Planes, Trains and Automobiles: More Idiot Travel — Part 2

Trains

On the same trip I’ve referenced a million times (because it was the only overseas trip I’ve ever gone on), we took the train only a handful of times. For the majority of our trip, we had a car, but we weren’t crazy enough to drive in London, so we took the train to and from Oxford when we didn’t have our car.

The train trip to Oxford from London was so pleasant. Idyllic even. The train was barely at half capacity, and we were seated across from a friendly couple from Denmark. We had a great time chatting and it made the trip really quick and painless.

The train from Oxford to London was a whole other story.

The train station in Oxford was balls to the walls insanity. It was packed. There wasn’t one seat to sit in and if I’m remembering correctly, you had to pay to use the restrooms. It was not my favorite.

When we finally got onto the train, we saw that, just like the station, it was packed.

I had booked our seats in advance and upon seeing the Mad Max situation that was our train, I was pretty grateful for my forward thinking.

However, when we had finally clawed our way to our seats, dragging our bags with us as there was no more room in the baggage compartment, we saw that an older couple was in our seats.

They were adorable. I mean, gray hair perfectly coiffed, matching linty sweaters, and they totally had Kleenex up their sleeves for later. They were the epitome of what every loving grandparent has ever looked like since the beginning of time. Well, ever since easy wear sweaters came into fashion.

We were in a real conundrum. We had two choices: Kindly ask the couple to move or schlepp ourselves and our bags all over the train looking for two empty seats that didn’t exist.

Even worse, there were people behind us trying to get by and there was nowhere to sidle over to as we discussed our game plan. It was act or be eaten by the angry, over-it people lining up behind us.

“OMG. What do we do?” I asked with a deer-in-headlights look on my face.

“I don’t know! What do we do?” Answered Friend, looking pretty freaked himself.

I don’t know. What should we do?” I repeated with more desperation in my voice.

From somewhere nearby came a voice that said, “If there are people in your seats, bloody well tell them to get out of them!”

We both looked at each other like, “OH GAWD”.

“OK. Go tell them. It’s your turn to do something embarrassing, ” I asserted (It was me who had to ask the cop in Blackpool for directions).

“No way. You’re closer and I don’t want to be an asshole. Look at them. They are Mr. and, the less well known, Mrs. Rogers!” He exclaimed.

“But, I was the one who had to go out of my way to reserve seats so that we would be sure to have seats. It’s your turn.” I proclaimed.

Another phantom voice rang out, “OMG. Sit or MOVE!”

“I’ll just go sit on my luggage by the door,” decided Friend.

Out of nowhere, a voice again, “You can’t do that. You’ll get caught and told to find a seat.”

The people behind us were, at this point, ready to murder us.

It looked like we really had no other viable option as we were blocking the aisle and the man to my left had had enough of having the side of his face smashed into the ten-days-not-washed ass of my jeans.

Just like always I had to be the adult in the situation.

I sheepishly cleared my throat and tapped the woman, who looked just like my grandmother, on her shoulder, prepared to be forever cursed by karma.

They ended up being really sweet, which only made things TEN MILLION TIMES WORSE.

I still, to this day, think of them and hope they found a seat or someone who wasn’t as big of a cunt as my friend and I offered their seats to them.

DON’T HATE ME. I WAS A TRAIN VIRGIN UNDER PRESSURE.

While I was majorly feeling the effects of being a terrible person, my friend seemed pretty lost in his thoughts, too.

Once we were situated, the only place left to put our bags was right next to the exit as this was as close to the baggage compartment as physically possible.

Instead of worrying about what an asshole he was for making me kick grandma and grandpa out of their seats, he was more concerned for our luggage.

“Look at our luggage. The next time the door opens, they’ll all go tumbling out. Just watch.” He ruminated.

“Mmmhmm,” I was too wrapped up in silently chastising myself.

“OK. I’m going to go stand by our luggage. I can’t take the stress anymore,” Friend said, throughly wrought with worry.

I didn’t even care about my luggage, because kicks-old-people-out-of-train-seats people don’t deserve luggage.

“I’m gonna do it,” he said again.

“You’ll get in trouble by the train police, but have at it, dude,” I said totally not caring.

For the first time in my life EVER, I was not the one who was worrying and obsessing.

It felt amazing.

I didn’t give two shits if my luggage full of dirty underwear got kicked out of the train or stolen by someone who would be very, very disappointed by my Target-special clothing.

My friend piled up our luggage, biggest to smallest and leaned on them the whole way to London. If someone walked by, he’d hug his body closer to the tower of American Tourister like he was guarding the secret to the afterlife in between his barf-stained jeans (hang tight for that post) and his questionably clean socks.

When we were nearing Paddington Station, he sidled up to me as I was peacefully resting my eyes (I’d finally accepted my dishonorable deed as a necessary evil of train travel, because the mean train people made me), and whispered in my ear, “I have an idea.”

I almost jumped clean out of my stretched-from-too-many-Magnum-bars-and-cheese-and-tomato-sandwiches skin.

“WTF is wrong with you? Only creeps whisper in people’s ears while they’re resting on trains minding their own business,” I hissed.

My comment didn’t faze him.

“I know how we can both get ourselves and our luggage off the train in one piece.”

“Kinda like how we got on?” I didn’t understand why he thought this needed a game plan. We’d trip over our luggage and our feet like we had getting on like total tourists. Duh.

“No. It’s genius. First, I’ll take my big bag-that’s the size of your small bag, by the way, and your big bag-the one I vehemently swore I’d never help you carry, because you just keep cramming new stuff into it and it already weighs more than a standard-sized car. Then, you’ll grab my small bag and your small-not really small, though, bag and we will all get off this god-forsaken train together,” he said resolutely, but with a noticeably twitching eye.

The rest of the ten or so minutes of the train ride, he kept pantomiming, with overly expressive eyes and wild arm movements, how this “genius” plan of his was going to look. He legit looked like that crazy person every train has.

Crazy person*

Someone even asked, “Who the fuck is that idiot gesturing to? Do you think he’s dangerous? Should we be worried?”

I just sat back and reveled in not being the worried, crazy one for once.

We did get ourselves and our luggage off the train, but I almost didn’t “mind the gap” and our attempt to not look too much like tourists, was wrecked by yours truly.

Looking a lot less psycho-on-a-train

Looking like someone who is happy to not be on a train with a psycho

*I’m not some asshole who posts embarrassing photos of others for my own selfish gain. I was given express permission** to share any photo and/or embarrassing story, because friend-in-story would “probably find it funny too”. That’s a pretty solid assurance if I ever heard one.

**For real, I really have permission!

Planes, Trains and Automobiles: More Idiot Travel — Part 1

On my first trip to the British Isles, we literally pulled a Neal Page and Del Griffith. We took a plane, then a train, and then an automobile (actually, three automobiles) to travel all over the British Isles.

(If you’ve never seen the classic Planes, Trains and Automobiles, you’ve really missed out on life. Check out the clip below to get an idea of what I mean.)

It was eye-opening, exhilarating and gray-hair-inducing all in one crazy, no-not-that-way-that’s-on-coming-traffic-OMG-we’re-gonna-die ball of fun.

I didn’t subject anyone to my foot odor on the plane, but I did wear slip on shoes that had zero tread, so walking down the slick, strangely hilly terminals in Heathrow was more like sliding and slipping every which way (while my boyfriend pretended he wasn’t with me). This was the first impression I made on England.

I didn’t catch the arms of my jacket on the seat while driving, but I did get Magnum bar all over the seat belt.

We didn’t catch the car on fire, but we did lose a hub cap on the motorway (oh, so, that’s why people zip tie their hubcaps on).

We may not have gone full on Neal and Del, but we did have quite a few traveling mishaps and adventures.

I am going to organize my retelling of some of my favorite transportation stories from my first trip to the British Isles as a three part series. It’ll be a far easier read that way, because ain’t no one got time to read 5,000 words in one sitting. You’re welcome.

Planes

Surprisingly, my favorite plane story does not involve the man picking his long brown nails the entire nine-plus hour flight to London, but it does involve flying out of London, delicious karma, and plane poop problems.

When we got to Heathrow after three glorious weeks spent all over the British Isles, my travel partner paid $100 to get onto the same flight I was on. His flight didn’t leave for a good five hours, so he felt it was an investment well spent to not have to sit in a packed airport for hours.

Had he known beforehand who his seat companions would be he probably would have taken the shoulder-to-shoulder seating areas, the overpowering perfumes from Heathrow Boutique, and the endless boarding announcements that were never for him over his Flight From Hell.

When we got onto the plane and found our respective seats, I was pretty pleased to find a nice-looking middle-aged British couple as my seat mates. This was pretty much the ideal situation as my last seat mate, as we all know, chose the crusties under his nails for his in-flight snack instead of the usual dry roasted peanuts.

My friend, however, hit the airplane lottery and appeared to have no seat mates.

Time and again, people would come down the aisle, pause a couple times to deduce whether or not their seats were nearby, and then keep going past his row.

I tried everything to get him to let me sit with him. I offered up my favorite souvenir- my Odd Irish Socks and in pure delirious desperation, I even offered to pay the $100 he forked over to get on my flight.

He flat-out refused as he rudely spread out and (likely) farted all over all three seats to mark his territory.

Finally, I gave up and returned to my squashed seat, but I kept looking back to give him my saddest puppy dog pout, but he just acted like he didn’t see me as he haughtily made a bed out of his jacket, backpack and more than his fair share of airplane blankets.

Right before the door was shut and locked, a harried woman and man and their screaming toddler made their way to the only remaining seats on the plane- the ones my friend had already set his stuff up in like he was some kind of Economy King.

When I looked back at him, his face was pure karma in action. He looked just like every last dream he ever had had been demolished.

Not only did his luck majorly run its course and he wouldn’t be able to stretch out the whole flight, he had to sit right next to a kid who was blowing snot bubbles out of his nose as he screamed.

Even better, SO MUCH BETTER, the toddler barfed the.whole.way to Toronto.

I guess that’s what you get when you don’t share. I more than enjoyed that prompt delivery of karma.


Later on during our travels home from London, we were diverted to an abandoned landing strip in the Middle-of-Nowhere, Colorado due to a severe thunderstorm in Denver.

I was quite disappointed, because I really, really, really needed to use the restroom.

Bad.

After the first hour of just sitting on an airstrip surrounded by cacti and tumbleweeds, I started to get desperate.

It was pretty dire because it was getting really close to go-time, but because they had to turn the AC off, I’d have to be that person who takes a huge, toxic shit on a plane with no AC or ventilation.

I kept lamenting, praying and cursing under my breath.

Finally, after mentioning I needed to poop about 87 times, my friend loudly declared, “OMG. I’m sick of hearing you have to poop. There is a bathroom right over there!”

As he so helpfully pointed, everyone on the plane looked to the bathroom and then to me.

Needless to say, I didn’t even get out of my seat. I thought murderous thoughts the remainder of the trip, and because I held it for too long, I got majorly constipated and didn’t even end up going until I was home.

I could have died.

After the hellish 17 hour trip from London, we finally landed in Reno at two in the morning, and I discovered that my bags had been lost. It was the proverbial cherry on top of the all-too familiar shit sundae.

This is how I ended up having to wear a pair of my mom’s war-torn Hanes (you can read more about that here).

Next time, we will explore train travel. Hint: it’s just as fun as air travel.

So, tell me about a memorable time you had in the air. I bet you’ll all have some doozies! I can’t wait.

Just Call Me Becky Bloomwood

Remember that girl who published a Travel Tips For Idiots post (I linked it in case you haven’t checked it out yet) wherein she emphatically proclaimed that one does not need to purchase all new of everything before a trip? Remember how she said she’d reign it in a bit for her upcoming trip this summer?

Well, since posting those lies, she’s purchased:

  • An IT suitcase (it was on sale on Amazon for only $60, though)
  • A Calvin Klein crossbody (also majorly discounted at Marshall’s-only $50)
  • A travel pillow that can zip into a rectangle or a neck pillow-shape (I mean, come on. Necessary. I also had a coupon. No.brainer)
  • A zippered headphone case (not necessary, but really fun, because it has a little picture of earbuds on it)
  • Floral-print packing cubes (still not sure I’m even going to use packing cubes, but they were only $12, so they basically cost nothing)
  • RFID blocking rose gold-colored wallet (absolutely, without question, necessary. I do not need anyone stealing my identity*)
  • A pashmina scarf (it has myriad uses, so out of all of the purchases, this one was the most practical)
  • A compact teal-colored umbrella (when you’re headed to the British Isles this is a no duh)
  • A pair of Blenders Eyewear sunglasses (because you really need sunnies in England)

I don’t think I need to continue with the nonsense, but while we’re at it, this Idiot Girl still needs:

  • A travel-sized Too Faced eyeshadow palette (it has every color I need PLUS the perfect brown for my balding eyebrows)
  • Headphones (I do not have a Bose budget, but I need a pair that’s comfy and noise eliminating or, at the very least, noise isolating**)
  • Comfy, but not I’m-a-50-year-old-Stein-Mart-addict sandals
  • A cute, but hours-on-a-plane friendly outfit
  • Decent pajamas that won’t scare my travel partners (my current pair are holey and stretched out in all the wrong places)
  • A whole new wardrobe, but I’m leaving this to the bitter end, because I’m not holding out hope that I’ll spontaneously drop 50 pounds (stranger things have happened)

So, I think what I’m trying to say here is that I’m a fucking liar, and it’s impossible to not buy a load of crap when you’re preparing for an extensive trip abroad.

I mean, I guess if you’re a minimalist and you aren’t materialist AF like me, you could probably get off with just a new backpack and a nice pair of walking shoes.

All of this insane buying and hoarding of travel “necessities” reminds me of my favorite book heroine- Becky Bloomwood.

In Sophie Kinsella’s first book in her Confessions of a Shopaholic series, Becky decides, after receiving a shocking credit card bill, she needs to start budgeting, but not before she buys really cute budgeting essentials.

SOUND FAMILIAR?

I don’t know if I’ve always been Becky Bloomwood or I’m Becky Bloomwood because of Becky Bloomwood.

Either way, I need a Shopaholics Anonymous STAT.

All of this makes me sound like I’m spending with wild abandon, but really, I’m just buying travel items here are there when I find them and if need be, I just don’t buy food for the week. Really, it’s a win-win (sayonara, 50 pounds).

So, I guess it’s not entirely surprising that I’m still on track to have my trip paid off before the end of the summer *knock on my IKEA particle board coffee table*.

Stay tuned for my “I’m Already Having the Nervous Poos: 18 Unrealistic (and Two Realistic) Travel Worries I’m Currently Obsessing About”

*This travel wallet with thief-repelling properties is now more than ever the smartest buy I’ve made, because some asshole in California stole my debit card number and went to town on $18 worth of food at McDonald’s. Way to really steal someone’s money, idiot! You could have at least made it worth it and gone to Chili’s.

**I was this close to publishing this post with “nose eliminating” instead of “noise eliminating”, because my phone hates me. I almost left it, because if there are headphones that help eliminate the size of someone’s nose while wearing them, I’M SOLD.

So, help me feel like less of a deluded pig…what do you splurge on before a trip?

How to Not Want to Smother Your Travel Partner in Their Sleep

“If I hear her clear her throat one more fucking time…”

“We are sightseeing. Why do we have to sit every ten feet. WHY DO YOU ALWAYS WANT TO SIT?”

“For what purpose do you unpack every single item in your suitcase and inspect it, to then put it right back into your suitcase the same way? WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT?”

I don’t care if it’s your nicest, never-been-in-even-the-smallest-fight friend, you’re gonna hate her/him at some point in your travels. The littlest things they do will grate on your nerves extra-rusty-grater-like.

Whenever someone spends every waking moment for an extended period of time with literally anyone, they’re gonna want to throttle them at least once.

It’s basic human nature.

It is possible to minimize and, if you’re lucky enough, eliminate becoming irrationally annoyed with your travel companion(s) with these failsafe tips:

1. Don’t be an asshole, (but if it happens, be a little understanding)

This one sounds pretty simple, but not being an asshole can be pretty hard when you’re sleep-deprived, you have traveler’s diarrhea, and/or you haven’t quite adjusted to your new cultural surroundings.

The best bet here is, if someone you know is always an asshole, don’t agree to spend six days and seven nights with them on a trip where escape is impossible.

If you or someone you know isn’t known for being an asshole, but you/they have suddenly morphed into Kanye West, blame it on the travel diarrhea. It’s not you, it’s the chapped butthole.

ALWAYS BLAME IT ON THE DIARRHEA.

2. Be prepared to battle

It’s gonna happen. Prepare yourself mentally for the inevitable fact that you will annoy each other and that it will likely lead to a nasty and probably public disagreement or argument.

And then, to make up, they’ll make this face to make you laugh and wait until you notice as you are actively avoiding them while waiting for your meal at a crowded restaurant.*

When you’re expecting it that your pal’s incessant throat clearing or tendency to dominate conversations and decisions will eventually annoy you, you can be better prepared to act in a positive fashion.

However tempting, leaving your travel partner alone in the Theatre District in NYC doesn’t do wonders for a friendship. Also, you’ll feel really bad if your friend gets shanked.

3. Be more flexible

This pretty much goes along with the previous two suggestions. No one who isn’t able to adjust and be flexible is fun to travel with. Sorry. It’s fact.

Source

If you have a hard time going with the flow, not only will you miss out on awesome travel experiences, the people traveling with you will want to send you packing.

Despite the fact that snoring and having to use the bathroom right after someone drops a Beijing Bomb is unpleasant, it’s all part of the experience when traveling and sharing a room with others. Embrace it.

4. Plan time apart

The best way to get back to semi-liking your travel friend is to not have to see their face or hear their mouth breathing for a couple of hours.

Plan some dedicated time when you can part ways for a chunk of the day. Maybe you’re into museums, but your friend is more into shopping. Perfect. You can each do what you want and get that much-needed if-i-have-to-spend-five-more-minutes-with-you-I’ll-do-murder-break.

Checked out some awesome Edinburgh back alleys. I swear I wasn’t looking for a place to dump the body.

5. Focus on what’s around you

Don’t get so in a tizzy that you forget what you planned months for and paid out the ass to see. Sure, part of why you planned the trip was to spend time with your friend, but let’s be real, an even bigger reason was to see the Eiffel Tower/Grand Canyon/Great Wall/Loch Ness.

Focus on the sights, smells, and new sensations all around you. Immerse yourself in your experience and ignore the reality that your travel companion feels the need to read to you every sign, banner, billboard, shop window, and names of businesses as you pass by.

This one was amusing, though.

6. Just get drunk

If all else fails, drink.

Bottoms up!

*I think it took a lot longer for me to eventually see his ridiculous face than he had anticipated. The entirety of the restaurant and 20 people walking by gawked and pointed before I turned to look and subsequently threw a breadstick at his stupid face.

Also, I’ve been given express permission to post his image. I’m just not sure he remembers me taking this one…

Don’t Be *That* Person On the Plane

People are really, really annoying. There’s no doubt about it. Despite my desire to maintain the overly sunshine-and-rainbow delusion that all people are lovely individuals who almost never clip their toenails in public, it’s just not reality.

Chances are, the majority of the people you have encountered and will encounter on a plane have been perfectly normal people who don’t talk to you nonstop on a nonstop from San Francisco to Paris. Most likely they’ve kept their mouth breathing to a minimum, and they didn’t seem to ooze odors from every orifice. Most likely.

Sometimes, you’re not so lucky. Sometimes you get Del Griffith as a seat partner.

Behold, four airplane travel types that no one likes (please don’t be any of these people):

1. The Cougher

Covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze is covered in Kindergarten and is practically a curriculum standard. However, some people don’t retain this information into adulthood.

When you’re on a plane, it’s already bad enough that you’re confined in a space that’s 50% recycled air. It’s perfectly ghastly and inexcusable that a grown adult chooses to blast their germ-riddled spittle into the air and onto every surface around them in such a confined space.

Source

Sharing is NOT caring on an airplane.

Cover your fucking mouth like the civilized human you are pretending to be with your Ann Taylor pant suit.

And, for your convenience:

Source

2. The Farter

OK. Lemme be real a minute. We all have to fart. In fact, I’ve heard holding in your farts can be hazardous to your health. So, it’s unreasonable to expect anyone and everyone to cease farting the entire length of their flight (especially when you’re flying halfway around the world on a 9+ hour flight).

However, if after your test fart (the little baby toot you let out to test the waters, er-air) you’re met with something that could melt the fuselage, I hate to break it to you, you’re gonna have to hold those in.

When you have one of those metal melting farts, this better be you.

Source

Some things you can do to prevent excess gas during your flight are:

  • Eat smaller portions the day before and immediately leading up to your flight
  • Take Beano or other gas-reducer
  • Avoid greasy, fattening foods, as well as wheat, lactose, broccoli, asparagus, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, lentils, beans, carbonated soft drinks, onions, pears, and all other foods
  • Essentially, eat NOTHING before a flight

Really, it’s for the common good.

There are no private trees to fart behind on a plane. I repeat: THERE IS NO WHERE TO FART (other than the bathroom, but do you really want to be the person who destroys the bathroom on a long flight? No, you don’t).

3. The What Was That(er)

Farts aren’t always the worst thing that can come out of someone sitting next to you on a plane.

Sometimes, your next door neighbor sounds like they are working on an almighty hair ball. Sometimes, your seat partner coughs up mucus and spits it out in their barf bag. Sometimes, people moan/whisper/belch/mouth breathe/mumble/groan without end or for any discernible reason.

My favorite idiot. This was on a bus, but you get the idea.

No one wants to listen to the plethora of noises your body makes. If you can’t help it and your repetitive throat clearing is a verifiable tic, I feel for you and you’re excused.

But, if you can hold in your whispered devil worshipping incantations or that weird belch/cough thing, quit being an annoying asshole already. Please and thank you.

My favorite annoying asshole.

Source

4. The Groomer

In case anyone here wasn’t already aware, it’s not proper etiquette to do any sort of extreme grooming in your seat on the plane. Basic freshening up, like running a brush through your hair, applying a covert swipe of deodorant, or wiping your greasy face down with a face wipe can all be tolerated.

What should never be tolerated, however, is:

  • Clipping your finger or toe nails
  • Filing your finger or toe nails
  • Cleaning wax out of your ears (especially when you place your wax-coated q-tips on the tray table)
  • Popping zits or squeezing black heads out of the end of your nose
  • Scratching excessively anywhere below the belt
  • Picking crusted crap out from under your long, brown finger nails

This last one I actually had to endure during a 9 hour flight from Vancouver to London. A man sat down in the aisle seat next to my boyfriend, settled himself in his spot, and then proceeded to pick his long, poop brown nails the ENTIRE FLIGHT.

It was a real test of my gag reflex not to barf all over him.

If you have a gross habit that is not exactly socially acceptable behavior, IT DOESN’T BELONG ON AN AIRPLANE WHERE YOU ARE INCHES AWAY FROM A STRANGER FOR HOURS ON END.

*Bonus* When I was *that* person on the plane

Sometimes, we really have no intention of being *that* person, but it just happens.

Years ago, on a domestic flight with my then-boyfriend, I tried an Airborne immune supplement for the first time. Both my boyfriend and I had no idea how to take one. We popped them into our mouths, feeling pretty smart and proactive about our health.

Just seconds later, we discovered our horrific mistake as our mouths ballooned with ever-growing fizz. Pretty quickly, we were literally frothing at the mouth.

The fizz was growing ever bigger and we both tried to swallow it down, hoping to minimize the embarrassing mistake we had made. Instead of swallowing it all quickly and silently, because the fizz was coming and coming with no end in sight, we both gagged and coughed and spit as orange-tinged froth overflowed and spilled down over our chins and all over our clothes.

The people next to us and across the aisle looked at us, shocked and disgusted, as we literally looked rabid.

The boyfriend was irate that I didn’t read the packaging and didn’t know you were supposed to put the tablet in a bottled water to dissolve before ingesting. Oops.

So, even without trying, one can be shocking, disgusting, and annoying.

If we all just read label directions more thoroughly, tried breathing through our noses more, and picked the dried crap out of our nails before getting on the plane, air travel would be so much more enjoyable.

What annoys you the most about the people you have to share a plane with? Let me know in the comments.

From Gaerwen to Blackpool: At Least We Didn’t End Up In the Black Pudding

We left off last time just barely arriving in Blackpool in one piece.

Despite having finally found Blackpool after what felt like 83 years of driving, it was now up to my car sick and useless-with-a-map travel companion to find our B&B.

We knew nothing about the B&B other than it had an available room with two twin beds and it was somewhere in Blackpool. Oh, and I guess we had an address. Duh.

We had no idea if it was near the shore or some other distinguishing landmark that might have served useful when explaining our dilemma to the 20th petrol station attendant we’d spoken to that day.

When we knew we’d be way past check-in time, we used our trusty Samsung Vodafone to get a hold of the woman managing the B&B to assure her we would be arriving, we just weren’t sure in what century.

She was super friendly and assured us she’d “keep the light on”. She even went so far as to ask where we were and tried to guide us that way.

“Oh, you’re by a brick building with white trim? Erm…”

“It’s by a fish and chips take away? Well…”

“What’s the street name? Egg Road? Dearie, I don’t think that’s a road…”

(It was Haig Road.)

After tons of miscommunication and a very poor explanation of our surroundings on our part, she eventually gave up and merrily predicted we’d be arriving in no time.

In no time, we still had no idea where the fuck we were.

When I recall this moment on my trip, I always wonder how we drove around Blackpool for a solid hour like complete imbeciles.

I guess the only real reason is that I have zero sense of direction. When I was in college, I’d leave one of the buildings, just blindly going in whatever direction felt right. My friend would have to run after me and steer me in the correct direction. Even after a year of being at the university, I had basically no idea where I was going every single day.

It comes naturally, as my dad is the same way. Except worse. So much worse. After a prime rib dinner at one of the downtown casinos one night when I was around ten, my dad and I left in his truck and lost the rest of the family convoy. Two hours later, we made it home, but not before circling the city three times and almost driving across the state line. My mom almost called search and rescue.

I’m not sure what my friend’s excuse was other than he must have been sniffing glue or picking boogers when they learned about maps in the 3rd grade, because somehow he was worse than me at directional intelligence, and that is saying a lot.

Perhaps the most stressful aspect of all of this was the fact that we were inconveniencing some poor woman. Had we made arrangements at a hostel, we’d likely have just accepted defeat and slept in the car.

After our 10th orbit in one particular roundabout that we were sure had to let out on the street we were looking for if only we went round enough times, we noticed a police car parked further up one of the streets.

In utter desperation (and I was getting really, really cranky at this point), I decided we should go ask for directions.

“You can’t just drive up behind a police car and get out. It’s like the opposite of what’s supposed to happen. They pull up behind you and they get out to walk up to your car, so…,” replied super-helpful-friend.

“SAYS THE PERSON WHO CAN’T READ A MAP, WON’T ASK FOR DIRECTIONS AND HAS NO OTHER SOLUTIONS.”

I wanted to pummel him.

So, of course, since he was incapable of going into to the last 12 petrol stations to ask for directions, because he’d “for sure barf” if he did, I had to walk up to the police car after pulling up behind them like a total creep.

Turns out, they were very friendly (and pretty amused) and willing to take us in the correct direction as far as the edge of their beat. I totally didn’t feel like a moron asking for police assistance in finding our B&B. Not at all.

After the policemen got us going in the right direction, we very quickly found our B&B. It’s amazing what going in the correct cardinal direction will do for you.

The B&B was completely not what I had imagined. All of the B&Bs I’ve ever seen and stayed in have been older houses, with the rooms converted to accommodate for guests. This place looked exactly like the hotel in Fawlty Towers. I.shit.you.not.

The woman who we had gotten to know so well over the phone welcomed us in her robe, slippers, and, if I am remembering right, she even had rollers in.

She was really excited to see us.

She greeted us like long-lost, beloved family members. I think her overly-excited behavior had everything to do with the fact that she could now finally go to sleep.

I don’t even remember checking in. It was all a whirlwind of, “You both must be exhausted! Here, let me take that. Oh, it’s no bother! We’ll be going up the lift, if that’s all right. Well, not me, but you two. And your luggage.”

All I recall from check-in is her excitedly stuffing us and our four pieces of luggage into the smallest elevator in existence*.

We could barely utter, “Are you sure this is going to work?” before she used her entire body to push the rest of my fat still bulging out as the door tried to close.

Once the door was shut, we couldn’t move at all. I’m not even exaggerating when I say every square inch was taken up by our bodies and luggage. I had an elbow in my back, a suitcase handle in the neck, and a carry on bag somehow balancing on my head.

I risked decapitation by American Tourister to turn my head to get sight of my friend. He looked thrilled, his face smashed into my bright pink floral Vera Bradley carry on.

We were only going up two flights, but the ride TOOK FOREVER. Not only was this rickety contraption barely the size of a fucking refrigerator box, it moved about a millimeter a minute, and it sounded like it was dying a very painful and dramatic death the entire ride.

“WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING RIGHT NOW?” I wanted to scream.

An hour later, the elevator stopped, the door slowly creaked open, and a cascade of bags, arms, legs, and a random shoe fell out of the elevator.

We stumbled, stunned and exhausted to our room.

After a few dazed moments, I asked, “WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?”

“Dude, I think this place is creepy as fuck, and she’s totally going to grind us up in her special human-sized meat grinder. We are going be served as black pudding tomorrow for breakfast, ” my friend asserted**.

Normally, I would have totally bought into the fear and would have been like, “OMG NO WAY HOW DO YOU KNOW ARE WE GONNA DIE?” but I was too tired to care that the place was a little off.

I told him he was ridiculous and rude and that was that.

Because we couldn’t even remember the last time we had eaten, we ventured out onto the boardwalk to find anything open at the ungodly hour it was.

I can’t even accurately describe Blackpool, other than to say it was exactly like my experience on the shore in New Jersey (other than the British accents). I’m sure it’s a lovely place, but I really have no idea.

The first open take away restaurant we found, we ordered, ate, and miraculously found our way back to the B&B in our exhausted stupor in short order.

My friend was so out of it, he thought he’d finally found his Irish goddess in all places- a dingy Blackpool fish and chip shop.

On our way up to the room, my friend noted that no one else was about in the B&B and for sure we were her only victims for the night. Or, the others had already been taken.

For once in my life (because I’m always the one who is sure a place is haunted and full of murderers), I was the rational one.

I told him he was crazy and that no one was around BECAUSE IT WAS ONE IN THE MORNING. I then promptly went to sleep while he stayed up, watching out for Norma Bates.

In the morning, after a full night’s rest (for me), all was right again. We saw the other guests (definitely none were murdered in their sleep) during our delicious full English breakfast in the dining room (just like the one in Fawlty Towers). But, we didn’t eat any of the black pudding. Just in case.

Instead of doing any sightseeing along the boardwalk, we decided to see the Irish Sea before heading off to Scotland.

We had no idea what these booger things were, but my friend had a pretty good guess.

For the end of June, it was really, really cold.

*How I didn’t feel it necessary to photograph said elevator is a total mystery.

**She was adorable. Don’t listen to him.

From Gaerwen to Blackpool: The Never-Ending Road Trip — Part 1

I was going to post a rant about airfare prices and the bullshit song and dance you have to go through to not be ripped off royally by the airline industry, but it wasn’t helping my eye twitch. Thus, I decided to write about the time a road trip from Gaerwen, Wales to Blackpool, England turned into one of the most memorable moments of my 2010 British Isles trip.

Because I’m long-winded, this’ll be a two-parter, folks!

My travel friend and I had seen a commercial for Britain’s “Jersey Shore” while in Ireland. We just looked at each other and it was decided*. After picking up our third and final rental car in Gaerwen, Wales, we’d stay a night in Blackpool on the way to Scotland.

(In hindsight, choosing where to go in a country with so many beautiful places to see based on its similarity to the reality TV show, Jersey Shore is kinda dumb.)

I’m fairly certain that some of the troubles we encountered can be blamed on the wild ferry ride from Dublin to Wales (well, and on my friend’s almost non-existent map reading skills). It was pouring rain and the waters were choppy. Actually, that’s an understatement. What’s 100 times worse than choppy?

Our Vegas showboat ferry swayed and groaned and rocked for the entire 3 hours and some odd minutes of the journey.

Go ahead and tell me this doesn’t look exactly like a showroom at the Flamingo.

I wasn’t too worse for wear, miraculously, but my travel friend never even attempted to lift his head off of my travel pillow that I so kindly lent him and watched over worriedly. I was pretty concerned he’d get pre-barf drool on the pillow I’d still need to use for the remainder of the trip.

To get my mind off of the potential demise of my pillow, I decided to head to the bathroom before it was filled with sea sick passengers. My attempt at *walking* to the toilets was pretty comical, because I’m fairly certain my body was completely sideways as I groped at chairs, walls, (and maybe one nice-looking lady), as I climbed to the bathrooms.

When we finally docked and set foot on land, it felt like we were still swaying for hours. Then we had to get in a car.

It was not my favorite.

(In fact, I’ve had to take a break from writing this as I’m literally feeling the nausea- kind of like reminiscent sympathy pains.)

We were picked up in Holyhead by Paul, the friendly, but erratic Enterprise driver who liked to test the limits of his passenger’s underwear. He had driven my boyfriend and I a week prior to the ferry when we were on our way to Ireland to meet our travel friend.

(In case you’re confused, this travel friend is the same one mentioned in this post. My boyfriend, the friend, and I all traveled together in Ireland. When my boyfriend had to go home, our friend continued to travel with me so I could stay longer and have a companion.)

He looked at me and then my friend, with a “I know what’s going on here” look on his face and said, “Got yourself an upgrade, eh?”

When he had us all ready to zip off in our feisty-looking cherry red Vauxhall, he asked, “Know how to drive one of these?”

Once I got the hang of it, I LOVED driving this thing!

I was confused as he very clearly remembered seeing me a week before when we dropped a car off that we had been driving for nearly a week.

“Well, yeah. I’m pretty much an expert now!” I responded, thinking he meant driving a car with the steering wheel on the other side of the car.

“Well, that’s good, because this is our last car.”

Still confused, but not too fazed, we got into the car, and I immediately realized what he had meant.

It was a fucking stick shift.

Now, I was taught to drive with a stick shift. I can drive one of those sonsabitches as good as any trucker, but to shift with my left hand?

I had specifically requested automatic cars for the entirety of the trip for the very credible reason that operating a steering wheel on the opposite side of the car while driving on the opposite side of the road was going to be no small feat in itself.

Almost hyperventilating, I checked to see if the clutch was also on the “wrong” side.

“Well, at least there’s that! The clutch appears to be the only thing I recognize in this car!”

My friend just responded with a quick dry heave.

I remember thinking, “We are going to die on the way to Blackpool. And, for what? To see the British Pauly D?”

The rain started pelting the roof and the Enterprise office turned off its lights.

It was time to get a move on.

Despite the nearly blinding rain, the not-so-subtle relentless swaying feeling from the boat, and the fear my friend would yak all over us, the actual driving wasn’t so bad.

What was bad was the fact that my friend was too sea sick and now car sick to even read the map properly.

(We could have switched drivers, but he felt he’d fare better as the passenger.)

A drive from Gaerwen to Blackpool is a 2.5 hour drive, give or take traffic and weather conditions.

It took us nearly five hours and I can’t even blame the weather, as the rain had let up a bit not long after leaving Gaerwen.

Every time he had to look at the map, WHICH WAS A LOT BECAUSE WE HAD NO IDEA WHERE WE WERE, he’d act all dramatic and pukey.

We missed exits off the motorway, got back on the motorway going in the opposite direction and didn’t realize for miles, and had to stop for rest breaks more often than is needed for an old lady with a nervous bladder.

He’d belch up a barely coherent set of directions and I’d yell, “DON’T TALK TO ME, I’M TRYING TO SHIFT/CHANGE LANES/BLINK!”

Somehow, and I don’t even know how, we made it into Blackpool in the pitch black dark of night.

If you live in the U.K. or you’ve been, you’ll know that it doesn’t get dark until like 10:30**at night in the dead of summer.

That’s how I knew we had been driving forever. It’s not like our car didn’t have a clock or my ass wasn’t entirely numb, but the fact that we were driving in darkness for the first time during our whole trip stood out to me.

We had made it into Blackpool, but we had yet to locate our B&B. Stay tuned to find out how we finally made it to our über strange B&B. It may or may not have involved some friendly policemen and a way-too-perky-is-she-going-to-kill-us-in-our-sleep B&B owner.

*I was in no way a fan of Jersey Shore (I may have watched just a couple episodes to see what it was all about. My friend never watched one single episode, nor did he ever even contemplate watching them, either. I’m sure he’d appreciate my clearing that up.

**Maybe it’s not that late, but it sure felt like it.

No, Karen. They Don’t Have Your Brand of Bottled Water

Travel diarrhea, lost baggage, shady hostels-oh my!

These are the best parts of travel, amiright?

I’m actually only being half-sarcastic. The super crappy (often times, literally) parts of travel are always the most memorable.

My memories of The Rainbow Hostel in Dingle, Ireland are some of my fondest, and not just because I didn’t contract hepatitis. But, said memories do have something to do with a coed shower room.

(Hang tight for a blog post about this gem.)

I’m the kind of international traveler who realizes that when traveling in another country, THEY MIGHT NOT HAVE MY FAVORITE TOILET PAPER AND THAT’S OK.

Also, I realize that my accommodations might not be decorated to my tastes and the free continental breakfast might include gray-brown lunchmeat.

IT’S ALL PART OF THE EXPERIENCE, SO SHUT YO MOUTH AND ENJOY IT.

I’m always amazed (but not really, because people) at the kinds of concerns and non-issues people have/had when on vacation.

Whenever you have some time to spare, scroll through some Trip Advisor or hotel reviews. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Here are some “issues” I’ve read about from review and comment sections that are ridiculous with a capital “maybe you just shouldn’t travel”.

1. Complaints about decor:

WHY DOES THE DECOR OF THE HOTEL/HOUSE/YURT/TREEHOUSE DETERMINE HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR TRIP?

Maybe I’m missing something, but do people really go on vacation for the sole purpose of staying in a well-designed hotel room? For example, do people want to see France only if they can stay in an all-white hotel room?

Balthazar, I am not going to Scotland unless we stay in a house that is all tartan. And, when I say “all“, I fucking mean if the carpets, wallpaper, and coffeemaker aren’t tartan, it will ruin my entire fucking experience!”

No?

So, why are these people filling up the review sections with gripes about the decor in their accommodation? ALL I want to know is if it’s decently clean and bed bug-free. THAT’S IT.

You also don’t need to tell me you found a pube on the bathroom floor. I would like to know, however, if you found any kind of hair in supposedly clean sheets. That’s just nasty.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting a nice hotel room or house rental, but if how it’s decorated can make or break your entire trip, how about just stay home?

Our gorgeously hideous London hotel room. Sure, none of the furniture matched and their “AC” was a stand fan, but it was close to a tube station, was affordable, and they folded our towels on our bed fancy-like.

2. Food options:

How can people be so unaware that they don’t realize beforehand that a place like Myanmar maybe won’t have a drive thru Taco Bell? This is totally my own made-up not-so-exaggerated exaggeration. But still.

I’ve read about travelers complaining about India having curry, and expecting to find a Mexican server at a Mexican restaurant in ITALY.

Read more of these idiotic and true traveler reviews here.

When I went to the U.K. for the first time I ate cheese and tomato sandwiches literally every day. Only a few times did I deviate from my newfound comfort food. I chose this option because it was (is) freaking tasty as hell and also because I’m not very adventurous, food-wise. I knew ahead of time to be prepared to eat different foods. Instead of complain how a different country from mine had different foods (shocker), I found new foods that I could enjoy without activating my gag reflex. It’s really not that hard.

My mother swore up and down she found the last and only jar of mayo while in England. It was found dusty and alone on a top shelf in a tiny shop. My good friend professed that not a bottle of ketchup could be found anywhere on the British Isles. Naturally, I had to take photographic evidence of their LIES.

3. Expecting things to go your way and ONLY your way:

Another thing that really chaps my lips (I don’t like the phrase “chaps my ass”, because when does an ass get chapped? And, chapped lips are the worst) is how too many travelers don’t leave their stubborn ways at home.

When you’re in another country, with an entirely different culture, maybe you won’t necessarily have experiences that are exactly how you experience life in your home country. In fact, I know you won’t.

One of these differences I learned the hard way was how some English toilets flush. After a long flight and no comfortable bathroom time, it was no surprise that when I got to our hotel room in London, it was go time. When it came time to flush, it just was not happening. Thank God my boyfriend at the time figured out that pumping the handle did the trick, because having to call down to the front desk for help flushing my plane poo, would have been embarrassing.

Actually, now that I’m thinking, that would have made an even better story! Damn.

So, I learned that many of the toilets I’d encounter required pumping. No big.*

(This same toilet also tried to kill me when I sat down on the seat and went sailing off the base of the toilet, because it was just sitting there, not attached at all. And, you don’t see me complaining.)

If you check out the above link, you’ll read about people complaining how a beach was too sandy and how Spain has too many Spanish-speaking people. You’ll read it and instantly feel better about yourself. You’re welcome.

So, I guess what I’m saying is, if your outlook is so cloudy and full of shit that you can’t enjoy the weird/funny/exotic experiences you will have when traveling abroad, why even do it?

Just splash the hot and cold together to get warm (Sage advice from a friend). Duh.

So, unless you’re complaining about travel diarrhea from tainted escargot, lost or tampered with baggage (because there ain’t any way to make that a positive), or filthy, insect-ridden hostels, maybe check yourself before you wreck yourself. Your absurd review could end up on the next “Ridiculous Travel Complaints By People Who Suck”.

The person who sat down next to us, took her gum out, placed it on this ledge to eat her chips AND THEN LEFT IT THERE is totally Karen’s weird cousin, Gayle. She for sure complained about the hostel’s lack of trash receptacles.

This is the first in my Travel Tuesday series in honor of my upcoming trip abroad this summer. I can’t wait to share some travel stories, tips only idiots need, and much more! Buckle your seat belts and ready your barf bags, people. We’re bound to hit some gnarly turbulence.

*British friends, was I imagining this or are many toilet flushers pumped to get the toilet to flush?