It's April Fool's Day, and instead of scaring you with a fake news story, we decided to share our funny travel stories, and invite you to submit yours. As you'll see, our stories range from embarrassing to silly to gross, and some were probably funny only in retrospect.
So without further adieu ...
Josh Roberts, Managing Editor: So there I was, freshly arrived in Zurich, Switzerland, on one of my earliest trips abroad. I’m waiting in the baggage claim area, and just to my left are a man and a woman, also waiting for their luggage, both decked out from head to toe in Americana: American flag bandanas on their heads, leather jackets adorned with the stars and stripes, heck the guy even had an American flag handkerchief in his back pocket. No joke: Both were about a baby step removed from looking like Captain America. I was embarrassed—for myself, for my country, for everyone who hates the idea of the “Ugly American” traveling abroad. Then they opened their mouths and starting speaking … in German. They were Swiss tourists returning home from a trip to the States. Oops, my bad.
Jaclyn Liechti, Assistant Editor: Probably the funniest thing that has ever happened to me while traveling happened while I was studying abroad in Ireland. My host dad left the house, apparently forgetting I was there, and turned on the alarm. Naturally, when I got up and started to walk down the stairs, the alarm started blaring at full volume. The security company called, and the phone I tried to answer didn’t work. They tried to call again, and as I answered the working phone I was so frantic I couldn’t remember the safety word. Luckily, my host mom was able to get in contact with the security company and prevent hordes of police from swarming the house on a poor American student.
Christine Sarkis, Senior Editor: I was in Barcelona with a friend, and we were preparing for a day visiting Gaudi buildings by having coffee and pastries at a small cafe in the Barri Gotic. We were getting ready to leave when suddenly a man in his early twenties came running through the cafe, hands clenched over his mouth, bee-lining it to the bathroom. In a truly unfortunate coincidence, our table was in his path, and as he ran past, he began throwing up. Because his hands were covering his mouth, it sort of shot out the sides and sprayed all over us, getting in my hair, down the back of my neck, on the notebook I had out on the table. Needless to say, Gaudi had to wait until I had taken two showers and washed my clothes in the hottest water possible.
Sarah Pascarella, Senior Editor: Before heading to Ireland in 2001, I was nervous about driving on the left side of the road. (Well, caveat—my friends who knew how to drive standard were doing all the driving. I was nervous for them.) My subconscious worked out this anxiety by giving me driving nightmares for a few days before my vacation. The images were always the same – we’d get our rental car, exit the airport, initially get in the wrong lane, get followed by the cops, and get busted for reckless driving, with the arrest/apprehension taking place in a Burger King parking lot. (Seriously. Don’t ask what my brain was putting together. Car accidents? Fear of Whoppers/E. coli? Who knows.)
Anyway, upon arriving in Ireland, we exited the airport, into the correct lane. “This is weird!” my friend Brian said as he settled in behind the wheel. Superstitious, I looked behind us … to see a cop car. We drove down the road, only to pass a Burger King a few minutes later. Fearing that my nightmare would come true, I asked Brian to slow down somewhat. Thankfully, the cop behind us moved along and we had not one accident or incident during the whole trip, but still… weird coincidences, no?
Kate Sitarz, Editorial Assistant: Growing up, my family often went on vacation with the Robinsons. The Robinsons were like our extended family, and Mr. Robinson was like our uncle—the friendly uncle who taught us to always check payphones for spare change, back when people actually used payphones. One spring, we all went to Washington, D.C. I was excited to have a new market to exploit, a city full of unsuspecting payphones and vending machines to rob. I didn't have much luck upon arrival. If I could have jumped into the reflecting pool to collect a few pennies, I probably would have, but I was restrained by parents who always seemed to read my mind before I could get my feet wet.
Then, one day, I spotted the jackpot. It glittered in the road: A quarter. This was big. The seven others crossed the road quickly, avoiding the oncoming traffic. I looked right. I looked left. Plenty of time, I thought. I reached down to collect my prize. I grabbed the corners. I tugged, I pulled, working up a sweat. Determined not to lose my focus, I cried out when I felt an arm lifting me away.
"But dad! It's a quarter!" I wailed as my dad hoisted me away from my treasure.
"Kate, look," he said, pointing to the road.
Reluctantly, I looked and saw the glimmer of silver braving the onslaught of traffic. "So?"
"So? I'll give you a quarter," he said, laughing. "That one's glued to the road."
Kate Hamman, Associate Editor:
On my first trip to Paris, I rented an adorable apartment, with a tiny porch just big enough for two chairs, overlooking the top of the Sacre Coeur. It was heaven, but it was also at the top of five flights of a winding staircase. As I left the apartment on my first day, I was greeted with a pitch black hallway, with the only glow coming from a lighted switch located next to my neighbor's apartment. I groped the side of the wall in the dark, but found no way to turn on the overhead light. I sat there for a few moments debating my options, and playing each scenario out in my mind: Newspaper reads: Stupid young American girl breaks neck while foolishly trying to descend impossibly steep staircase in the dark; My annoyed neighbor towers over me as I try to explain (in very broken and jetlagged French) how I had mistaken his doorbell for a light switch; or I hit the switch and crouch really small in the corner, where I would be invisible to any embarrassment.
I decided the only option was to find the courage to press the button. I mean, I was half way around the world all alone in a foreign country, and I was scared of a light switch/doorbell. So I closed my eyes and forced my finger to tap the switch. The hallway was filled in blissful light. I ran down the steps like I had just slain a mighty dragon, as well as a bit worried that the darn thing might be on a timer.
And, Finally, Yours Truly: I was in Gibraltar with my wife, and we wanted to take a taxi tour to the top of the Rock. We found a friendly driver who would take us, but he wanted to find more customers before departing. We waited a few minutes as he approached tourists walking by, most of whom ignored him or waved him off. Finally he got the attention of a middle-aged couple, and began gesturing and coaxing them toward the van. They were speaking to him in French, and it was clear they didn't really know what he was saying. He pointed toward us. We shrugged and gave a friendly wave, and then we all piled into the van.
The driver took off like he was shot from a cannon, zipping along the zig zagging roads up the rock face through thick, dark vegetation and past vertiginous overlooks, all the while narrating in English. The couple had no idea what he was saying, so I took it upon myself to translate, as best I could, in my horrible, high-school-level French. I learned they were from Belgium. I may have explained, at one point, that we were passing old British ramparts. Hard to know, really.
But then, my moment: The driver said we would soon stop to see the Apes of Gibraltar, who congregate at the Rock's summit. I did not know the word for apes, but I did know the word for monkey. Le singe! I said, probably too excited. The couple clapped. The driver clapped. And at the summit we watched an ape steal Doritos from an unsuspecting tourist. All in all a pretty good time.
OK folks, now it's your turn. What's your funny, silly, or just kind of goofy travel story? Share it below, and may your pranks be harmless on this April Fool's Day.