I sometimes visit the most famous places in the world and somehow leave feeling disappointed to some degree. And then I’ll get enormously impressed by the smallest things on the other hand.
This is a tribute to those small unexpected moments that happened on my travels, which made them unique and mine only. These are not the typical travel experiences I can point you to, like visiting the mighty Iguazu falls for example.
On the contrary, it’s something you can only experience on your own and it will be yours only. Sometimes they are heart warming, sometimes funny and sometimes even unnerving when they are happening. For me however, they embody the the true magic of travelling.
Sleeping in a graveyard
Yes, I slept in a graveyard once in Croatia and no it’s not some unique AirBnb accommodation on offer :). Why did I do that? Well the thing is I was broke, I couldn’t afford sleeping anywhere inside. The moral of this story I guess is that I will travel no matter what!
A synagogue all to myself
Sitting in a restaurant in Canakkale, Turkey I somehow started speaking a rudimentary form of Spanish (that’s all I can muster) with an elderly Turkish gentleman, since that seemed to be the language we were best able to communicate in.
Not only did it turn out that his Jewish ancestors fled oppressive Spain during the time of inquisition and that being the reason why he spoke Spanish after half a millennium, but also that he had keys to the local synagogue which was closed at that time. I most certainly took his offer to have a private viewing. Travel really serves up some random experiences every now and then.
I’m not sure if this Alpaca realized it was only sugar when it dashed for our table in Peru and strew it all over the place. Judging by the look of it, she seemed to be trying to snort it as much as eat it.
My mom’s orientation
When I was a small boy, my mother and I got lost in a village. That’s right, in a village. To this day my mom serves as an endless fountain of joy when we travel together. Just love seeing her battle it out with which way to go. I know, I’m one mean creature.
An old man getting us ridiculously drunk
I knew our planned 5 day hiking trip in Slovenia would be more drinking than hiking just 20 minutes after starting our walk. We passed a house where and old man was mending its surroundings and asked him for directions. After telling us where to go, he inquired about our final destination and we told him it’s 100 km away. He was having none of it and insisted we needed to come inside and have a drink with him. Now that’s not something you refuse in Slovenia, it’s just not polite :). Long story short, after about 5 hours we left his house completely smashed and well fed. He of course wouldn’t accept any money we offered him.
I could actually write quite a few similar stories about hiking and getting invited into people’s homes to have a drink or two in Slovenia…
I stepped out of a tribal museum in Bhopal, India and looked for a rickshaw to take me back to my hotel. Now, as always it involved a whole lot of bargaining with the drivers. Since I felt they were massively overcharging me I decided to walk the 7km back to my hotel. After I dismissed the fifth driver or so, a car pulled up next to me and the guy went:”What do you want?”. After a bit of confusion, I figured out he was referring to why I am dismissing all the rickshaw drivers.
I told him they want to massively overcharge me and that I’m just gonna walk back. So, the man offers me a ride back to my hotel and at first I was skeptical, but then I measured him up and decided he doesn’t look particularly dangerous or tough. It turned out he really likes talking to foreigners to get to know how they live back in their country! That’s it, purely interested in talking to me and helping me out. After getting lost, we took over half an hour to reach my hotel.
Carrying the bride
When my good friend got married in Mokpo, South Korea I was dragged into participating in the ceremony. Had no idea about it before hand, only when I came to the venue was I told that hey why don’t we dress you up in these clothes here and you help carry the bride. I also had to throw a chicken up in the air and let the guests fight over who gets to take it home. Fun times 🙂
Pit bull barking in my face
Woke up in Corsica, France in a middle of a field with two angry pit bulls barking at me. Decided that covering my head in the sleeping bag and wishing them away would be the best solution. It worked, they got tired of barking at me. Not the most pleasant experience I’ve ever had, but hey a bit of tension goes a long way to create lasting memories 🙂
Getting fed by workers
Me and my wife were walking around in some remote part of Armenia, visiting a beautiful waterfall, when we stumbled upon a group of workers having lunch. The men invited us to eat with them and shared their food. We had a lovely chat with them speaking Russian and me improvising in Slovenian and Serbo-Croatian. I realized it actually worked! On our walk back to our car, the men’s boss insisted he gives us a ride. The hospitality of people around the world is usually really astonishing.
Turning my wedding into a road trip
The very next day after our wedding which took place in Slovenia, we and around 30 of our foreign guests that attended it, took off for a 3 day trip around Slovenia. A bus load of people closest to us and a spectacularly beautiful country to enjoy. Not sure if this one actually fits into my category, but hey it was so much fun I had to include it here.
It seems Argentina is the world capital of dogs as you will get one accompanying you practically wherever you go. These buggers are extremely friendly and surprisingly healthy looking. From our first friend, who we decided to call Chorizo to the fellow that walked almost 10 km with us in a national park, dog certainly made its mark.
A pool of roses
Weddings in India are a big deal. In this particular case, big enough to have a whole swimming pool filled with roses. For my friend here, it seemed to have been a dream come true 😀
Stuck in the sand
The first time I went on a trip with my wife (that time we barely knew each other) it was to Oman. Since I wanted to take her to really interesting places, I rented a Land Cruiser and of course the first thing I did was get hopelessly stuck in the sand. Pretty smooth, eh? It took 2 hours to get free and help from locals of course, but hey she did end up marrying me 🙂
Surviving on coconuts
As I dragged myself to the hotel reception in Costa Rica to get my money and passport from the desk, the man working there got extremely upset for some reason. I figured out that the reason was my friend being drunk and a general pain in the ass the previous night, so they kicked him out and gave him all my belongings to take as well!! Now I was there with no money, passport or any idea where my friend was.
Luckily there is food literally lying around in Costa Rica, so I spent my day on the beach eating coconuts and being pissed off. My friend did eventually return in the evening. Great friends to have, eh?
Healing brain tumors
Renting a car is usually pretty straightforward, if a slightly stressful undertaking. However this time in Mendoza, Argentina it came with an interesting story. After the owner found out my wife comes from India, she was surprisingly excited about it and told us she loved Varanasi as it has a special energy to it. After some time the owner’s mother interrupted and said her daughter is not exactly telling the full story and revealed that she in fact had a tumor doctors were unable to treat and after having visited Varanasi, it was gone! Now, I’m usually not a believer in such things, but they came across as intelligent women, so there you have it.
The Brazilian mama
After having had a delicious lunch at a completely empty restaurant in Ouro Preto, Brazil I decided I wanted to talk to the owner, who initially greeted me. Since I couldn’t find her, I was on my way out and then saw the kitchen door was opened, so decided to tell the chef how good the food was instead. Now, I don’t speak Portuguese so I just went with my broken Spanish instead. The chef was so immensely delighted she hugged me and started chatting away. After about an hour or so of conversation, free cups of coffee and plates of desserts I said goodbye to this amazingly warm person (I did manage to force her to take a tip). That day I completely changed my travel plans and bought a plane ticket to Salvador in Bahia, where the lady was from to see this Brazilian state for myself. Definitely wasn’t sorry.
The oil wrestler
Sitting on a balcony of a restaurant in Selcuk, Turkey, Mandingo the oil wrestler and his friends decided to join our table of two. Mandingo explained that when he was young he used to be aggressive and would even take a leaf from a tree just to smash it with his fist. The balcony only had one exit, it went past Mandingo. Mandingo was a big man. Luckily for us, Mandingo was in a good mood and who knows, he might really have changed. Next day we saw him wrestle in the tournament that was taking place in town, we said hi.
Turning into a monkey
My trip in Costa Rica was coming to an end and I was completely out of money. Whatever I had left for the last 48h until I reached home was enough to get me 3 kg of bananas, which was the cheapest thing to buy that would provide some sort of nutrition. Let’s just say airplane food on Delta of all airlines never tasted as good 🙂
The Lebanese millionaire and the Emirati princess
Now this one is too sensitive to publish right now, since I currently live in Qatar and could potentially get me in trouble, so I’ll have to leave it for later, once I move somewhere else.