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5 Travel Moments That Made Me Nervous

As much as I wish it could be, traveling isn't all sunshine and rainbows and happy people.

Yet, for the most part, you'll rarely hear me complain about what I experience traveling because I believe that to truly travel, you need to get out past your comfort zone. I try to take things as they come--within reason, of course. Sometimes, though, things get waaaay out of my comfort zone, and that's what this post is about. 

Over my many years of adventuring, I've had a few moments that made me stop in my tracks and said, "Whoa." And not in a good way. Let's look at the top five such moments, shall we?

5) Getting stranded on the side of the road in Florida.

Right after I graduated from high school, five of my friends and I made the 16-hour-trip from Charleston to Key West. On the way there, we were going through this very blank, flat stretch of middle Florida when my friend Sims called me. She and our other friend Nicole were in the car right behind us. 

"Our cooler just exploded," she told me. 

"That's okay," I said. "We're almost to our exit for the night. We'll clean it up then." I imagined the water leaking out of the small travel cooler in their backseat and couldn't figure out why she was that upset.

"It's leaking green stuff," she said, sounding a little more alarmed. 

Green stuff? What did they have in there?!?

After a few more moments, I realized that the cooler in question was not the one holding the Diet Cokes, but rather the one that kept Nicole's car from overheating. Both cars quickly pulled over to the side of I-95 while one of them billowed steam. 

All six of us piled out of our cars while we made calls to our parents. Sims called AAA, who assured her that help was on its way for poor Nicole's car. About twenty minutes later, this dingy tow truck pulls up, and Ricki (with an I!)--in all of his grease-covered, dirty haired glory--hops out. He seemed delighted to find not one, but six, damsels in distress. 

None of us were willing to ride in the tow truck with Ricki (with an I), so all six of us piled into my 1995 Jeep Cherokee and followed Ricki, his tow truck, and the other Jeep to the shop. He ended up fixing Nicole's car well enough that we made it the rest of the way to Key West. 

Sure, it's not the worst thing that could happen when you're on a trip, but it was my first big adventure sans parents, and a creepy repair guy with a dubious name wasn't on my list of fun travel sites. 

4) Crazy driving in Mexico.
At least this view was waiting on me!

At 11, I didn't know a lot about driving. I did, however, know that vehicles are supposed to remain a certain distance from one another while in motion. 

My parents took my sister and I down to the Yucatan Peninsula so that we could learn more about the Mayan ruins there. We had to take a bus from the coast to the actual Mayan site, and this where the adventure starts. 

Our bus (which was one of those big ones like Greyhound uses) was hurtling down a tiny two lane road. I don't know how fast we were going, but it felt like 70 or 80 miles an hour. Every time we'd meet another one of those big tour buses head on, we would be so close that the antennae on the buses would clang against one another. 

I'm all about some history, but who knew that I was going to see my life flash before my eyes on the way to get to it?

3)  Having people come into my hotel room--uninvited. 
Not pictured: my terrified face

On another of my solo excursions, I was heading out of London back to the U.S. My flight was SUPER early, so rather than take a taxi at 4:00 a.m., I decided to get a hotel that was attached to Gatwick. 

I checked in early in the afternoon, went for a leisurely swim in the hotel's pool, talked to my parents and then-boyfriend/ now-husband, and headed to bed early. At about 2:00 a.m., I was woken up by the sound of the door knob being violently rocked back and forth. I jumped up out of my bed and ran over to the door. 

I have no clue what I was going to do to the people when I got there, but in my half-asleep mind, I was going to take on the intruders instead of waiting for them as I cowered in the bed. As I reached the door, the people on the other side managed to open it. The door caught on the safety slide, and I threw my entire weight against it so that the door slammed back. 

I looked through the peephole and saw two women about my age; they looked extremely confused. I called through the door and told them that the room was already occupied. They said that management had given them a key to that room at the desk. I told them to go back to the desk and figure it out because I was already in there. 

Needless to say, I 1) didn't go back to sleep that night, and 2) had a strong word with management before I checked out. 

2) Being mugged in Paris.

For my sister's graduation present, my parents took all four of us to Paris for a few days. We'd made our way around to the usual sites for a first-time visitor and were headed back to the hotel one evening. We'd just gotten on the Metro when two things happened simultaneously: one man got caught in the closing subway train doors, and another man started panicking about his lost mirror. 

The second guy (the one who was panicking) acted like he was falling on my dad in his search for his little mirror. He was feeling all over my dad while saying, "Sorry! Sorry" over and over again. Just as my dad was about to punch this guy for basically frisking him, the first man got unstuck and the second guy immediately found the mirror. The two of them pushed their way through the crowd on the train and disappeared into another carriage. 

My dad was, understandably, shaken, and we found out that the guy had stolen my dad's museum pass. It definitely could have been worse, but the entire situation was scary and one that I don't want to repeat anytime soon. 

1) Being in London during the terrorist bombings. 
I took this picture the day after the bombings happened. I loved the resilient attitude that the Londoners took towards the attacks.

In 2005, I decided to study abroad in London. Four weeks into my program, I had a field trip with my Modern British Literature class at the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. Instead of getting on the Tube that morning, I boarded a bus from Chelsea (where I lived) towards the very center of London. 

As we were approaching the Trafalgar Square stop, a woman bounded down the stairs from the second floor of the bus, yelled, "There's a bomb on the bus!" and wrenched the back doors open. Everyone on the bus watched in stunned silence as she jumped off the still moving bus and ran up the street.  Moments later, the bus pulled up to the stop, and I got off the bus. 

I knew immediately something was wrong, as there were more sirens blaring at one time than I'd ever heard in my life. I met up with my teacher and classmates; everyone was confused and scared. No one knew what was going on. It wasn't until hours later that Al-Qaeda took responsibility for the over 50 people who were killed in the bus and Tube bombings that morning. 

For many reasons, that day was one of the most impactful, challenging, and terrifying experience of my life. I've written more about my thoughts on this tragic event here, if you're interested


When I was drafting this post, I thought about titling it "5 Travel Moments That Made Me Want to Stop Traveling." But, then, I got to thinking and realized that, even though I'd been scared during all of these times, and even temporarily wished that I were home in my warm bed, I never hesitated to book my next trip after each event. 

I'm all for safety in my travels--and I'll do everything in my power to try and make that happen--but I hope that I'm never scared off from following my dreams and chasing after another adventure. 

What was your nervous travel moment? How do you stay safe when you're on a trip?