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A lot went wrong in our first post from disgusting accommodation to trains that seemed to go nowhere and an attempt at driving stick which was a failed exercise in patience and restraint. We continue our mishaps of travel here and we couldn’t start anywhere else than Rome!
A continuation of our mishaps in travel….
Getting Ripped Off in Rome
This one is less a mishap in travel but an inevitable. I love Rome but I also hate Rome. I had never had the aforementioned panic attacks until I lived in Rome. And when we left in September 2012 I vowed I wasn’t going back. And then six months later I missed it. So when we planned our grand European return we knew Rome had to be included.
So we found away to fit it in. We flew from Athens to Rome through Ciampino Airport. We arrived and I was determined not to be ripped off. We hopped into a taxi, discussed how much it should cost and then we took off.
We were going the right way for about ten minutes when all of a sudden we were on the ring road. The ring road where they can bump the tariff up to 4, which will cost you the most. This is where things went downhill. I started to argue in what little Italian I remembered. (NO, I am not fluent in Italian) and was rebuffed.
Next time I am driving myself… even if I can’t drive stick….
Once we started going around the Vatican, I knew we really screwed. Not only did he take the Ring Road but he took the long way round too. I was incensed. Less than twenty minutes in Rome and we were already being screwed over. Once we arrived at our destination I was infuriated by the price. I tried to argue it lower but to no avail. We were royally ripped off and there was nothing we could do about.
Luckily Rome redeemed herself somewhat through the course of that weekend. But still Rome, we have a love/hate relationship.
Moral of the Story: Know which is the fastest route to your destination and insist on it. Also understand the different tariffs. 1 is for within the city walls of Rome. 2 is for the rest of the city outside the walls and 4 is for the Ring Road and highways. Our trip from Ciampino to Monteverde was 45euros and when we made the same journey back it was 25euros.
If you do have an issue with your taxi driver, take note of their ID number and then tell them you will contact the Guardia di Finanza; this usually solves a lot of issues. This guy just wouldn’t budge though and since technically he didn’t do anything illegal we just paid and said thanks to Rome.
Getting Lost in the Desert
Oh Joshua Tree, how I dreamed of visiting the National Park and seeing all the amazing Joshua Trees! I was really looking forward to this part of our American road trip and made a special effort to make sure we got out there even if it was just for a couple of hours. We headed east from LA and made our way out to the park following our GPS. As we neared the park we drove through a few sleepy towns and started to see more desert and a few Joshua Trees.
And then the GPS took us out onto a sand road. We didn’t think much of it and kept following them. As we headed out farther into the desert without a sign of a National Park anywhere we began to think that maybe we were in the wrong spot.
And yet we kept driving…
Finally we admitted defeat. We were in the middle of the desert and while there were Joshua Trees around we definitely were not in the park. And it turns out, we had driven four hours in the wrong direction.
With this knowledge we sucked up our pride (aka just me, the navigator) and turned around, to back track and then head to Arizona. Maybe one day i’ll actually get to the National Park. At least now I know which way NOT to go!
That One Time in Oklahoma
As part of our American road trip we were cruising through Oklahoma on our way to Alex’s grandmother’s house. (literally off to Grandma’s house we go…) We had left Santa Fe earlier that day and had crossed through the top of Texas for HOURS and finally made our way into Oklahoma City.
It was about eleven pm by the time we cruised into the city and after almost eight hours of straight driving we were exhausted but we still had a ways to go to to get Vinita, OK. Alex was driving as we navigated our way through the city’s highways to point us in the right direction when all of a sudden red and blue lights light up the back of our window.
We had heard that people in Oklahoma kept an eye out for California plates, according to Alex’s grandmother and family, and so we had been driving extra careful. But there was nothing we could do now. We pulled over and waited for the officer to approach our window. I get inexplicably nervous in these kinds of situations (from police to bosses to people I don’t know…apparently I don’t like to disappoint people and don’t like confrontation) so I was far from calm but Alex seemed to be handling it well.
Alex said hello the officer and then responded to his question about where we were headed. When the officer heard we were visiting Vinita he responded, “What the hell is in Vinita?” Alex replied that his Grandmother lived in Vinita and the officer seemed to relax. He took our information and went back to the car.
This is what greeted us in Vinita, OK
Alex and I, at this point we were still unsure why we had been pulled over. We think we were pulled over because he thought we might have been drunk. It’s the only thing we can think as we had some confusion on changing lanes as the freeways merged.
Eventually the officer came back and told why he had pulled us over. He said he had pulled us over becuase Alex had swayed a couple of times over into the emergency lane and thought that we might have been drinking. He realized that it was just a tired driver and said we probably should switch as soon as we could. I mean Alex did drive all the way from New Mexico to Oklahoma. We then continue to have a nice chat about what we were up to and where we were heading. He even wanted to pop in the backseat and join us for the rest of the ride. He let us go after that with just a “drive safe” and a wave.
Moral of the Story: Not that we were but DON’T DRIVE DRUNK GUYS. It’s just not worth it!
Getting Fired From a Volunteer Position
By October of our trip we knew our finances were getting a little dicey and decided to try WorkAway out for the first time. We head to Skopje, Macedonia to volunteer at a hostel near the heart of the city. We were super excited. We had heard all about the kitschy-ness of the city and we couldn’t wait to explore it!
While we fell in love with the kooky city, the same could not be said of us and our host. We started off on a bad foot. She was upset that we arrived later in the evening. We weren’t actually late but instead she informed us, an hour after we left Kosovo and notified her that we were on our way, that us arriving then would interrupt her plans for the evening. This would have been helpful had she informed us before we left or the day before or any other time we had been in communication…
It turned out alright but not the greatest first impression. The next morning we met up with her and got our assignments. She wanted us to work about three hours a day in exchange for a room.
We agreed as long as we got to switch rooms as I am pretty sure we were sleeping on just wooden slats. I literally woke up with bruises on my hip from attempting to sleep there. So we switch from a private room to a dorm with real mattresses and started working. I was helping her organize her photos and create some albums while Alex and the other volunteer, Alex, were helping around the hostel and the gardens. Day one went great. We did our work, asked if she needed anything else, got more work, and eventually were able to head out into the city.
Day two was alright as well. Day three was where things kind of fell apart. You could tell she was worn out. Worn out from renovating her house/hostel. Worn out from hosting people and volunteers all the time. You could tell she didn’t think all the volunteers were worth the trouble. Which is fine and completely understandable. But then you really shouldn’t be taking more volunteers should you?
So Day three dawns and I am up in the kitchen while the one hostel guest and Alex and Alex are asleep. She wanted us up around ten just to talk to the guest and see if he needed anything which is totally understandable. But it was definitely a job for one. She still was pretty annoyed to come down though and find only me. That was when I talked to her about the project I was doing. I was trying to get some feedback which she gave and then we said we would meet later to discuss it more. It was then mentioned that the gas workers had to stop by and that it would be better that we were all out of the house while they were there.
So when the boys woke up, we headed out to grab a coffee and wait it out while the gas workers were there. We weren’t sure exactly how long it might take or if they would be one time so we stayed out of the way for about an hour and a half. Just to be safe, right?
Well I guess that was the wrong assumption. We came back and she was livid. Screaming at us and telling us that we were disrespecting her hospitality. That we had been there for weeks taking advantage of her. She told us that she no longer felt comfortable with us there and that we should think about moving on.
They were stunned too!
To say we were stunned would be underselling it. Not only were we stunned but I was outraged. I hate feeling belittled and she treated us like we were naughty children who she caught out after curfew. After taking a few calming breathes, Alex and I discussed it over and booked an airBnB for the next day.
When we went up to talk to her to about what had transpired she was shocked that we had decided to move on and kept referring to all the projects she needed to complete. We told her that we had only been there three days and were completely taken unaware by her reaction and that we wish she had told us what was wrong instead of kicking us out. We ended up talking round in circles as she went from us not respecting her and wanting us to leave to needing us to stay to finish things. Finally the conversation halted and we said thank you for the opportunity and that we were going to move on.
We ended up having a few fabulous days in Skopje before we popped over to Sofia spontaneously. I guess we have her to thank for firing us because otherwise we would never have discovered the awesomeness of Sofia!
The Ferry to Turkey, the Ferry Back to Greece, Then the Ferry Back to Turkey Before Taking the Ferry Back to Greece
So this one was fun and not made for those prone to seasick. After our disastrous WorkAway experience in Macedonia we decided to give it a try again. We had a fabulous time in Sparti with the most gracious people ever and then we headed to Rhodes to volunteer at a yoga camp. We arrived and settled into things. We let her know however, that halfway through our stay we would have to head to Turkey for a few days to “reset our Schengen Visa”. So we popped over to Turkey and had a great few days in Marmaris.
We then took the ferry back to Rhodes and celebrated that we got back into the Schengen without an issue. All of a sudden we started to get Snapchat messages from Edna (ExpatEdna) letting us know that we may have wrong information. Our Schengen Visa didn’t restart after 180 days but it was in fact a rolling 180 day period. With panic setting in we headed back to the yoga camp and I immediately started researching. Although this time, much more thoroughly than I had before. Finally I found documents from the EU regarding the visa and sure enough, Edna was right and we were screwed.
As I did the math I realized that if we stayed in Rhodes as we planned for another week we would not be able to enter Portugal where we were meeting my family for an early Christmas celebration. Panic set in immediately.
The only solution in front of me was that we had to head back to Turkey immediately. So I looked up the ferry schedule and we determined we could catch the ferry the next day. We informed our WorkAway host and luckily I had finished designing her website, the major task, and we set to packing.
We caught the ferry the next day and headed back to our hotel in Marmaris. We ended up having a phenomenal time there and really fell in love with the city and its cuisine. If only we could have saved ourselves those two extra ferry trips!
We made some local friends too!
*For figuring out your Schengen Visa dates check out this article where we go into detail about what you need to do to stay legal while traveling in Europe*
London, here you are again. This story is a little more serious than the airBnB debacle mainly because we were almost deported. That is not a feeling that I EVER WANT TO EXPERIENCE AGAIN. The nerves, the feeling that you did something wrong but you aren’t sure what, the anxiety; no thank you!
So here is what happened….
We arrived at Gatwick at midnight from Portugal. Exhausted from the late night travels and the fun with my family in Lisbon, we are just looking forward to getting to our hotel by Kings Cross. So we fill out the paperwork and get in line. As we are about to go up I pull out my phone with all of our Schengen dates and then we head up to the desk together. (I am seriously getting anxiety just writing about this!)
So we start talking to the desk agent and he asks us where we have been, what we have been up, when we are leaving, what we are doing in the UK, etc… All the standard questions. So I hand over my notes with all the Schengen dates to confirm that we left Portugal on Day 89 to not run into any issues and this is where things take a turn for the worse.
He informs us that since we are so close to the Schengen 90 Day limit that he will have to take our passports to run the dates. I am already a little worried about this because when we were discussing the Schengen dates, the desk agent didn’t even know what countries were Schengen or not, but what could we do?
We let him take our passports and we get regulated to that special waiting area between UK and International passport check. You know the one I am talking about, where you will occasionally see people waiting without luggage and you wonder what they’ve done. Well that was us…
After about half an hour our guy comes back with two other guys who look much more important and all I can think is “Oh shit, we are about to be deported”.
They ask us to follow them and we enter baggage claim to get our luggage and then they take us back into the hidden part of the airport where while we all know it exists we are happy if we never have to actually acknowledge its existence. And then they separate us. Alex is put in one room and I am in another with a room separating us and our luggage outside the doors.
I felt like we had been locked up a la Tower of London!
A gentleman comes into my interrogation room and lets me know what is happening. He says that he needs to put together some paperwork and that he will be back. And in set the nerves as I wait…. and wait… and wait… Around two am he comes back. He apologizes for the delay and then we start talking.
He asks the same questions as the desk agent about who we are, what we have been doing, what on earth we are trying to accomplish as travel bloggers, how much money we have, etc… As I begin talking and explaining that we were in the UK to celebrate Christmas and to see some friends before we head to Barcelona to research our book, a look of comprehension dawns over his face. And then he turns to me and says, “Ah, that was explained to me completely differently”. At this moment my heart stops racing and I start to see that there may be light at the end of the tunnel.
He lets me know that he will be back as soon as he talks to his partner who is interviewing Alex and I start to let myself hope just a little bit.
Alex meanwhile is having a bit of a harder time. He has unpacked his bag, having to sort out all the stuff that is mine, had his fingerprints taken, and given paperwork with the option to get a lawyer. On his end, there was not a lot of hope.
But then twenty minutes later, my guy returns and tells me that my passport is going to be handed back to me and that they are giving us the standard 90 day visitors visa.
Nothing can describe that moment of elation, relief, the lifting of the anxiety and the resulting exhaustion as it is now almost three am. I am allowed to gather up my stuff and go sit with Alex as we await our passports. At this point Alex is still skeptical after all he went through but I was pretty sure we were ok.
And then both officers arrive and come bearing something worth more than gold, our passports! They stamp them and then escort us back to baggage claim and then we are free! We are through the other side of the terminal and in the UK!
Through to freedom and celebrating the New Year!
Suffice to say, this was probably the most nerve wracking moment of our entire traveling lives. When we head back to Europe again you can bet we will have a ton of documentation about who we are, where we have been and where we are going when we fly into the UK.
When we went back after Barcelona to fly to New York, we were very nervous understandably but it was a total breeze. Perhaps it was because we had flights back to America but it certainly wasn’t as crazy as the first experience!
As you can see travel isn’t perfect just like life. Things happen and where it’s bad luck, poor planning, misinformation or just the way things happen to turn out. But we should embrace them. The mishaps in travel are what make the great parts of travel so vivid and enjoyable. You have to take the highs with the lows and embrace the good with the bad. I wouldn’t ever exchange these memories and experiences because so much good surrounds them. In the end it’s all about the stories!
What is the worst mishap you have ever gotten yourself into during your travels? Share with us in the comments!
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