"My Ear Is Leaking Blood": Your Worst Travel Stories


As we suspected, your worst travel stories involve far more than TSA pat-downs and long tarmac waits. Herewith, your tales of masturbation, voyeurism, and trombones in transit — just in time to make a run-of-the-mill holiday delay feel almost pleasant.

Okay, a handful of these are not terrible so much as funny. But a surprising number center around bodily function and malfunction. As we’ve pointed out in the past, you guys are really gross.

Horny Justin Bieber

My junior year of college, I studied abroad in Paris. Since the universities were on strike, I decided to visit one of my oldest friends, who was in Venice, during her Easter break. One of my new friends from Paris came on board, and we decided that while we were there we’d take a two-day trip to Rome. It was short notice and it was Easter, so every hostel in Rome was totally booked. And being two seriously broke-ass students, hotels were out of the question. But! Since we were intrepid (read: naive) adventurers, our attitude was along the lines of “Whatever! We’ll tour Rome the first day, find a nightclub, dance the night away, and tour Rome again the next day WITHOUT SLEEPING!” Can’t fail, right? So the next week, only 11 hours after arriving at my friend’s place in Venice, we set off on a 5AM train to Rome to try our luck at staying awake 48 consecutive hours. […]
It was April and cold, so we ducked into a bookstore, went to the guidebooks, picked up one for Rome, and flipped to the “nightlife” section. Apparently, the place to be for clubs and dancing was Monte Testaccio, which, of course, was the furthest possible point from where we were. It was about 10 PM, and we had no other options, so we decided to hoof it armed only with a map. […]
The area was cool, but it wasn’t exactly what we’d hoped for. We settled in a bar that was filled with American students. Apparently, it was Ladies’ Night and ladeez could get two-for-one drinks, so we each took two drinks and started sippin’ from both hands. At this point, getting wasted seemed like the best idea.
It was then that we were accosted by a group of three REALLY young boys. Loud, excited, and all dressed like Justin Bieber, they sat themselves down at our table and began talking to us. My friend and I were pretty monosyllabic, but they were determined to make conversation, so we learned that they were Austrians visiting Rome with their high school class. They said they were all 18, but there was no way these kids were a day older than 16 tops. We explained that we were visiting from Paris and had been hoping to find a nightclub, and their faces all lit up. “Oh! There’s a nightclub right next to our hotel, at Termini Station!” They offered to pay for a cab to take us there so we could all go clubbing together. My friend and I conversed privately, in French, about the pros and cons of this. We basically reached the conclusion that they were skinny little boys and we could take them all in a fight, and hey they were paying, so we got in the cab and drove back up to where we’d started.
Surprise surprise, when we get there, it turns out they “can’t remember” where the club was, but would we like to go up to their hotel room and smoke some hookah? Ugh. They’d fooled us. We went along with it since it was about 3 AM at this point and we were dead sober and exhausted. We had to be extra quiet so their chaperones wouldn’t know they’d brought women back to the room, and my friend and I were at odds about what to do. I wanted to try our luck somewhere else, and she felt that it was probably safer to sleep on the floor of their hotel room than wander the streets at night (she’d also cut her foot and it was painful, so walking was becoming impossible for her). Turns out sleeping on the floor wasn’t necessary – one enterprising kid pushed the two twin beds in his hotel room together so we could all sleep comfortably (how nice) and, in German, ordered his roommate to go find somewhere else to stay.
My friend fell asleep in the bed instantly. I set my cell phone alarm and swore that we’d leave by first light the next morning. The second I settle down to sleep, the kid starts getting REALLY handsy. I slapped him away, shouted “No,” and he groaned, rolled over, and left me alone. After a few seconds, I start hearing him breathe heavily and grunt intermittently. There’s also some movement going on under the sheets. Suddenly, he shouts, and then everything is quiet. At the time, I was too tired to realize what was happening, but in retrospect, I’m 100% positive that he just jacked off in the bed.

Men’s Room

At 18, I travelled across Puerto Rico on a bus. We pulled over for a break at a lonesome gas station in the middle of the island, and all went to use the facilities. The ladies’ line was so long, I decided to jump into the men’s washroom as no men were in it. The lock was so rusty, it promptly got stuck, locking me in the stall. The toilet had overflowed at one point, leaving god-knows-what in a somewhat slimy mess in much of the stall. The stall door/walls went down nearly to the floor and I was small enough to squeeze under at the time, but I was not sliding through sludge. I yelled for help, but no one heard me (the ladies’ was on the other side of the building from the mens’). The bus left without me, and I was trapped for at least 45 minutes in a sweltering, stinky, sludge-filled men’s washroom in the middle of August, alternately yelling and contemplating crawling through piss and shit to freedom before the bus discovered I was missing and returned to look for me.

Flying Wounded

After college, I took a job teaching English to grade schoolers in France. After my contract ended, I had a precious few weeks to travel Europe and visit friends before returning to the US and going about getting a real job. This was my last hurrah.
The final stop on my Grand Tour was some friends’ house in the Southwest. I roll off the train with every material possession I own strapped to my back. My friends are there to greet me, and whisk me away to dinner and then off to the club. Despite the fact that we started the evening in one of the largest cities in France, we end up going to a club down a series of unlit dirt roads in the middle of nowhere. Adult beverages are consumed by all, including the driver of the vehicle. This quickly became apparent on the drive home, and we ended up in the emergency room after running into a ditch. I was scheduled to be on a plane back to the US in four days.
Fortunately, none of us were severely injured, but I did end up bruised with a giant weeping seatbelt burn across my chest and my neck in a brace. I was told that under no circumstances was I to do any heavy lifting. I felt like I had been beaten with a bat.
So, instead of enjoying my last few days of freedom, I am holed up in my friends’ apartment watching dubbed French TV and nursing 2 euro bottles of Bordeaux, uncomfortable, unable to sleep, and dreading my return trip. The day finally arrives, and I have to take the train to Paris. I grit my teeth and (somehow) make it off the train and through the airport, thanks to those rentable airport trolleys. Then, I hit the security checkpoint.
Security insists that I am not able to continue past the checkpoint with the trolley. Non, ce n’est pas possible. Nevermind the note from the ER doc indicating that I am not able to lift anything. Nevermind the obvious brace and weeping wound snaking across my torso. I am required to place my bags (remember, they contain all my material possessions, so they weigh about 3.78 tons) on the conveyor belts with no assistance. Then I am required to remove the brace so that they can test it for explosives, which re-opens my seatbelt burn, causing it to bleed. I limp to my plane and we finally begin to board. I pathetically attempt to place my bags in the overhead containers, which is pointless, since I can’t lift my arms over my head. My fellow passengers all avoid my desperate, pleading gaze. At this point, I have been traveling for about 10 hours, I am in pain, exhausted, and humiliated. I can feel the tears welling up. Then I get to my seat. I am in the middle seat in the very back row. The row right in front of the toilets. The row where the seats do not recline. Any possibility of physical comfort immediately evaporates. I collapse into my seat and begin to sob.
A flight attendant approaches me, and gives me a bizarre pep talk about how flying really isn’t scary at all! I guess she must have thought that the bloody neck brace and facial bruises were all an elaborate ruse to designed disguise the fact that I was a nervous flyer? Who knows. What I do know is that I gave her such a confused, uncomprehending look that she stopped mid-sentence and walked away.
I pop more than the recommended amount of painkillers and wait for sweet unconciousness to overtake me. Then a man arrives and begins to berate me in Dutch. I speak no Dutch, but this man’s tone is unmistakable: I am a nasty bitch who has offended him mightily. His gestures indicate that I am seated in his assigned space. Through my tears I determine that I am indeed in his space. I blubber an apology and scoot over one seat to accomodate him. Once his seatbelt is securely fastened, my fellow passenger registers that I am extremely upset, and obviously injured. Then he proceeds to comment loudly and inappropriately on my appearance (“Wow, that’s a big cut! What did you do to yourself?” “Aw, all that crying is making your face all red and puffy.”)
Fortunately, I was able to fall asleep, and stayed asleep most of the 12 hour flight. I assumed it was the drugs I had taken, but a few days after I got home, I was diagnosed with strep throat. I like to think that I infected the asshole seated next to me, and that the strep mutated and spread to his balls, causing them to drop off.

Ear Disaster

Spring break 2007, Paris. Oh so awesome until I got sick the last day, probably because I made out with some hot French chick earlier in the week, and only had enough decongestant to last the EXACT LENGTH of the flight. During normal weather. Didn’t count on a blizzard in NY. We were the last flight to leave Paris before they started canceling flights to the U.S. East Coast. We had to get back that Saturday so we could drive back to college the next day to get back for classes. We circled and circled and the meds wore off and my eardrum exploded as we’re finally descending. Literally, blood and mucus down the side of my neck. Perforated eardrum. Then we had to sit on the tarmac for THREE HOURS waiting to taxi to a clear gate, because there was only one runway clear at JFK due to the storm, while my fever is climbing higher and higher and my ear is still leaking blood and I generally feel absolutely miserable. At least I had DayQuil for the 6 hour drive back to school the next day…

Trombone Trouble

[My husband] is going for an audition for his doctorate in music at a mid-western school of music, I am going with him to attend a conference and the same University.
[…] we land in a very large mid-west city that has two large airports. Where we have a 3 hour layover. Except there is “severe weather.” It was never explained to us whether this storm was actually going to hit this city or if it was elsewhere causing delays.
We opt to stay in the airport instead of going to a hotel (big mistake). We are told that we will be on a flight out first thing in the morning (at this point it was midnight). We curl up and sleep pretty well. Around 5:30 am we are awoken to a security guard telling us that we’ve been reported to have a “suspicious package” and we needed to come with him.
We are escorted to this weird security herding area and made to wait an hour and a half until someone comes to see us. They immediately split us up and this incredibly nice TSA agent is questioning me. She finally lets it spill that my husbands trombone case is causing the issue. She assures me it will be no big deal, and as soon as the other agent is done searching my husbands trombone we will be free to go.
At this point I’m beginning to get nervous. Our flight has already departed and I’m missing parts of my conference. I can hear everything that is going on in the next room where they have my husband. It becomes clear that they think the trombone is either a.) a bomb, or b.) being used to smuggle drugs. The TSA agent questioning him has no idea what a trombone is. My husband is trying to explain to him that its an instrument that can’t be checked because its temperature sensitive, etc….
This guy is NOT buying it. He keeps telling my husband that there is NO WAY that a sounds comes out of that “weird looking thing”. My husband is getting super frustrated and shouts “IF I WAS A DRUG DEALER I SURE AS HELL WOULDN’T HIDE MY DRUGS IN SOMETHING SO OBVIOUS” which is quite possibly the stupidest thing he could have done.
We were detained, questioned, and searched for nearly 8 hours. Needless to say we didn’t make it to his audition or my conference, but I’ve never been so grateful to see a bathroom in my entire life. Also, who the heck doesn’t know what a trombone is!?

Celebrity Sighting

Heading to Cali for the summer, my stupid college boyfriend breaks up with me OVER THE PHONE as I am boarding the plane. Then, Sinead O’Connor is on my flight, wow. I usually pop some pills before I board a plane cause I have fear of flying, so I am actually just a little woozy and okay with everything thanks to Zanax.
During my layover at JFK the meds wear off and I ring him from a pay phone to ask why and sob in public, when we hang up the connecting flight is cancelled and I realize Sinead is sitting across from me in the terminal while I weep into my sleeve. She tries to be helpful by saying “travel can be stressful” and I realize probably everyone else on this flight thinks I am sobbing/hiccuping because of the flight cancellation. I’ve always wanted to meet Ms. O’Connor, but I pictured us doing karaoke to ‘Nothing Compares to You’ and burning images of the NEW pope together, not weeping while she looks on sympathetically. Sigh.

Bad Kid

For my friend’s 16th birthday, her parents rented a large jet boat thing. The idea was that we would have a big Chinese dinner, then sped through the harbour, marvelling at the sunset.
This wasn’t to be. […]
Because the sides were open, we were instructed to stay in the centre or sitting against the back wall thing. Everyone compiled, except for this little 9 year old jerk. He kept running up front, alternatively complaining of being bored, and of feeling sick. You can see where this is headed.
As we crested a massive wave, the boat dropped a few metres with a big lurch. The brat, up front, turned towards all fifteen or so of us sitting at the back.
He opened his mouth and this splurt of vomit exploded from his mouth and rained down on our upturned faces. His combination of half digested noodles, lemon chicken and fried ice-cream went into my mouth. It would have looked cartoonish. I have no idea how his body held that much up-chuck.
The birthday girl ended up drenched in spew. We returned to land, washed in public restrooms, and watched the chuckle-head consume fairy floss and ice cream. I haven’t seen him since, but I hope he got his comeuppence.

Crazy Man

I was traveling through Europe in 2006. This story takes place during one leg of my trip, an overnight train from Amsterdam to Copenhagen, where I was going to visit friends to celebrate Midsummer.
Overnight trains with sleeping berths, such as the one I was on, are arranged into compartments, where each compartment houses six berths arranged in two columns of three. I was in the middle-right berth, and for the first hour of the ride I was pretty much alone in there, so I was happy as a clam. All of that changed when the door to my compartment slammed open and I felt someone grabbing and groping me. I pushed the person off of me and yelled at the guy—a gray-haired, 50-something male—and he bowed his head in apology and left the compartment.
Only he came back five minutes later. Then left again. Then came back. Then left AGAIN. Finally, after proving to himself that the door wasn’t actually a portal to Narnia, he decided to stay in the compartment. The entire time he was mumbling to himself.
I have to stop here and dwell on the mumbling for a bit. This guy had a PhD in glossolalia. I couldn’t understand a word he was saying (I don’t speak German or Dutch, and my Danish is horrible), and neither could the dude on the train who checked the tickets (who spoke all three languages, plus English). The best way I can describe the sound that came out of this guy’s mouth is like this: put a potato in your mouth, then moan like a zombie while trying to hock a loogie at the same time; occasionally interrupt the mumbling to either cough, breathe noisily through your mouth, or snort and swallow your own boogers. Oh, and as you’re reading this story, imagine that this sound is happening at all times, without stopping.
So, the guy, who from now on shall be known as the Crazy Man, bickered with his own luggage for a bit, and then climbed slowly onto the berth directly above mine. I assume that at some point he began to sleep (remember, at all times). It was annoying but I decided to power through it and tried to doze off. […]
That’s when the couple came in and started having sex on the floor.
Well, no, I’m not telling the whole story here. They started having sex on the floor, then moved on to a standing position, facing me (the edge of my berth was the girl’s handrail), and then finally moved to the berth below mine. I have to give them credit for enthusiasm, as their energetic humping managed to shake even my berth above the rumbling of the train; also, as I peeked over the edge I could see limbs flailing about (whose, I do not know); also also, at one point after I had decided that I needed some air, I climbed down, and two hands actually groped at my ass (his and hers? Just hers? Just his?). What I’m trying to say here is that these people were probably having the best sex of their lives, and I commend them for it in spite of everything.
So, after climbing down and getting groped for the second time that night by as many people, or perhaps as many people and one more, I went outside. My initial intention was to find a seat in the hallway and stay there, but after thinking it over (and not finding any seats, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU GERMAN TRAINS), I decided to go back inside. I had paid for a ticket on this train, damnit, and I was not going to let anything stand (um, lay) in my way.
I entered the Matrix one more time and made as much noise as possible as I climbed back in my berth, determined to passive-aggressively instill some respect in these obnoxious, noisy jackasses. As if on cue, Crazy Man jumped out of his berth and made himself comfortable on the birth across from mine (middle-left). Great, so the guy wants to watch the couple as they fuck. Whatever.
This went on for around fifteen minutes (again, mad props for enthusiasm, kids). After pointedly not sleeping a wink, I opened my eyes and rolled over. I could still feel the couple banging against the bottom of my berth—literally and figuratively—and I could see Crazy Man staring in the darkness, with his head resting on his right hand.
His left hand, curiously, was nowhere to be seen.
Oh, no, wait, there it was.
It was busy jerking off his penis.
My eyes bulged out. I must have made some sort of noise then, because Crazy Man looked up from the couple, at me, and started jerking harder (and, need I remind you, at all fucking times).
The couple moaned noisily and came. I think Crazy Man did too. I’m not sure. Or maybe my mind repressed the trauma, somehow. […]
But I’ll tell you this: if you ever travel to Denmark, please, for the love of all that is holy, take the plane.

Earlier: Tell Us Your Worst Travel Stories

Image via Natalie Dee

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