It’s Not Always Sunny In Paradise

Not all traveling excursions meet our expectations. Sometimes when you’ve been dreaming of what a place will look like and how it will make you feel when you’re there, you can set yourself up to be let down. There are also times when a destination that is famed to be beautiful and life changing just doesn’t vibe with you. Below are a string of traveling disasters, and the tales of travelers who visited locations that others dream about and just weren’t that impressed.

Fiji – No, Seriously

IMG_3391Turquoise waters, white beaches, palm trees…you can imagine my excitement when I booked my flight to Fiji when I was in Australia last spring. I didn’t really know any of the people I was going with at all—and they all went to the same schools and knew each other quite well. But I mean, five days in paradise? Count me in!

But my days in Fiji weren’t exactly the paradise I was hoping for. It started in the airport, when my card was declined in all ATMs, making me apparently broke with no means to currency for our five-day trip in a foreign country. So, to deal with this, I cried.

Then, we caught the red-eye flight at 1AM, on which they fed us tuna sandwiches that tasted like they had went bad. But I managed to cheer myself by reminding myself that I was going to Fiji, paradise on Earth. That worked pretty damn well.

Then, we got to our hostel. Luckily, my card worked there, and the hostel was incredibly affordable…but had incredibly expensive food. I could only afford rice and bland tuna for all five days. One of these meals was filled with bugs.

Then, it occurred to me that all of the people I had went with were talking about me behind my back…and in front of my back. Actually, they made it pretty apparent that they disliked me because I wasn’t like them. So to deal with this, I isolated myself and went on walks on the beach…where I stepped on broken glass.

Fiji is a beautiful place and a wonderful place to go on vacation, I’m sure. But in my experience, it is a tear-inducing nightmare. Australia never looked more welcoming on the day of my return. So much for paradise!

Rome, Italy – Can I Go Home, Italy?

58158_10152698711315321_788565737_nFrom the picture above, you would think that I spent every moment of my Roman holiday in complete bliss, but pictures don’t always tell the whole story. Last spring, while I was studying abroad in England, I was able to visit one of my friends who was studying in Rome during my month long spring break. Like many people, I had learned about the history and culture of Rome as a kid, and I was over the moon when I got the chance to visit this ancient city. Now I know it sounds bratty to complain about traveling around Europe, but I’m just going to honest. I hated Rome. There, I said it. Now you know.

Rome is a city that people around the world flock to year-round, and Vatican City is by far the most congested of all of the tourist traps in the city. I was told by my friend who was studying in Rome for the semester that Vatican City that was a site that I absolutely could not leave the city without seeing. Before we made our way there on the metro, I was expecting it to be crowded, but I was not prepared for the madness that I was met with. The second that you make it onto the street, you are hounded by an endless number of pushy tour guides, who actually swear that they’re doing you a favor by taking your money. Plus, there are the peddlers on the sides of streets pushing knock-off Fendi bags. While I didn’t think that I would step into nirvana upon entering Vatican City, I did think that I would feel some sort of inner peace, but all I felt was the urge to slap someone.

I may be in the minority here, but Rome was simply off-putting. It made me not want to go to any other city in Italy during my time abroad. Whenever I tell this to people, they swear that I just visited the wrong place in Italy, but I don’t think that will happen. I just chalk it up to this: Rome wasn’t my cup of tea. But at least I ate enough gelato during those five days to last me a lifetime.

Valencia, Spain is Lame

IMG_0599Tucked alongside the Mediterranean coast and south of Barcelona is Spain’s “up and coming” city, Valencia. Just behind Barcelona and Madrid in size, this city was recommended as a must see by Spain natives living on my floor when I studied abroad in London. The great thing about up and coming cities is getting there on a tight wallet is doable, due to the under-the-radar factor.  There is somewhat of an appeal to go off of the beaten path and explore somewhere that may not be so commercialized and catered to tourists, but it is just as easy to say that there are plenty of downsides. There was of course the obvious language barrier between English and Spanish, as there is in any non-English speaking country. The problem here was that no one spoke any English at all. The lack of English speaking exposure to the native Valencians made it extremely difficult to navigate, barter, or even order food. When it came to eating out, we mustered up our best attempts to speak the language (as to not be disrespectful)…and it would take a solid 30 minutes to get a server over to our table to even take our order. This may have been because we weren’t familiar with the restaurants or ordering styles, but I’d be willing to bet it had a lot to do with the fact that we stood out, noticeably so.

You see, in our American minds, my friends and I assumed it’s spring time, it’s Spain, we’re by water, so therefore it must be warm.  To our embarrassment, we were dressed completely inappropriately at all times in shorts and dresses while everyone around us was in long pants and jackets, not considering the 60 degree temperatures reason enough for bare legs.  Overall, it was really unfortunate that the city wasn’t quite yet able to embrace tourist culture and made it difficult for us to see the city in a way that we would have wanted to, but hey, at least I got a tan…(burn).

Milan, Italy Isn’t Looking So Hot These Days …

68762_449426293050_665937_nMilan, otherwise known as Italy’s capital of fashion and home to impressive cathedrals, a castle, and a whole lot of gelato, is not my favorite city. During my semester in Scotland, two friends and I decided to spend our spring break traversing northern Italy, with Milan as our base of travel. We were looking forward to the sophistication and polished class that its reputation had promised. I’d have to say it let me down.

My disenchantment began with the sweaty hour bus ride from the outlying airport to center city with some of the smelliest people I have ever had the misfortune of being squished between. It’s not a particular way to start a journey into really any city but it didn’t seem to get better from there. We spent a lot of time figuring out the public transport system. I remember making the mistake of overtly appearing like we had no clue, only to be followed and circled by people who definitely appeared as though they would like to cut the straps on our purses. Milan is quite expensive on a backpacking-college-student budget, and not a lot of places offer that friendly service you so desire when traveling. One waiter failed to warn us that we were ordering three large-size pizzas instead of three personal-size pizzas, and he actually giggled in our faces when he delivered them.

I think the crowning jewel was definitely our last night’s adventure for a simple hot chocolate. My friend and I thought we would be clever enough to ask our hostel director where he thought would be good to get that liquid magic that is Italian hot chocolate. He, unfortunately, did not speak a lot of English, or take into consideration that we were two young girls leaving a gated hostel at 10 PM on a Saturday night. We left with three basic hand directions, a strong desire for large amounts of sugar, and the naivety of two 18 year olds. As we approached the store our hostel director spoke of, we saw a gang of men huddled around the door whispering and pointing at us as we crossed the street. We realized we would have to walk past them and would probably be safer just zooming into the store.

Rushing quickly past the hoodlums in our mom jeans and sneakers, we surged for the counter and my friend kindly asked for two hot chocolates using the only Italian words we knew. The man asked the familiar, “For here or to go?” and thought there would be safety in a crowded room. However, as I turned around in the room I could see a man at the front of the restaurant with two large tables, a massive spread of food, a personal waiter, and the eyes of everyone in the room. The other side revealed groups of disgruntled-looking men smoking in groups at crowded small tables. I turned back to the counter and quickly asked the nice man to make our hot chocolates to-go instead. We grabbed and ran with our dixie cups full of molten chocolate. We ran, burning ourselves with our spilling hot chocolate, and I felt a strange imminent fear I’ve never felt before and closed the rickety metal door of our hostel securely behind us. I never thought I would encounter the Italian mob, let alone on a trip for hot chocolate. I don’t think our hostel director meant to scar us, but this is my lasting impression of Milan.

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