Most embarrassing moments while solo traveling in South America
As you may (or may not) have noticed I recently spent a couple of weeks traveling through South America. It was a trip that I made for my office job and I have to say that I was super excited yet a little nervous too. Most of my famtours as we call them I do with a small group or some colleagues. Only once before I did one of those by myself but that was in Alaska, which by now I know even better than I know my own backyard. However, going to South America by myself was another challenge. With all those stories about Zika, the Olympics and crime rate in Rio and warnings about solo female travel online these days, I was happy that I didn’t have too much time worrying about things that could go wrong, such as being robbed in Rio or stranding in the middle of nowhere with my rental car in Chile.
Of course everything went smoothly. I wasn’t robbed in Rio, I didn’t go overboard from the zodiak in Iguassu and neither did my car break down somewhere in Patagonia. I arrived back at the airport right on time, missed none of my flights and even my luggage arrived each time, although as the very last one most of the time. There were some occasions however where something just went a little wrong or where I was just utterly embarrassed. Upon arrival at home I told one of my friends about it and she was like ‘ohh you should write a blog about it, I miss your confessions’. And so I did. Here goes:
1. Forgetting your phone in a tourist attraction
If you know me you will have noticed that my phone basically is my best friend. I take pictures of everything and even said that they could steal anything from me in Rio, but not my phone. So I actually hid my phone in my bra when I was out there, so that just in case they’d steal my bag, at least I’d still have my phone. Once I made it out of Rio, which was in fact much safer than I imagined and I have not felt unsafe at all, I loosened up a bit. I just put it in my pocket or in my bag most of the time, just checking every 5 minutes or so if it was still there. After I’d gone on a boat ride to the Iguassu Falls and got totally soaked and cold, I joined a bus tour through the jungle. You get to sit on top of a huge bus/jeep and a guide tells you all about the jungle and the animals. I was super cold but I still tried to make some pics. As we got to the final stop, I rushed out in order to go to the restaurant to get myself some food and to warm up. It was only about 10 minutes later a guy who had been on my bus stood behind me and had my phone in his hands. Seriously, I think I nearly got a heart attack. Apparently, I left it on the bus, like on the seat right next to me. I thanked him a thousand times and hit myself on the head for being so stupid. I mean c’mon, my precioussssss…
2. When you can’t pay for your fuel
During the last week of my trip I rented a car and traveled through Chilean Patagonia. I got a pretty nice SUV and thought it was in fact fairly cool driving around by myself in such a fancy car. Things is that I don’t really speak Spanish or at least, not fluent. I can understand a little and speak a bit too, but when someone in Chile would talk to me I’d be like ‘whaaaatt?’. They speak super fast and in slang so most of the time I had no idea what they were saying. After driving around for a couple of days I figured I needed to stock up on fuel and so I found a gas station. I asked the guy who’d be filling up for me if they’d accept cards and he nodded so I figured it would be OK, since I didn’t carry a lot of cash. But when I had to pay and it turned out that my creditcard was not accepted and neither was my bankcard. Each time a receipt rolled out of the machine it said payment denied (or whatever it was in Spanish). So there I was, in some tiny village with a tank full of gas but unable to pay for it. By that time, the guy had called his co-workers so there was a whole circle of men around me. They were all smiling of course but me, I was just super stressed out. I kind of begged the guy to try once more. And another time. And one more time. And then finally, after at least ten attempts, my payment was approved. I could have thanked the lord on my bare knees…
3. It’s something about your outfit …
On my last day in Chile I had to catch a ferry back to the mainland before reaching the airport from where I’d fly back to Santiago and eventually home. I got up super early as I had to be on the airport by 11.00 am and the drive would take me some 3.5 hours. I was in a bit of a crappy mood because I had to de-ice the windows from the car that morning (it was freezing), I was running late and basically after two weeks of traveling and sleeping in a different place almost every day, I was just tired. After I paid for the ticket, I decided I needed some fresh air so I stepped outside. As I passed the car behind me, the driver lowered the window and started talking to me. In rapid Spanish so I had no clue what he was saying. He was also using his hands to explain everything and despite my efforts in saying ‘no entiendo español’ he kept on pointing at me. Eventually he grabbed my arm and with his other hand he pointed at my female parts. Just as I was about to get super pissed off I looked down and realized that my fly was open. Like wide open. If I could have disappeared into the ground at that time, I would have gladly done so as I felt so utter embarrassed. I probably thanked him a thousand times and he must have thought ‘weirdo’ … or something like that.
4. Driving in the wrong direction
Driving in Chile is actually fairly easy. I just didn’t bother to actually look into the traffic rules before starting my trip. Usually it’s pretty self explanatory and I manage without any trouble. Most of my planned trips were going on either the highway or the middle of nowhere anyway, so I didn’t really expect any difficulties. Just before I went to the gas station I mentioned earlier, I was driving through a small town which, apparently did have some one-way roads. As I was looking for a gas station and my GPS started screaming ‘turn around to go back to your route’ I wasn’t really paying attention to the traffic. And so I drove into a busy street which turned out to be a one-way. Af first I didn’t even notice but then some people on the pavement started waving at me and I was like ‘ohhh fuuuuuck’. Just when the oncoming traffic was about the start passing me, I put the car into reverse and drove back to where I came from, almost hitting a dog that got behind the car while doing so. I just don’t do dull days it seems.
5. Picking up a hitch hiker who doesn’t speak any English
I never really pick up hitch hikers but on one of my last days I did a super nice hike to Muelle de Alma, which is about a 10 km drive on a dirt road from the nearest village and then another 45 minute walk from the parking lot. On the way over I had already seen a guy walking to the trail head and when I was hiking, I ran into him again. At the end of the walk I asked him to take a photo of me and I took a photo of him. So when I was driving back, I saw him walking all the way back to the village so I lowered my window and offered him a ride as I felt a little sad for him having to walk all the way again. I think he understood the gesture because he hopped into the car and started talking to me in some Spanish I could not understand a word of. I explained to him that I didn’t understand. We tried to have some conversation but he spoke no English and so I decided to just put on some music and focus on getting back to main road without any trouble as the road got pretty rough at some point. I played Muse on Spotify and for some reason, this guy who did not speak English, sang along with all of the songs. Then at some point he was filming and taking selfies with me, while I was driving he was uploading them to the internet. As I have no desire to become internet famous in Chile I asked him not to upload any pics of me but he didn’t seem to understand that. Eventually I drove him all the way back to Castro (one and half hour away) and I was somewhat relieved that he had gone. I’m sure he was really nice and all but when he was uploading all these pics, it just became somewhat awkward.
6. Being unable to get up from the snow while taking a snowboarding lesson
Just imagine being offered to learn to snowboard. On a volcano. In Patagonia. Right, no way to say no to that! I was always a bit jealous of Martijn who learned to snowboard when he was living in Finland (nobody learns to snowboard in Finland, as a Dutchie you learn to snowboard in France or Austria) so I figured it would be pretty cool to learn how to snowboard in Patagonia. However, I wasn’t prepared at all so I didn’t have any gear with me. Learning to snowboard means falling and mostly on your bum. Falling basically each minute and then trying to get up again. The snow was very soft (there wasn’t much left as it was late in the season) and sometimes when I tried to get up, my arms disappeared into the snow until my elbows. Not very convenient and at the end of my lesson I just couldn’t get up anymore. No more power, I was just exhausted. So to my big embarrassment, the guy who was teaching me, had to pull me up from the snow. Like the whole time. I don’t think he minded but so much for feminism and independence.
I could go on for another while because somehow it felt like a lot of crazy things happened to me. However this already has some 2.000 words so it has been long enough for now. Enjoy your day!
Want to read more confessions? You may also like those:
– 6 Things I stopped doing after 2 years as a travel blogger
– How Instagram ruined travel for me
– How to travel 107 days a year with a full time office job
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Thanks for sharing!
Hahaha Anto it’s impressive how you always gather such moments for a blog. We should travel together one day, you could definitely spice up my life a bit! Hope to see you in Canada next summer.
Thanks Mel! The original plan was Canada for next summer but now it’s probably going to be Nepal … Canada is just too expensive atm 🙁 will keep you posted if the plans change again (you never know with me haha)
Haha! What adventures you had! My heart sank for you when you said they guy was standing behind you with your phone – I though you were going to say he didn’t give it back! And you’re braver than me for picking up a hitchhiker!
Thanks! I would probably have killed the guy if he wouldn’t have given me back my phone 😉
Awe, as a hitchhiker, I’m glad you picked that guy up despite the language barrier. I have had trouble hitching in Mexico because my Spanish isn’t great, but it’s so kind when you get rides. Seriously, even with a language barrier, I’m sure he appreciated it so much just as I would have. So good work going out of your comfort zone – from a hitchhiker! We love you!
Yeah I’m sure he did, he was smiling all the time. Happy hitchhiking!
Haha, love this. I constantly “lose” stuff but often find it back (more luck than brain) and well, one day I left the restroom in Dubai mall before a nice lady told me my skirt is still halfway in my pants, haha. Love those embarrassing moments (well, more of other than my own but I can still laugh about it, haha.)
No worries, I love them too, especially when re-thinking about them, they make a journey so much more spontaneous!
Danik The Explorer
Great post and a great read. Had a chuckle and you certainly had some moments. 😀
LOL! Loved your stories. Fortunately none of them were too bad. Although leaving your phone behind could have been a real pain. All in all I’d say it turned out pretty good.
Nah, they were just funny in the end …
Isn’t all of these little blunders part of the reason why we travel so much to unknown places? It’s a thrill of sorts to be in a place where things can go wrong. It’s exhilarating. And I suppose it’s all about how you handle it that makes it either funny or tragic.
Totally, it makes travel a lot more fun for sure!
Fun post! Glad you were able to just laugh off all the situations. We had an exchange student who, upon arrival at the airport, had her fly undone and my daughters (who were young at the time) were laughing hysterically telling her to X-Y-Z. Like this young German girl had any idea what that mean!
Oh haha poor girl 🙂
Looks like you had a great adventure with some great stories to take home. Even the “wardrobe malfunction” is something laugh about a little while later. Thanks for sharing!
Totally, just within seconds after actually, just when the first bit of embarrassment had lifted 😉
Sara | Belly Rumbles
My phone is my best friend too. How awesome that you were sought out and phone returned. I had a waiter run up the street after me once in Taiwan. Had no idea what was going on and it was quite funny.
Haha, happy you got it back, too!
I think every traveler has been there once or twice!! We had a similar situation with gas happen in Iceland – only problem was that it was 1am and the gas station was closed so we were at the mercy of the automic machine to accept our cards or not!! Misadventures always turn out to be the best stories though 😀