Travel memories aren’t just about the good times or the tough times. Sometimes, it’s about the weird stuff, too. Whether it’s due to cultural differences or plain coincidence, some awkward travel experiences are just impossible to forget.

Here are the two most awkward travel experiences I’ve encountered so far:

Captive Dolphins in Cuba

Traveling Cuba with my dad last fall, I decided to take him on a boat tour to the Cayo Blanco islands near Varadero. My dad loves Hemingway, boats, and sea, so a day’s boat trip seemed perfect. And it was – until we stopped to see some dolphins. My Spanish is passable, but I clearly misunderstood: I thought we were going to spot some dolphins out in the sea. Instead, we were taken onto a large, grey concrete platform that served as a sort of an enclosure. Around a dozen dolphins swam around in the enclosure, and we were all herded onto a lower tier. Standing waist-deep in the water, we watched the dolphins swim past performing tricks; while some people seemed to have enjoyed the show and even petted the trapped sea creatures, for me and my dad, this experience was beyond awkward and sad. The concrete enclosure seemed small and miserable, a lot of the dolphins had huge scars, and it seemed like the employees hated their jobs – and the hordes of gawking tourists that they had to entertain.

Lost in Translation

Back in 2013, I was riding across Peru on my tiny 150cc bike. I was learning Spanish as I went along, but the process wasn’t exactly smooth. One night, arriving in Mollendo, a small beach town in the South, I was looking for a hotel with parking. Stopping at one of the little hotels, I asked the owner whether he had a garage for my bike. The man peered at me looking puzzled. I repeated the question several times, but the man only looked more and more confused. Finally, another lady appeared; she spoke English and offered to translate.

It turned out, I mixed up two completely different words and instead of asking for a “cochera” (garage), I was asking for a “cocina” (kitchen) for my bike. No wonder the owner looked amused!

Have you ever had any awkward travel experiences? What were they?




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