Last year was a dream-come-true in terms of travel, but with so much awesome, a few bad experiences were bound to creep in. For the sake of full disclosure, here they are, in chronological order.

Florida jet-lag and junk food binge.

It took me nearly a week to stop waking up at 1 am and get on a normal sleep schedule in Florida — essentially my entire time there. I got to watch some beautiful sunrises, but then was crashing before the sunset, and missed out on a lot of fun evening activities in the party-town that is Fort Lauderdale. On top of that, I over-indulged in my favorite American nostalgia foods: cheesy poofs, Bud Light, anything deep-fried, marshmallow peeps, etc, instead of eating quality local fare, or just eating moderately healthier, period. As a result I felt sluggish and generally unwell for a lot of the vacation. Definitely due to bad judgement on my part.

Deep-fried Mahi Mahi tendersCrimea wash-out.

It’s true that days of unexpected rain in Novy Svet gave me a chance to write and generally chill out. But I was staying in what was, essentially, a shack, and didn’t have warm clothes or rain-appropriate footwear with me, so when I wasn’t camped out at my favorite seaside cafe, I was a pretty miserable soul. Even after the sun came back out I had to cancel several major trips (Mount Ai Petri, Livadia Palace) and activities (hikes and horseback riding) because the roads were too dangerous from the deluge. And I couldn’t swim in the sea because of the run-off that took a few days to clear.

Flood in CrimeaAnti-Russian hostility in the Baltics.

I’ve written about the experience at length here, but in short, one of the best and most surprising vacations of the year was tainted with lectures and Russia-bashing nearly every time I told someone where I was from. And even when I didn’t. After bearing this for the first day and a half I changed my point of origin to New York, and everything became hunky-dory. Mostly.

Welcome to RigaFeeling the burnout in Belgrade.

Most of last year’s travels were packed into the second half of the year, and coincided with the most intense months of my entire professional life. I’m talking 18-hour days, weekends, and a phone that never stopped ringing or beeping. By the time I landed in Belgrade, for the vacation that I took so that I could do some WORK in peace, the stress and exhaustion started to catch up with me. Instead of exploring the old city center with my German, I tried to climb ruins of a fortress wall, fell, got caught in thorny bushes, fell again and nearly broke my brand-new camera, ripped my scarf and got wet and muddy getting out — while the poor German looked on totally bewildered. Then I broke down sobbing and collapsed into his arms. We decided to abandon the Belgrade plans and I passed out in the car for the entire two-hour ride to Croatia, where we were staying.

Belgrade Castle SerbiaPanic at London’s Winter Wonderland.

I was my first European Christmas Market and it was all a bit too much. I think I had the misfortune of going there on the first day that it opened, and the crowds, the lights, the noise, the rides, the smells were all so overwhelming that I wanted to curl up in a ball in the middle of the street. But I was with a group, so I gritted my teeth, gripped my mulled wine, and tried to avoid being rammed from all sides by screeching childrenΒ  — and, in the immortal words of John Goodman as Glen Allen Walken, to “breathe regular.”London's winter wonderland 1

Anyone has any travel mishaps of their own to report?

39 thoughts on “5 LOWEST TRAVEL MOMENTS OF 2014

  1. You should come to a German Christmas market next year – with me πŸ˜‰
    Ha, poor Nice German – a sobbing woman in his arms… bet he was cursing the Estonian waitress at that point!
    Glad to see Riga also made it onto your list of low points πŸ˜‰

    • Aren’t you proud of yourself?
      Please tell me that German Christmas markets are a bit more sane – otherwise you will have to body-block me against the waves of people. I want a market all to myself – can we arrange that? I’m sure you know people. You know ALL the people πŸ™‚

      • I know everyone πŸ™‚ But I quite enjoy body-blocking πŸ˜‰ In Berlin, there are 60-80 Christmas markets so it’s much more spread out! We’ll find somewhere civilised for you, I promise – and if not, I’ll just start taking people out πŸ˜‰

  2. Oh dear, you did have a few lows! Good job there way more highs. I had a pretty I dramatic year. But I did fall and sprain my ankle in Paris when I was on my own. I had to retire to my room for a few hours with a couple of bags of frozen peas! And dodging a drunken Parisian who wanted to make babies (quite impossible at my age!) was hard with a limp! Though I’m getting good at buying bandages in different languages I really should remember to take some with me in future!

    • Oh man, a sprained ankle sounds pretty serious! I actually got kind of beaten up by the terrain in Crimea, but that was my own fault, in pursuit of adventure, so that one actually made it into my travel highs πŸ™‚ Now, when will we hear more about the baby-making Parisian? THAT sounds like a fascinating story!

  3. Oh dear! Hopefully soon enough you’ll be laughing about all of this πŸ˜‰ I can definitely laugh about mine now. From bomb threats (okay that wasn’t funny to bomb strikes)

    • I am not sure about laughing, but I have definitely resolved to eat better. And oh my, your situation sounds a lot more perilous! Hope you and everyone was ok…

  4. Eating healthy and moderately on holiday. PLEASE!!! Who’s ever accomplished that?! I turn into a total pig every time. Coz, you know, I might possibly be missing out on something! Like fitting into my clothes by the end of it all…

    • You know, I would have much rather spent those calories and a few extra bucks on great local restaurants and fresh seafood and fruit, instead of stuffing my mouth with MARSHMALLOW PEEPS and then having a mix of indigestion and sugar crash. I think I reached the point in my life where if I really eat like crap (and I am not just talking fat/calories, but real JUNK food), I then feel like crap. And I would rather not waste my vacation on that feeling.

  5. Your Christmas market experience sounds like mine in Bucharest. SO MANY PEOPLE! You’d think they’ve never had a sausage and mulled wine their entire life! The one in Sibiu (that I wrote about) was so much better! My lowest travel moment last year was almost breaking up over a stupid fucking argument in Paris. Yep, I didn’t really feel the love in the City of Love…

    • Oh MAN, breaking up when traveling is THE WORST (my 2011 would-be engagement trip to London ended in a total breakup, in fact). I’m glad it worked out for you though πŸ™‚ Paris is overrated πŸ˜‰ Have you posted about Paris, actually? ***scurrying off to search the archives***

  6. Peeps? Really??

    Honestly, your Florida trip was way fun for me because we were in the same time zone.

    I’m sorry about the anti Russian stuff 😦

  7. It can be so hard to admit that you just need a break when you’re travelling – sometimes you just need to spend the evening watching DVDs or chilling out and realise it’s not the end of the world. Hope your time in Croatia improved!

    • Everything stayed intense through the end of the year but then I crashed for the 12 days of government-mandated break. I ate, slept, and binge-watched American cop shows all day long. For nearly 2 weeks. it was bliss!

  8. Ohh my Anna, sorry about all of it… it must be a pain in the a** this thing with the anti Russian stuff. I cannot imagine how it feels, I never had a problem like this.
    I hope 2015 will be better in this aspect πŸ˜€

  9. I’m a Londoner and I have been to the winter wonderland several times but I have to admit, the crowds are totally overwhelming – it’s usually more bearable earlier on in the day, weekdays and before the school holidays start but still, I often warn people about this. I found the mainland European Christmas markets in Germany and Austria were a lot more manageable crowd-wise etc. Sorry to read about these tough times over the year. Hope it’s all a bit smoother in 2015!

    • Phew, that’s good to hear from the local. Yes, it was either Friday or Saturday evening and the first weekend of the year – I really lucked out, ahem. It seemed like the entire city of London descended onto Hyde Park. Sheer madness!

  10. I know how upset you were by the Russian bashing. So unacceptable. ‘Hopefully, you’ll have a good year. I know you will. πŸ™‚
    As for me, I went to Poland at Easter and there was no-one there. I mean, really. No. One! All the shops and stores were completely and utterly shut. No sailing, fishing, and waffles!! My husband got sick in Thailand, and we missed an expensive flight in Indonesia. Also, there’s no snow right now either!!!!!

    • The empty Poland bit sounds so strange. I would enjoy there not being tourists but not everything being closed! I actually have been told that Crimea is like that in the off-off season; like, aside from some things around Yalta you cant really do or see anything if it’s not May-October.
      The flight thing really IS major. Here’s to making all your flights and other departures in 2015!

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