Today, I tried Googling my blog. I never did find it, because the 1st hit I got looking for me was for my friend Sally’s Blog. (If you haven’t read her Unbrave Girl, you really should…although you’ll probably love it, and I’ll never see you here again. I’ll miss you.)
Are you still here? Really? If I were you, I’d still be reading Sally’s blog – but no matter. Here’s the story…the reason Sally’s blog came up was that my name came up in her comment section. Apparently, sometime last August, I commented on her post about making mistakes while traveling. In the comments I referred to my worst travel experience ever (which I’ll tell you about in a minute). I started to wonder, “Is that really still my worst experience ever?” It was 12 years ago. I’ve traveled a lot since then – surely something dreadful must have happened? Was it really worse than food poisoning on a 6-hour bus ride in Cambodia? Worse than getting stuck in the current and floating 1/2 way to Vietnam before the snorkel-boat picked us up? Worse than day 3 of a bike tour, pedaling uphill in the rain with a rash on my tushie? Yes, Yes, a thousand times, Yes.
The year was 2000. I remember it well. (I liked all the ‘0’s.) I was living abroad for the first time, and for the most part loving China. My friend JM and I had just spent a few holiday days at the beach, and were headed back to Harbin. On the way to the beach, we had booked a sleeper car on the train – the bunk-style beds were clean and comfortable, and the heater was fully operational. We thought we had the same thing on the way back…how wrong we were! We didn’t have a sleeper car for the return journey; we had seats on an un-padded, straight-backed wooden bench for the overnight trip. We found ourselves squeezed onto the hard 2-person bench along with 2 other people near the end of a tightly packed car. The windows were open, so whatever went out the window 2 seats up, flew back in the window 2 seats back. I would doze off only to awaken when spit-covered sunflower seed husks landed on my face, or I was lightly misted with a mysterious spray after the toilets were flushed. I had also expected to be in the hot sleeper cars, so I had dressed lightly. By 2am, I was freezing, couldn’t stand up to stretch lest the passengers around me ooze me out of my 4 inches of seat, and was covered in unpleasant ‘window gifts’. So yes, I still think that’s my worst travel experience ever.
However, when I think about it, I’m kind of glad it’s my go-to travel horror story. If an exhausting night on a Chinese train is the worst case in my disaster file, I think I’m doing alright.