

Read on for my story and others that will make you blush from across the globe. 

Grow Shop Pantie Drop

In Spain, growing marijuana for your own recreational or medicinal use is legal. For this reason, you'll see many "Grow Shops" while walking around the major cities. These shops don't actually sell the plant, but they do provide the seeds and other materials used to grow and smoke it.

During my year in Madrid, I lived in an apartment above a grow shop. There were usually some hip, young people hanging around, but other than that we didn't notice the shop much. However, our laundry lines hung in a hollow part of the building directly above their patio filled with mulch, pots, ladders and other gardening supplies.

One day, I was short on time before work and didn't remove all of my dry laundry from the line. I left about ten or twelve pairs of clean underwear hanging from the clothespins. While I was gone, an afternoon storm came through and blew all of my panties off the line and scattered them, soaking wet, into the patio below.

While I would have loved to just forget about them and go buy a few new pairs, I was on a budget and didn't want to blow my hard earned Euros on a bunch of new underwear. So I marched downstairs, and tried to tell the attractive, tattooed guy in his 20s about my predicament. I thought my Spanish was good, but explaining panties in a patio was difficult. He eventually understood, but instead of letting me retrieve them, he walked into the patio, grabbed a few pairs and returned with a wet, lacy handful.

I had to tell him there were more. "No. Hay mas," I said while feeling the heat coming off of my blushing cheeks. He goes back out and I find a small window looking out into the patio where I end up yelling directions to this Easter Egg Hunt for thongs. "There's another hanging from the latter!" "One is in the bushes!" "Check on top of that shelf!" By this time I've forgotten all of the Spanish I know and I'm fumbling for words.

At the end of the whole thing, I'm laughing while counting sopping wet pairs of underwear on his glass counter above a display of bongs. He offers a plastic bag so I can carry them upstairs. I accept. He once again takes my panties, puts them in a bag and hands it to me along with a business card. On my way out, I promise to visit his shop another time... I never did.

- Kelsey. Follow this blog on Facebook!

Fried rice, hold the rice

It was 2009 and my first time in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. I had heard so much about how good nasi goreng is, so I couldn't wait to try it out.

One night, my Couchsurfing friends and I went to the market to eat dinner. I saw a food stall advertising nasi goreng, so I quickly went there and ordered. "I want nasi goreng, please," I said, "but without the rice." The vendor just stared at me, so after a few seconds of uncomfortable silence, I just said never mind.

It was only later when I realized how bad it sounded; in effect, I ordered fried rice (which is what nasi goreng is) without the rice!

- Aleah of Solitary Wanderer. Follow her on Instagram!

Special delivery

I was flying from Knoxville, Tennessee to London, England for my first solo international trip.  I navigated through airport security and stopped at the Starbucks for a Chai Tea to enjoy before my flight.  I sat down near my gate.  I set my wallet and tea on the side table.  I took out my headphones and enjoyed my tea.  My flight was called and I got boarded my plane.

As I made my plane swap in Atlanta, I turned on my phone.  I had 5 missed calls from a number I didn’t recognize.  I listened to my messages.  “Jennifer.  This is Robert at McGhee Tyson Airport.  You left your wallet at the gate.  I am sending it on the next flight from Knoxville to Atlanta.  That flight lands at 12:25 pm at gate B23.  Please meet it at the gate.”  My heart drops and I start to panic.  I search my bags and sure enough, no wallet.  My passport, credit cards, and cash are all in that wallet.  I couldn’t believe it.  Thank you, Robert for looking my name up in your computer system and calling me about my wallet.  Learned my lesson NEVER set anything down that is supposed to be in a bag, or so I thought.  Don't ask about that incident in Colombia with my new DSLR camera.

- Jennifer of Made all the Difference. Follow her adventures on Facebook!

No visa, no big problem!

Before traveling to Nicaragua, I read a lot of articles about visa requirements, but most of them were from American and European travel blogs. I also checked out quite a few Filipino travellers who have been to Nicaragua, but I now know that they had a valid US / Europe / Australia Visa which I didn't have.

When I arrived at the Nicaraguan border Immigration, the officer asked for my USA visa which I told him I don't have and so he asked me where is my Nicaraguan visa from the Consulate and I told him I didn't need it based on what I had read online. The official didn’t want to deal with me and told me "NO, you can't enter the country and step aside." The bus driver heard it and told me that the bus was leaving anytime soon because the other passengers were waiting. I was frustrated, no internet and no one to call too… And then I started crying!

Luckily, a lady official saw me and came over to help, after many questions and phone calls she discovered that I could actually get a visa on arrival, which took more questions, stamps and about 1 hour more of waiting. While I know that if I hadn’t started crying that the woman may not have noticed me and come over to help, but I still felt embarrassed, both by the crying and by being the only one to be singled out and refused entry.

- Kach of Two Monkey's Travel. Follow their adventures on Facebook!

A calculated response

I was 17 when I did a road trip through California with my parents and six-year younger brother. We spent our final three days in a hotel in San Diego to relax a bit before flying home, but one of these days my parents had planned to visit the San Diego Zoo and they left my brother and me the choice to go with them or to stay at the hotel and order room service for breakfast. Not a tough choice. Room service it was!

We were sharing a room at that time and so when a hotel guy came to bring us breakfast and handed over the bill, it was my job to sign it and... decide on his tip. Now, I'm from Belgium and we don't have obligatory tips here. Whenever we're really pleased with a service, we'll tip, or when we get some change back we'll just leave some behind on the table. I knew it had to be like 10-15%, but because of the stress (and the fact that the hotel guy was pretty cute), mathematics seemed like a concept I hadn't heard of yet.

So I... took out my cell phone to use the calculator on it to figure out was his tip was supposed to be! I quickly filled in the amount and signed the bill, blushing from my cheeks until behind my ears.

- Sofie of Wonderful Wanderings. Follow her adventures on Facebook!

Watch your step 

Jen and I recently found ourselves at the Rufeng Night Market in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Taiwan has some amazing night markets that are a mix of food, clothes and carnival games.

I was looking at a clothing booth, stepped closer, my large, women's 9.5 foot hit the pole supporting the clothing display and down it all came crashing.

I felt terrible as an array of tshirts plummeted to the ground. "Watch your step" has never carried so much meaning.

- Kiki of Wanderlust Explorers. Follow them on Facebook!

Which story do you think was the most embarrassing?
Have you ever had any similar experiences while traveling?
Leave a comment below!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

There's snow place like Taos

New Mexico is not all deserts and cacti. While it does have plenty of that, it's also home to the southernmost tip of the Rocky Mountains. And with that elevation, of course there comes snow.

Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico

At the beginning of March, towards the end of the ski season, some friends and I met up for a few days on the slopes at Taos Ski Valley. The base of the valley has an elevation of 9,207 feet and the highest point is Kachina Peak with an elevation of 12,450 feet.

By a chance of luck, 40 inches of fresh powder coated the already snowy mountains shortly before we arrived, leaving us with near-perfect conditions, especially compared to what we're accustomed to on the East Coast.

Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico
Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico
Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico
Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico

One of the things that makes Taos so special is that it's not particularly close to any major city or airport. We flew into Albuquerque and drove three hours to get there. This sets it apart from resorts like Vail, Park City and Breckenridge that attract crowds of weekenders throughout the season. 

Taos Ski Valley has more of a family feel than a commercial one. I cannot speak highly enough of the staff and locals that were incredibly welcoming. It's not unusual for strangers to say hello and strike up a short convo in passing.

And unlike other resorts, there is no pretentiousness there. No notice of separation between experienced and unexperienced. No mocking the gapers. Maybe it's just their need for tourism or the general vibe of the friendly mountain town, but everyone we met was warm and helpful.

Overall, the views were stunning, the runs abundant, the staff welcoming - it's hard to imagine it any better than it was.

Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico
Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico
Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico
Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico
Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico

One night after a long day on the slopes, we hit up the hot tub in our condo's complex. A guy was already there when we arrived, so we started talking about Taos. He was working on the slopes for the season and told us some tips and tricks for the ski valley and shared his love of Kachina Peak.

He also scolded us for being in the hot tub when, as tourists, we should be soaking in the natural hot springs nearby. So the next evening, after another full day of snowboarding, we were on an adventure in search of Manby Hot Springs. 

Manby Hot Springs in Taos, New Mexico

Manby Hot Springs in Taos, New Mexico

Now, of course our directions to the springs weren't very clear. We took long, dusty roads into what seemed like the middle of nowhere where we were instructed to park on the edge of the gorge and take the "old wagon trail" that leads to the hot spring.

"Old Wagon Trail." What does that even mean? Of about four options, we took the one that seemed the most "wagon-ish" for about a half mile until we realized it couldn't be right. We tried a few more paths and almost left, satisfied enough with the sunsets views over the Rio Grande gorge.

Manby Hot Springs in Taos, New Mexico
Manby Hot Springs in Taos, New Mexico

With one last hope and the sun fading quickly, we found the narrow trail (that could no way ever fit a wagon). It led us to a steep, windy path down the gorge to the river. The hot springs sat right on the edge of the Rio Grande and were surprisingly warm. Probably right under 100°F.

The water felt great on our tired legs, but since it took us so long to find the springs, we could only enjoy it for a short time before the sun went down.

Manby Hot Springs in Taos, New Mexico
IMG_0234Manby Hot Springs in Taos, New Mexico
Manby Hot Springs in Taos, New Mexico

While this was strictly a ski trip, we spent each day on the slopes and didn't have much time to explore the pueblo, artisan colony and local brewery scene. While I regret it, we had to stick to our priorities for our limited time frame. And if anything, it just makes me want to go back even more. Until next time, Taos! You didn't disappoint!

Have you taken a memorable ski trip? Ever visited a hot spring?

Share your story in the comments below! 

NOTE: To get to Manby Hot Springs in Taos, take US 68 towards the gorge bridge. Turn right at Tune Road. Make sure you have a car that can handle dirt, mud and rough roads. Take lefts at each fork until you get to the parking area at the top of the gorge. Looking out at the river, the trail will be on your left. It's the trail closest to the edge of the gorge. It's narrow, unmarked and leads left down to the east side of the river. The breathtaking views of the gorge make the hike worthwhile. Especially at sunset. There are two pools on the edge of the river. Sometimes more depending on the season. The water temperature ranges from 94° to 100°F. The walk down and back up can easily take close to an hour, so plan well or bring flashlights.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine Puns for the Traveler in Your Life

If your Valentine is a map-loving, globe-trotting traveler, he or she may be more into tickets than truffles and prefer road trips over roses. You will definitely need to use the right words to really win 'em over. Lucky for you, I've designed some very funny punny Valentines to share with yours on this special day.

 Words submitted by @estrellaexplore of

Feel free to download, print and share these with your valentines.

Can you think of any valentine travel puns that I missed? Leave your ideas in the comments! 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

17 Creative Travel #Hashtags to Use & Follow on Instagram

I love Instagram and I'm not afraid to admit it. I'm not the least bit ashamed of my slight addiction because I'm willing to bet that most of you are similarly obsessed. Well, why would you have clicked on this post if you don't love Instagram? And just in case you're not a fan of the fast, easy, double-tapping social media platform, you may not want to stick around. We probably wouldn't get along anyway.

For travelers and anyone who would like to travel (that's basically everyone, right?), Instagram allows us to share our current adventures or virtually cure the travel bug by scrolling through other people's adventures.

Recently, I've grown pretty tired of the typical #hashtags that I, along with most other travel bloggers, am using. Many blogs instruct us to add #travel, tag the country you're in, then the city, and maybe add in an #instatravel or #wanderlust, then post for the world and pray for the likes. While this may be effective, it can get pretty boring. Especially when I'm looking through the #travel feed and the photos are a blend with such a broad theme.

So in order to spark a little creative inspiration with your travel photos, I've put together a list of my favorite creative travel hashtags:

1. #FromWhereIStand

This is the perfect selfie for people who aren't too photogenic, but do wear great kicks and stand in cool places. These pictures are also a reminder for all of us travelers as to where our feet have taken us. Why not take a picture like this in every country/city/continent and start your own collection!

(Clockwise from top left: 1. @emilyblincoe - ;  2. @matteovetran0 ;

2. #JustBackFrom

If they're better than cheap magnets and plastic keychains, share your souvenir collection after returning home from a great trip. Condé Naste Traveler's account @CNTraveler features the best of these photos.

(Clockwise from top left: 1. @CNTraveler ;  2. @FranziSimone ;  3. @lomo31;

3. #WeEatWorld

This hashtag stems from @GirlEatWorld a.k.a. Melissa, a Singapore-based photographer whose collection of "hold up food in front of interesting scenery" pictures went viral. Her main mission is to stuff her face around the world. Melissa tags her own pics with #GirlEatWorld and encourages others to tag similar posts with the #WeEatWorld hashtag. WARNING: Do not scroll through this feed if hungry or dieting.

(Clockwise from top left: 1. @girleatworld ;  2. @KelseyOhleger - Route Words ;
3. @theromanfoodie - The Roman Foodie ;  4. @girleatworld)

4. #FollowMeTo

In 2011, Russian photographer Murad Osmann's girlfriend got annoyed of his contact picture taking and started dragging him through the streets of Barcelona. But this didn't stop Murad and actually inspired him even more. Since then, Osmann has posted a collection of these photos taken around the world onto his popular Instagram account and the images have gone viral. Many others have also been inspired by the pose and now the #FollowMeTo feed is filled with similar photos.

(Clockwise from top left: 1. @muradosman ;  2. @gabriellaeeyore ; 
3. @hashnae ; 4. @muradosman)

5. #Whatsinmybag

Step 1: Take everything out of your bag. Step 2: Arrange it all in an eye-catching, creative layout. Step 3: Add in something else that is not normally in your bag, but will make others find you interesting. Step 4: Stand above the neatly organized materials and snap a picture. Step 5: Post on instagram with the hashtag #whatsinmybag. 

Okay, so that's generally how it goes, but this hashtag is also great to learn about new gadgets, products and snacks that you may also want to toss into your bag before your next trip.

(Clockwise from top left: 1. @passport_liz -  Passport Packed ;  2. @veetravels - Vee Travels ;
3. @j2martinez - ;  4. @kluwi)

6. #IPulledOverForThis

While road tripping, certain things are going to catch your eye and make you want to pull over. Whether it's a gorilla holding a VW bugthe world's largest ball of twine, or just a pit stop to stretch your legs, you can always find something worth photographing.
(Clockwise from top left: 1. @hmosterhout;  2. @wvmomofsix;  3. @cayenneiam;  4. @reeb77 )

7. #AirportCarpet

If you can take a second to stop in between the TSA screening, grabbing your Starbucks latte and sprinting to catch your connecting flight, you may want to look down. There is usually something underneath your quick moving feet that most airport travelers ignore: the carpet. If you scroll through the feed of this hashtag, you'll see swirls of bright colors and unusual patterns that would only otherwise be used on the rug of a Las Vegas casino or upholstery of the seat on a charter bus.
(Clockwise from top left: 1. @jennifernellen - Let's Go;  2. @bryanschiele - Bryan Schiele;
3. @petermeiyu;  4. @lindstromrugs)

8. #OnTheRoofs

Two young guys started climbing onto roofs and and a new hashtag was born. Vitaliy Raskalov from Ukrain and Vadim Makhorov from Russia are photography partners, travelers and working together on this social project dedicated to urban exploration. Scroll through their shots and if you're not afraid of heights, start contributing to the collection.

(Clockwise from top left: 1. @makhorov - On the Roofs; 2. @makhorov - On the Roofs;
3. @crazytravelist - Crazy Travelista; 4. @curiositytrav - Curiosity Travels)

9. #FlyingTraveler

Junanto Herdiawan is an economist in Indonesia Central Bank who spends his time off levitating around the world. Okay, well he's actually just fooling us all with some play on perspectives. But how neat are these pictures? Definitely a step up from the basic #jumpstagram. Junanto's signature pose has become popular with other travelers as well, which inspired the #FlyingTraveler tag.

(Clockwise from top left: 1. @junantoheridiawan - Life is a Journey; 2. @heriadi_alhifni;
3. @junantoheridiawan - Life is a Journey; 4. @junantoheridiawan - Life is a Journey)

10. #DailyCortado

No Instagram account is complete without a coffee picture. Or many coffee pictures. Possibly daily coffee pictures. I won't judge, nor will I complain. Just as long as the latte art is on point. Lipstick stains and well-placed props are also appreciated. Scrolling through this feed is like virtual espresso without the bad breath or mid-morning crash.
(Clockwise from top left: 1. @livingminnaly - Living Minnaly; 2. @kevmasse;
3. @laurenonlocation - Lauren on Location; 4. @leatherandlattes - Leather and Lattes)

11. #FriendsAndWalls

Grab a friend and find a wall. If you have no friends, grab a selfie stick and find a wall. It can be the Berlin Wall, the Great Wall of China, or just a plain ol' wall… whatever you decide! These types of pictures are so simple, yet so striking.

(Clockwise from top left: 1. @tmkampa ;  2. @fi_bird - Poppet's Window
3. @taylorcgibson - Capture Joy;  4. @cestchristine - C'est Christine)

12. #WYMTM

#WYMTM, short for “What You Missed This Morning”, is for beautiful sunrises and foggy mountains to be rubbed in the face of your oversleeping friend with a FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). The hashtag was established by CyclingTips founder Wade Wallace back in 2008 in order to make people jealous when they skip a morning bike ride. It has recently grown to be used more widely by early risers - cyclist or not. The hashtag has also inspired a photo competition on CyclingTips each December.

(Clockwise from top left: 1. @yeahteam ; 2. @revoluti0n9 ;
3. @fdpallero ;  4. @thats_my_line - Gloria Liu)

13. #KicksOnAPlane

This hashtag is exactly what it says it is. A picture of your kicks on a plane. The only guidelines are that the photo must contain at least one shoe (A.K.A. kick) and that shoe is on a plane.

(Clockwise from top left: 1. @justineiaboni - Jet Set Justine ;  2. @djneilarmstrong ;
3. @soleinvadors ;  4. @jellyfishkid2.0)

14. #cnTravelerEats

Ohh.. food porn. We all know it well. But if you can capture it in a mouth-watering, travel-inspiring way, you may get featured by this other Conde Nast Traveler tag at @cnTraveler.

(Clockwise from top left: 1. @cnTraveler ;  2. @martinecooks - Martine Cooks ; 
3. @tanveerbadal  - Tanveer Badal ;  4. @CourtneyLikkel - Adelante)

15. #AirplaneFood

#Airplanefood is far from #foodporn or #nomnom or #delicious, but it's an interesting meal to document and a great hashtag feed to explore typical meals across different cultures. You may even book your next flight based on an airline's peanuts or bottomless wine.

(Clockwise from top left: 1. @catsandfood ;  2. @rebelgrain - Rebel Grain;
3.  @sgfoodhero ;  4. @travip)

16. #PuddleGram

Rainy days while traveling can be frustrating. While you may feel like hiding under the covers in your hotel room watching repeats of Cupcake Wars dubbed in Spanish, you have a new reason to venture out and see the sights through a different perspective: the #puddlegram.

(Clockwise from top left: 1. @everson4 ;  2. @romdilon ;  3. @matt.anderson;  4. @esposito13)

17. #EmptyChairsProject

Who doesn't like taking pictures of empty chairs? In airports.. outside coffee shops… in the park. Raphaël Liais (@raphaelliais) noticed empty chairs in Casablanca, Morocco and began a personal project of uploading these photos onto Instagram with the tag. Since then, this hashtag has developed a following and more people are becoming inspired to 'gram these chairs instead of plopping down on them.

(Clockwise from top left: 1. @raphaellias ;  2. @la_solea ;  3. @inesnimu ;  4. @roundthewayk)


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