My best and worst travel moments of 2018

by Sonja Faul

This year has been a mixed bag of good and bad travel experiences, but good for the most part. Below I share my best travel moments of the year, but also the bad ones.

My worst travel moments of 2018

I share all the crappy stuff that happened during my travels, not to dwell on the bad or be negative or anything like that, but to create perspective. Travel isn’t all glitz and glamour and everything doesn’t always go according to plan.

Canadian transit visa

Back in August of 2017 I purchased error fare tickets from Brussels to New York on Air Canada with a connection in Montreal. I obsessively checked the flight details online, waiting for the airline to cancel the tickets, but they didn’t. About three weeks before the trip while checking the ticket status online, I noticed a link that said I might need a transit visa to pass through Canada. I nearly fainted! After completing a short questionnaire online, my worst fears were realised. Yes, I did need a visa. I immediately completed an application online which was approved within two days. But since there wasn’t a Canadian visa application centre in Amsterdam, I had to send my passport to Vienna. In the end, despite my panic and fear, I received my passport with transit visa back in time with more than a week to spare.

Harassed in Milan

I was literally counting the days until my trip to Italy in July. I hadn’t been to Milan before and I was super excited to see the city, particularly the Milan Duomo. When I finally arrived at the cathedral square, I was immediately harassed by hawkers who wanted to take my photo or give me ‘good luck’ bracelets. I hate to say it but it’s true: they predominantly target solo female travellers. I’m very firm with hawkers and they usually leave me alone, but there was this one guy that just wouldn’t quit.

When he asked if he could take my photo, I said ‘no’. He left me alone for the next 5 to 10 minutes. But he came back. After saying ‘no’ repeatedly, he forced dry pasta into the palm of my hand. The pigeons flocked to me (which was kinda cool) and he was taking a bucket load of photos. When I didn’t want to purchase the photos, he got very aggressive. I stood my ground and pointed to the nearest police officer about 20 meters away saying ‘let’s go to the police officer over there and sort this out.’ At this point, he lost his shit and for the next 10 minutes followed me around the square, cussing and screaming at me. Some of the other hawkers joined in. I eventually just left the square, physically unharmed but shaken.

Dormitory hook-up

This happened the same day as the Duomo harassment I described above. I was already having a horrible day, but it was about to get worse. After a very long, shitty day, all I wanted to do was relax and have a good night’s sleep. I stayed in a female dormitory with two other girls. After the lights were switched off and I was about to fall asleep, one of the girls brought a guy into the dorm room. At first, I didn’t know what was happening, but when they both got into the same bed I knew they were going to hook up. Honestly, I was shocked and paralysed and I didn’t quite know what to do. This had never happened to me before. If it was in the middle of the day, I would have left the room. But it was after midnight and I was wearing pajamas. Where was I going to go anyway? So I just lay there, trying my very best not to pay attention to all the sex noises. It only occurred to me much later to get my earphones and listen to music. This whole experience was just super awkward and annoying.

Mini panic attack in Prague

I’ve only had two panic attacks in my life. The first was in Grade 11 the night before my Biology exam (I don’t know why I freaked out because I knew my work and I did very well in the test). And the second was in Prague at the end of July. A lot of things happened that led to me feeling so overwhelmed. Looking back now, I can see it so clearly see it. I was at a travel conference in Ostrava before I travelled to Prague. The conference was stressful for me because I put so much pressure on myself to form connections and perhaps even new friends (something that I haven’t struggled with ever in my life until now). By the end of the conference, I was a wreck and all I wanted to do was escape the people and be alone. But Prague in summer in crazy with bucket loads of tourists everywhere. The fact that I was staying in dorm rooms with strangers in my personal space didn’t help either.

To be completely honest, it wasn’t a ‘big’ panic attack. But if I hadn’t cut my trip short and returned home immediately, there’s no doubt in my mind that my mini freak-out would have developed into a full-blown panic attack. Sometimes you just have to listen to your body. And my body was telling me to get home as soon as possible.

The best travel moments of 2018

I had so many great travel moments in 2018! Truly, I feel blessed to have travelled to more than 30 towns and cities across Europe and America. Below I share my best travel moments of 2018.

Going up North

Not only was this my first trip of 2018, it was also my first new country that I visited this year. Flixbus had a massive sale, so I purchased return tickets to Copenhagen. I took an overnight bus to the Danish capital, stayed one night in the city and another overnight bus back to Amsterdam. Copenhagen is beautiful with colourful buildings and cobblestone streets. The city is very pedestrian friendly and I walked everywhere. My favourite part of the trip was all the delicious Danish pastries I ate. So many…Haha! They weren’t cheap, but as good as they tasted, I didn’t mind the price tag. Also, this is the furthest North I’ve ever been.

Being part of the Eagles parade in Philadelphia

My knowledge about American football is basically non-existent, but I happened to watch the Eagles win the Superbowl (even though I didn’t understand all the rules) and I happened to be in Philadelphia during their parade. Thousands of people flocked to the city centre of Philadelphia to get a glimpse of their NFL heroes. It’s one of those once in a lifetime events that I just happened to be a part of and something I won’t ever forget. The crowd. The atmosphere. Excitement everywhere.

Eating cheesecake in NYC

To be fair, I didn’t just eat cheesecake in New York City. I had cronuts and cruffins too…Haha! This was my second time in New York, and every time I visit, I like the city more and more. There’s no other place like it, really. This time I cruised around Manhattan, went to the Top of the Rock and visited the Met, among other things. I also ate a ton of great food on this trip, from a $1 slice pizza near Times Square to cronuts, and yes, cheesecake. I love the cheesecake so much that I would totally go back to the city just for it.

Visiting fairy tale villages across Europe

I didn’t necessarily plan to travel to so many beautiful villages, it just worked out that way. My favourite towns were Strasbourg, Colmar, Cesky Krumlov and Bruges (technically Strasbourg and Bruges are small cities). Strasbourg and Colmar have similar architecture, typical of the region close to the France-Germany border. Colmar is very colourful and very pretty. I had to pinch myself to believe that what I was seeing was real.

Bruges has a picturesque market square with the Belfry on one side and guild houses on the other. Every corner you turn in Bruges is just another postcard picture. Also, Bruges has all the waffles and chocolate!

If I had to pick a favourite among these towns, then it’ll be Cesky Krumlov. Think Medieval castle and cobblestone streets with a river running through the centre of the town.

Backstage at a metal festival in Switzerland

In April I travelled to Zurich to meet up with my friends from the metal band Death Therapy. They played at a festival called Elements of Rock. I got into the festival for free by helping out with the merchandise. This was my first time with backstage access at a metal festival. It was so cool to be able to go where only the band members can go. I’m such a groupie!

Zurich itself is such a beautiful city. I loved wandering through the Altstadt, and walking along the river and lake. The best viewpoint in the city is from Lindenhof (and it’s totally free). The food in Zurich was great too! From Swiss cheese to luxemburgerli.

My first (and second) time in Greece

I’ve never been to Greece before, but this year I travelled to the country twice. The first time was in May with my husband to Rhodes, and then a solo trip in October to Santorini. My Rhodes vacation was pure luxury and relaxation. I stayed in a five-star hotel on the beach with a decadent breakfast buffet every morning. Apart from the beauty of the island, the food is insanely good and the hospitality is unmatched. You always get something free when you eat at a restaurant, like a bottle of water or a shot of ouzo or baklava.

I’ve wanted to travel to Santorini ever since I can remember, and when I got really cheap flight tickets to the island, I couldn’t let the opportunity pass by. My second trip was very basic compared to my Rhodes trip, but Santorini is the kind of pretty that seems unreal and dreamlike. What surprised me most about Santorini was all the amazing hiking trails. I walked so much and it was great to be in nature all by myself.

Travelling in Italy with my sister

My best travel memory of 2018, without a doubt, was traveling through Italy with my sister. We hadn’t seen each other for longer than a decade and to see her again in my favourite country, Italy, was just the icing on the cake. After meeting up in Florence and staying for a couple of days, we travelled to the Cinque Terre, where we stayed in Monterosso for three nights. We talked so much about everything. We drank so many glasses of Aperol spritz and wine. Together we saw some of the best views that Italy has to offer. The food, alcohol, setting and company was terrific! My only complaint is that the trip was way too short. But if all goes well I’ll see her next year in Australia.

Exploring the Christmas markets in Germany

At the time of writing this blog post, I’m travelling through Germany with my husband. I’ve already been to five Christmas markets, in Hamburg, Bremen, Cologne, Nuremberg, and Dresden. Next stop Berlin. The festive season in Germany is really something to be experienced. Each Christmas market has a different look and vibe.

This year has been a wonderful rollercoaster of adventure. I had my ups. I had my downs. Who knows what 2019 will bring, but I bet it’s going to be epic.

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1 comment

Capatula November 11, 2019 - 6:26 pm

Wow, you’ve done so much in a year. I though your travails with the plane ticket far from being a failure were a success (assuming the ticket was super cheap and the transit visa did not cost too much). And you’ve also managed one of the top items on my bucket list – a stay in Montesorro – the town was the final stop on a walk I achieved in the Cinque Terre, and the thought came into my head that it would be a fantastic place to return to for a full week!


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