Most travelers are looking for relaxation or adventure when they set out in search of someplace new, and along the way some very interesting and exciting experiences are had. While these experiences generally create positive memories, as these travelers will share, some experiences are remembered for all of the wrong reasons, and the fear or disgust that resurfaces with each retelling is palpable. Strap yourself in for a wild ride of "I have made a huge mistake" stories. Some responses have been edited for clarity.
Trip gone wrong! Content has been edited for clarity.
“He Invited Me Into His Room”
“Pakse in southern Laos. I immediately got bad vibes from the place when I got off the bus; the whole place was completely dilapidated even by developing nation standards. The streets were full of stray dogs that were really intimidating.
The hotel I arrived at was what really sealed it though. Some large American guy was sitting outside in the reception area sipping on a cold one and smoking. I went out for a smoke after checking in and began talking to him. He seemed ok if a bit eccentric.
He invited me into his room to look at some video he wanted to show me depicting a riot at a baseball match in some American city. It was then he revealed his hate for other races and his love for violence. His room was in utter disgusting shambles, and he’d apparently lived there for a couple months.
I just felt really dodgy around him, and I watched his every move in case he was gonna try and slip something in my drink while pouring it for me. He even locked the door at one stage. There was a huge knife on his dressing table and I kept my eye on that for most of the time.
After what felt like an age listening to him incessantly ramble on about stuff and agreeing with him just to appease him, I made the excuse that I had to leave to make a phone call. I walked through Pakse, this dodgy little town at like 11:30 pm, half expecting to be mugged, just so I could avoid this American guy.
After spending 20 minutes on the phone at a high-end hotel to my parents back home, I wandered around before returning to my guesthouse hotel fully expecting him to be asleep. But I was wrong. He was still awake, glaring at me as I arrived, like a crazy man possessed.
He roughly approached me, asking where the heck I’d been. He then said we’re going for a drink in his room. He began to latch on to me, trying to physically pull me into his room. I refused to budge, and I made it into my room, locking the door behind me.
This psycho’s room was right next to mine, and I could hear him smashing it up when he went back to his own room. I decided then it was a good idea to barricade my hotel room door with the wardrobe in the room, in case this creep decided to force himself into my room while I slept.
Except I didn’t sleep at all, I sat up all night playing snake on the old Nokia phone I was now using in 2013; good times.”
“I was in Memphis, Tennessee searching for a tiny restaurant that was supposed to have the best fried chicken in the world, which it did. As I was driving deeper into this rough neighborhood, I saw three separate telephone poles with stuffed animals stapled up and down them. I later found out that people do this when a child is killed in a shooting. It’s scary because you know that these kids weren’t the target. If these three kids within 4 or 5 blocks of each other were just caught in the crossfire, how many other people are killed around here?
Anyway, I didn’t realize what it was at the time and I figured ‘I’m not looking for trouble. I’m just looking for food.’ I find the place, and I order my food. The guy says ‘for here or to go’ and I say ‘for here.’ I sit down and I’m waiting for it just messing around on my phone. I notice a group of four teenagers looking at my car outside which was a rental. They walk up to it and look in the windows. I remember that my laptop bag is on the floor in the back seat. I was about to walk out there when the four guys walk away, so I stay put. A few minutes later, the four guys come into the restaurant. They go up to the counter and they are saying something secretly to the guy behind the counter. The guy behind the counter and the teens are stealing glances at me. It’s clear that they are saying something about me.
They don’t buy anything, and they leave. I watch them walk, about two doors down on the sidewalk and they jog off. I’m trying to put together what is going on and the employee brought me my food in a to-go bag and said “You need to get out of here immediately.”
I took my food and bounced. I’m pretty sure those guys were coming back for me. I’m assuming they were going to get other people or come back armed.
Luckily, never happened. But the next day at work, I told a colleague that I had the best chicken in the world. He asked me where it was and he had never heard of it. I showed him the place on my phone and he said ‘You went down there? You are brave.'”
“I Heard Explosions On The Main Road”
“I was in Alexandria, Egypt, three hours away from Cairo, when the Arab Spring started. I was having lunch by the water and then heard explosions on the main road. The police had set up barricades to stop the huge crowd from marching through the streets. They were using tear gas to try and disperse everyone but it was not working. Saw several people being beaten bloody with sticks by the cops. Because this was on the main road, which is by the water, I had to push through the crowd to get to the middle of the city where it was quiet — according to a kind stranger — and got teargassed which was awful! I found a cafe in a safe area and waited there for five hours until it was prayer time so I could go back to my hotel.
Had a very fitful sleep and the next morning I found a guy who was driving to Cairo so I paid him a few hundred dollars to take me to the airport. On the way there, there were tanks lined up along the highway and it was clear that the military was not messing around.
If I thought Alexandria was bad, Cairo was so much worse. It looked like the whole city was on fire and there were burnt out armored police cars and buses in the streets. We got stuck in an area the driver thought would be OK, but clearly wasn’t. Saw more people clashing with the police, sporting bloody faces and ripped clothing. A few were limping and helping each other get away. It was insane. I wasn’t too terrified because of the adrenaline, but that sure came afterwards.
Finally got through to the airport and managed to check in. Flight was delayed two hours, then delayed again, and then cancelled until the next morning. Same thing the next day. The airport ran out of food and bottled water and the ATMs ran out of money so people couldn’t buy snacks. Somehow they managed to get more food in and people were given vouchers. More planes kept landing — god knows why — and the place was packed to the brim! I was lucky to have checked in because they shut check-in down shortly after that. Some people had to wait in the entrance area. Because of the lack of bottled water, people were drinking tap water and became sick. The bathrooms were nightmarishly filthy and some people preferred the corners of the waiting lounges rather than finding a bathroom to do their business.
Finally the military let the pilots and crew through into the airport on the third day and my flight to Morocco departed. I did not smell too fresh when I landed.”
“A Drive Down The Coast”
“A few years ago, I was dating a girl who lived on the west coast of the United States (I’m from the UK), and a buddy and me flew out to visit her and some friends for a week. We decided to take a drive down the coast, from Medford down to Eugene/Eureka.
We were looking for somewhere to stop and pulled into a motel on the outskirts of town. Because we were poor students, me and my then-girlfriend got out, and had the others hid in the car while we went to check out a room. We figured we’d rent a room and the others could sneak in later to sleep.
A huge woman in a mu-mu came out and told us that ‘people usually just live here, but we have one room.’ As we walked to the room, a variety of people covered in mud came out to watch us, hawk-like.
She opened the room door. Inside there was yellow, peeling lino on the floor, walls, AND ceiling. In places it was torn. The couch was upside-down, and there was a large, reddish-brown stain on the floor in the corner, which I am still fairly certain was blood.
Our ‘casual’ walk back to the car, with one ear open for the sounds of trouble, was something to behold.”
“It Sounded Too Good To Be True”
“I was on tour in a band once. We went to Texas and one of our stops was San Antonio. We played at a church that booked us for two consecutive nights with a sold out crowd. After arriving, the head pastor of the church informed us that he would be booking us a hotel, providing us dinner and paying our fees for playing. It sounded too good to be true. Most of our stops wrestled us for payment that they guaranteed us in advance. Upon arriving at the hotel he booked for us there was a large brown body size stain on the mattress of the couch. It immediately raised suspicion.
The pastor then told us dinner would be a little later and asked us to come to his favorite restaurant at 1am. We were hungry and since he was being so nice we figured why not. Upon arriving the restaurant said ‘Closed’ but he was in there with a bunch of bodyguards keeping watch who let us in as we were served. This was also very unnerving. The second night he invited us for dinner at his personal residence again at 1 am.
When we got to his house which was in the middle of a desert with no other houses or sources of light nearby, his yard was scoured with security guards standing in the front yard vigilantly and somewhat menacingly. We entered his house which had several handmaids that brought our meals to us in a nice orderly line of plates and put all the plates down at once. None of the maids or guards spoke a word or made eye contact.
The rest of the bandmates and I had a private discussion about not splitting up that night no matter what. Sure enough the pastor asked me to step outside with him as he wanted to talk with me. His hand was firmly on my shoulder and two security guards followed us into the yard in the middle of the night. He told me to grab the keys for our van and to follow his car down the road. He asked me not to tell any of the other bandmates.
Now afraid I told him that the van was not mine and belonged to another bandmate and to take his car and his keys I would want his permission. So I went back inside and told my bandmate what was going on and we then told the rest of our bandmates what was happening in case we turned up dead in some ditch in the middle of Texas. Mind you this was all at the height of some beheadings that had taken place in Mexico near the border close to Texas.
The other guitarist and I got in the van and texted the rest of the bandmates instructing them to tell people from home where we were and what was happening and to standby for details. As I drove, the other guitarist gave the other bandmates a play-by-play. This all felt wrong and felt like a huge mistake.
He lead us to a gas station, still in the middle of nowhere. Asked us to get out of the car and still had told us nothing. He opened our gas cap and then began to fill our gas tanks for us and took us over to the trunk of the black SUV that lead us. He opened the back of the SUV revealing two medium sized ice chests. I was expecting to see some heads or organs or bags for containing organs. But to our surprise it was full of snacks, food, and drinks and he wanted to send us off with blessings for bringing joy and entertainment to his congregation.
It was altogether shady and unnecessarily secretive. Most of the time I was thinking this was a huge mistake but in the end we were very lucky that he was a kind person. Never again.”
“My dad is a truck driver and I used to go with him on the road. One day we’re in Alabama when he makes a wrong turn.
I hear, ‘Get in the back, hide, don’t come out for anything.’
I’m freaking out, I have no clue what’s going on. I climbed into the bunk and hid underneath a pile of dirty clothes. I’m pretty sure I stopped breathing at one point, when an armed guard climbed into the truck and searched.
I laid there completely still for half an hour. Finally, two miles down the road I came out from under the clothes and found out that I had successfully hid from NASA.
While it’s a cool story many years later, I really regretted going with him while it was happening because I was soo scared. It turns out, the reason he told me to hide is actually because I wasn’t allowed on that certain trip, and he was afraid if they called his dispatcher to verify it was him and his truck, they would also mention me, and he’d get fired — I guess going to prison wasn’t as big of a deal.”
“We Were Making Peace With Our Deaths”
“I was on a vacation through Central and South America. I was on a hike near the border of Mexico and Guatemala at one point and came to a bar/pool hall at the top of a small mountain in the woods. Confused at the sight of it and thirsty, my friend and I walked in and were immediately greeted by the entire establishment, which happened to be filled with MS13 members (neck and face tattoos of “13” being the big give-away). You could almost hear the “screech” of the music coming to a stop and the heavy glares. Right while we were making peace with our deaths, a nice young man who we had met the night before and partied with on the beach stood up, greeted us warmly, and assured everyone that we were cool. We spent the rest of the day drinking and playing pool with a bunch of gangsters, telling jokes, dancing, etc. It was a good time. Got a ride back off the mountain to the hotel on a couple of quads that night.”
“Me and a couple of friends were traveling in Japan when one friend recommended teppanyaki and told us it was the best thing ever. Couple of days later we found a place called Teppanyaki and Coffee between two clubs/bars — warning sign #1.
Approaching the shop a middle aged chubby guy came out and led us in — warning sign #2: first time in Japan someone led us in from outside.
At the store there is a big hotplate; place looks dirty. We ask with our broken Japanese how much teppanyaki costs and he told us like 15000 yen an hour — warning sign #3 — stupid as we were we thought it was expensive and thought it was an all you can eat style place.
One of my friends sits down and says he’s hungry and can go for it. One of my other friends finding the price too much asks if they have a menu. Owner answers in English ‘No menu, only picture’ — warning sign #4. Still not getting it we do this back and forth for another minute until the owner says this isn’t a teppanyaki store and does a gyrating motion in the air and a thumb though his index and middle finger. Finally saying ‘This is sopaland’ in his broken English. I start laughing hysterically understanding what he meant and quickly explain it to my friend while leaving with a laughing owner behind us, who finally understood we were really there for the food.”
“We Decided To Spend The Night Because It Was Late”
“Some stink hole small town in northern India which I have no interest in remembering the name of. We got off the train in order to change trains, but decided to spend the night because it was late. Walking into the town square we (two guys and one woman) get surrounded by a large mob of angry men. I have no idea what they were angry about, but likely mad that as as woman I was not alone. They were yelling at us, pushing and shoving.
Just as outright panic was about to set in, like a vision out of the crowd comes a well dressed guy, speaking in English ‘I am so sorry! Come with me and you will be safe.’
He took us to a dive of a hotel. Jump forward 30 minutes, I’m in the hotel room having a shower when the front desk clerk walks into the shower–not just into the bathroom, but into the shower stall with me! I scream and tell him to get the heck out. The two guys I was traveling with come running into the room and the little Indian creep bolts outta there. Then, in the middle of the night, I wake up to find another local at the end of my bed.”
“What Are You Doing Here?”
“I was in Chicago, had been there many times, and I really like it. But on this one particular trip, I had gotten out of work downtown and just started driving in one direction looking for some random sort of hole-in-the-wall restaurant that might be interesting.
As I was driving, it progressively got rougher and rougher. I got to one point where it seemed like every other building was boarded up, there were cars on blocks left on the street for God knows how long, and I suddenly felt like everyone was looking at me with pure hatred in their eyes. Like walking through a dark forest while wolves are stalking you from the trees. A police car passed me and immediately flashed his lights and U-turned behind me. I pulled over and he pulled up next to me and rolled down his passenger window.
He said ‘What are you doing here?’ I explained that I had gotten out of work and was looking for somewhere to eat.
He said ‘When I see a guy in a suit driving a new car in this neighborhood, they are either looking for something they shouldn’t or are lost. Either way, there is nothing good for you here. You need to get out of here ASAP.’
And I believed him. Before he stopped me, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. I felt like a worm on a hook.”
“How Bad Can It Really Be?”
“I went to Juarez, Mexico with a few buddies from the army. During the day it was shady, but typical. At night is when the action happened. We were just home from Baghdad, Iraq when we first went. We just came home from war, were young, felt invincible, and thought, ‘How bad can it really be?’ Ended up in the back of a cab while the driver was making a deal; said driver then took us to a brothel when we asked to go to a bar.
On a return trip one of my buddies was insistent on finding the donkey show. Of course we ended up at the same brothel–and no donkey show.
We realized that most of the cab drivers really didn’t care where we said we wanted to go; they would get kick backs from the brothels for bringing people there. No matter what we said, somehow we were always dropped off where the ladies were.
I went to the bathroom at one of these establishments and walked in on two guys doing bumps on the sink. Turned down a bump and proceeded to do what I came in for. An older guy who was clearly sloshed kept trying to ask me something in Spanish. I couldn’t understand him so he turned toward me, came closer, and got louder. I then felt something warm on my leg/foot. Yup, he was peeing on me as he was trying to talk. I ducked out of there and used two Tecates to clean off my foot. I figured better to be covered in Tecate than urine.”
“Vegas Was A Scary Place”
“I moved to Vegas in the mid 90’s. A friend of my younger brother was there and said he lived with one guy in a one bedroom. It was actually two brothers and him in a studio apartment that was crawling with cockroaches — not just at night, but all day. I slept on a hard chair and balanced two of the feet off the ground with one of my feet on the coffee table. I slept like that for three weeks.
Everywhere we went was by bus, because these clowns couldn’t save any money to get a car. They only ate at 7-Eleven because they had $1 hot dog and soda: that’s all they ate. The apartment building was filled with Cuban boat people that Florida didn’t have enough room for. But not Cuban families, just about 100 Cuban men who got a government check every 2 weeks, and the day they got that check the place was absolutely bonkers with knife fights and ambulances and more knife fights and screaming and grilling and broken bottles and more knife fights.
I lived just north of the strip behind the Riviera, literally the first building behind the giant parking lot behind the Riv. I wondered why there were C-batteries on every corner that were half smashed on one side. Well, apparently it was because the kind people in my neighborhood would wait for a lost tourist to get stuck at a red light and then take the battery and smash the side window of the car and reach in and grab a purse or luggage. The batteries were everywhere.
The city had two police helicopters. There wasn’t six hours that went by that one of those helicopters wasn’t hovering within a quarter mile of my apartment building. I would hear distinct ‘bang bang’ sounds every night. I saw strung out weirdos everywhere; gambling junkies playing slots at 7-Eleven at 7am or anytime for that matter. All three of my roommates were barred from most of the casinos for tray surfing, which is when you walk thru the casinos looking in the slot tray for any coins people may have left behind.
There were hundreds if not thousands of homeless living in the drainage pipes underneath the strip. The only way to get a job at a place that had food, drinks, gambling, and entertainment was to get a special license that cost about $600 for all the licenses. So, to get a good job I had to get a license. I was a clerk in Chicago before I moved with good computer skills, and tried to get in to any of the hotels. No luck. No one wanted to even talk to someone who hadn’t been there for at least three months.
I made my mind up after two weeks to leave, so I turned my last week there into a vacation. I went to a UNLV basketball game and while returning home on the bus the driver just stopped. I walked up to her and asked her what was going on. She pointed about a block up the road and there was a guy with a weapon running back and forth across all four lanes striking passing cars with the weapon. I could see the sparks as it hit the cars. I jumped off the bus and sprinted the opposite way for a half mile, found a cab, went to a casino in old Vegas and got a room for two nights until I could catch my flight out of there. Vegas was scary a scary place in ’95”
“I Got Out Of There Fast”
“I went to Detroit a few years ago for two residency interviews. After driving around Detroit, I said to myself that this place would be a last resort option in terms of securing a residency.
The second interview was at a very large hospital in Detroit. They paid for my hotel room at a boutique hotel. It was a nice place, but I felt like it was crazy haunted. The place was decorated like a typical funeral parlor.
I decided to walk around and look for something to eat for dinner. I found a Domino’s pizza about one block away. I have never seen a Domino’s Pizza with bullet proof windows before. They had to put the pizza into a box, lock their side, which then unlocked the box on my side and I can slide the window up and grab my pizza. The only other place I have seen this before was at the post office.
Walking on the way back, some guy on the street tried to sell me a “Bridge Card” which is Michigan’s version of the federal SNAP program.
I go in the next morning, give a minimal performance at the interview, and got out of there fast.”
“I Gave Him A Firm No”
“Poipet, Cambodia is basically an awful trap that was built to milk cash out of anyone trying to enter Cambodia by land from Bangkok. In my case, I was taking a bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap en route to Angkor Wat. I got trapped in Poipet for a few hours and I can’t remember a lot of angrier days in my life. It starts with sketchy quasi-legal casinos that stand in no man’s land between the place where you get stamped out of Thailand and the immigration office letting you into Cambodia. Then you get to immigration and they shake you down for a bribe in order to get your visa faster. There’s no queue; they’ll just make you sit in the waiting room for an hour or more if you’re unwilling to pay them like $10 extra.
Then they force you to go to a bus depot that charges rates to Siem Reap that are probably ten times the going rate. In my case, they assured me that the bus couldn’t go to the small street my hostel was on, but that they’d include a tuk tuk ride with the bus fare direct to my destination. The tuk tuk driver was noticeably trashed at about noon and tried to shake me down for more money, then when I gave him a firm no because the ride was included — which he verified before we got in — he broke into our room to try to harass us into paying.
Every other experience I have had in a million other places in Cambodia spread over several visits was delightful. The next time I entered from Bangkok, I went three hours out of my way to avoid that godforsaken sinkhole.”
“We Immediately Hit The Ground”
“It’s crazy how different things are in Saltillo now. I’m Canadian, but my wife is originally from Saltillo so we are there to visit family at least four times a year. One time, probably in 2010 or 2011 we were walking down the street to the nearest OXXO (convenience store) and just as we got to the parking lot two trucks filled with heavily armed men flew in. They stopped right in front of the store, so we immediately hit the ground. Both trucks had guys with big weapons mounted on the back and they stayed in the trucks watching the road. The rest of the guys, around 10 of them, jumped out of the trucks fully armed and rushed inside the store. We didn’t know what was going on but we were too exposed to run back down the street so we just stayed low on the ground against a wall. About a minute later they all came running back out with bottles of soda, got back into the trucks and they sped away: guess it was break time.
I feel completely safe when I visit now and I’ve never had any other experiences like that. The city seems to be doing great and the craft brew scene is really starting to pick up!”