The Dumbest Travel Mistake Ever

photo4v2I like to think I’m a pretty savvy traveler. Wait, scratch that: I’ve traveled extensively, all over the world, and just visited my 99th country, so when it comes to international travel I pretty much know what I’m doing. Or so I thought.

Julia and I had been up and traveling since 4:30am. After nearly 10 hours spent in various airports and security checks and immigration lines, by the time our taxi delivered us to the front gate of the resort in Cancun, Mexico we were both quite ready to bask in beach and sun.

Not so fast.

“There’s a problem,” we were told.

No big deal, I thought. Minor problems are a fact of travel life, and can usually be resolved in a matter of minutes.

The hotel manager, brow furrowed, explained that he could not find our reservation. Never heard of us. OK, that’s a bit odd, I thought, but easy enough to resolve: after all, I had a confirmed reservation.

I gave him the confirmation number, but he still couldn’t find us. So I asked for and was given access to a computer to look up our actual confirmation details, and when I pulled it up I stopped cold.

In a sudden moment of disbelief and horror, I realized exactly what the problem was: I’d booked the wrong resort.

Instead of booking the resort in Cancun, where we were, I’d accidentally made the reservation for a resort of the same name in Los Cabos, Mexico. That’s 2,000 miles away. And our reservation was non-refundable. And the resort in Cancun was fully booked.

Oh. My. God.

I couldn’t believe it. That’s like showing up in Miami when your reservation is in San Diego. The sheer absurdity of it made me (but not Julia) laugh. Is it even possible to make a dumber travel mistake?

In shock and wondering exactly the same thing, Julia asked the resort manager if this was a common mistake. Nope, never happened before. Apparently it takes a very special individual (i.e. a moron) to show up at the wrong place 2,000 miles away from his actual reservation. In fact, over the next few hours every new staff member that was told of our predicament would glance at us in disbelief and then break out laughing. Discreetly, of course.

Many hours later, a solution was thankfully found to our colossally dumb conundrum. No thanks to my genius reservation and geography skills.

Savvy traveler I may be, but there are two resorts in Mexico that clearly would beg to differ. I now top their list of “most clueless traveler ever.”

I’ve Been Corrupted

Something dreadful has happened on this trip. An event of irrevocable consequence.

I went on a cruise. And I liked it.


This can’t be. This goes against every fiber of my travel being. Against nearly 20 years of independent travel to scores of countries around the world.


I blame Julia, of course. When she first suggested we go on a cruise in the Caribbean, I scoffed, sputtered and snorted in disdainful dismissal. Never. Going. To. Happen.

For one, I’m not huge on following directions, and the thought of being herded along with thousands of others for set daytime group “excursions” had all the travel appeal of joining a working chain gang at the local penitentiary. And second, traveling in close proximity to 5,000 other Americans totally defeats the cultural immersion experience.

Julia did not take the hint. Shamelessly undaunted, she came back a few weeks later with what she considered a brilliant alternative: we’d hire out a small sailboat and have the captain sail us around wherever we want in the islands.

I think I visibly blanched at the thought. I’ll gleefully jump out of an airplane at 15,000 feet or trek through some of the world’s most remote jungles, but toss me on a little sailboat in the middle of the ocean and I’ll break out into cold sweats. Trapped, seasick and at the mercy of an endless expanse of water just begging for an opportunity to capsize you is not my idea of a good time. As far as I’m concerned, an ideal ship size is an aircraft carrier or larger, not a dozen feet of plastic and a flapping strip of white cloth.

Julia at this point could have given up. No herding, no little boats, no cruise, game over. Instead, the sly little creature went in for the kill: a luxury sailing cruise.

A big sailing yacht, but with 148 maximum passenger capacity. Big enough to overcome my (very reasonable) objection to tiny boats on a big ocean, and small enough not to feel like herded cattle.

I probably still would have given it a thumbs down, except for the total lack of reasonable air service between all the different Caribbean islands. You can literally see one island from the next, and yet there are no ferries and the inter-island flights are ridiculously overpriced. If you want to island hop, you’re pretty much forced to do it by sea. Bloody conspiracy, if you ask me.

So I accepted. And within 24 hours on the ship, I was sold.

Go to bed, wake up, and your most excellent floating hotel has taken you to a brand new place while you slept! Oh my God, how amazingly awesome is that!

Now, of course, I’m hooked. Like, where else in the world can I go where my hotel brings me everywhere I want to be?

Now, don’t get me wrong: there’s no way I’m going to turn all my travels into neatly packaged cruises, no matter how convenient. One of the reasons I travel in the first place is for the culture shock and to get away from the familiar. But I can definitely see myself sneaking a small ship cruise in now and then as appropriate. Wait, did I just say that? This is such a colossal change in my thinking that it has my travel identity well and truly flummoxed.

It’s all Julia’s fault.

Julia’s Comment: I have to say, I just don’t feel bad about this AT ALL.  And don’t worry sweetie, I won’t tell anyone how blissful you looked relaxing in our stateroom in that plush white bathrobe enjoying the little chocolate mint they put on our pillows at night 😉

Gabriel: OK, good, I don’t want anyone to know about that.

Julia: You’re so hardcore.

Gabriel: Yes, yes, totally.


On the way to the ship

Existential A/C in Suriname

Our cramped room has two temperature settings: Jungle Hot and Arctic Breeze. Either you turn the medieval air conditioning unit on, blasting cold air at full volume directly over the two narrow beds like a glacial gale, or you keep it off and let the hot, heavy jungle air envelop you in an oppressive sheen of moisture and sweat.

So the existential question of the night becomes: do you leave the AC unit off and endure the tropical jungle heat until you’re marinating in your own sweat on the bed like a human slip ‘n’ slide, despite air conditioning available right there, just a switch away?

Or do you turn it on and brave the cold wind from a unit that has all the silence of a farm tractor trudging uphill on a bad day, with no covers available and only a small thin bed sheet closer in size to a large napkin? Shivering in misery sounds ridiculous when the off switch is right there, just within reach.

Either way, the open air window offers zero barrier to the local mosquitoes, who are perfectly content to ride in to feast on either jungle or tundra setting.

The perfect answer, of course, is to do both. Every time I’d wake up, either sweltering or shivering, I’d reach up and turn the AC knob to the other setting, going back to sleep after casually scratching some of my latest mosquito bites. Until I woke up again to switch the knob back. Genius!

(Miscellaneous note: in the interest of full disclosure, Pascal is not a fan of my so-called “schizophrenic climate change strategy.” I believe his underappreciative and wholly unwarranted term for it was “sadistic.”)

No Naps Allowed!

I’m rather partial to fast-paced, adrenaline-pumping vacations to the edge of the world; Julia on the other hand prefers the peace and tranquility of warm, idyllic settings.

Which is why on this trip I’m doing the “roughing it” part first with my brother, then meeting up with Julia for a more leisurely tropical R&R later. A brilliant plan.

So today I mentioned in an email that Pascal and I took a power nap in between rounds of exploring the city, still reeling from a rough red-eye flight that had us landing in Guyana at 7am, hungry and exhausted.

Julia emailed back with the following tongue-in-cheek response: “I’m not going to lie, I’m a little nervous about all this ‘napping’ and sitting around.  You are supposed to be going balls to wall playing Indiana Jones now! Trekking off the beaten path, mildly suffering in poverty stricken areas with gross local mystery meat foods, painful mattresses, 72 hour bus rides sitting next to a crate of chickens, waking up at 5 am for an all day tour, and basically doing a bunch of other Indiana Jones type stuff. That way you are all tuckered out by the time you meet up with me and will be ready to have a fantastic, leisurely, adult trip.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I like to play Indiana Jones too (because obviously, I’m a crazy badass) which is exactly why we will be going on the Indiana Jones ride at Disney World!  So STOP taking naps!!!  You better be exhausted by the time I see you. ;)”

Gabriel: Pfffft, no worries there. Tomorrow we’re waking up at 3:45am to take an all-day series of buses through lands unknown. So there!

Julia: Ohh please! Over the past two days, I have heard of at least 3 naps and a 6 pm bedtime curfew.

Gabriel: Those were manly power naps!!

We Deserve Dessert

One fine sunny day in Malta, we congratulated ourselves on having found a nice lunch restaurant with decent meals at good prices. Buoyed by our responsible frugality, we figured a quick dessert at the nearby coffee shop was most definitely in order. We deserved it.

It was hard to choose between the various assorted pies, pastries and ice creams sumptuously displayed in their counter, but after careful and conservative analysis we wheedled the selection down to our favorites.

Our joy was great. Although perhaps tampered by a first-hand lesson in the law of diminishing returns.

The Apology

Julia:  I’m sorry I called you an ass tonight.  I feel really bad about it.

Gabriel:  Haha, don’t worry about it.  It was funny.

Julia:  No, I just feel so bad about saying it in front of your mother.

Gabriel:  Ohhh, so you don’t feel bad about calling me an ass, you just feel bad that you said it in front of my mom.

Julia:  Well, if I wouldn’t say it in front of your mom then I shouldn’t say it all.  So, I’m really sorry.

Gabriel:  Haha, it’s ok, I was being pretty provocative.

Julia:  Yeah, you were being an ass.


This Wine Tastes Like Grapes

Truth be told, neither Julia nor I drink much. Or at all, really (at least at this stage in our lives, hehe).

But Chilean wine country beckoned, like nubile sirens to sailors adrift at sea, and who were we to ignore the sultry undertones of its full-bodied call?

It all started innocently enough, lured into a scenic vineyard via horse and carriage…

Down into the secret dungeons, to glimpse its treasured stores…

And back up into the light, where refined olfactory titillation awaited…

And thus we began…

And cheers!

Oh, the myriad of smells and tastes: the fruity aromas of strawberry, of cassis. The smoky undertones with hints of tobacco or eucalyptus, and shades of vanilla. The overt spiciness of peppers. Do I know what I’m talking about? Absolutely not. And even less so as time went on, as we moved from one vineyard, to the next, to the next, to the next, sampling multiple glasses of their finest wines at each stop.

After the first vineyard, I was feeling pretty good.

By the 4th one, I had difficulty keeping the earth still and staggered inside (actually, both of us entirely missed noticing a legitimate 5.8 earthquake, blending in as it did with our general state of walking imbalance).

By the end of the day, could we tell tannins from tartness or body from bouquet? Maybe, maybe not. But we had irrepressible fun along the way!

Here’s to you, Chile!